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Fripp Equipment -- Circa January1986

Hi Folks -- and seasons greetings to you all.  While I'm not able to
read or receive looper-delight, I'm thinking of you.   Here's a little
something I thought you'd all get a kick out of... and I 'spect it may
be something worth keeping for the web-page...

In January, 1986, Robert Fripp was featured in Guitar Player magazine. 
He was interviewed and at great length (reproduced on the Elephant Talk
Web-Site -- http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/aig/staff/toby/et/intervws.htm).
Guitar Player enclosed a floppy-vinyl disk (Soundpage) of some
Frippertronics, called "Easter Sunday."  Along with the interview and
the Soundpage was a sidebar on the equipment Fripp was using at that
time.  This sidebar article is presented bellow.

merry merry merry erry rry rri rrirri 

David Kirkdorffer


An mini-interview with Robert Fripp 
by Tom Mulhern
Guitar Player, January 1986

The accompanying Soundpage features Robert Fripp using Frippertronics, a
system hat recirculates improvised guitar lines using a pair of tape
recorders, and also employs electronic effects to manipulate the
timbre.  For "Easter Sunday, " which was recorded on Easter Sunday,
1983, in Toronto, Fripp improvised with a Roland GR-700 synthesizer, and
soloed on top of that with a Takamine acoustic, followed by a Les Paul
with a fuzz box played through a Fender Princeton amp.  Here, Robert
Fripp discusses the origins of Frippertronics, as well as his customized
equipment and his guitar synthesizer.

Guitar Player Editor.

GP ö When did Frippertronics originate?

RF ö Originally, the system was introduced to me by Brian Eno. I worked
with him on it for the piece of music that became No Pussyfooting, which
was recorded in July 1972 and released I 1973.  I began working on it on
my own in June and July 1977, when I was living in New York. 
Frippertronics as such went public for the first time in February 1978
at The Kitchen [a New York arts and performance gallery], where I was
giving a solo concert.  I needed a name for it, so I came up with
"Frippertronics" because it was silly.  Then it went very, very public
in 1979 with a four-month solo tour ö two months in Europe and two in
America.  And it was there, actually in front of people ö in record
shops, pizza parlors, ecord offices, small cinemas, museums, all matter
of places ö that I began to learn to work with it pretty well.  I would
run the tape back and improvise on top of it.  The original form was
with two Revox tape recorders, but now Iām working with the
Electro-Harmonix 16 second Digital Delay.  It was advertised as a Fripp
In The Box.  Itās far smaller, quicker, and easier to set up than two
Revoxes.  Although, the sounds one gets are quite different.  The
quality I nowhere near the same as the two Revoxes.

GP ö Does this mean that the sound quality I better or worse?

RF ö We would normally say itās worse, but I use its limitations quite
deliberately to come up with different sounds and textures.  It loses an
awful lot of top and bottom.  But what it can do is run at double-speed
and half speed at the press of a switch.  And then I can put it through
a Harmonizer and a Roland Space Echo.  On the Harmonizer I bring in the
octave above, and on the Roland Space Echo I can add sound on sound. 
Therefore, one can be going forwards and backwards at different speeds
all at once, harmonized or not..  Once oneās put the basic signal into
the Fripp In The Box, one can then play with it in various ways.  I used
this system with the Roland GR 700 about a year -and-a-half ago in a
live, improvised performance in Wimborne Minster at a 1,000-year-old
church which the BBC filmed.  They were doing a 30-minute biography of
my life.  It was the first time Iāve used it live.  And last summer I
worked with it in England in three performances in record shops.  The
Electro-Harmonix unit is limited.  It doesnāt have the facilities of the
large-scale Frippertronics system with two Revoxes, but itās very mobile
and has its own characteristic quality.

GP ö When you were using the Revoxes, did you find that the tape-loop
created a limitation, in terms of the time it took for sounds to

RF ö Well, strictly speaking, there isnāt a continuous loop on
Frippertronics.  Itās simply one reel of tape going from one machine
into the other.  The playback system from the right machine becomes the
second imput for he left machine.  So, its not actually a loop, although
in a sense it is, because the output from the second machine loops back
into the first.  There are limitations to the system, but limitations
donāt worry me.  I accept limitations fairly happily.

GP ö Did you have a variable-speed oscillator to control the speed of
the machines?

RF ö Yes.  You see, Iāve been working with this system in which I
normally run at 7.5 ips (inches per second), but thereās no such thing
as two machines running at exactly 7.5 ips.  So itās useful to have a
VSO to bring the other one back up to the right speed, to maintain
constant tension of the tape over the record and playback heads.  But
you find that if the tension is too great or too loose, you get a very
quick build up of wow and flutter.  Itās a delicate system, and unless
the machines ae biased accurately to the particular tape youāre using,
and the heads are clean, all manner of things go wrong.  Then someone
bumps the table the machines are on, and an unexpected shake comes in. 
You have to be on your toes, and you can never guarantee itās going to
work accurately.  Itās a very precarious way of working ö which is part
of its appeal.  It has this advantage: you can play it back later,
because itās an analog system..  But the Electro-Harmonx Fripp In The
Box has no memory.  So, once you unplug it, thatās it.  At Arnyās Shack,
the studio I sue in England, we put something into the Fripp In The Box
and record two minutes of tape, so we can refer back to it, if we wish. 
This way, we build up the library of different short pieces and
signatures generated by the Fripp In The Box.

