Regulated Chaos Master:
Charlie Clouser defines his own place in sound history.

apple.com - April 2002

Platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated songwriter, audio engineer, producer, mixer and remixer Charlie Clouser talks about how he got into music, tuned his ears, took his talent into TV and film, toured the world with one of the most ground-breaking electronic music acts ever, Nine Inch Nails (NIN), and carved out his own place in sound, doing engineering/mixing/remixing for NIN, David Bowie, The Deftones, Rob Zombie, White Zombie and Jamiroquai — with Macs at the core of his studio.


Charlie Clouser:
The evolution of Clouser sound
By Stephanie Jorgl

Producer/engineer/songwriter/remixer Charlie Clouser picked up his first two records at a rummage sale while he was in third grade. “I’d been playing the drums for about a year, but all I had at home to play along to was an AM radio,” he says.

“I grew up listening to what my parents listened to and that was Dixieland jazz, Broadway show tunes and church hymns,” he adds. “My mother would also play ragtime music on the piano a lot.

“I didn’t know there was any such thing as rock music because I never had an older brother or anybody who would pass on the Pink Floyd albums.” But nevertheless, Clouser picked up Led Zeppelin’s first record and ‘David Live’ — a double album of David Bowie in concert — because he liked the pictures on the covers.

Discovers Rock & Roll By Accident
“Up until then, I’d been learning to play the drums by playing along to an album that had Tony Randall singing Broadway show tunes or something like that,” says Clouser. “So I accidentally discovered rock & roll, and needless to say, my mind was blown by ‘Led Zeppelin One.’”

In high school, he started playing with synthesizers and drum machines, but this was before computers were widely used for music at the consumer level. He got his first synthesizer in ’79, and his first computer in ’81.

“In college, my plans of becoming an architect quickly became aborted when I discovered the electronic music studio there,” says Clouser. “This was when MIDI had just been invented. And thus began 20-some years of reading manuals.”

A Different Learning Experience
Clouser went to Hampshire College in Massachusetts, a school that offers project-based learning. “You can take classes that inspire you and give you ideas for independent study projects there,” explains Clouser. “But if you can think up a good idea for a project, then the classes are optional.

“It was a good opportunity for me. I did a variety of projects that were related peripherally to music,” he explains. “My science project was testing people’s hearing response with different types of music. You tried to relate your study to a central theme.” Clouser soon realized his theme would be music and sound.

Studying Sound
After a year of field study, Clouser went to The Institute of Audio Research in New York. “It was a good place because the dean of the school was the chairman of the Audio Engineering Society and it was a very traditional old school — not a ‘Here, learn to use ProTools!’ type of thing — none of that even existed back then,” says Clouser. “There were no keyboards, no musical instruments. This was all about opening up gear and fixing it and understanding electronics and the principles behind it.

“At the time it seemed like a lot of numbers that might not have mattered, but as it turns out, that had the benefit of giving me the equivalent of engineering classes if I had been an architect, but it related to my central theme of music.” He made it out of college in just four years with a degree in electronic music.

The Music World Turns Digital
After college, Clouser took a job as the computers and MIDI expert at Sam Ash on 48th Avenue in New York City. Conveniently, his stint at the store coincided with the same two years when a lot of music software companies first came online. “At the time, Sam Ash was the largest music store chain in the world, so this made me the biggest customer of those products in the world, because I was doing all of the ordering,” he says.

By the time that Clouser left Sam Ash, the computer section had expanded out from a tiny table in the back of the store to take over almost the entire store.

Scoring for TV
While working at Sam Ash, Clouser got swiped away to do programming for “The Equalizer” television series by one of his customers — Cameron Allan — an Australian composer for TV and film.

So, for the next couple years, Clouser played keyboards, did programming and created rhythm tracks for the series. “Cameron was in the driver’s seat, and he would give me some suggestions as to what sort of feels to come up with, but it was basically playing live to picture for 26 episodes, one a week,” he says.

NIN: A Totally Random Hookup
Clouser’s work with Allan eventually brought him to Los Angeles, where he hooked up with an old college friend who was producing a NIN video. The friend didn’t have any background in music, but knew Clouser was a tech whiz, so he referred him to Trent Reznor for producing some sound effects for the video, so they wouldn’t have to send the work out to a post house.

