KBP interview on Analog Musician

Mar 31, 2015
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In case you missed it, I hope you'll enjoy the latest interview appearing on the Analog Musician journal.


It was a great day here at Analog Musician, when we received the call informing us that we could eventually get a short interview with the great keyboard player and guru Keith "Bob" Pearlman, something we had been waiting for so long.
Bob might not have widespread fame among the general public, but he is for sure a very well-known name in the music industry. Having managed keys for iconic artists such as Algerine Dreams, Kraut Sghulze, and the late David Browie, both in studio albums and live gigs, it is not an exaggeration to state that he was had a central role in shaping synth music.
We got hold of him between two dates of the heavy-metal act "The mechwarrior obituaries".

Analog Musician - Can you tell us how you first got involved with synths?
Keith "Bob" Pearlman - I actually started as a marimba player in the late 70's, with the KKK band [Ed. note: The KKK band was a long-lived Japanese progressive folk-pop music trio composed by Ikutaro Kakehashi, Genichi Kawakami and Tsutomu Katoh. Despite never achieving world fame, it contributed decisively to the birth of synth-based music.] and got fascinated by these new machines. The guys let me play their instruments in the band van while we were traveling between gigs. I learned the ropes this way, and it's there that I actually conceived that famous drone sound.
AM - You are referring to your signature "brown note".
KBP - It was not called that way in those times, but indeed it soon became the climax moment in concerts: you could tell the audience was waiting for it to come.
AM - And then your career took off rapidly...
KBP - Yes, many famous artists were asking me to play synths and I could not accept all offers. Some gigs I had to do while connected through a 56K modem...
AM - Which are the main differences in your work today, with respect to when you started?
KBP - It's very different. In the old days we used to play these huge modular synths, we had "cable boys" running all over the stage to plug connections among modules in real time. Then preset instruments came, still played live. Then eventually came the time of VSTs, and the keyboards on stage were used just as masters to control off-stage computers. Nowadays it's even more different: the computers do play sequences and control via MIDI the on-stage keyboards, which we just pretend to play.
AM - You mean nothing is really played live anymore?
KBP - Actually, we still play synth solos live, but this is done by remapping keys. You know the 290 bpm semiquaver solo in "The giant interstellar hogweed meets the electric cheese goblins"?
AM - Who does not know that iconic solo?
KBP - Well, that's actually performed by playing live a C major quarter-note scale at 60 bpm. Everybody in the business does this nowadays.
AM - So the role of the performer has changed...
KBP - Indeed. That started changing in the late 2000's, as we felt audiences could not appreciate anymore the solos including "The flight of the bumblebee" at 500 bpm, also because not everyone had portable audio speed reducers allowing them to actually hear the notes.
AM - So the focus moved more to the musical timbre?
KBP - Yep, it's all in the sound: you have to surprise the audience with unique sounds. Sometimes we use this element of surprise of missing sounds, with parts of a chorus actually lacking music.
AM - Could you describe your current live rig?
KBP - It's rather minimal in this tour: I use a MIDI-retrofitted Fisher Price 17-key board, which I customized by replacing the original integrated circuits with those of a Synclavier II. It cuts wonderfully through the mix.
AM - We look forward hearing it at your next gig! Thank-you for your time.
KBP - All the best.

© Analog Musician – April 1st, 2019


Jun 28, 2014
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Welcome back Awakeman! After a three-year absence it's been once again entertaining to read your April Fool's efforts.

Go well brother and hopefully see you on April 1st, 2020.