Welcome to the
PERSONAL PAGEof Rob Orland, Coventry, England.
Still staying within the theme of 'family', in 1983 two cousins of mine, Graham and Nick Martin who both played guitar, joined together with me on the drums to form a band.
Joined by Steve and Eric as singer and bassist respectively, and under the name of "Shylo", we mostly did cover versions of 60s and early 70s songs including The Beatles (who else?) and the Stones. Occasionally we attempted something a little heavier and if you click on the appropriate link you can hear a snatch of Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water from a rehearsal at the Bulls Head Pub in March 1985.
Not all of our music was unoriginal however. Another Man was the first attempt by myself to write a song for the band. The lyrics were co-written with the singer, Steve.
After two years together, the members of that first band went our separate ways but Nick and I ended up being invited to join a newly formed covers band, so for six months I played drums with Tryx. Led by experienced guitarist & singer Mick, and including the excellent John Oswin on rhythm guitar with Nick switching to bass, the band underwent many changes in the following years and ended up as a duo - Mick being joined by his girlfriend Marie on vocals. They're still performing, and the link above will take you to their website.
Here is an excerpt from an early rehearsal (Jan. 1986) in the Radford Social Club.... Knock on Wood.
Since giving up band life, I contented myself in the 1990s with composing music at home using the excellent 'Cubase' programme on the PC.
Here are some short excerpts of instrumental pieces (I can't sing!) that I put together many years ago....
I never thought of any decent titles for these pieces, so if you have any bright ideas.....
The piece called 'Regeneration' was formerly 'Funkit !!' The new name was helpfully suggested by somebody who heard that piece, due to the "new meets old" type of style.
Likewise, a new title has been suggested for the piece formerly known as 'Mystery' - the name instantly springing to the person's mind being 'Trepidation'. I like it, and I'm sticking with it!
Track 10 used to be known as 'Rythym & Blue-ish', but Connor Hatt felt that the title 'Run' seemed more appropriate "because it's like an escaped prisoner trying to escape a king's prison like the one in Merlin and he's running through the halls and he has to decide which path to take and he reaches dead ends....". I'll go along with that then!
It was my enjoyment of trying to write music that eventually led me to "getting into" computers. To the many people who knew that I had tinkered around with electronics since school days, it seemed rather surprising that I had always shunned anything that resembled a computer. I couldn't explain it myself but I showed no interest whatsoever in owning a PC, almost to the point of actually being frightened to use one!
However, after struggling to record music by layering or 'bouncing' tracks, first of all using two stereo cassette decks (see my old 1981 hi-fi on the left!) and later with a Yamaha four-track recorder, (bottom right-hand-side in the photo below) it was suggested to me that I ought to try an Atari computer and some software called "Cubase". "What?" I said.... "Use a computer.......? me.....?" Well, it might be a slight exaggeration to say that it changed my life, but it certainly had a profound affect on what I have done in my spare time ever since.
Going back to the early recording processes, there are several disadvantages to using cassette based recorders. One obvious problem is noise. By the time you have copied the first recording of (for example) the drum track to the second tape track whilst overdubbing a guitar piece, and then repeated that a third and fourth time etc. adding other parts, the noise that was just slight 'background noise' becomes somewhat intrusive and the first tracks that were recorded start to disappear under the hiss.
Another problem is that, unless you are a polished player, it is difficult to play a recording from start to finish in one take. This has severe limitations for me, as I can barely go a few bars between mistakes! For these reasons, using the computer for recording was an absolute god-send. When recording using a MIDI sequencer, not only can you record just short chunks at a time and then join them together, you can also go back into the programme after a "take" and correct any wrong notes that were made without having to play the same part a hundred times, hoping that just once you will get the whole piece right! Despite this, I did occasionally achieve a complete analogue recording by overdubbing a few single 'takes' together into a piece of music. Apart from pre-programming the drum machine, the following instrumental consists of live playing of bass and lead/rhythm guitars with the DX-21 synthesizer acting as an organ. This excerpt of Rhythm and Blue-ish was made using the set-up described below....
