Roland Users Group
Out on a world tour with Kanye West, keyboardist and programmer Eugene Roberts relies on Roland and BOSS gear to create a larger-than-life sound and stage show. We caught up with Roberts recently, and here’s what he had to say about Kanye, the tour, and the unique ways he’s using Roland and BOSS gear:
Can you describe Kanye’s band? What’s the setup for this tour?
We have five strings, bass, keyboard, and a drummer who’s playing probably the biggest drum set known to man — for touring anyway [laughs] — he’s playing everything from acoustic drums to V-Drums to a timpani to a gong. I’m playing the talk box and vocoder, and we have two background singers and a DJ – so it’s a pretty big band.
You have a unique setup with the V-Synth GT rack. Can you talk about that?
Kanye has this big concept, that he doesn’t like anything to show on stage — he doesn’t like seeing rack cases per se. The whole stage is sort of galactic, with crystals, clear risers, and a laser light show. So since the risers are clear, I basically put my V-Synth rack face up underneath my riser, so I can see straight through it. I have it MIDI’d through a Fantom.
Wow, that’s got to be a first! You’re also using the SPD-S for some programming?
We’re triggering some kicks, and we’re using V-Drums. I programmed the SPD-S’s, chopped some of the actual audio files from Kanye’s albums, and cut some of his sounds. So we use actual sounds from the albums.
You’re using some BOSS pedals, also – for your vocal parts?
I’m using the [GEB-7] Bass EQ, [GE-7] Guitar EQ, [DS-1] Distortion, [DD-6] Digital Delay, and an [OC-3] Octave pedal. The Bass EQ, I’m using to boost the gain from my patch through the [Fantom]-X7; the other four pedals I’m using to run my mic through for my talk box. So instead of having the engineer put the delay on me, it gives me freedom to do pretty much what I want live.
Are you still wearing your custom-made Roland sneakers?
Most definitely! [laughs]
Anything else you want to add?
I’ve been a Roland user from day one, and I just can’t say enough about the stuff Roland makes, and continues to make. The sounds are always what I need, and it’s been that way for a while. Every major tour uses a 2480. And the Fantoms are the center of my rig. Nothing overall does the job for me like Roland products.
To keep up with Eugene Roberts and the Kanye West tour, visit his blog.