June 13, 2007

Cult Of Gear!!!

by Chris Randall

Since there seems to be some interest in this topic, and seeing how it is contextual in light of the little dust-up in the previous posting, here's the Gear Cult Thread. Why do certain pieces of gear (e.g. Evolver, MachineDrum, MPC60, et al) elicit a slavish devotion from their users that far outweighs their actual usefulness? I have my own theories on this, but they're strictly objective, as I'm not effected by it in the least. I tend to obsess about things _before_ I have them, but I never have any problem turning over gear after the fact.


Page 1 of 2

Jun.13.2007 @ 1:09 PM
my guesses:

1) "It cost a lot of money and I am defensive about cheaper alternatives."

2) "The interface is really good / what I'm used to, and as such alternatives feel weird and not as productive"

I know I'd much rather have a working Korg Mono/Poly than the Korg Legacy version plus a comparable midi controller, simply because my formative years of making electronic music was dedicated to an old beaten up Mono/Poly...


Jun.13.2007 @ 1:29 PM
The 303 is pretty much the definition of "elicit a slavish devotion from their users that far outweighs their actual usefulness". But it has THAT sound. Some people get conditioned to certain sounds, to the point that they can only get off if they hear THAT sound. It's the musical equivalent of a fetish.


Jun.13.2007 @ 2:08 PM
The only thing I have that feeling for is my 97 Parker Fly Deluxe.
Yes the top horn stabs me in the solar plexus when sitting down.
And the Master volume knob is really easy to turn down while playing.

So I turned it up to max and pulled the knob post out of the pot.

Yes it's a little brittle in the top end but that's dealable,
so i will be dropping in new pick-ups eventually.

But I have a permanent back injury and it's the only guitar (besides maybe an SG) I could wear for a whole show.
It NEVER goes out of tune.
It's sexy in a weird way.
And due to it's usual retail price (i bought it used for much less) It's got a certain "bling" factor.

But I also know it's not for everybody, and I also know that (pause to don flame-proof suit) those who say they hate it are plebes, and can't be reasoned with anyway, so why bother wasting the breath to change their feeble little minds.

/me ducks


Jun.13.2007 @ 2:18 PM
Chris Randall
I got your back on that one. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Parker user; I've had up to 6 at one time. Right now I only have two, a plain-jane Fly (pre-Korg) and a NiteFly. I play them live for basically the same reasons as you: they're very light, and you can drive a truck over them and they stay in tune. Very rarely do they break strings, either, which is nice.

If you scare up whatever issue it is of Guitar Player that featured me (c. 1996 some time, or early 97?) you'll see me proudly brandishing one of my many Flys. I could give a fuck what other guitar players have to say on the subject.



Jun.13.2007 @ 2:40 PM
At the back of guitar player there was dave navarro with a parker guitar (96 or so). That picture wanted me to have one. I found a nitefly , few years ago (without active pickups). I still have and love it to this day. Than there are 2 other gears that i looked for, have and love: Moog Source and the gibson killing Oberheim OB-Mx.

Jun.13.2007 @ 2:47 PM
The latest issue of the New Yorker (The "Innovators" issue) has a long article/bio on Mr. Parker and his guitars.

I think everybody has "favorites", and it's a combination of things, most of which aren't rational - how something makes you feel, what memories you have around it. How can you sell the keyboard/guitar/comb-and-wax-paper you wrote all those songs on?

Familiarity plays a huge role as well - switching costs for user interfaces can be very high. Having deep understanding of your gear allows you to be far more productive, and it becomes a feedback cycle: the more you do with a piece of gear, the better you get, and the more you realize you can do, so you do more.


Jun.13.2007 @ 2:53 PM
Adam Schabtach
I think that there are a couple of factors. Once is the "THAT sound" factor that InvisibleMensch mentioned, and yes, the 303 is the perfect example. Music in certain genres hase to have a 303 to sound right. The same goes for some of the 808/909 sounds. Are they intrinsically great sounds? No, not really. It's just that they're idiosyncratic of certain styles and hence essential for working within those styles, and also our ears are so used to hearing them that the familiarity and association gives them elevated importance.

Another is Ataru's item #1. Some people feel defensive about their gear-buying choices, so if someone else implies that, say, their shiny new $1300 imported drum machine isn't the ultimate beat box, they feel compelled to defend it vehemently. After all, if it's not the ultimate beat box, then isn't the implication that they were foolish to throw down the $ for it? Same thing goes for many "vintage" items that change hands for large prices. If someone isn't secure in _their_ reasons for throwing down the $ for the device in question, then they're gonna get all huffy if someone brings up reasons that the device isn't in fact the gift of the gods.

These factors are also fed by the celebrity angle. This angle seems to be more transitory, but if it comes to light that Someone Famous uses a particular device, that device will often gain elevated status. Nevermind the fact that this Famous person may have used the device only because the device was out of fashion and hence cheap when they bought it back in their early days before they could afford anything else. People will latch on to the illusion that if they obtain the same device, then they too can make music like Someone Famous. The rest is simle economics: limited supply, high demand, therefore price goes up.

I also can't help but think that age is factor, i.e. age of the persons involved in the debate, not the age of the debated item. I used to be a card-carrying Apple zealot, and would lock horns with anyone who suggested that PCs might be in any way superior. That was when I was in my 20s. Now that I'm in my early 40s and have many, many more important issues vying for my time and energy, I couldn't really give 2/10ths of a rat shit which OS someone uses. I have my preferences and my job would be a helluva lot easier if AD sold products for only one platform or the other, but I feel no particular desire or need to defend my choice of computing platforms, nor to criticize anyone else's choice. Same is true of the gear I use. Even CR can't get much of a rise out of me when he says disparaging things about my JD-800 or my Virus. (I don't have an Evolver because the UI of the desktop unit never appealed to me and I don't have room for another keyboard.)




Jun.13.2007 @ 2:55 PM
In one of his books Douglas Coupland (or rather, his characters) discussed the idea that geekiness/nerdiness was just a form of functional Autism. That tendency to obsess about certain subjects and become very focused on thing that relate to it, is one of the primary symptoms of conditions like Asbergers, but it's also just as easily explained as "geeking out".
I've always likened the whole gear zealotry thing to all the other types of geek obsession (comics, sci-fi, Linux, vi vs. emacs, etc.). In the end it just seems like the same sort of highly focused intellect focusing on something recreational.

As far as why certain gear garners this sort of obsession but other gear doesn't, you might as well get into a discussion of the completely arbitrary nature of "value". There may be some basis in quantifiable measures (cost, longevity, etc.), but ultimately it usually comes down purely subjective things like usability and sound quality.
And if you don't think usability is subjective, look at the Jazzmutant Lemur and the Reactable. I'm pretty sure they're worth fuck all to Stevie Wonder.


Jun.13.2007 @ 3:39 PM
Chris Randall
Hell, I can see and they're worth fuck-all to me. Good point, though.



Jun.13.2007 @ 3:56 PM
Adam Schabtach
noisegeek and Douglas Coupland may well have a good point. jwz's recent blogging of wikigroaning comes to mind: link [www.somethingawul.co...]">link [www.somethingawul.co...]



Page 1 of 2



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.