Welcome to Breakdown, an unofficial resource and discussion list about the innovative guitarist/producer Michael Brook. This site is infrequently updated, but contains a great deal of background info which will remain online. For up-to-date news and information, visit Michael Brook's official site and MySpace page.

Babbling Brook a compendium of articles reviews and interviews

Michael Brook Interview
from the Roland Canada website
[archived here without permission]

Michael BrookMichael Brook's credits as producer, engineer and guitarist have graced albums by some of the most celebrated and forward-thinking artists of our time. He has also scored several films, and has a number of albums to his credit as an artist in his own right. After two shows in Toronto with Neil Finn, Michael Brook is back in Los Angeles, where he's lived for most of '98.

Originally from Toronto, in '85 he moved to England. As well as being a composer and producer, he is also the creator of the "infinite guitar", which employs electromagnetic devices built into the guitar that excite the strings into "infinite" sustain without picking them. The sound of the infinite guitar is similar to that of one played with an "ebow".

He has been musically associated with many artists, including Brian Eno, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Robert Fripp. We spoke to Michael in November, at his home in LA, about playing with Neil Finn and using the Roland VG-8 Virtual Guitar System.

R: Are you touring with Neil Finn all over the place?

MB: No, he was having different guests in different cities and I was the guest for Toronto.

R: Have you worked with him before?

MB: No, I met him in Los Angeles a week ago Thursday when he played here, but no, I hadn't met him before.

R: You must have had to cram and learn a lot tunes all of a sudden.

MB: Well, I crammed. I mean that was kind of the way he was doing it. Every city he would work with people; just rehearse the day before and then play either that night or the next night.

R: That's pretty adventurous, because I don't think of his stuff as being all that simple.

MB: Well we picked the simpler ones, and he was playing solo, so there wasn't a band or anything, just usually two people playing. Yeah, it was tricky. I described it as 'musical bungee jumping'.

R: You used a VG-8 for those two shows. What was that like?

MB: I usually use a whole rack of effects and stuff. I have this thing called the Infinite Guitar. But basically it's a pain to carry them around. One of the powerful aspects of the VG-8 for me is that it has quite a few decent effects built into it, and by effects I mean compression and EQ as well as just echo or something like that. The amp sounds are really good, and it just doesn't sound like a cheesy multi-effects box. The fact that I could have a lot of stuff in one box was really the main attraction. I thought I would use the tuning aspect of it, which I think is a really powerful part of it, for live performance in particular, but we actually never got around to that. There's a radio station here called KCRW that I just did a live concert on about a month ago, which was the first time I'd used the VG-8 live, and there in the middle of a song I had to change tuning and it's fantastic for that. For me, it's things like being able to radically change the sound from one preset to another that I find useful. And I really like, I think the Tele, Strat, and hollow body ones are just terrific. They really capture some of that character. The twelve-string thing is quite useful. I wish more of the variables were assignable to pedal, and I wish there were inputs for more than one pedal. You can use the switches on the GK-2 to do Bank selection in one mode -- I find it quite nice to have pickup selection on that -- but then that means you can't use the foot switch for Bank selection, which I wish you could. If you're going to make it variable, you may as well make it totally variable, is my feeling. I would like to take that one further and have a tone control on the guitar. They've taken the modeling to a certain degree and it's great, so I'd say keep going, 'cause you're onto something. But essentially it's a powerful box and it's fairly well implemented.

R: What kind of guitar are you using?

MB: Mostly it's a Tokai Strat.

R: With a GK-2A pickup on it?

MB: Yeah.

R: Was Neil Finn playing acoustic guitar on this tour, or electric, or back and forth?

MB: He was playing back and forth, and piano. I think the night I played with him, because I was only playing electric, he only played acoustic or piano. Also Ron Sexsmith joined us for a song. It was amazing. So many people in the audience knew all the lyrics. There were these three girls who actually got up and sang backing vocals with harmonies, who had never -- there'd been zero rehearsal. It was just a spontaneous thing and it went great.

R: When Neil Finn asked you come up and do the gig, obviously it was because of your playing chops, but I was just wondering if it had anything to do with the fact that you do use an effected sound and use a lot of different sounds? Is that part of what appealed to him in that context, with just the two of you?

MB: I think so, yeah. He knew a few of my records and quite liked them and thought, you know, I use a wide range of sounds on my recordings, and yeah, I think that was one of the things that appealed to him.

R: Are you gigging in LA?

MB: No. I haven't played here in about 4 years. It's just so much work getting ready to do a gig for my own stuff. I played with David Sylvian and Robert Fripp in their band. I think that was the last time I played here.

R: Are you doing session work for people?

MB: No, more just my own stuff -- composing -- and I do production, too. I've done some film work, but I want to do more of it. I'm kind of gearing up for that.

R: Well I guess LA is the city to be in for that.

MB: It is. It's a surprisingly local industry. When I lived in London I kept thinking, well people say my records sound like film music, maybe I'll get more film work. But then I'd come here and people would just say, well, we'll see you when you move here.