Pictured above is my mid-1980s mini recording studio...... Impressed? (Thought not!) The keyboard is a Yamaha DX-21, a very popular choice among amateur bands at the time. It was a baby brother to the DX-7 which was seen being used by keyboard players on Top of the Pops almost every week. The DX-21 came without touch sensitivity though, and had fewer sound textures, although with the ability to play two 'voices' at once or split the keyboard into two sounds it was still a very versatile instrument.
The Drum machine on the left of the photo is an Alesis HR-16 which was top notch then with its CD quality sampled drum sounds and touch sensitivity. It could be programmed with a drum sequence or played in "real-time" and overdubbed until you sounded like Buddy Rich. (Who....? I hear you asking!!) Sitting on top of the 4-track cassette deck is the old Yamaha REX-50 sound effects box. It provided reverb, chorus, distortion and echo to add a little sparkle to an otherwise dull recording. The 6-track stereo mixer in the middle is also Yamaha and pulls all the noises together. I still use this mixer.
The bass guitar above was only a cheap Fender copy and the six-string has been replaced. It served me well for nineteen years and is a classic Shergold Custom Masquerader made in the 1970s. It has a very versatile switch arrangement and the twin humbuckers can be set in fifteen different configurations. In my opinion, the only upwards step from the Shergold was to get a Les Paul. I couldn't afford the mortgage on a genuine Gibson model but by all accounts, the early Tokai copies were made to such exacting standards, that virtuoso's such as Robert Fripp (of King Crimson) were unable to tell them apart from a genuine Gibson whilst playing. Thus, it is was black 1985 Tokai Les Paul that I bought next to replace the Shergold, backed ably by an 80 Watt Valvestate Marshall combo, which sounds great when overdriven for that natural sounding valve distortion!
The problem I had with the Tokai, however, is that it had a relatively wide neck, rather like a classical guitar - and I have relatively small hands. Therefore it wasn't physically a match made in heaven for me - despite it's lovely growling tones! It was soon to be replaced by a cheap but well made Fender 'Squier' Strat. Not a normal one with three single pickups, however. No, I couldn't put up with such a thin sound after the Les Paul noise. I ended up on eBay finding a 'Double Fat Strat', adorned with a pair of twin humbuckers like the Les Paul and Shergold before it! And it does sound fat too.... not as "rough" as the Tokai, but a shinier and more biting sound, and quite nice in its own way.
The Premier drum-kit pictured here is long gone, (it provided the deposit on my old Ford Orion in 1988) but certainly not forgotten (at least, not by the neighbours!!). With two bass drums and eight tom-toms wearing Remo Fibreskins, it was capable of a very big sound, even without amplification.
The latter instruments conclude the analogue elements to the line-up. Despite having these, my natural laziness meant that all the instrumental pieces in the section above (with the exception of "Rhythm and Blue-ish") were only recorded using MIDI voices in the PC's sound card. It was more than just a normal sound card though. It was a Yamaha SW1000XG containing over 1,200 'voices' and a 6-bus digital sound processor which means that it can apply up to six simultaneous sound effects. It really is a self contained recording studio and can also apply these effects to "live" instruments or vocals. My PC no longer has that sound card.... I miss it!
Here was the setup back in 2002, including the above mentioned "Les Paul". (But minus the already pictured bass guitar.) The keyboard is a full seven octave Fatar "Studio 900" and although it contains no actual built-in sounds or voices, the hammer weighted action of the keys make it an absolute pleasure to play. For just messing around and not recording through the PC, the Fatar keyboard plays, via MIDI, the Oberheim MiniGrand piano sound module. This module only has six sound samples - three real piano and three electric pianos. However, it's a bit specialist, and the real piano samples really do sound very realistic. The different keys even interact, just like on an acoustic piano.... a sustained note will alter its timbre slightly in resonance with another key being pressed, for a very genuine sounding piano.