January 2020, update 1

Already some news for 2020 – the gigs with Reggie Houston fell through; he’s setting up another weekly gig somewhere else, so stay tuned. I was just asked to appear with Gunhild Carling on Wednesday, February 26th at the Jack London Revue (8p, tickets are $20 and available at their website). It’s part of the 2020 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival, which sounds impressive on the résumé.

Some changes coming to KMHD – in about a month, I’ll be moving from 10-noon weekdays to a weekend morning show, 7-9 AM. Still hammering out exactly what the programming philosophy of that slot will be, but I’m excited!

I took the Kurzweil PC88/Motif-Rack XS on their maiden voyage this evening for a Blue Wave Band showcase. Perfect tool for that gig, if a bit heavy. I also need to figure out the programming, as I’m in a bit over my head with it. I’m sure there’s a way to save my presets in the Motif and also program the panel on the Kurzweil to bring up those presets with just a couple button presses. Tonight I found myself menu-diving between songs to pull up Motif patches at times, but most of the set was acoustic piano. When I was trying out the Motif with headphones in my living room, I thought it was already starting to sound dated (and the boot screen says © 2008 Yamaha – making it older than my Nord Electro 3). When doing a chromatic run in the left hand, I could hear the “break points,” if that’s the right way to put it, where they had sampled one note of an acoustic piano and then stretched it up and down a few pitches to save memory and processing power. It doesn’t take much pitching up or down before a sample starts to sound artificial. However, in the mix during the set, it was fine – and so much better than the Nord. I wasn’t fighting it. The weighted keys felt enough like a piano, and the patch itself was nicely balanced and cut through the mix pretty well. The Nord can sound very muddy. I’ve been banging on that unweighted Nord Electro 3 for 10 years now; I can’t believe it took me this long to set something else up. I’m sure a newer weighted-88 keyboard would feel even better, but a new Nord Stage is, what, $3500? The Kurzweil was $350 and the Motif-Rack was $600. The Motif is also perfect for all those weird synth sounds from 80s pop recordings, case in point, the artificial brass on Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody. I could probably approximate it with a Nord Stage, but who knows if it would sound any good through the PA or my keyboard amp? With the Motif I just scrolled to the first Synth Brass patch I saw, and boom, it sounded damn close to what I was going for, and could have even been tweaked more at home to sound closer. Ironically, I didn’t need that synth brass tonight because we had three horns at the showcase. The other big thing will be figuring out splits and layers with the Kurzweil/Motif combo. I can’t believe Nord didn’t let the Electro split and layer until the Electro 5 or so. Just an inexcusable omission, probably to push sales of the Stage (which has had that functionality from the start). The only reason I put up with stuff like that is that at the end of the day, I think the Nord still has a better Rhodes, Clavinet, Wurlitzer, and a fully-modeled Hammond than anyone else out there. For so many gigs, that’s what you need, and it’s crazy that nobody else could nail it as well as they did. Still, the weak spot has remained the acoustic pianos, and I’ve got my complaints about how they did the organs (which I’m told I should write to them about as someone who’s been using it professionally for 10 years; I hear they’re receptive to user feedback).

2020

What’s in store for 2020? Curtis Salgado is gunning for me to join his band full-time. I’m giving it a lot of careful thought. Leaving Dirty Revival has been like a divorce (an ongoing, bitter one at that), so I don’t want to dive headlong into another project immediately. That said, Curtis has asked me to join the band for an appearance at the 2020 Internationales Jazzfestival Bern in Switzerland for about a week in March. So, that’s pretty cool. Stateside appearances are in Everett, WA on 2/28, and Olympia, WA on 3/21.

I’ve got several Thursdays lined up with Reggie Houston in January and February at Catfish Lou’s, 6-9p. Catfish Lou’s is now in Beaverton; for years they had a space around NW 23rd and Vaughn. I’ll be doing that on 1/9, 1/16, 1/30, 2/13, 2/20, 2/27.

