So what about PMS?
Well, I happen to
be a Professional Music Technician and the initials "PMT" of course suggest I'm a pain, so it
was Kate, the wife (also known as "Boss"), who came up with the idea to call us PMS! Joking aside,
the wall here sports an interesting collection of framed paper that says I am really
qualified to do this stuff. (and they aint junk as I actually had to pass
exams to get 'em!)
Ah the picture,... was taken by my daughter Ruth
and is Kate an' me in the ancient (like me) village of Grimspound
in the Dartmoor National Park. This happened to be only a few miles from home at the time.
We love the moors. It's quiet,.. well it is when
I'm not up there!
Now we are in Wales,..
The actual business that was Performance Music Services came about after I had a rather silly
industrial accident that left me with a left leg that does not always function too well.
My employers denied all knowledge of the accident and I was left with a mortgage, no
compensation and a meteoric drop in income.
As I was already fixing my own neglected PA,
it was a natural progression to fixing a friend's and then his friend's keyboard and so on,...
as word got round, I was soon travelling all over the place and found that I was possibly the
only engineer in the West of England who could, or would, service many of the older things like
Hammond tone-wheel organs, Comptons and Conns, as well as the current Yamahas, Rolands and
all the rest,.. and at a pinch Technics (but they are now almost impossible to get bits for).
I actually started out in musical electronics back in the sixties at school by making my
first guitar and an amplifier for it using of one of Clive Sinclair's kits, which is possibly
where my eccentricity comes from. I was told by my teachers it couldn't be done,.. well it
wasn't perfect by a long way but it did play,.. with effort and I was hooked.
I went on to do an apprenticeship with Bill Greenhalgh Musical Instruments in Exeter
before moving on to other fields in the electronics industry. To be honest, I wish I'd stayed put
with music now! Unfortuately, Una and Jane who kept the shop going for so many years, have decided to call
it a day. The store closed down in 2006 but has a place in the memories and hearts of thousands
of musicians! (Including me)
Over the past thirty odd years, I have always been fixing, modifying and building musical
equipment for all kinds of people, although I leave guitar making to guys
who actually do it properly! Check out Andy Powell's (Wishbone Ash) new "V" if you want proof
I have also been playing around as a performer myself and having some
sense of what is actually needed in an instrument or other kit has proved to be very useful.
It was Bill who told me that being a technician who could actually play an instrument went
very much in my favour when he gave me the job. He also gave me a very good deal on my first
decent 12-string guitar and a Selmer PA amplifier.
It has been fun watching technology being
dragged into the world of rock'n'roll, in fact a lot of today's music would sound very
lifeless without it. The strange thing about current sounds is that I am now being asked to
dig up designs from the bottom of the drawer to get
"...the sort of fuzz Hedrix used"
circuits for old valve amps like Orange and Hi-Watt that you can fry an egg on when they've
"warmed-up". Thinking of those valve amps, I guess that if you have to practice in a cold
bedsit, it comes in handy if the amp provides the room heating too!
Athough most of the equipment I have been doing was organs and keyboards (mostly because they are
too big for you to cart down to the local shop for repair), I actually play a twelve-string
guitar for much of my music, hence I only fix them and know what they should sound like.
Playing them shows up the fact that my parents wasted a fortune on lessons for me when I was
a kid but I never practiced enough,.. well not on the keyboards anyway! Having said that,
I really enjoyed hearing my customers playing with their newly repaired organs when I had
finished a job on something that was in a sorry state before.
Incidentally, you might have noticed that I mentioned fixing Technics instruments. Well yes
on a good day with a favourable wind but if you are the proud owner of one and it blows
if you don't belive in a God,.. now would be a good time for a change of heart because
getting bits for anything Technics is going to be pretty hard if not impossible.
Technics musical instrument division was closed down at the end of 2003 and unfortunately,
because so many components in these excelent sounding beasties are unique, a fault in just
a single little chip may render it scrap.
This is all a bit acedemic really,.. since the accident in 2000 my knees have (despite the
crazy opinion of one Doctor) got considerably worse. Unfortuntely, coupled with the government's
utopic view of England as a holiday park for the mindless rich, I can't continue to do the job
of fixing heavy kit any more. My body simply can't cope with the stuff.
So,... quite simply, if you wanted an organ fixed,.. you will
find it very hard to get someone to do it locally cos it's a tads difficult when some days I can't do more
than a few metres without the wheelchair these days,.... although it does make a good work-stool!
So, now I just tinker about with my own kit and also write a lot. As I find it fun to write in rhyme, I've been
writing kids books in that format. Try Googling Phredber, he's getting popular!
Incidentally, if you do want your organ/keyboard fixed, don't expect someone to do it for peanuts! This stuff
requires years of training and specialist tools. Add to that the cost of travelling and you are almost
certainly looking at a three figure bill, you'd expect it for your car, which is simple by comparison
and quite possibly you'd actually pay more for that!
I had a decent PA until recently I fell over and crushed a couple of bones in my back, hence it became
impossible to lug about and set up. Not being one to simply give up altogether, I wanted a tiny amp that I could
get out and play small gigs with, or go busking with. That meant having something battery powered.
It was easy enough to find a battery, from a golf caddy trolley I found lying about in a scrap yard!
I then found a pretty potent little amp board on Ebay from a manufacturer in China that puts out 15 watts RMS in
two channels. The case was easy enough to put together and with a couple of decent car stereo speakers, I now
have a ridiculouly potent little stereo power amp that I feed my Digitech Vocalist Live 4 into. It's quite a beast.
considering the size of it and a whole lot of fun to use too.
I should point out that if you hear me using this one, everything you hear is played LIVE with effects, not
backing tracks from some downloaded files. I don't do Karaoke and never much fancied it myself. I can't see the point
in trying to perform other people's music like a clone, even if X-Factor etc seem to think that amounts to star quality.
I never repaired Karaoke machines but I do have a nice sledge hammer that will fix 'em well
enough. I have a real dislike for them because Karaoke has killed too many venues for live
music. I just hope it is a passing phase that will quickly fade away because I don't want to
be around when some kid says
"I want to be a Karaoke champion!"
"I'm gonna be a
Come on,.. that's not a dream,... it's a nightmare!
© PB 2004
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