“So I went over Trent’s studio and we did the sound effects on his system, and pretty soon I was back over there doing some drum programming and other bits and pieces for Marilyn Manson’s first record. And then when Trent had to produce the soundtrack for ‘Natural Born Killers’ while on tour, I went along with the band carrying a Mac and a ProTools rig that we used to assemble the soundtrack in hotel rooms,” says Clouser.

Eventually, this arrangement led to Clouser joining NIN and becoming the keyboard player when another keyboardist left the band. “I had done a couple of remixes that Trent liked, and I guess he wanted to bring some of that into the band environment,” explains Clouser.

Charlie Clouser:
The craft of sound

Remixing from NOLA
After touring with NIN in 1994 and 1995, Clouser moved to New Orleans to work with the NIN team at Nothing Studios. “What Trent set up was great because he just wanted to have an environment where people could create and contribute to what he’s doing as they see fit and as needed,” says Clouser. “We’d swap ideas between each other’s studios using a file server and the network that he’d had set up.”

In 1995, NIN co-headlined a tour with David Bowie, which eventually led to Clouser remixing a Bowie song. “That experience touring led to us doing a whole bunch of remixes for ‘I’m Afraid of Americans,’” adds Clouser.

An Established Remixer Pre-Nails
“Because I was in New Orleans and couldn’t just leave for a three-month stint, most of the work I did while I was there was in the nature of remixes, or doing a track for a project kind of thing,” he explains. During that time, he did remixes for Rob Zombie, David Bowie, Jamiraquoi, the Deftones, NIN, Marilyn Manson, Killing Joke and 12 Rounds, among others.

“It was a great environment because Trent’s facility is pretty amazing and huge and there’s plenty of room to not be in each other’s faces,” says Clouser. “I had my own little studio in the upstairs wing. He’s got a great facility that’s set up for a lot of people to be really productive.”

“By the time I started working with Nine Inch Nails, I was kind of on my way as a remixer and producer, was doing work with bands like Prong and White Zombie — in preparation for what I’m doing now,” he says.

Multiple Grammy Nominations
Clouser’s earlier work with White Zombie led to a dual Grammy nomination in 1997, when a track he programmed, mixed and co-wrote with Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance,” competing against White Zombie’s version of “I’m Your Boogieman” — also programmed by Clouser.

“By the time I finish a piece of music, I hardly want to hear it again, I just want to get onto the next one,” says Clouser. “I don’t care if anybody knows if I did it or not. I don’t even care so much if anyone else even likes it.

“It’s not done for anyone’s enjoyment but my own,” he adds. “The fact that I get paid for it is a bonus.”

Mix Master
Take one listen to a Charlie Clouser mix and your senses will be pummeled, driven, seduced and disturbed all at once. He’s a phenomenal mixer with a style all his own.

“I’ve gotten some recognition for my mixing, but I think that people just like the sounds that are in there better than the actual mix,” says Clouser. “I think my mixes are okay, but the next one is always going to be better than the one I just finished.”

The Secret of His Sound
“I want drum fills to sound like a drunk guy knocking a table over in a bar, not like an easily discernible little precise motion,” says Clouser. “My favorite music has always been music that lurches and stumbles along toward its conclusion, without precision. The beauty is actually in the flaws.

“Even though I’m involved in extremely pre-fab digital computer assembly of everything, I’m always trying to make it sound somehow imprecise and lurching and messy,” he adds. “I’m always looking for ways to create a controlled mess. My favorite pieces of music that I’ve done are a complete mess. They’re a train wreck of drum fills colliding and things exploding — hopefully they sound like that.”

He Likes It Uncontrolled
“With computers, so much of it is focused on eliminating the flaws — Auto-tune for the vocals, and Beat Detective for the drums, and of course I use all these tools, but I’m hoping to use them to make things sound not as controlled as I think other people might want to,” says Clouser. “I would love it if everything could sound ragged and uncontrolled all of the time, but when you are working with sequencers and loops and quantized keyboard elements and so forth, a certain amount of order has to be taken into account.”

Clouser developed much of his technique before things like Beat Detective were invented. And although some software programs now attempt to mimic his unique style, Clouser finds it tough to let go of his methods. “I want to be standing in a room hurling bricks of sound like Jackson Pollack hurling stuff at the canvas. I want be able to reach into my pocket, grab stuff and start throwing it!” says Clouser.

