by John Watson
In the last couple of decade nobodyís had things tougher than the keyboard player. Whilst guitarists, drummers or kazoo maestros can generally concentrate on honing their playing abilities, ivory tinklers have to spend most of their time adjusting to ceaseless changes in their tool-of-trade. "Itís quite incredible" agrees Eddie Rayner, "the whole language we speak has changed completely so youíre constantly having to redefine what it is you do."
As the keyboard brains behind Split Enz and Crowded House, though now fronting his own combo the Makers, Rayner was known for his walls of synths. His "incredibly cumbersome" former favourites like the Roland CS80 and the Yamaha CP30 were state of the art a few years back but are now technological dinosaurs. Although they are no longer part of Raynerís rig he claims to be "ambivalent" about the changes which digital synthesis wrought.
"With those older analogue models the keyboard player was the guy over in the corner coming up with these crazy sounds. You used to have to really work to get a certain sound but then it was yours. These days big sounds are everywhere and everybody can grab them, now that may make it easier for people but it also makes it more difficult to come up with something really distinctive."
"I think that although a lot has been gained with all the new technology changes, we lost a lot too. Those old Prophets and things were like lucky dip machines - you could fiddle with them for hours and never know what it would sound like; just jam with the knobs (chuckles). Now you can only alter one parameter at a time so that random factor has just disappeared. Plus digital sounds are just so clean."
Nevertheless Rayner has moved with the times accumulating more than a dozen modules which he now uses to maximum effect with his latest band, the Makers.
"I have a lot of different things in the rack" explains Rayner "an Emulator Emax, Roland S330 and U110, a Super Jupiter and an early model Akai sampler. I drive them from my (Korg) M1 and a Rhodes MIDI piano; I really like the fact that itís a fully weighted eighty-eight note keyboard."
If all this sounds a bit daunting, Rayner is quick to point out that no amount of technology can create good ideas. "A keyboard player has so many options that you can take forever just messing about unless you have a clear idea of what youíre after. The whole process is really only as difficult as you make it; you can get hopelessly lost in it or you can make your gear work for you."