The stuff

In an age of consumer electronics, it's easy as a musician to get deep into toys. L E hasn't changed much in terms of the tools she uses to record and perform, but Eric can't stop fiddling around. Nonetheless, we have settled lately on a few essential things we use to create music. If you're a music maker, ask us anything, and do please share your toy likes and dislikes, too.

L E loves her Roland JD-Xi synth. It makes digital and analog sounds and it's easy to recall presets. It's covered in labels and notes and stickers and dust, but never fails. The thing does have a mic input to use as a vocoder, which she tried once, and a sequencer too, but she's never played with that much.

She's on her second TC Helicon live vocal processor. An earlier one had a tendency to be very sensitive to levels and required a lot of scrolling to change presets. The new one is a VoiceLive Touch, and it sits on her mic stand, so she can recall nine presets instantly. Each has a different combination of delay, reverb, and harmonies, plus a "megaphone" setting for a couple songs. We call it "The box of magic."

Eric likes to buy, repair, trade, and sell guitars. But while most of them come and go, a few are standbys. On Mind Grafitti, every acoustic guitar track was done on a circa 1935 Biltmore archtop. It's loud and has a unique, bluesy tone that really cuts through.

For electric guitars, all but one of the songs on the album were recorded on an all-mahogany Tom Anderson guitar with "noiseless" pickups that are supposed to resemble classic P90 pickups. The exception was High Above it All, which was recorded on a cheap Squier Strat from a flea market. Lately though, he's settled on an a second Tom Anderson, one that is loosely like a Fender Stratocaster but more modern: it somehow stays in tune no matter how hard it's played, and can sound sweet or raunchy.

After using a handmade tube (valve) amp and a lot of pedals for years, Eric recently switched over to another modern "box of magic" and sold his old gear. He's now using a Fractal Audio AX8 processor, thanks largely to haring and meeting the band Failure a couple years ago. It's easy to carry, easy to use, and can create thousands of combinations of amp and effect sounds. He only uses four sounds, though.

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