Last night I bought a Kurzweil PC88 keyboard from a pawn shop. I’m not thrilled with the action and feel of the keybed on it, but it will be immediately useful, as I don’t have a weighted 88-key MIDI controller for piano sounds. Plus, it was a pretty good deal, and came with an ATA hard case. Usually I just make do with my Nord Electro 3, which is semi-weighted (feels close to a Hammond), but I fight it all night. I’m gonna be test-driving the Kurzweil on gigs this week with a Yamaha Motif-Rack XS (the rackmount version of their former flagship workstation keyboard, the Motif). The Motif has really solid pianos, and combined with the 88-key weighted controller, it should be a massive upgrade from the 11-year-old Nord sample library. Another thing to try, though, would be updating those samples – Nord actually provides free downloads of the newest ones, and the Electro 3 is compatible with new sets, although it has very limited sample storage. Even in 2009 I was incredulous that 128MB of sample space was supposed to be a selling point. The Motif is actually even older; the boot screen says 2008… but the pianos sound enough like pianos through any speaker imaginable. One time in Seattle I crossed paths with Dan Walker, who’s been playing with Heart. In a facebook discussion, he told me he preferred the Nord pianos over all the other ones. He told me which samples specifically, and of course I didn’t make an easy-to-find note of it… I might update this post if I dig it up (but I can’t promise anything!)

EDIT – the post from Dan:
try digging into some of the more recent samples online if you haven’t. Royal Grand 3D is my go-to. Silver Grand, Velvet Grand, White Grand all very useful too depending on the musical context. I also use the uprights a LOT. Bambino, Amber, and Mellow are my faves there. And if you haven’t updated the Wurly to the “Wurlitzer 2 Amped” it’s well worth it.

You should be able to get some of the smaller-sized versions of the more recent piano samples onto the Electro 3. You might need to update the OS first, but they’ll be compatible, and well worth the upgrade over whatever samples the Electro 3 included from the factory. Bust out that USB cable and get into it! You’ll be glad you did!

Lastly, if you tried to visit this site in the last couple days, you may have seen a domain parking page, because I forgot to renew the domain. I can’t imagine the visitor count is beyond single digits, but all the same…

Cheers,

Ben

November 2019

Like most personal websites, the last post on here is, let’s see… 9 months old, talking about how I should post more.
I left Dirty Revival at the end of August. It didn’t end well, but that’s another story for another time. For now, I’ll just say that it was time, and it was definitely the right decision. My parents think I’m visibly happier these days. One project for my newfound free time is updating this site more. I’m trying to get my home studio into some kind of usable setup; for now it’s a chaotic room of keyboards and gear.
A few months back I got a proper desktop computer with some actual horsepower, something I haven’t had in close to 9 years now. After my laptop was stolen on tour with Dirty Revival a few years back, I was using the cheapest possible netbook from Best Buy, which is almost too underpowered to function. I suppose it got me by for that time.
Lately I’ve been keeping busy taking freelance gigs in town that I was unable to take before due to being on the road. The last couple weeks were utterly bananas: I spent a month filling in at Beacock Music teaching piano lessons for my friend Paul Paresa, who was on tour with Sam Densmore in Europe, and the last week overlapped with KMHD‘s fall membership drive. I’ve also been doing some work for Eclectic Sounds, run by guitarist Cameron Morgan. It’s mostly listing items for sale, taking photos, putting records in the cleaner before shipping them… That said, I’d much rather be doing that kind of work with rare LPs and effects pedals than, like, salt shakers.

Here are my upcoming shows, with Facebook links where applicable. This is all copied from my facebook page, which I try to keep updated. All are in Portland, OR unless noted otherwise.

Tomorrow, 11/9: Jeremy & Sweet Soul Odyssey -Loud n Rah! I’m playing with Jeremy 9-11. It’s at Slim’s PDX. Also in the band: Melissa Carroll, Austin Christ, and James Ford.

Friday, 11/22: at AC Hotel Portland Downtown with Giancarlo Viviano and Ben and Michelle Medler, 6-8p.

Saturday, 11/23: excited to play with Curtis Salgado for the first time in several years! Curtis Salgado at Venti’s Downtown (Salem, OR)

Wednesday, 11/27: 3 Jazz 3 Furious at Ruse Brewing

Friday, 12/6: Curtis Salgado at Trails End Saloon (Oregon City, OR)

Saturday, 12/7: with Jeremy Joyce at Living Room Theaters, 8:00-11:00

Thursday, 12/12: Rules. (EP Release), Daniel Rossi’s Mess, Boreen at Bunk Bar – real excited for this one. My longtime friend (and 3 Jazz 3 Furious bandmate) Parker Hall will be singing and playing guitar instead of drumming. We’ll be playing songs he wrote for his solo project, Rules.

