Simon has performed with bands like Incognito and Reel People and done studio work including remixes for Bootsy Collins, Elton John or Jamiroqaui. And he definitely likes vintage gear – owning an Oberheim OB-Xa, a Minimoog, an ARP Avatar and of course the mighty Fender Rhodes to mention but a few. For live situations, gear like that would of course be impractical. Still, he wants access to lots of sounds as he likes to ‘orchestrate’ as a player with multiple sounds and layers. Developments in software instruments have led to many amazing possibilities, but for Simon hardware is still an important piece of the puzzle. So he took a ‘hybrid route', as he calls it, and designed a light weight live rig that covers all bases: A combination of his favorite hardware keyboards and Apple Mainstage with our Impact LX88+ controller keyboard. More than reason enough for a chat!
I am running a hybrid system, as for me one box doesn’t do everything. I use the best of both worlds: My standard setup is a Yamaha Motif ES8, Moog Little Phatty, StudioLogic Numa Organ and the Impact LX88+ controller with Apple Mainstage. The Motif delivers the fat bread & butter sounds, like strings, horns or pads, and Mainstage opens up a world of specialist stuff that I can no longer live without! Now I can use my favorite Plug-Ins live, like the Ravenscroft 275 Piano or Scarbee EP-88. Mainstage gives me access to rich sounds that use 20 Gig rather than a workstation’s typical 20 Meg and are fully customizable, which is important to me as a programmer. Or Sylenth – my go-to virtual synth that I also used in the performance videos for Nektar. It’s so much quicker for me to create modern pop-synth-sounds in software rather than surfing through workstation menus. So the controller is an integral part of my system as I like to program MainStage to be ‘hands on’. It is the heart of my rig, it does all the sound management and rig assignments. I use an open system where any keyboard has access to any sound source, including layering, splits and so on – the Motif is also fully integrated. I therefore have almost limitless splits and assignments per patch with a single button over up to 4 keyboards and heaps of different software, it's incredible actually.
I have created a Layout in MainStage, mapping the LX’s controls to my different sounds and sources. It is on a patch-by-patch basis, the faders might control the levels of brass, strings or software instruments – the knobs provide filter or send controls, the buttons below the faders generally are reserved for patch changes, mute, special effects or tap tempo. I usually work to the same system every patch. The pads I mainly use for samples at the moment.
By the way, the LX+ is the only keyboard I’ve come across that manages the drum pad note assignment output in an instantly understandable fashion. I really make good use of all the controls the Impact provides, so it’s great that they also feel right. When I go to rehearsals, and want to travel lightly, MainStage and the Impact are a killer solution: all the sounds, 88 keys - it is so light and setup is quick.
Simon's rig is built around his Macbook running Mainstage, a Yamaha Motif and a Numa Organ.
(All photos: © Simon Grey)
Reliability, firstly! This shouldn’t be underestimated. I’ve had lots of challenges with that in the past with integration of controllers. Just recently I had to play a gig with someone else’s controller, which in theory especially using Mainstage shouldn’t be a problem. But it kept dropping out and I almost had a mental collapse! On the other hand, the LX+ has worked without a glitch for me so far. So thumbs up for that as most of my colleagues and I don't have patience for controllers that are not intuitive and solid. Also, I don’t want a controller company to dictate to me how I should use their product. I need to be able to customize its behavior easily – that’s what I like about the LX+. When I run Mainstage, it sees just knobs, faders and keys ‘dumb’ so I can wire things internally super fast – with Logic the Deep Integration also worked right out of the box in a simple, effective fashion.
It is great for organ, Rhodes and synth sounds. The controller’s action is tight with natural resistance. As a trained player, I would prefer weighted hammer action for piano sounds. But the LX88+ really covers all bases and is generally very playable.
I have just released a new TRACK called ‘TAKUMA’, which is a taste of my upcoming album that I am crowdfunding on Pledge Music. I am so pumped about this project and have been working on it for years! I like to call it funk-infused future jazz. (You can support the project here and download the single for free!: www.pledgemusic.com/simongrey)
Peter Amato: The producer and composer tells us about using Panorama P6 on "The Voice"
Electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk are pushing the envelope again with Dolby Atmos 3D audio mixes. The Panorama P1 helped improving the workflow.
Häzel: With a track on Gallant's Ology album, things are looking bright for producer Häzel. In this video he is explaining his workflow.