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In the pursuit of more information about looping
and loopers I put the following ten questions to Bill Forth, of the
band 10 Seconds, and he was kind enough to reply. I thought I
would share what follows with you.
>1. What do you recall as being your earliest exposure to music
> that featured looping as part of the audio image?
The church my parent's took me to as a child was my favorite away-from-home
listening space. It was very ambient with a long, reverberant echo. I
remember the choir overlapping in and out in transition. So, I think of
the repetitive figures of canons as signal loops of a sort, and this would
be my earliest point of reference.
>2. What was the first looping device that you had an opportunity
> to use yourself and how was that experience?
My Dad had a Wollensak two-track tape machine, which I secretly
commandeered after school. I read that you could make loops out of tape,
so I tried making loops with scotchtape and supporting the tension of the
tape with household objects like cans and a carpet sweeper. I cut out a
big section of tape from a recording by the Hawaiian singer, Alfred Apaka,
then accidentally flipped it over, stuck it together, and trimmed it with
scissors. With the tape spinning around the living room it was more fun
than a train set and it sounded hilarious, and my dog, Smokey, was howling
along with it. Every time the splice came around it would make a loud pop
and he would bark. I also learned how to control feedback with help from
my dog... I used to find a feedback tone with the whammy bar that would
make him howl, and wobble it around to keep him going as long as possible.
But, I digress... That is a tape loop, rather than a signal loop, and I
think that was the intent of your question, so: the first time I made a
signal loop was with an Akai 2 track with sound-on-sound. I still have the
machine, and it has a really great sound. We had a short wave radio with a
headphone output, so I jammed a cord in that, plugged it in the Akai and
dialed in radio frequencies, all kinds of jabbering and that big buzzeroo
the Soviets used to broadcast to jam the Voice of America. All this stuff
was the most fun a teenager could have on a rainy day.
>3. How many different types of loop processors have you had the
> experience of working with and how would you view the relative
> merits of the equipment versus your musical needs?
I'm a gearhead, but I can be a lot more charmed by a simple piece of gear I
can apply in a way it wasn't designed for, than by something high-end that
gives me too many options. We live in amazing times in terms of the
technology we can access, but I find more and more that I prefer the
blurred edges of the analog world. For example, nothing compares to tube
amps! I have an expanded Boomerang which, down and dirty, is an outstanding
phrase sampler. But, it also drops a decibel in signal level with each
overdub, and that disappoints me a little. The Lexicon Jam Man is very good
within it's limits, and having midi capacity is helpful, but I find the way
that the pedal-controls are mapped out illogical. I've dabbled with TC
2290's and they are astonishing machines, but so complex, I'm not sure I
would make the investment. Sometimes it seems like the more a piece of gear
can do, the more I will get lost inside tweaking it, rather than just
producing something, so just now, I am trying to streamline the signal
path. On the other hand, I'd love to get my hands on an Eventide H3000.
>4. Do you listen to loop oriented work by other artists and if
> so who do you listen to most often and why?
Not any more, but in the field of electronic music, the work of Iannis
Xenakis and Burt Goldstein have been inspirational; also Ligeti,
Stockhausen, Schnittke, Bartok, Berg, P=E4rt, all the key modern
texturalists. Among prominent loopers, I like Carl Stone's work for his
cleverness, Eno's work for dimension and Robert Fripp's work for everything
I can't put into words. I heard Robert work nightly on the first leg of
the G3 American tour, and he is dialing up incomparable atmospheres with
chromatic substitutions. He knows what he is going for harmonically, and at
the same time, he is discovering it as he goes along. Most of the looping
I happen on is modal and repetitive, more rhythmic patterning than going
anywhere in a diatonic sense. So, I find his work wonderfully challenging
by contrast, both technically and emotionally.
>5. What are you currently using in the way of looping gear in a
> live or studio format?
A 4 Megabyte Boomerang, a pair of Rocktron Intellifex units, stomp boxes,
guitars and tube amps, an old Akai two track machine, cassettes and DATs.
Stay tuned for Part 2........