Interview with Blind Lemon Tart, part two - Tim Blake and the origins of synthesizer playing


CS: Blind Lemon, yesterday you were telling me how Beyonce got her singing style from an old blues singer, Ella Veracquet....

Blind Lemon Tart: Oh yes, Ella...  I remember Ella when she was about so high, down in Alabama...

CS: Yes, you told me yesterday, and today you said you'd tell me about Tim Blake?

BLT: I remember Tim Blake when he was about so high, down in New Orleans....

CS: You're not going to tell me Tim Blake learned everything off you?

BLT: Hell, no - would I claim something like that?  This goes way, way back. If we listen to Crystal Machine - hear that? the way he's modulating those oscillators?  That there's Jambone.

CS: Jambone?

BLT: That's an old Mississippi blues style of synthesizer playing.  That comes from a guy down in New Orleans, now what was his name? .... Shit Creek.

CS: Shit Creek?  You mean Muddy Waters?

BLT: Well, reckon he may have been called that later, yep, after his image makeover, but Shit Creek he was then.  I remember I used to call him up on the phone - this would be about, let's see, maybe 1873, something like that. I'd say "Hey Shit, how ya doing?" and he'd say somethin' like "Hey Lem, come on over.  There's Bob Moog here and Wendy Carlos.  We got ourselves a party."  Leon Theremin lived in the neighborhood about that time, too, and sometimes he'd come over, and maybe Patrice Warrener's pa would come and do some stuff with his magic lantern.  Those were wild days back then.

CS: And Tim Blake?

BLT: Yes, Tim, was a little later, but still those very early days he'd be there.  And Lemmy.  But Tim would play those old PMS synthesizers like no-one else.

CS: PMS?  You mean EMS?

BLT: No, this was long, long before EMS.  Those PMS synths were big, awkward analogue things that ran off marsh gas.  Sometimes made no sound at all, sometimes gave some wild scream that sent the shivers through you...

CS: Yes, that sounds like PMS, I see what you mean.  But Lemmy?  You said Lemmy was there?

BLT: Yup.  Taught Lemmy bass, I did.  Upright bass back in those days - when I could stay upright for long enough, if I kept off the Jack Daniels for a little while.  But Lemmy was just about so high back then, with his real name up to then.  Changed it to Lemmy he did, to remember me, old Blind Lemon Tart.  Then sometimes Beyonce...

CS: Blind Lemon, thank you, that's all we've got time for today.

BLT: Well come around tomorrow and I'd tell you about Stockhausen.  Those early electronic pieces in 12 Tone - that's an old Alabama banjo style....