Me in my studio: Hervé Salters of Burning House
30th Jul 2013 | 14:18
"Hi, I'm Hervé Salters. I've been moving around quite a bit these past couple of years, from San Francisco to Berlin via Paris, and as a result my studio has become a travelling one. I've had to strip it down to the bare minimum, which for me still entails about 10 vintage keyboards since I can't bring myself to use soft synths."
Hohner Clavinet C
"At the top of the list of kit and pictured in this photo is my Hohner Clavinet C, which reigns supreme. Made famous by people like Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, the Clavinet C is an authentic funk beast. It’s got strings inside, similar to those of an electric guitar, and when you press a key you’re basically tapping or slapping the string.
"It’s an instrument that begs to be played percussively, with syncopations. Very early on as a teenager I developed a pretty rhythmic approach to keyboard playing. When I first laid my hands on the Clav, I knew I’d found my weapon of choice.
"I also own a Clavinet D6, which is the more common one. But the pick-up microphone on the C is more to my taste - it cuts through with more rawness. And when you run it through effect pedals, it goes wild. This is the keyboard we used on Burning House for the all the fuzz parts that sound like distorted guitars."
"You can see a few of my favourite keys in this shot. The orange keyboard is a YC-10, the first organ that Yamaha made in the late '60s. Because of its weight, I’ve had to leave my Hammond in storage until I move into a more permanent space. The YC-10 has taken its place as my main organ, but really, they’re different toys. The Yamaha lands somewhere between a Farfisa and a Continental.
"Next to the YC-10, the Clavinet C. Next to it, Rheem’s Kee Bass. The Kee Bass dates from the late '60s but its low end is huge. For a closer look, check Devo's Whip It video!"
"In the front, laid on its side, a Wurlitzer electric piano. Next to it, a RMI Electra-Piano 300B. This is a rare one. It sounds nothing like a piano, but that’s precisely why it’s cool. It’s the electric piano tone you hear on many Fela Kuti records - on Water No Get Enemy, for example. WAR, Bernie Worrell and Gil Scott-Heron used it a lot too.
"On top of the RMI is a Hohner Pianet-T. Next to them is a Farfisa Matador, with a Univox ‘mini pops’ drum machine on top."
"I’m a big fan of effect pedals, both vintage and new. I don’t much see the point of using vintage keys exactly how they were used back in the day. For me, it’s about taking those incredible textures and trying to make them say something new sonically.
"Running keys through pedals is a great way to achieve that. When you start chaining them up, the possibilities are endless. I also use pedals as outboard gear. These little boxes just make things pop!"
"I think the most crucial piece of gear is you ears. The second most crucial is what you use to feed the sounds to your ears, the speakers. I stumbled upon NHT-Pro’s A-10s in a hi-fi store in Seattle and loved them right away. They don’t hype up any particular range of frequencies - they’re pretty neutral but very precise.
"I actually got to meet the people who developed these speakers in California as I needed some repair work done on them. A-10s are definitely not your average mass-produced assembly line speakers, more like a well-kept secret. Quality sound made by passionate people."
"More often than not, I run the keys through amplifiers. I love Fender silver-face amps from the early '70s. They work wonders with the Clav and the Rhodes. Both rich and cutting at the same time.
"I use three Fenders from that era: a Vibro-Champ through which I run mostly the Clavinet, a Princeton and A Quad-Reverb. The vibrato and reverb on these amps is superb."
"Amazing '70s analogue tones are what this Oberheim OB-1 is all about. From phat bass to stunning leads. This is the synth I used for the solo at the end of Burning House’s Turn Off The Robot."
"This Roland SH-101 is the first synth I ever bought and it’s still my favourite synth to this day. Incredibly versatile. It’s one of the last great analogue synths, the monophonic brother to the Jupiters. All the knowledge acquired in synthesis during the '70s with an '80s twist on top. It’s all over Walking Into A Burning House."
Fender Rhodes 73 mark 1
"Fender Rhodes 73, mark 1. The first vintage keyboard I ever bought. I still marvel at its sound and feel. It’s beautiful even just direct into the board. It can sound like honey dripping through velvet ears or growl like mad depending on how you feed it into an amp. And the richness of its texture makes effect pedals do magnificent things. An unparalleled piece of gear."