Saturday, 12/28: Curtis Salgado at BIlly Blues Bar (Vancouver, WA)

Tuesday, 12/31: New Years Eve with Curtis Salgado (Seattle, WA)

Cheers, y’all…

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!

-Snacks

Holiday Update

Hello all,

It’s been a good year – I amassed many new instruments and I’m still learning how to play them better! I’ll have to post a more complete story of the saga of how I wound up with my new piano – a nine-foot concert grand Steinway D made in 1915. It was at an estate sale, and I had it refurbished – it came home in July. I bought several more organs, including a “chopped” Hammond – it’s in a road-ready cabinet, and is designed to be taken out to performances. It’s still very heavy, but my technician, Matt Miles, went through it – and now it’s one of the best sounding organs I’ve ever played. It was a college graduation gift from my parents. Around Halloween, Dirty Revival went to Los Angeles to film an episode for a TV show – unfortunately, I can’t say much more than that until it’s officially announced, but it will be on a major network in January and should bring at least a couple more people to our shows in the following year!

Happy holidays, and thank you for your support!

Ben “Snacks” Turner

An Update

Well, I had a bunch of cool things typed out about our last tour, but my laptop got stolen in Chicago. All the text was on there and didn’t get backed up. I’ll try to make a post about the tour, but I’ve been working steadily since getting back into town, so we’ll see if I get to it. All things considered it was a good tour – I finally got a really cheap laptop tonight at best buy so I could do things like update this website. Got some fun shows coming up, I’ll try to post about them, but the most up-to-date calendar should be on my facebook page, http://facebook.com/bensnacksturner
Thanks y’all!

Winter Tour II, Day 10

Here’s some stuff I wrote on tour and never published. It was Saturday, Feb 11.

Tonight we’re in Nederland, CO. The space we’re playing is real new – it’s called The Caribou Room. From what I understand, it’s a sound engineer’s baby that he started for fun, and wanted to do everything right. Great sound onstage. While loading in, Terry (our drummer) said, “hey Ben, you’re gonna be excited to see what’s back here.” I assumed that meant there was a Hammond organ, but didn’t want to get my hopes up. In fact, there was a Hammond and Leslie – a Model A (the first organ Hammond produced) and a “tallboy” 31h Leslie cabinet. I shouted “F*CK” and surprised one of the staff who happened to be walking through the room. Turns out it’s more or less being stored there by one of the staff, so I won’t get to play it tonight. There’s a C3 and Leslie 122 available for rental, but because it wasn’t negotiated earlier, we’d have to pay like $200 to rent it. Hopefully we’ll play here again and get it covered in the contract; the engineers made it sound like they could hook that up easily.

Last night we were in Denver at Ophelia’s. I’d never seen a club set up the way it is – two levels with the stage on the basement level and a big hole in the ground floor. People next to the balcony can look down on the stage, and above the stage is a video projection screen for anyone further back.

The most exciting part was opening for Foundation of Funk – a supergroup featuring Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste and George Porter, Jr. (bass and drums respectively) of the Meters. They tour adding different guests – for this show, it was Eddie Roberts (New Mastersounds) on guitar and John Medeski on keyboard. Far and away the best keyboard setup I’ve gotten to use yet – he had rented a B3, D6 clavinet through a fender deluxe, and Nord stage. I namedropped one of my PSU professors, David Valdez, who had played with Medeski many years ago in Boston. “Man, he was just this punk kid back when I knew him. One of those really burnin’ players.” I got a hold of Valdez on facebook: “We played a lot of gigs together. Never expected he’d end up a rock star.” Medeski was kind enough to let me use his custom wah pedal that he’d had made in Greece since I always use the onboard wah on my Nord. He warned me it was $1000 to replace. The only mishap was that I managed to make the clavinet feed back, which I didn’t know was possible. I guess it was turned up too high when I turned the wah on in preparation for a solo.