TERJE ASKS SMART PEOPLE STUPID QUESTIONS VOL 3: ANDY MEECHAM (Chicken Lips/Emperor Machine)

Written by Todd Terje on November 25, 2011

TERJE
Hi Andy, may the nerd be with you and congratulations with your album that´s coming out 28th nov.  It´s entitled Monophonic volume 1 and each title says what synth you’ve used to create the track.
So, no cheating? No other sounds than the stated synth? Or did you nick a kick from the “best of super funky house ibiza 2011″ sample pack?

ANDY
Ha! No cheating, not even tempted.  I have wanted to do this album for so long and so nothing was going to detract me from the purity of my objective.
Making Monophonic was me nerding myself off big time. The only external processing I used was the resonator input on the Polymoog and a Small Stone Phaser.

TERJE
That´s indeed nerdy, welcome to the gang! I have to say, this album sounds unmistakably you. I always thought the fantastic Emperor Machine leads sounds were your EMS VCS3 synth,
but looks like you know how to get a great lead from anything. Which sounds were the most difficult to make?

ANDY
None really, I spend hours and hours on these synths every day and I can get the sounds I want really quickly.
Saying that, the VCS3 does sometimes take me longer. It’s a wonderful machine but mine tends to drift in and out of tune at will. It can add to the soundscape but it can also make me want to chuck it out the window! Idle threat!

TERJE
How did you record this? Everything is obviously in sync and I guess you didn’t record it live by playing 10 different VCS3s played with 1 finger on each…?

ANDY
I used Logic 9 on a laptop, an IMac & my MPC300.
The way I did it was to start creating drum sounds first, sometimes sample them straight into the MPC and then record a basic pattern in Logic with the drums and then spend a day or so fiddling and recording loads of riffs.
Usually I reckon 3 days worth of ideas per synth and then move on to another synth before boredom sets in.
For me I like to have more than enough ideas for each track and then come back to the track and sort out all the sounds I like best and trash the rest… bit of a clean up session.
Lastly I replay all the drum patterns because the first ones are usually crap guide patterns.
Probably all in all a week per track, all played live and no quantizing.
For anything that needed syncing (e.g. white noise hi hats) I used a clock off a Doepfer MCV24 or a Kenton Pro 2.
Also if I did own ten different VCS3s I really would disappear (further) up my own vintage arse.

TERJE
Today this seems like a pretty novel approach, but back in the 70s this must’ve been cutting edge technology. Do you know if there were lots of producers using synths to make sounds this way?

ANDY
Well there are millions of Moog demonstration LPs but most of them use live drums.
I bought a few ARP demonstration LPs but one of my favourite albums I sometimes play while re-wiring my studio is by Mort Garson called Electronic Hair Pieces. I think it´s mostly Moog again but with the Moog being used to create the drums.

TERJE
Aah, this is fantastic! Do you have any idea on how they did this? If all the sounds were recorded simultaneously, they must´ve had one crazy setup. Or did they have the possibility to record multiple layers in sync that early?
I read somewhere that Giorgio Moroder´s engineer “invented” synth syncing with I Feel Love by recording a click to tape and using that click to trigger the envelopes for each new take, but that wasn´t until 1977.

ANDY
Well in the the late 60s there were at least 8 track recorders available that were being used in studios so multi tracking wasn’t hard work.
A way to sync to tape would have been a sync pulse that would control the speed of playback through the use of an external device.
Also the idea of a click track was being used a few years back in film scores but yes it was Robbie Wedel who helped Giorgio Moroder lock in the Moog to tape.

Another way of making loops or notes or music without a sequencer was done by splicing together & making tape loops. The longer the length, the longer the sequence.
The way to do that was to determine the timing and the tempo of the track, the tempo would need to correspond to a certain number of centimeters and millimetres.
E.g., a quarter note equals a certain length, a half-note was double the quarter, a full-note would be four times, an eighth-note would be half. Generating the different pitches and tones would be done by using the vary speed on the tape recorder.
Clever stuff eh! It’s just a sampler for us.