The Art of His Remixing
“In the old days, I would just go ‘Let’s pile anything that sounded cool on the track, and we’ll sort it out later — and that’s fine for remixes, because in a remix, somewhere, buried under all those piles of keyboards and loops, there was a song whose original form can be then superimposed upon your mess to create some kind of order,” he says. “You know, unmute the vocal and it sounds like a song again, even though it’s really just a mess of loops.

“You always hear these old-time producers going, ‘It’s all about the song,’ and you’re like, ‘No it’s not! It’s about my bad-ass synthesounds, you know, my killer drum loops!’” he says. “But, you know, in the long run, it doesn’t matter what freakin’ synth you used for the bass, or what kind of drum loop you used on the thing, or whether or not you had the latest plug-in for the reverb. It all comes down to the song.”

Submixing Not Allowed
A typical Clouser arrangement has hundreds of channels of drums and 64 faders worth of drum loops and samples. “I like to keep stuff all separate, not premixed. Sometimes I run out of tracks and I’m tempted to submix vocals and things, but I try to resist the temptation,” says Clouser.

“I guess I’m a little inflexible in my ways of working because I learned before a lot of these smaller, more convenient systems came around and so now I’m just kind of used to having a big system with lots of tracks, and making a big mess on the screen,’” he says.

“So, I’m pretty resistant to change. I grew up in the old school and have wrestled with ways to make the old school well represented in the new school — in the modern revolution,” adds Clouser.

Charlie Clouser:
Apple for audio.

“With electronic music, there are many ways in which you can craft careers in which you’re basically sitting in a room by yourself making music — and at times that’s to the detriment of the flailing rock & roll side of music,” says Clouser. “But, there’s not enough room on the planet for a million flailing rock & roll bands, but there is enough room for a million people in their bedroom studios with their laptops making rad beats.

The Songwriting Process
“If I’m writing something by myself, it starts with drums and bass and a groove of some kind — if it’s an electronic piece. If it’s a rock piece, it starts with a guitar and a click track,” explains Clouser. “I have my terrible sounding electronic drum kit from way back, and some terrible sounding guitars, and I just go in there and bang it out, punk-rock style — if it’s guitars.”

“But I wouldn’t be writing songs on guitar without the technology of hard-drive recording and editing tools like Logic Audio and ProTools,” says Clouser, “even if at the early stages, I just use it as just the quickest and dirtiest scratch pad for four tracks of audio.”

Logic is Convenient
Clouser confesses he’s hooked by the convenience features of Logic. “Logic Audio allows you to quickly loop sections of a song, and even more importantly, to skip over a section of a song while you try out new ideas of an arrangement. And you can do all these things while the program is playing back,” he explains.

“With Logic, you can literally start the beat rolling and not stop it for three hours until you’ve got your song — not finished — but you’ve tried out a million alternatives and gone down a million blind alleys.” he adds. “On every other single program I’ve seen, if you want to see what it’s like to jump from the verse to the chorus without the bridge, you have to cut it out and close up the bridge.”

He’s also excited about Emagic’s new control surface for Logic. “The Logic Control will help to realize the whole promise of soft synths,” says Clouser. “I’ve been a little frustrated with working on soft synths up to now, but having real knobs with displays to show what you’re adjusting should help a lot!”

Why Logic Beats a 4-Track
Even though he sometimes uses Logic as a sketch pad, Clouser insists that the technology could never be replaced by a 4-track recorder. “A 4-track doesn’t allow me to skip over sections and loop sections and try out a million alternatives,” he says.

“It’s worth all the hoops you have to jump through to get the technology to move the way you want it to, in return for that one day where you just wouldn’t have written the song if it weren’t for the ability to try out these alternatives quickly,” he adds. “You would have forgotten the bass line if you had to take all day to get it together.

“When I’m working with bands, the first thing we do is take their demos and we put them in the computer and we start chopping, going, ‘I wonder what it sounds like with no verse? I wonder what it sounds like with no chorus?’” explains Clouser. “This would take you all day if you were sitting there in the rehearsal space with the band going, ‘Hey guys, let’s try it one more time without the chorus…’

Master of the Remix. Charlie Clouser, in his L.A. studio.

