Played on a Vintage Collection of Keyboards
Brooklyn, NY– It may be the rarest collection of
electronic synthesizers and keyboards in the world.
Keyboardist, producer, and songwriter and Joe McGinty has amassed an amazing collection of vintage synthesizers over the last three decades.
You can see some of his keyboards go ‘round and ‘round in the intriguing Carousel Studios music video above, “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield featuring the all-female Brooklyn Organ Synth Orchestra and with a short Peter Sellers’ Pink Panther clip at the end.
Located within the Pencil Factory at Greenpoint Ave and Franklin in Brooklyn, Carousel is where McGinty produces his own projects or keyboard parts for other artists’ records and where he can articulate damn near any synth part a band can dream up.
McGinty’s personal keyboard collection goes back to the 1950s and includes a number of rare electro-mechanical synths, some of which were used in the video:
We have Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Clavinet, and the Baldwin Electric Harpsichord, a Hammond Organ & Leslie 147 and Yamaha CP60 and CP30 Electric Pianos; combo organs like the Fender Starmaster, Vox Super Continental and the Farfisa Combo Compact; vintage analog synthesizers such as the Moog 15 Modular, Mini Moog, Memory Moog, ARP 2600, Omni and String Ensemble, the Oberheim Xpander and the Gibson Clavioline.
McGinty also has ample playback machines via his Mellotron M400, Mattel Optigan and Akai S612; vintage digital stuff like the RMI Keyboard Computer and Korg DS-8; and modern instruments such as Moog’s Little Phatty, the Nord Electro and the Dave Smith Poly Evolver.
That’s just for starters. If it all sounds Greek to you, you’re not alone and you’re obviously not a keyboard afficionado of history, like McGinty.
Taking a spin around Carousel with McGinty, he points playing some of the more notable instruments, providing a few musical reference points for novices.
Stopping at the ARP 2600, McGinty noted: “I recently got a bunch of keyboards from Mark Lindsey, former lead singer of Paul Revere & the Raiders. That’s where I got this ARP 2600, which is pretty rare. Genesis used it a lot, and Edgar Winter.”
Moving on, he points out the original Mini Moog. “This is another of my favorites. It’s a classic 70s synth – nothing sounds like it.”
An Atlantic City native, McGinty came up playing the hotel-casino circuit, and over the last three decades has recorded and/or performed with artists such as The Psychedelic Furs, The Ramones, Debbie Harry, Devendra Banhart, Nada Surf, Ronnie Spector, Daniel Johnston, Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes and Space Hog. Music came naturally and it paid the bills.
His keyboard collection reflects a lifelong obsession with keys. Looking at the collection as a whole, McGinty says, “This is about 25 years of collecting, and a lot of it I got cheap when people were getting rid of stuff, pre-eBay. Luckily, I hang onto things! And there’s definitely some stuff here I never thought I’d have, like this rare 1968 Baldwin harpsichord. I also never thought I’d actually own a Mellotron. I know of maybe one or two others in all of NYC– it’s such a classic sound.”
The most prized of the collection, McGinty points out, is a rare modular Moog.
“This is like Switched on Bach era – you really need to know what you’re doing to use it,” he says of it. “There are so many options in terms of patching and stuff. The guy who restored it gave me a tutorial. I always thought the modular synths were really cool, but now that I have one, I really get it.”
As we move around Carousel, McGinty riffs on the keyboards and the classic records that feature them. Every era of popular music is represented here, from the classic 1914 Steinway upright to the Hammond organs to the space-age synths to the Casio keytars to the Dave Smith Poly Evolver and Nord Electro, and so on and so forth. The collection and history are dizzying.
“Sometimes people come in with CDs and ask me about a particular keyboard sound, and I can tell them exactly what it is,” he notes. “Like, the Clavinets are the classic Stevie Wonder funk machine. And the ARPs do the 70s string sounds – like you hear on “Dream Weaver” and a lot of classic 70s disco songs.”
“This is a Clavioline,” he points out proudly. “It’s used on the Beatles’ ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ and ‘Runaway’ by Del Shannon, and ‘Telstar’ by Joe Meek,” McGinty says like a professor admiring his graduate students.
A Passion for the Old
“You go to some studios and they have to get their older keyboards out of a closet or something, and maybe it doesn’t totally work. All these keyboards are instruments I use on my own stuff, so I know all the ins and outs and can even repair them to a point. I also have a few techs I can call on.”
“This Yamaha piano has pickups inside so you can electrify it. It’s a very 80s kinda sound, like Peter Gabriel’s ‘Red Rain’ or ‘Private Eyes’ by Hall & Oates. It’s very useful around here,” McGinty notes.
He also has a unique digital keyboard made by Allen Organs, a primarily church organ manufacturer based in Allentown, PA. “This Allen Organ is pretty fun – it was one of the first digital keyboards they made and it licensed NASA technology and uses old-fashioned computer punch cards. This is their first attempt at a synthesizer so it’s kind of weird, but it sounds really cool. And it’s sort of a secret weapon… people come in and they’ve never heard of it, but it sounds like nothing else so it often works.”
“I really like it when different kinds of bands come in,” says McGinty. “It makes me happy that they’re into the old stuff! And it tends to be cool bands, like this Brooklyn band who came in – they’re doing a kind of 80s, Roxy Music, Bowie-style thing – and another artist who’s doing this over the top glam-pop, like Queen or Sparks.
Carousel/McGinty also does what he calls “long distance” sessions, where clients send files to McGinty with some direction and he’ll send the synth parts back to them. “It’s been a lot of fun to help people realize the sounds bouncing in their head.”
“I’ll give people a few options, for example, Nada Surf was doing their record in Seattle, and they wanted me to play Hammond on a song, so I put up the mics, and sent them a few different versions of that. The long distance thing really opens things up and with the new software like Pro Tools, it makes it all really easy. There’s really a lot of potential here.”
Indeed. Keep on keyboarding, McGinty. You’re a man out of time and music and history, and with the right patch cords and modulation to put it all together.
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Sourced from Joe McGinty and Carousel, SonicScoop, and Youtube. Our appreciation to Humboldt’s Highboldtage for his tipped awareness.
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For Iona brother and keyboardist, Brian Burman.