Out of my Mind - May 1993
Decisions, decisions. Life should not be
so complicated. Iím bored with sitting in my basement and playing with knobs and screens and switches
and plugs and keyboards. I have many years worth of music that I would like to perform. I want to be up
on stage again. So here I go figuring itís no problem what with all the portable equipment I have, except
that now I wonder how interesting it could possibly be to watch a guy like me sing along to a bunch of
pre-programmed music. Not very, I would think.
So I decided that I need to incorporate some interesting
visual elements into this performance coming up. The last time I was on stage I was a bass player in a
traditional band with a drummer and everything! Those were the days. All I had to do was get along with
everyone and play what sounded right. No worry about what might be happening on stage. The audience
came to see a live band play their instruments and to hear how everything went. There is a joy in knowing
that each performance is different and that you might be catching a band on a good night - or not! Now,
as just one guy with preprogrammed music, I have to make a decision about what I want people to see me
First off, I canít physically play all the parts live, so every song will either have to have sequenced
bits playing, or a backing tape. This is difficult. People say sequencers take all the human element out of
music. There are even fewer positive things said about backing tapes. I have given this careful thought to
find the lesser of the two necessary evils.Sequencing live with multiple instruments/modules on stage
offers many wonderful noises to be controlled by a good sound man at the end of the room. He could
adjust each sound for the acoustics of a given room, boost or alter kick drums and bass lines to drive a
crowd wild with dance fever etc... But I donít have a sound man, let alone anyone who knows my music,
and I donít (especially after last month) have a passion for driving my equipment around. Another
complication is that each instrument trades off playing bass, lead and noises etc. which means that the
poor guy at the board would never really know what channel was making what noise. Ahhh,
Backing tapes offer me a chance to guess at the best overall mix for a club and just show up with
whatever equipment I might wish to play live with over the tape. Especially since this is my first show in
eight years, I feel this is a wise choice. I have a DAT deck so I know I can bring quality signal into the
club.And hereís why I need visual stimulation. Just me and a tape deck and a mike? I think not! I get
uncomfortable speaking in public I need to hide behind something. So Iím thinking of low cost ways to
join the in-crowd of performing artists, and hereís some of the things Iíve come up with.
I bought a used
Roland Pad-8. This will give me eight little squares to smack with sticks as I sing, and the squares in turn
will trigger whatever special noises I want to bring along. Much more interesting than me standing there
like a bump. This Pad-8 also has six trigger ins, so Iím given an option of buying, or more interestingly,
building my own "drum kit". I have some ideas here that I canít let out just yet!
I might possibly have a
volunteer projectionist as well, showing clever little films over the entire stage. This makes me more
comfortable since there will be something moving in the background at all times, and it will be constantly
I will bring one or two analog keyboards for creating interesting sounds along with the music as
well thus adding to the illusion that Iím really doing something!
Another thing that sounds interesting to
me is making my own home made video of images that match the music. I wouldnít sync it to the backing
tape, but rather make it abstract enough that it might actually accent some of the songs in unintended
I have ordered a headset microphone to help with mobility. I didnít want to be tied down to a
specific location behind a keyboard. I like this idea a lot. I wish I could juggle knives or flaming mallets
while singing, but since I canít, I will at least walk around and be social!
Next Month Iíll let you know
how this learning experience turned out.