10 June 2007

Birotronics, Or: The Lesser-known Mellotron

Sacha sent me this link to an article in The Believer, a magazine to which I should have a subscription anyway. It’s about Dave Biro and the homebrew 8-track-based analog sampling keyboards he built for Rick Wakeman of Yes.

[The magical sound] was coming from Rick Wakeman, prog rock’s wizard — the guy even wore a glittering silver cape onstage — and the keyboard Wakeman was playing cost thirty-five hundred dollars new. Biro didn’t have anything near that, and his unemployment checks weren’t going to last forever.

But he could get nineteen automotive 8-track decks from the junkyard for twenty dollars each — and an old piano from a friend, pulling the keys out one by one — and he could stay up thirty-six hours at a time in his father’s garage, working and working — recording, splicing, wiring, cross-fading, figuring out the action of the board, grinding the ivory off the keys to glue in electrical contacts...

Also, don’t miss the sound samples of the Birotron and other wacky devices.

09 June 2007

Zappa Gets the ‘Classic Albums’ Treatment

Hi all. Sorry I haven’t posted in forevs — work has been particularly busy lately, and also I am a lazy blob.

Brian pointed me at this fun-sounding goodie:

There is lots of footage of the band performing parts of several different songs live, as well as a generous amount of vintage interview material of the bright and talkative Zappa expounding upon his approach to music. Further, Dweezil demonstrates some particulars of Frank’s style on guitar, and Ruth Underwood gives a fascinating marimba demonstration to explain an aspect of Zappa’s compositional technique. Among the songs that get partially dissected are “I’m the Slime,” “Dinah-Moe Hum,” “Montana,” “Stink-Foot,” “St. Alfonzo’s Pankcake Breakfast” and “Cosmik Debris.” Did you know that Tina Turner and two other members of the Ikettes sang on “Zombie Woof”? I didn’t, but Dweezil isolates their track for us and then shows us how it fits into the whole of what is a very weird song. On another tune he shows us how Frank multed a horn and violin part on a single track to make a singular sound.

Currently listening to: “Dick Suffers is Furious With You” by Don Caballero