Pete Townshend

Legendary British guitarist and axe-basher in The Who, Pete Townshend has been an inspiration to countless musicians and a whole generation of music listeners. He tells us how he finds inspiration in his Korg Karma...

(reprinted from Korg ProView Magazine)
Pete Townshend has been one of the faces of The Who for about 40 years now, a band as well known for hits like “I Can’t Explain” and “My Generation” as they were for stage antics that usually ended with their equipment in pieces. As the main writer, Pete influenced a generation of music listeners with all sorts of songs: from 3-minute pop to longer musical works like the rock opera “Tommy” which made the band stars the world over. The next memorable feature was the film “Quadrophenia” in 1973 which was followed by solo projects and questions over the future of the band with the death of drummer Keith Moon. The band regularly reformed throughout the 80s and 90s as Pete worked on several side projects including stage musicals. Here, Pete talks about his new Korg Karma and some of the latest music projects he is involved with.
What initially drew you to Karma? What was it about Karma that made it a top possibility for your choice in synth/workstations?
I don’t use the Karma as workstation. I am interested in it purely as an inspirational tool. I heard about it in magazines and then from my friend James Asher (drummer on some tracks on my first solo abum EMPTY GLASS). I knew from various classical organ scholars I know that the sounds on the Korg Triton were superb, so I decided to take a chance and buy the instrument. I have not been disappointed.
Since 1972 I have used sequencers, arpeggiators and computer based random music generators as a part of my composing process. Tied to the guitar or piano, I write conventional songs, and I have been using the same chords for many years - unable to break free because of a lack of complete musical prowess at a classical or jazz level. (In this respect I’m like many people. A lot of my music is what a poet might called ‘found’.)
The Karma has already allowed me to ‘find’ a whole range of compositions that I would never have worked on without the machine. It reminds me of the Yamaha E70 organ arpeggiation system combined with great Kurzweil quality synthesizer sounds all run from an engine like ‘M’ or ‘Jam Factory’ from the halcyon days of computer music generation. Only it is better. Much, much better.
Now that you have a Karma, what have you been using it for?
Er, ok. Are there any particular features you are using or are going to use?
I am working now to attempt to develop my own feeling for the modal possibilities of the instrument.
Have you been getting into the Karma functions and using the music pattern generation to play ‘grooves’, etc?
Not yet. Whenever I go to one of the ‘Groove’ programs I find myself swept away. This is not my kind of music, so I play it for pleasure rather than constructively. I shut my eyes and I’m in Ibiza surrounded my tipsy blondes on exctasy. I feel like Kevin and Perry having it large!
Have you been getting into Karma controls and tweaking the performance control knobs?
Yes. These are set up so intelligently it is almost impossible to do anything wrong. Like the old Neve desks tone controls, where no matter what you did you got a good sound, greatness is in the listening not the twiddling.
Are there any particular sounds that you like/are using?
I like all the orchestral stuff the best.
If Karma had been around in the 60s do you think it would have survived your stage act?
If this kind of instrument had been around in the 60s I would have found my lack of musical ability no problem at all. I would therefore not have needed to become the ‘Performance Artist’ I became when I smashed guitars.
This instrument took someone a long, long time to put together. It ain’t quite the Well Tempered Clavier, but it is a definite step towards taking the old beast into a new world. It is, to be frank, one of the greatest new truly playable keyboards to emerge since the Prophet 10 and Yamaha CS80.

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Special thanks to Alan Scally of Korg UK for permission to use. Thanks, mate!