Korg M1


Serial# 043388

The Korg M1 was our first real "workstation" keyboard. Actually, some might say that it was the first true "workstation" keyboard available on the market. Man, when I heard what this could do in the store I knew I had to have it, because it would take our music to the next level. I think it did. Suddenly we could use sequencing and drum samples, and our overdubbed sketches turned into pretty nice well-rounded demos.


Roland SPD-20 Pad Controller

Serial# CR39670

Drums have always been a fairly weak point in my compositions. At some point I decided that hitting things with sticks would help, and picked up this venerable unit. My first attempts to use it to lay down grooves failed to best my existing "keyboard drumming", and shortly afterwards I gave up.

Two or three years later, I give it another go, this time augmenting the unit with a bass drum trigger and foot pedal, and a high-hat control pedal. I ran into difficulties, both in co-ordination (it would help if I had any real practice playing actual drums) and also in configuring the MIDI mapping between the physical pads and the layout of XLN Addictive Drums across the note grid. High-hat control in particular had a kind of impedance mismatch between controller data and MIDI note numbers.

So I gave up again.

Recently I've broken out the pads again, at first just to fix up some tom and snare rolls. For some reason, this time I've found a process that works better than the keyboard, for all drum parts. I'm not using the foot pedals, and I have to record the complete drum part in several passes using pad mappings to different subsets of the kit, but the net result is quite satisfying. 

There are still mistakes and bad groove choices, but I always had those problems with the keyboard anyway. 

Roland Fantom FA76


Serial# ZPO1825

I like the fact that this has 76-keys, but is still "synth action". It has a really good keyboard feel, reminiscent of the D-50. The sounds aren't bad either. A bit too techno for me but there are some nice patches.


Wendler Electrocoustic Bass


Serial# 107

I saw a press release from Wendler on the Harmony Central web site and curiously followed the manufacturer's link, and got very intrigued by the bass guitars.

I emailed Dave Wendler with some questions about price and finish options, and he replied promptly. He explained that he used a variety of woods and could shape the neck profile to fit my specifications, which pleased me. I measured up the neck on my trusty Ibanez Roadster which has great playability.

We settled on a tung-oiled mahogany neck, with pao ferro fingerboard. Dave kept me informed of construction progress, with photographs of the instrument in various stages.

You can read more about Wendler's passive Magnetic/Piezo pickup system on their web site. In tone, it tends to be very dark and deep. I find that plucking the strings with my right hand up the fingerboard - just like a real upright - gives the best results.

Technically this was my 40th birthday present, but experts disagree as to whether it was this or the VK-8.


Carvin BK5


Carvin BK5 Bass

This instrument was built from a kitset from Carvin, hence the lack of a brand name decal. But it is effectively a Carvin B5.

I don't use the active electronics much, for some reason I get better results with passive plus outboard amp modellers.

Here's an mp3 of me playing a riff from Porcupine Tree and demonstrating the different sounds you get from blending the pickups and changing the coil tap on the HB2.


Roland VK-8


Serial# ZT32559

This is my latest acquisition, and it freaking rocks. When it arrived I did what I swore I would never do and went back and re-recorded Listen using the VK-8 as the "hammond organ". It sounds awesome now.

I believe this has version 2.0 OS in it. I'm not risking uploading a new version into it - it sounds just fine the way it is.


Chapman Stick

Serial# 393

This weird thing is a Stick Enterprises 10-string Chapman Stick® in white oak - a fantastic instrument that I use mostly just for bass lines.

I knew about the Stick from Tony Levin playing on Peter Gabriel's albums, but I didn't see one "in the flesh" until Johnny Fleury did a demonstration at a music shop in Auckland, NZ. I ordered one through the shop, and at the time they said that Stick Enterprises had told them that they could only deliver if two instruments were ordered. The store was a bit nervous about ordering two when they only had a confirmed order for one, but they went ahead and ordered two and requested that one be shipped at first.

I don't think they ever took delivery of a second instrument!

Carvin TL60

I ordered this guitar from the Carvin web site, without talking to any of the sales people on the phone or anything. It was quite a weird experience.

Notable features:

  • Alder neck and body, tung oil finish
  • Active electronics and Fishman Piezo-Acoustic bridge
  • C22N and C22B (later swapped out for a M22SD)
  • Coil tap switches for both pickups.

I have since sold this guitar to my bass-playing friend Tony, and replaced it with a similar instrument (see Carvin DC127).

Sometimes I feel a little silly about letting this one go, because its playability was extremely high - it just felt really comfortable. The DC127 I ordered to replace it - although I liked the slight changes in specifications that I made - just doesn't feel the same.

Tony is really enjoying it so I'm glad about that.

Carvin DC127 "Woody"

Serial# 423649

When I sold my TL60 to Tony The Bass Player, I ordered up a replacement instrument with similar specs:

  • DC127
  • Fixed Bridge
  • Tung-oiled Alder neck and body
  • Rounded body style
  • No inlays
  • CT-style headstock
  • C22B, H22N pickups
  • Fishman Piezo-Acoustic bridge
  • DC200-style active electronics
  • Black chrome hardware

Basically I wanted the same specs as my old TL60 but with the following changes:

  • rounded body sides (not available on TL60)
  • No tremelo (the piezo pickup was sensitive to creaks and popping sounds)
  • No neck inlay dots (I like the clean look)

I've never felt the same way about this guitar as I did about the TL60. This surprised me - it was supposed to be a better instrument for me. However it remains a quality instrument.

Update: I've gifted this guitar to my godson who no doubt will play it more than I did.

Ovation "Elite" Balladeer


Serial# 423649

The black beauty here is the Ovation Elite Model 1868 steel string acoustic, the version with the ebony fretboard. I bought this guitar second-hand for $600 in Berkeley, CA, a few days after my wife and I got married on the California coast.