Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

It’s been a while since I geeked out about equipment at you guys, because you know I try to keep it to a minimum. Otherwise I could go on all day about gear. But it’s time for me to tell you more about looping, which was Jordan’s idea for how to recreate something like the complexity of the Star*Gaze recordings without me having to play the same melodies and riffs over and over. I explained that at least, right? Take digital samples of a riff or a couple of bars of music and then make them triggerable with a foot pedal. “Looping” means they repeat.

If I hadn’t been so stressed out I probably would have enjoyed playing with the technology more with Flip and Jordan. Flip was an even bigger gearhead than me–which is why and how he became a guitar tech in the first place–so he was all over it.

Jordan had all the latest stuff and Flip got a shopping list from him to get a rig in place. Isn’t it great that I didn’t have to be the one running all over New York City to get the right boxes and cables forty eight hours before leaving the country?

Here’s the part where I should nerd out about what equipment it was, but instead I am going to confess that no one here was able to corroborate my faulty memory about what we were using. I swear it was some kind of Electro-Harmonix box. Flip is sure it was an early model Echotron. I’m pretty sure Echotron wasn’t making digital live loopers yet. Digital delay had been around since the mid-eighties, but the real digital music age was just starting to take off in 1991. That was right when it was all changing.

So many things were changing.

So I can’t really give you a full rundown of the details of the setup the way I might otherwise. Maybe it’s for the best. All you really need to know is that I could play into it to get a loop going when I hit a foot pedal, and then I could solo on top of that, accompanying myself. In fact, I could make more than one loop and layer them. It was really fun and I think the only reason we hadn’t done it during the recording of the Star*Gaze demo to begin with is that the equipment–or Jordan’s collection of it–had progressed in the intervening months.

You’ll see in a minute why I’m making the rundown for you now. You may recall that the last thing I told you about rehearsal was that we were going to do a full run. There were still a few minor glitches in the first half–dancers not quite hitting their marks, Fran and Clarice’s mics not being potted up at one point, little things that weren’t really bad at all. I plowed through it, caught up in the moment without thinking ahead, and that was exactly where my mind should’ve been if everything had been ready to go.

And then we hit the acoustic break and I just froze. Ziggy had taken a cordless mic to the edge of the stage as planned. He was giving a kind of meta-patter: “Well, hello, I hope you’re all having a good time. I’m having a great time with my positive visualization exercises about what a great crowd you are. Here’s where I say something heartfelt and personal to get you all to cheer. Thank you so much.” That sort of thing.

When he came toward me I was still standing at my usual spot on the band riser. I was supposed to have moved to center stage where the two stools were waiting. Before I could make a break for it and run over there, Ziggy had reached me. He gave a sign to someone off to the side–Flip? the monitor guy whose name I didn’t remember?–and tossed them the wireless mic. I cringed inwardly, hoping it was caught–a mic like that hitting the deck would destroy it–but was too caught up in wondering what the hell was going on to say anything. Was this something we’d discussed and I couldn’t remember? I could’ve sworn the plan was…

Ziggy started to sing into my mic. I was standing right there so I could hear his natural voice as well as the amplified sound. He wasn’t singing words. It was a melody full of musical syllables like “ey” and “la” and it was beautiful, like the language of some arcane spell never before heard by human ears.

And then he hit the footpedal for the Echotron. I was standing slightly behind him at this point so he couldn’t see the astonished look on my face. He layered another vocal riff on top of the first, a kind of ululation. The mode had a Middle Eastern sound to it. Indian, maybe.

He let the full loop play once or twice more, and then he began to solo on top of it, a vocal improvisation… only this time there were words to it. Maybe not as improvised as it first seemed, since the words came out more polished than I’d expect if they were made up on the spot.

Comes a time
when the night
seems it’ll never end
wind me up, wind me up

Dark and cold
No one knows
How much I need a friend
wind me up, wind me up

My only friend slithers through the grass
Winds up my leg and making me gasp

My only friend gets into my head
Making me wonder if your alive or if you’re dead

My only friend has fangs for teeth, wind me up
venom so sweet, wind me up
coming for me, wind me up
My friend’s name is anxiety

Then he hit the pedal again to kill the first loop and went into almost a rap, rapid-fire rhythmic words:

Wind me up, wind me up

He looped those and sang on top of them:

I bit my lip til it bled
I bit my lip til it bled
Plump and stung and red
I bit my lip til it bled

Wind me up, wind me up

I bit my lip til it bled
I bit my lip til it bled
Plump and stung and red
I bit my lip til it bled

And then he stopped all the loops and just sang:

Comes a time
when the night
seems it’ll never end

Dark and cold
No one knows
How much I need you friend

The melody resolved as he sang the last line and he took a bow. The entire crew was applauding.

I was applauding but I couldn’t really feel my hands. I was too busy feeling a tidal wave of emotions. I mean, he just… did you see what he…? It was like…It was…

Magic and music and true and passionate and bristling with unbridled talent and spontaneous and yet somehow planned. Just like Ziggy. That was the Ziggiest thing ever.

If I hadn’t already been in love with him, I would’ve fallen for him right there. As it is, I think I fell for him anew. Hell, I nearly fell off the riser.

He took me by my uninjured hand and pulled me toward center stage. When we were off the riser I pulled back until I could kiss the ring I’d put on his finger.

(The lyrics of this song are for Chris! As part of her Kickstarter rewards package. Ziggy wrote them based on her prompt: “anxiety.” Happy month of May everyone. Summer fan posts start Thursday, but remember, any week where the tip jar total reaches $100 there will still be a Saturday story post. -ctan)

(Here’s another minor hit from 1991. Well, it was probably a bigger hit in Australia than here… -d)

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