TERJE
And what about more modern ones like Patrick Cowley or other disco producers? Claps and snares are quite common, but have you heard other producers from that time that made f.i. kick drums from synths?

ANDY
Well apart from Moroder with the System 700 and the Moog I suppose Kraftwerk with Trans Europe Express is another one.
I would have thought Patrick Cowley did kick drums as well, seeing as he was influenced by the above. Menergy sounds like it could of been done that way.
Also Human League’s “Empire State Human” (1979) was a System 100 kick drum.

TERJE
Any plans of a live show? If so, how high will the insurance be?

ANDY
I loved the live shows that I did last year, or was it the year before? I couldn’t take all the synths on the road but my solution was to pre-programme/sample the sounds/riffs into drum pads. This enabled me to get a live feel and re-produce the sound of the Emperor Machine.
Probably if I toured Monophonic I would definitely pre-programme most riffs into drum pads and take some of my less valuable and more transportable (and replaceable) synths on the road.
The only two things that I can remember that stopped me taking out more synths on the E.M. gigs were weight at airports and the lack of a hairy roadie. As for insurance god knows…
You know if someone said to me Ok Andy we want you to take the Monophonic LP on the road and pay you lots and lots of money and even insure all synths AND have a hairy road crew I might think about it.
The last load of Emperor Machine gigs I did I came back with really bad tinitus and two synths literally fell to bits in their flight cases, a Moog Prodigy & a Pro Mars, almost as if the baggage handlers were throwing the flight cases onto the plane, they don’t do that do they?

TERJE
Ouch… Ok, soundclip time:

Andy Meecham – Oberheim Sem

TERJE
The Oberheim SEM track sounds yay! Old or new SEM? Any difference between the 2?

ANDY
Old SEM. Aren’t there 3 versions of the new SEM?

TERJE
No idea.

ANDY
I haven’t played with any of the the new ones but I read a review that mr.Oberheim states they’re all 100% analog.
Mine is really battered and at some point in it´s life it was modded with a patch panel at the front, unlike one of the new ones with the panel at the side on top.
Everybody needs a SEM! “Just for the filter”.

TERJE
How much time and money do you spend on repairing your babies? Wouldn’t it be nice to sell all your synths to buy a private jet instead?

ANDY
Nice opportunity for me to mention James Walker of Synth Repair Services. The man is actually very fair and bloody good. You will find him, and many many people do,
hiding in a workshop near Stoke on Trent. The most I have spent on repairing one synth is around £500 – it was a Polymoog I bought for about £500, one recently went for sale on Sphere auction for around £1500 – so that’s ok.
As for the jet, if I´m honest I don’t like flying that much. I always have to get drunk first.

TERJE
When is Monophonic Vol 2 coming and what synths are you going to use?

ANDY
Monophonic Nerd session Vol 2 has been started, confirmed (working) synths so far are:
Moog Minimoog
Moog Multimoog
Oberheim 2 Voice
Arp 2600
Arp Omni
Roland SH9 X2

TERJE
What, no Roland System 700??

ANDY
No, I decided it deserves a whole album to itself.
I have already got some sequences I recorded with it that I could develop more but it’s too much of a monster to only record one track with. It has to be an album!
More to add to this list once they have been properly fixed! Or maybe I should make an LP of synth samples/noises called “Broken Monophonic”..?

TERJE
Finally, which of all these synths would be your desert island pick?”

ANDY
It´s neck & neck between the VCS3 & the System 100.
If I had to choose I think the System 100 because it has a great sequencer & it´s semi modular & if ever I´m bored I can always make the “being boiled” drum pattern.
Doing that always makes me smile.

TERJE
And if you´re really really bored, you could just fly back home. It´s obviously a space ship in disguise.

 

ANDY MEECHAM’s  “Monophonic volume 1″ is coming out on Nang/Control Room 28th november 2011. Cz-cz-czech it out!