Roland Users Group
Eric Troyer is an American keyboardist, singer and songwriter, best known as a member of ELO Part II and its successor band, The Orchestra. Eric was a founding member of ELO Part II, going on to work with some of the greatest artists in history including, Bonnie Tyler, Billy Joel , Aerosmith, Kiss, Carly Simon, Lou Reed, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! We talk to Eric about getting punched by bouncers, working with John Lennon, and why he chose the Roland VP-770.
How did you get into the VP-770?
Roland had been into vocoder technology right from the beginning.... as a matter of fact, somewhere in the basement I still have a early Roland voice-modulating rackmount unit, I can’t remember the model number, but, I have have been using all sorts of vocoding gear in the studio and live for years, and this VP-770 is the hippest I have ever seen.
What was it that attracted you to the VP?
I am really piano player at heart, and I don’t gravitate towards the flimsier type synths that are out there.This VP-770 is really, really solid....and keys have a weighted feel, unlike most of the synths out there now...inside, there’s almost too much to talk about, it’s got the usual vocoding capabilities, and then some innovative setups and combinations, that you don’t see anywhere else...it has some freaky harmony producing effects that I’m still trying to get my head around..but, really the first time I had a chance to play with it, I hooked up a mic and three hours later, my voice was shot from singing!! I couldn’t stop, I was having so much fun!
What do you use the VP for?
Right now, I’m using it in the studio, I have a ProTools HD setup in my studio, and endless plugins...a lot of them have vocoding capabilities, but the VP-770 is so performance orientated, that I’m finding that I’d rather hook up the VP-770 and layer it ‘live’ over the tracks I’m working on, then mess around with the plugins...OK, then we are heading out on the road in the UK in October, Poland, Czech Rep, and Russia later in November and December, and South America and North American touring in 2010, and I’m getting the programming together for all that touring. There are a ridiculous amount of vocoder parts and other vocal effects in our set, but, it’s turning out to be a breeze to program.
Do you use the VP as part of the creative process?
Actually, I’m working on a film score right now and I jumped right on the VP-770 to work out some ideas, a demented ‘chorale’ and some other vocal things...Interestingly, when I sit down with the VP-770, I swear, I don’t know where it will lead, and it’s always an adventure...I haven’t really been able to ‘ring out’ all the presets yet, there’s so much depth...
What were your first synths / how did you get into them / how do they figure in your work today?
As I said, I am mainly a piano player, but I love all the keyboards and synths, old and new, in my studio I have a nine-foot grand Steinway, an old Clavinet D6, Wurlie Electric Piano, Fender Rhodes, and I wish I had all the even older stuff that I used to have, that I seem to have lost along the way, hmm, where did that stuff go?...but, I love the advancement of technology as much as I love the old great gear...the ease of use, the presets, the playability of the modern synths, like the Fantom weighted-keyboard that I’m using for ‘live’, it just means that you can play more and fiddle with buttons less.
Do you keep on top of technology as and when it develops?
Yes, if it’s useful to me, for the most part, I really do love the technology advancements. However, I have gotten to the point where some of it does not interest me because I’ve chosen my platforms that I love and use, and frankly, to keep up with the developments of every different company that’s out there, all the latest and greatest studio and live gear, is really tough...so, with limited amounts of time, and busy with projects of all kinds, I have to ration my time to get everything done...
What attracts you to a piece of gear?
Could be anything, really, ease of use, uniqueness of sounds, versatility, and of course, ‘Does it look great?’ That’s one of the things that I love about the Fantom and especially the VP-770, they are easy to use; you love the sounds, they do things that the other keyboard don’t do, and they look great, too!
What are your thoughts on soft synths vs. hard?
That’s a tough question, they both have their place. The main advantage of hardware synths are that they are a closed digital system, designed and dedicated to that single purpose, so usually there is less MIDI delay and they are more reliable, seldom crashing, unlike the problems a software synth might give you, where the MIDI delay and crashing would be dependent on the speed and quality of your computer host and the OS that you are running. You have none of those issues with a hardware synth, but, if you are in a studio environment, it’s a different ball game, it’s a huge advantage to have all the controls internally controllable, all your settings are saved with the session. So, different advantages for different situations.
Do you see your keys as an extension to yourself, or as merely a tool to create your sound?
When you really get into the ‘zone’, I guess it’s like adding something onto your fingertips..so, it’s an extension..but, it’s also a tool....both....
What was it like to work with Lou Reed and John Lennon?
Well, Lou Reed was a trip, he was very nice and a very chatty, erudite fellow...we didn’t spend too much time together, but, he was very cool...he loved the vocals that we gave him on the track, ‘What Becomes A Legend Most’, which was a take off on an add that was running in the US at the time for a fur coat company, I think...not sure if you had that in the UK.
Working with John Lennon was one of the highest moments in my life, I was so thrilled to be in the same room with him, he was very friendly and warm, and when he greeted me the second day that we worked together, I was so amazed that a ‘Beatle’ knows my name! He sat down with me and the producer, with his beat-up black Gibson acoustic, and kept singing ‘Woman’ over and over again, very patiently, while we worked out some harmonies....to sing harmony with John Lennon...priceless....would not trade that for anything....
Best onstage memory?
Playing The Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic....with ELO Part 2, and also playing Carnegie Hall in NYC was a high point...great venues and great audiences..perfect...
There have been a few....some bad bars back in the early days...one time, back in the ’70s, I did a gig with my band where we had beer bottles thrown at us all night, and there was fencing all over the front of the stage...the bottles didn’t get to you, but the beer did!...then, I got punched in face by the bouncer, plus we got stiffed out of our wages, all because half the band didn’t show up, wow, couldn’t they take a joke!...yeah! Good times!