In the several months since my last post, I’ve joined a new band. This has meant the creation of an entirely new live rig; which also includes a few shiny new toys (excuse the slightly blurry pic).
One of the major concerns with this setup was making it all fit in the minimum amount of space possible. This is mainly due to the fact that I generally have to travel to practices and gigs by public transport. The main bulk of the equipment fits into a Stagg UPC 535 pedal case, which I stick on a keyboard stand to perform with.
So what’s the red thing? It’s a Suzuki ‘Ran’ Taishogoto, which I bought on ebay from Japan. This is one of the two main sound sources in the rig, the other being keyboard samples played via the Akai MPK Mini above it.
Here’s where the inevitable nerdy DIY element comes into play- the samples are played via a Raspberry Pi running Samplerbox. I currently have two presets which are switched via midi program changes on the Akai – one is sampled from my Philips Philacorda organ (this is the patch I use 90% of the time), and the other is a kind of string synth patch from my JVC KB300. There’s plenty of scope to expand the number of presets I can use on Samplerbox, as the samples are all stored on a USB drive and it’s easy enough to dump more sounds onto it.
The next DIY element is the mixer- I backed the Koma Field Kit project on Kickstarter and received it as a kit. At the time I had lofty ambitions of making experimental sounds using contact microphones and solenoids….as it turns out I’m just using it as a pretty standard mixer. Having said that, the great thing about the Field Kit is that it has an auxiliary output and proper faders, which is rare in something of this size. In my case, the aux output is used as an effects loop, into a low-pass filter, which is returned to channel 3 of the Field Kit. Originally the filter was a Korg Monotron, but I’ve recently finished building a Mutable Instruments Sidekick which is a little less noisy and has a few more sonic options. On a side note- I have occasionally run the FM radio of the Field Kit through the filter and outboard effects for a bit of strange, noisy ambience. Does depend very much on the venue as to what gets picked up though!
So the Taishogoto and the filtered organ samples are mixed in the Field Kit and the output goes through the three pedals on the right hand side of the case; first the TC Electronic Tail Spin, then the Rowin Noise Gate, and finally the Strymon El Capistan. The noise gate pedal is sadly a necessity due to a combination of weird gain staging (=HISS) and single coil hum from the Taishogoto. I stuck the delay on the end so that the tails would keep going even after the noise gate kicks in – psychedelic delay build ups are a pretty big feature of the set. From there I use a Radial Stagebug DI box which I tend to bring with me to gigs because it is so small.
The case has gone through a lot of iterations during the six months I’ve been playing with the band; at first I was using my Arturia Minibrute as both the filter and the midi keyboard, but the whole setup was too big and required two keyboard stands (finding even one working stand at rehearsal rooms can be a struggle, never mind at venues). Next I started using the Monotron and an Arturia Keystep in the case, which looked great and was comfortable to play, but sadly there’s some weirdness between Arturia keyboards and Samplerbox which leads to stuck notes. I think it’s something to do with note off messages, but both the Keystep and the Minibrute suffer from the same problem, and the older Akai controller does not. The Akai is also smaller and lighter, and it supports midi program changes which is useful, but I definitely prefer the size of the keys on the Arturias.
The one slightly annoying feature of this case is the over-reliance on 3.5mm to 6.35mm converter cables. At the moment I have to carry four of them, and I fear them breaking during a set as they aren’t the sort of thing that any sane musician carries around. That’s a necessary evil of using a mixer of this size though, and in the future I might build some sort of format-converter breakout box (even though that would take up valuable space). On the plus side, the abundance of 3.5mm connectors can sometimes fool the audience into thinking I’m playing an expensive modular synth. As previously mentioned, this rig is not the quietest in terms of background white noise, but I’ve mostly solved this with the introduction of the Rowin pedal, which for £15 does a really good job while taking up the minimum of space.
Of course – the really fun bulky stuff gets broken out when we record, and you can see my recording setup here. Same basic sounds and effects though!