Confessed analogue keyboard snob, I am. They are tiny felt replicas that I make. The analogue is both sound and aesthetically pleasing. Talking about analogue has gotten me in trouble several times. I’ve toured the globe with instruments made in the 1980s, but they hadn’t been maintained since their construction. I’ve paid the price many times. When my band Sekiden performed Big Day Out, my keyboard not only mistuned but also transposed up a whole fifth in the sun (while my tuning wheel could only tune down one third), or when Regurgitator played at a large festival. My synth’s oscillators started buzzing so loud you couldn’t hear them telling me to turn off my keyboard. I have had gear issues on about 10 occasions.
After years of playing in various bands, I started my solo project in 2010. It was both exciting and nerve-wracking to perform my songs live. My booking agent offered me the opportunity to perform on the upcoming Australian tour with electronic diva Goldfrapp. Renae played the drums, Meredith was on guitar/keys/vocals, and we practised our moves to prepare for the shows. Luna Park was the first venue we played. We were able to see the 3000-seat venue from our first show. This place was huge. It was a slow, arduous show. I felt happy that it was over without major incidents.
This is more than what can be said about night 2.
The Metro in Melbourne hosted the second show. Another large venue with two levels. Yikes! My Roland Juno-60 had some problems during soundcheck. It would turn itself on and off now and then. At first, I thought it was the stage power, but then I noticed that nothing else was affected, and I began to worry. Although there were other keyboards available on stage, the one I was using was the only one that could play more than one note at a given time. This keyboard could break, and I would be screwed. It seemed to be recovering a bit later during the soundcheck, so I thought it would be fine if I left it on between now-and-the show. It was wrong. The Juno began to turn itself off and back on about ten minutes into the show. This could be avoided by dialling up the sounds post-haste and ignoring it. However, inside I was panicking. After three minutes, the Juno gave up and quit working. I tried to get the crowd to chant the word, Juno! Juno! Juno! I was running around the stage trying to fix everything, but alas. The keyboard was dead.
Unable to play the monophonic keyboard songs (one note at a time), I came up with the brilliant idea of transposing all keyboard-heavy songs to a guitar. I tried to visualize the chords that I used on the keyboard, and then I played them on guitar while I sang. It went well, but my pedal (a vintage delay) started buzzing. It buzzed even louder when I kicked it with one foot. Meredith joined me on one of the mono keys I had on stage. Instead of the lovely tone I expected to hear, I heard a dull, tweeting white noise. My little keyboard began to die after the lights overheated it. Meredith looked at me helplessly, and she looked back. My little skull-shaped shaker sitting on top of the Juno fell from the keyboard as if it were committing suicide due to the terrible tension and panic on the stage. The shaker split in half, and all the metal balls inside splattered across the stage and into the front row.
It was the first show that I had to quit playing and leave the stage. I had no instruments to play. Although it was difficult, it made me a better artist. Before I go on the road, I have my vintage touring gear serviced. I buy quality equipment and have spares (or ‘Plan Bs’) of the most important and indispensable instruments that I use to get through shows. Since then, I have never experienced another stage of meltdown.
I wrote this: To encourage artists and bands everywhere to learn from my mistakes. Don’t have your own ‘helpless-support-band-for-Goldfrapp’ moment. No matter what venue you’re playing at or how many people are there, take control of your live show and act professionally. You will feel validated no matter what. This is crucial in a business like this, where you have little control over everything.