“So, having those kinds of tools to fiddle with songs, even at the early stages when they’re not yet ‘being produced,’ is still a huge benefit,” he adds. “It doesn’t even have to a be a room full of ProTools gear. It can just be a PowerBook and a much simpler rig.”

Why Digidesign and ProTools?
Clouser is also an advocate for ProTools. “Using ProTools is a very different experience than using any other host-based audio program because you can assemble a system with immense DSP and I/O capabilities that places almost no load on the computer,” says Clouser, whose ProTools sessions typically have around 60 audio tracks, 24 aux inputs from 3x SampleCell cards, 50 or more aux inputs from synths and other slave computers, 24 I/O inserts to outboard gear, 18-20 stereo busses, and around 160-200 plug-ins running all at once.

“Every time I swap songs between rigs, Digidesign elegantly handles the transfer of files from one computer to the next. In ProTools, you can take a song from the tiniest, crappiest rig and load it up on the hugest one, and it works!” says Clouser. “Take a song from the hugest rig and load it up on the little one and it throws up a dialog going, ‘You don’t have enough, I’m going to save everything and you can unmute it one at a time and do it if you want.’

“So ProTools has obviously addressed the ultra hardcore guy who’s doing audio for film, and he’s got a huge workload and he’s gonna kill himself if this program takes him any longer to do what he has to do,” he says. “They’ve addressed the needs of their marketplace in a smart manner. They’ve sometimes done the unsexy, unadventurous thing, but they’ve completely covered it.

“I think this is exactly related to their tight control over the standards for their plug-ins and so forth, in the same way that all Mac computers have a very consistent user experience, and the same level of quality and thoroughness,” he adds. “I love Emagic, I love Propellerheads, I love Native Instruments, but for years I’ve relied upon Digidesign. It’s a no-lose situation with them, for sure.”

Pluggo Is King
When it comes to plug-ins, Clouser is biased toward ProTools-approved plug-ins because — as he puts it, “They seem to be of a much higher caliber — a totally different class and standard.” However, he feels differently about Pluggo from Cycling ’74.

“Pluggo is the best 74 bucks I ever spent on a plug-in,” says Clouser. “It’s so great, that those guys could have tacked another zero on the end of the price tag and it would still be well worth it.”

No Mac, No Music
When asked why he uses Macs, Clouser responds, “Apple’s consistently brilliant user interface innovations have made it possible for me to operate the computer ‘with my eyes shut,’ not thinking at all about how to go about what I want to do,” he says. “The system just gets easier and easier to use, while I watch the PC world get more and more complex as they struggle to catch up with audio and MIDI features that the Mac has had quite literally for 10 years.

“No project I have worked on in the last 10 years could have been done without the Mac,” he adds. “It’s that simple. No Mac, no music.”

PowerBook Touring with Speak and Spell
Clouser recently did a set of gigs with Alec Empire from Atari Teenage Riot, playing with him at the Mount Fuji Rock Festival in Japan in support of Empire’s new solo album.

“It was great,” he says. “My instruments for the shows were a Texas Instruments Speak and Spell — which has been modified with switches all over the front to make it speak garbage — and a portable Casio SK5 sampling keyboard — with switches all over it to make it slice and dice sounds — and a PowerBook running Reason. That was my entire rig.

“I think Atari Teenage Riot is fantastic,” he says. “I love everything Alec does — he’s doing the right thing for the right reason, and I look forward to doing more collaborations with him.”

Designing Racks and Stands
Macs were also behind Clouser’s ultra cool, industrial-looking, seemingly indestructible keyboard stand that held up through the relentless and brutal treatment that is commonplace for instruments on the NIN tour. Because of his background in architectural studies, Clouser decided to get a CAD program to design his own equipment racks and a keyboard stand. “I was determined that the Macintosh experience equated to, ‘I can walk into a store, buy a CAD program and be printing out designs by tonight,’” says Clouser.

“So I plunked down $599 for MiniCAD, and I didn’t even have to open the manual,” he says. “I just stuck in the disks and went to the reference guide to look up a few key features, like how to work the dimensions and the zoom control.

“I just wanted to draw my stupid little keyboard rack, and to print out the design with the dimensions, and have it made the way I wanted,” he adds. “And I was able to accomplish that in no time on the Mac.”

Macs in the Studio

Power Mac with ProTools Mix (Core, 6 Farms, 3 SampleCells) running ProTools.