GP ö What kinds of electronic devices did you use besides two Revoxes?

RF ö I generally use a small pedalboard with a volume, wah-wah and
fuzz.  It never really mattered what types they were, except the volume
pedal I used was the cheapest one, the first one I ever bought, in
1967.  And until Roland out volume pedals in 1981, which are now the
best Iāve found, I had to use the original one, which had a good on/off
sweep.  The Roland volume pedals let you adjust the on and off range. 
All of my electronic equipment is built into rack mounted modules by
Tony Arnold of Arnyās Shack.  Itās all custom equipment.  He takes a
small effect, builds it into a rack-mounting module, and slots it in. 
Besides the Roland Space Echo, I also have am Ibanez digital delay.  The
specific kinds of fuzz boxes Iāve used ate Electro-Harmonix] Big Muffs
and Foxey Ladys, which were good ö the old ones.  You canāt get fuzz
boxes like that anymore; Iāve tried. All you can come up with, if youāre
lucky, are the old ones.  Tony Arnold is planning to take a number of
old buzz box circuits and put them all in one module with a switching
rank, so you can switch around to any one of five or six traditional,
old circuits.  You can then go to Big Muff to Foxey Lady to Burns
Buzzaround to Color-Sound and so on.

GP ö What kind of amp do you use?

RF ö A Roland JC-120, but Iām looking for a good valve [tube] amp;
ironically, JC-120s are appalling for fzz-sustain, in the way that I
work with it.  So I use a Fender or a Marshall ö virtually any valve amp
will do when Iām working fizz sustain.  I generally run in mono,
although with the JC-120, one takes the left and the right channels for
the spread.

GP ö Do you have any other electrics?

RF ö Yes, I have a very fine ā57 sunburst Fender Strat given to me by
Robin Trower in 1975 ö a very kind, very generous gift.

GP ö When you switch from, say, your Les Paul or Tokai to the Strat, is
there a period of readjustment?

RF ö Well, Iām primarily a Gibson Les Paul player, so yes.  A Strat is
an entirely different instrument.  And again, an acoustic guitar is
entirely different from an electric guitar; it requires a different
vocabulary, a different approach ö a different way of living, actually. 
And the technique of playing is somewhat different.  Obviously, one is
working for tone production.  There are a lot less good acoustic guitar
players that there are electric.  Almost anyone can get a good sound out
of an electric guitar.  I mean, itās not that easy, but almost anyone
can.  Not almost anyone can get a good sound out of an acoustic.  If you
slice across the strings, you get scrape, so to counter that you use a
nasty plastic plectrum.  But then, you donāt produce any tone.  Most
players require a different pick for an acoustic and an electric
guitar.  I donāt, but that has to do with the particular picking
technique that I use.  Also, with an acoustic guitar, one needs a far
better right hand technique than one does for the electric guitar.  With
electric you can coast a lot with the left hand.  With acoustic guitar,
it doesnāt work.  And the technique of playing is somewhat different.

GP ö Your synthesizer solo n "Elephant Talk" [Discipline] goes beyond
the normal guitarās range.  It has a quality similar to that of a
balloon releasing its air while the opening is pinched.

RF ö Yes, something like that.  Iām not exactly interested in sounding
like a saxophone or anything identifiable, but I am interested in
extending the range of the guitar.  On the backing loop to "Easter
Sunda," the synthesizer gives me an octave higher than the normal

GP ö By and large, the guitar synth is in much the same novelty role as
the early keyboard synthesizers.

RF ö The guitar controller of the synthesizer at the moment has not yet
become a unique instrument.  A new music to go along with a new
instrument hasnāt yet appeared.  When King Crimson were in Japan, Roland
told Adrian Belew that they hadnāt expected the synthesizer guitar to be
used as we were playing it ö which is essentially as a musical
instrument.  I think they had in mind that fairly poor players would be
strumming open E-chords with these wonderful sounds coming out.  When we
took it seriously and really worked, played with things, they were quite
taken aback.  This is my understanding of it.

GP ö Wen did you begin working with a guitar synthesizer?

RF ö In the spring of 1981.  I still use the Roland guitar synthesizer. 
The hexaphonic pickup in on a Tokai Les Paul copy, which has been
modified for me by a man in England called Red Lees.  He put in a
coil-tap and phase-reverse switch for each pickup and a Kahler tremelo
arm.  So I have a one-and-only unique guitar.  The synthesizer side of
it is useful but itās very poor for racking.  Iāve heard the Synclavier,
and it is very impressive.  But it doesnāt sound like guitar, which of
course is presumably why people use it.  So I ask myself why is it that
a guitar player bothers to sound like a trumpet and come up with lines
that are a bit feeble for a trumpet player, or a sax, and so on.  I
donāt think the guitar synthesizer has reached the point yet where itās
become a new instrument.  For example, the electric guitar was
originally an acoustic guitar that became louder.  But because it became
louder, it became another instrument.  So, Charlie Christian, in a
sense, became Les Paul, in a sense, became Jimi Hendrix.  At that point,
the electric guitar was a different instrument.  It has absolutely no
relationship with an acoustic metal-strung guitar.  Itās a different
instrument with a different vocabulary, different bodies of technique,
different music, a different lifestyle of the person playing it.  The
synthesizer has not yet reached that level of individuality, though itās
on its way.