THE EVENT HORIZON – “SYNCLAVIER, MUSIC AND MICHAEL JACKSON” PART 3 ( EXCERPT)

Sources: Head Gear – By Christopher Currell| All Things Michael

The “Bad” World Tour

To refresh your memory of where the story left off, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

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There were so many experiences while on the “Bad” tour, and it is almost an impossible task to write about them without making a complete book. I could break down the tour into three primary categories. The rehearsals; the actual tour which covered Japan, Australia, America and Europe; and the period right after the tour. I will talk about some of the experiences in the above mentioned three categories. What I will not discuss are the political/business aspects of the tour as these subjects tend to be somewhat of a downer. Due to the amount of information, I will write about my experiences on the Bad tour in two columns. This month I will talk about the rehearsals. Next month I will talk about the actual tour with a few additional notes of what I experienced shortly after the tour. Let’s get going….

The Rehearsals

My biggest worry was how to play the Synclavier Live. I am not a keyboard player. I am a guitar player. I needed to search for the latest technology that would allow a guitar player to play an instrument with guitar like technique but would output digital information reliably to a computer to trigger the Synclavier. I tried everything! In the end, I chose an instrument called the SynthAxe. After plying it for 5 minutes, I knew this instrument could do the job. It was $12,000! I bought one for myself and I had TTC buy two for the tour. Now I just had to learn to play it in a few weeks!

My biggest worry was how to play the Synclavier Live. I am not a keyboard player. I am a guitar player. I needed to search for the latest technology that would allow a guitar player to play an instrument with guitar like technique but would output digital information reliably to a computer to trigger the Synclavier. I tried everything! In the end, I chose an instrument called the SynthAxe. After plying it for 5 minutes, I knew this instrument could do the job. It was $12,000! I bought one for myself and I had TTC buy two for the tour. Now I just had to learn to play it in a few weeks!

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I happened to be at Leeds the day Jennifer Batten came to audition. She pulled up in a beat up pickup truck. She was a guitar instructor at GIT. She had her guitar and her amp. I was walking into Leeds at the same time so she asked where she should set up. She did not look like a rock star…she looked more like an introverted librarian. I showed her the stage. As I recall, Rory was there too. Jennifer asked what she should play. We said anything she wants. So she played the Eddie Van Halen solo on Beat It perfectly with no backing music! We were floored! Later that evening, at Michael’s house, we were watching the videos. I told Michael that Jennifer was really good and he should really check her out! He watched and got very excited and said…”Wow! She is really good but we have to do something about her look!” We all laughed! She was immediately in the band!

Next, came a referral for a bass player! Don Boyette! He had played with many people including the Pointer Sisters and had just come off a year tour with Lionel Richie. Great player and a great look he was in right away!

There were many keyboard players auditioning but Michael wanted Greg Phillinganes. He had played on some of the songs in the studio and he had been working with Michael for many years. I am not sure why we even held keyboard auditions. He was the last musician to come into the band.

It seemed that the plan was to use Jonathan Moffett on drums and David Williams on guitar since both were on the Jackson’s Victory tour. The problem was, they were currently out touring with Madonna. Her tour would soon end allowing a couple of weeks to make the transition into the band. For rehearsals, we needed substitutes for the drums and guitar. Ricky Lawson was brought in on drums. He had also been on the Lionel Richie tour with Don Boyette so they were already very tight playing together. Ricky wanted to take some time off from touring so he agreed to set in temporarily for Jonathan Moffett at the rehearsals. As it turns out, Ricky and Greg were both from Detroit, Michigan and had already done much playing together. I found that interesting because I am also from Michigan and had also lived in Detroit.

LA session guitar player, Paul Jackson, Jr. was asked to fill in for the rehearsals but turned it down. He referred a guitar player named Jon Clark. As I recall, Jon had a day job being a messenger for a record company. When he got the call, Jon said yes right away even though it was just a temporary gig.

If I was to also play guitar, I needed a guitar system so I had TTC buy two Mesa Boogie amps and speakers. I realized very quickly, however, that my gig was going to be very demanding with the SynthAxe and the Synclavier. We had very little time to assemble, program and learn the music. I decided playing guitar was not really necessary since we had two good guitarists already. So I dropped the idea of playing guitar to focus on just playing the SynthAxe and Synclavier.

The band at this point was me, Greg Phillinganes, Rory Kaplan, Ricky Lawson, Jennifer Batten, Don Boyette and Jon Clark. We were finally ready to begin band rehearsals!

Everyday the sound got better and better. We were impressed how well we played together and how good the sound was!

Meanwhile it seemed that Madonna was extending her tour. She would not be finished until we were in the middle of the Japan tour! Clearly this was a problem. Our integration of technology and performances would not be easy for Jonathan Moffet or David Williams to just walk into with little or no rehearsal. Also, the band was sounding great as is! Even Ricky changed his mind and wanted to do the tour! The band had a meeting and we all agreed that this was going to be THE band! We decided that we needed to make our thoughts known to Michael and Frank. So Greg, Rory and myself had a meeting with Michael and Frank to discuss the situation.

We explained that it would not be easy to quickly integrate other players because so much technology was being used. Plus a different drummer and guitar player would change the basic feel of the band and already it was sounding great. We explained to Michael that we thought that the current lineup of members should be the final band. Michael agreed. He thought the band as is sounded great! Frank had no problem with the current lineup because he was already frustrated with negotiations concerning the high salaries that Jonathan and David were demanding. So it was decided! The current lineup was to be the official band! We reported back the good news to the other band members. Ricky was very excited! Jon Clark was in tears! He had no idea that he would actually become a final member in the band! He was overjoyed!

Next stop…production rehearsals!

Production rehearsals were to take place at the Universal Studio’s largest sound stage in Los Angeles. These rehearsals are where we refine everything…the music arrangements, the vocals, the sounds, the choreography, costume changes and the pyrotechnics!

The first day at rehearsal, I had the SynthAxe strapped on. Michael walked up and saw it for the first time. I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head! He said “Wow! Where did you get that!” I responded with “I have my ways” with a smile. Right away he wanted some future looking guitars dug out of storage from the Jacksons’ Victory tour. Jennifer and Jon diplomatically tried them but declined as they were too hard to play.

Everyday there was new arrivals. The backing vocalists showed up for the first time…Kevin Dorsey, Dorian Holley, Darryl Phinnessee and Sheryl Crow.

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During the rehearsal time spent at the sound stage, our work required long hours. Basically we ran the two hour plus show three times a day. Then in the evening, we would work on programing the gear to reflect the additions or changes to the songs as Michael requested. If I recall correctly, we would arrive around 10:00 am and work until about 1:00 am everyday.

Michael would go rehearse with the dancers at another place when we finished playing the show for the day….

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Christopher Currell

Read the full article here

 

 

3 thoughts on “THE EVENT HORIZON – “SYNCLAVIER, MUSIC AND MICHAEL JACKSON” PART 3 ( EXCERPT)

  1. Great article. Have really enjoyed this series.
    Do you know who the 5 guys in the back row are in that first picture? I wondered the last time, too.

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