“This rig plays 64 tracks thru 200+ plug-ins with no screen lag,” says Clouser.

Power Mac running Logic “native” with RME Hammerfall audio card, driving 40+ keyboards and modules across 8 Unitor interfaces.

“This rig plays 30 audio tracks and two soft synths, and MIDI rocks,” he says.

Power Mac running Reason, Rebirth, soft synths.

“All slave computers are ADAT LitePiped over to the ProTools rig,” adds Clouser.

Charlie Clouser:
Songwriting, producing, and engineering

Clouser Now
Clouser is currently working on a project called Revenge of the Triads (ROTT) with Jason Slater of Snake River Conspiracy and Troy Van Leeuwen of A Perfect Circle, Failure and Enemy. The brainchild of Slater, the ROTT project is signed to LMC Records. “Jason and Troy are both Mac users and ProTools users and we each are contributing equally in the songwriting stage,” says Clouser.

With ROTT, each person generates a track of drums, bass and guitar — a skeleton of a song — then hands it off to one of the others. The songwriting continues as the trio passes the hard drives around.

“That way, someone can flip through the songs, grab one and go ‘Hey man, I put some new bass on that song you were doing because your bass was terrible’ and then on the next one they might go, ‘Hey, I loved your bass, but I put some drums on it,’ explains Clouser.

“So, you know, we’re all kind of pinch hitting on it. We’ve got two or three different drummers involved, three or four singers, and I’m playing some drums on it, some bass and guitar. Everybody’s kind of doing everything and working with ProTools. At one point we were even using the iPod to shuttle stuff around,” he adds. “But we’re trying to get set up to use Rocket Network to transfer stuff around. The Rocket technology is extremely exciting.”

Helmet and Hamilton
During the course of NIN touring with Bowie and doing a club circuit with Helmet, Clouser made friends with Page Hamilton, leader, singer and main writer in Helmet. “So, he and I began writing music together in New Orleans for his new post-Helmet project,” says Clouser.

“With Page, the writing is very conventional style,” he says. “We both play guitar and I play drums on the electronic drum kit and then Page takes copies of the songs home in Logic Audio and works on them on his Mac at his house. He uses it as a glorified 8-track and does, you know, 16 or 24 tracks or so, just working on vocal parts and such.”

Recording: Now First Take Can Be Last Take
“This is a classic case of why the desktop digital revolution is awesome for music,” explains Clouser. “In the old days, it would be a matter of ‘Oh, the vocal I did on the demo was better.’ and ‘Oh, but it’s on a Portastudio, and we can’t use that — it sounds terrible.’ But now, the vocal you did on the demo is every bit as well recorded — hopefully — as the real one.

“In many cases, with Page’s stuff, we’re taking the vocals he recorded with his little $70 microphone and are using that one because it had the spirit of the moment and adding some weird guitar sounds that he made late at night at home. And he’s able to record them at every bit the same quality we’re doing on the larger system,” he adds.

“One thing that’s been great is we can sketch out a song together on my big system and — using all the toys and all the fancy guitar effects and all the big drum sounds — I can give him back a snapshot of that song that he can take home and add a million things to it,” says Clouser.

“Then when he brings it back, he can go, ‘Look at all these great things I’ve added,’ and it’s a very simple matter for me to just put all those new elements alongside my big version of the song, and to allow a multi-tiered approach to the creativity where things can take place in smaller rooms and still get integrated into the final product and the quality doesn’t suffer,” he says.

Future Score
In addition songwriting, producing and remixing, Clouser recently reconnected with composer Cameron Allan and plans to get back into the scoring for movies and TV.

Charlie Clouser:
Sound advice for the aspiring audiohead.

“If you want to get into engineering or producing, you have to be able to chop up audio on your computer,” says Clouser. “The only producers who do not touch ProTools are the guys who have a staff of guys who touch ProTools. I can not fathom a musical endeavor that does not involve cutting up audio, recording on a hard drive and looking at a waveform on some kind of grid and moving a piece around with the mouse.

Get a Mac
“If you’re going to want to get into audio production, get a Macintosh, get ProTools Free and the other music sequencer of your choice — Digital Performer, Cubase, Logic or whatever. If you want to be a songwriter, get something like Logic and a Mac and don’t come out of your room for 10 years,” he says. “But in either of those cases — whatever you do — get a computer and don’t look at the screen,” he adds.

