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© Paul McAlpine
You helped revolutionize guitar effects with the Rockman. Have there been any tech pieces during the last 10 years that have impressed you?
“As I’m sure you’re aware, an awful lot of people who went to digital effects or other things have drifted back to the oldest things – the oldest tube amps, the oldest guitars [laughs]. Suddenly, my old analogue equipment is worth something. For a while it was worthless. Now, people are paying big bucks to find the old stuff that people used to use.
“I’m not a big fan of the newer things, especially digital things. There are two things that come to mind, though, when you ask that question: The first is speakers, especially for sound reinforcement – far, far better than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Just night and day better. Unfortunately, that’s been somewhat negated by the sudden emergence of digital mixing consoles, which just sound like crap. [Laughs] So, on the one hand, sound systems, the actual speaker interfaces, are so much better than they used to be, but they’re putting them through these horrible-sounding digital boards, and that drives me crazy.
“What I am impressed with is a digital device, which is a piece of software that’s available for various sound editing programs, for adjusting piece or speed. For instance, if you have a song that’s too slow, or if you want to change the tempo on something, the software that can change the pitch of a piano or a guitar part or anything else you might imagine is incredible – and practically seamless. Unfortunately, it’s only available in a digital domain. That, I have to say, is pretty impressive.”
Your guitar sound at times is like that of a “guitar symphony.”
I’m curious - was this something that you always had in your head, or did it come about through your experiments with recording?
“Both are correct, actually. Yes, I heard something in my mind that I was going for, which was possible to do by extensive multi-tracking of guitars, and keyboards sometimes. It did expand greatly once I began experimenting with multi-track recording – I discovered lots of things I didn’t know about creating that symphonic sound.
“The first clue to me was a long, long time ago. I had an early, early echo machine, I’ll call it; it was a tape drive with a couple of heads in it and vari-speed. I was just using it to put background on a guitar I was playing – I wasn’t even recording at the time. Something went wrong with the motor, and it started changing speed slowly up and down, and that’s when I realized what the possibilities were. [Laughs] With the second guitar being played at off-pitch and a different speed, that’s when I realized that I could do something really special with multiple tracking of guitars.”