I do love working with old things.
Now, maybe it’s because I’m advancing in years myself, but there’s nothing that really compares with the sound quality and occasional unpredictability that one tends to get from older circuitry. Maybe it’s why I collect records, too – using a decent turntable, the warmth and clarity of sound you get from a needle tracing a vinyl groove is, in my mind, unsurpassable.
But with these upsides come downsides, and primarily I’m talking about when things go wrong. Such is the case with my Roland Juno 106. I’ve owned this classic synthesizer since 1999; at the time it was a relatively big financial investment for me, but in hindsight I definitely bought at the right time. They now sell for silly money, and, like most vintage Roland gear, will only escalate in value as time goes on. The Juno shaped my ‘sound’ to some extent; the ability to play it live and tweak the bender to give that beautiful swell makes it a very rewarding keyboard to play.
But the voice chips in the 106 are reknowned for failing, and over the last 17 years I’ve owned it, I’ve slowly been replacing the famed 80017A chips one by one – there are seven in all. When these chips failed, I used to take it up to a guy called Phil Delahaye who was one of the last remaining old skool Roland certified repair professionals in the UK. But then he found religion, got married and went to Brazil, in that order.
So now it’s with Cimple Services in Park Royal for the last remaining 80017A chip to be replaced. I rang them yesterday, only to be informed that in addition to the chip problem, the HPF [high pass filter] is also fucked, so I’ve got little option but to dig deep into the coffers and get that issue sorted as well. Still, at least once that’s sorted out I should have my favourite bit of kit back and in 100% working order for the forseeable future… touch wood.
I have to admit that at the time of writing this, I have a work in progress up on the desk that doesn’t utilise any of my analogue outboard equipment – it’s a funk track that’s been composed and produced all ‘in the box’. And it’s actually quite nice to walk into my studio, turn on the workstation, and know that I can get cracking immediately without the headache of re-programming loads of stuff…