It might seem weird to consider sitting in front of a monitor with your eyes closed, but Clouser insists, “You’ll learn more with your eyes closed and listening to the effects. You’ll forget, because it’s so great to look at the EQ graphs and the beautiful displays on the screen.

“Those are valuable tools to help you understand what’s current and to learn, but the best way to do it is to close your eyes, move knobs and go ‘Oooo I like the way that sounds’ and then look at the little graphic display to see what the visual evidence is of why you like that, and maybe you’ll recognize it next time,” he says. “It’s taken me years to learn to not look first — to try to learn to not look at the screen.”

Find a Challenge
“Try to find music where you can’t figure out how it was made. That is the music that I’ve followed over time, that’s taken me to where I’ve gone,” says Clouser. “As soon as something was evident on the surface — how it was accomplished — I’d try to find a way other than that way.

“I’m lucky enough that when I wake up in the morning, I’d rather turn on the computer than the coffee machine. I’d rather start work than not,” he adds. “And that’s because — fortunately — the things I’m working on are still things where I can’t figure out how they were done. I’m hoping that’s a result of always looking for things that baffle me.”

Read Everything
Another piece of advice Clouser gives aspiring audio engineers is to read constantly. “For 20 years, I’ve read every word of every advertisement and article regardless of whether it related to my field of interest or not,” says Clouser. “They could be talking about how they used a microphone or recorded sounds of footsteps for a movie, or whatever. I’ll read every word. And I keep every magazine and I put little post-it notes in them about the articles, about the microphones etc. That’s a huge part of learning.

“If you’re into audio production, get Mix magazine, get Keyboard, get Electronic Musician, go get those English magazines, like Sound on Sound and Future Music,” he adds. “I get three different computer magazines and I read every page, articles and reviews of stuff — even on business accounting software — who cares what it is, read it, because somewhere in there will be a tidbit of info that will help you. When you need to get accounting software, you can go ‘I read a review of this one and this one sucks…don’t buy it!’

“You might think it relates only peripherally to what you’re doing,” he says. “But the information that relates only peripherally is the stuff that’s most important to hang onto because that’s where you’ll find a pathway to some whole new other unexplored area.

“So, be a sponge. Soak up all the info you can on any piece of software that gets reviewed. Read the reviews, then download the demo and try to figure out why the reviewer didn’t know what he was talking about,” he says. “I stopped believing that the owners manual knew more about the product than I did. It is possible to know more about the product or device than the people that made it.”

Don’t Believe The Manuals!
“In fact, until you can go back to the company and say, ‘You know what? You need to change this.’ then you haven’t poked your nose in everywhere and found every dark corner,” he stresses. “I went for years thinking, ‘Well, maybe I’m just doing things wrong because the manual says this and it’s like, I’m not loving it, so I must not be thinking things right.’

“So, go and find things that are not in the manual that are in the product, or find things in the manual that are not in the product,” he adds. “Because those are the things that make all the difference — the little goodies that you find by reading software reviews, and by not believing the manual.”

Avoid The Date Stamp
“A Ray Charles recording still is what it was and is not date stamped in some way. So much of the rush toward new sound that all this new technology has created — like the 303 bass sound, which was all the rage one year, then you weren’t allowed to use it the next year, and now it’s hip to use it again, but only in a certain context — demeans the underlying music by clouding it in the trappings of the date stamp. Date stamp is a term I borrow from Trent, who says that things are date stamped by the particular sounds which they used,” says Clouser.

“Trent has always tried to be very careful with Nine Inch Nails to not use sounds that are extremely typical of a year or a decade which would then — 10 years later — sound really jokey,” he says. “If you listen to ground-breaking electronic music from the dance world from 10 years ago, boy, does it sound cheesy now. And, fair enough, it wasn’t trying to be timeless music, it was trying to be timely music.

The Only Band He’d Key It For
“Nine Inch Nails has always made a good use of technology, because it uses the stuff to make a mood, without going overboard.” says Clouser. “There were many songs that had no guitars, even though they kind of sounded like heavy metal, or whatever.

“That’s kind of why I was intrigued by and joined the band in the first place,” he adds. “That was the one band I would definitely play keyboards in. Playing synthesizers or keyboards in a traditional rock band holds zero interest for me.”