2019 Update

Well, I made my last post in December, 2017. It’s high time I made a new one. The TV show I alluded to in the last post still hasn’t aired in the US, and the production company has stopped replying to the band’s e-mails. It did air in the UK, but that’s a story for another time.

2018 saw me buying many keyboards and keeping busy with Dirty Revival. Things are still on the upward trend with them – we just signed a trial period with Nimbleslick Entertainment to handle booking. So far, so good, and it’s looking like 2019 will have us at about the same level we were at before. The band is also recording new songs, with the goal of a second full-length album. A while back I connected with John Neff on Facebook, who runs The Lab recording studios. Neff’s resume includes mixing countless films, and close collaborations with Walter Becker, with whom he owned a studio on Maui for many years, and David Lynch. We got to talking about Hammond organs, and he invited me over to play his B3. Turns out Dr. Lonnie Smith recorded an album on that organ on Maui in 1980. He even re-wired some of the presets, and John left those as-is. The Leslie needed a little love last I played it, but it was nothing that couldn’t be remedied quickly. He’s also got a Polymoog synthesizer, though it wasn’t working. His Clavinet and Rhodes have been serviced by Ken Rich, whose list of clients includes Herbie Hancock and the late George Duke. I hope to someday get my Rhodes and Clavinet to Ken for a fine-tuning, as he’s probably the best in the business. Just gotta make it coincide with a trip to LA where I can bring two really heavy keyboards, and plan a return voyage. Hopefully we can share the recordings we made at The Lab soon; they’ve been mastered and are being shopped to labels. We’re tracking a couple more songs two days from now, on February 6.

I finally got my mixing console set up in my “studio,” which is, for the most part, a room in my house filled with too much gear. The console is a 12-channel Ramsa WR-T812 that I got from Johnny Fontana when he moved away from Vancouver. I bought and traded boards with Johnny several times over the years, including my Ensoniq ESQ-1, which I eventually traded back to him with cash for his Ensoniq SQ-80. The console sounds nice, although the routing is fairly arcane and took some fiddling to figure out. For now it’s perfect for routing keyboards and an audio source (laptop, phone, etc.) into headphones for practicing. Next step is some monitors, sound-treating the room, and a proper desktop computer and interface to track audio. Well, maybe the next step is moving keyboards around so I have them all close to the board.

I bought several Hammonds and sold a few. One was an M3 I picked up in Eugene that I think wasn’t working when I got it. Dad and I replaced a tube and resoldered a couple connections on the tone generator and it was up and running again. We also added a 1/4″ line-out box, making it more desirable and sell-able. That’s my plan for two more M3s and an M2 I have. I also ended up with a chopped M2, but it’s just enough of a novelty that I might hang onto it. Same with the Model M spinet I got – Hammond’s first spinet organ, and the first to feature smooth drawbars instead of the ratchet-action kind used on consoles of that era. It doesn’t sound particularly cool or anything, but sometimes you want the spinet sound. Booker T. Jones famously used an M3 on Green Onions, and they’re wired a little differently from full-size consoles. For the most part, though, playing a Spinet feels like I’ve only got half an organ. Very little low end with the short keyboards and reduced pedalboard, and very little high end without foldback (a system of reusing tones instead of just cutting them out when they’re higher than those it can create). I also sold an A100 that Dad and I had since about 2000 or 2001 with a Leslie 122 I bought in Yakima. It was not getting played, and there were some bad memories attached to it from when Dad and I fried the upper manual trying to fix a really small problem. We had the upper manual replaced years ago, but I never felt like playing it. I’m also about to semi-permanently loan my first full-size console to Sarah Clarke, Dirty Revival’s vocalist. She’s a skilled keyboardist, and definitely reads sheet music better than I can. It’s a “B3,” kind of – A100 guts transplanted into a B2 case. It’s been sitting in my garage for too long. With it will be a Leslie 21H I picked up in Prineville, OR when the band was nearby in Bend. It wasn’t making sound, which turned out to only be a bad fuse, but I’d already ordered a rebuild kit, so I went ahead and replaced all the ancient wax-and-paper capacitors in the amp.

Other projects include repairing and upgrading the many other Hammonds and Leslies I have. After getting the capacitors replaced in my chop, I realized that it’s something I’d like to ideally do to every organ I own. There’s so much more definition to the sound. Clearer highs, clearer lows. It’s so much more expressive and a joy to play! I also plan to put some custom high-power Leslie innards into a 760 cabinet, Leslie’s tolex “pro-line” road-ready model. The 22H I got with my Model A in Garibaldi, OR had a custom solid state amplifier and a massive JBL 2482 tweeter and Gauss 15″ bass speaker. The tone isn’t right for the classic Hammond sound, but they were used in some 70s rock groups like Blue Cheer. Lately, I’ve been playing more rock with LiquidLight (I have yet to do a show with them, but everyone’s pretty busy). It’s a perfect setting to use that, where the guitarists have Marshall stacks – I’ll be able to actually keep up! I also recently bought a Vox Super Continental combo organ, another rock keyboard classic. Maybe soon I’ll take my tech up on buying his “extra” Farfisa Compact Duo. I had hoped to buy a vintage synthesizer this winter, but continued problems coordinating with the seller and his raising the price on me prevented that from happening. There are so many vintage synths I’d like to own, but many of them have completely stupid prices these days. I can’t imagine paying much more than $5000 for any electric instrument.

There’s also the piano! I never did post the full saga of how I ended up with a 100-year-old, 9-foot Steinway concert grand in my living room. Again, another time. For now I’ll just say it sounds incredible and I try to play it every day. I feel extremely guilty if I don’t.

I suppose that’s all for now. Cheers!