The Hybrid Orchestral Percussionist
From Moog To Simmons
As a result of his association with UFiP, Centazzo began attending instrument trade shows such as NAMM and Musikmesse, where he met manufacturers and distributors from around the world – the perfect job for someone on the lookout for interesting, new sounds. “I became friends with an instrument distributor in Milan and gave him some of my LPs. I mentioned that I would like to find a synthesizer. So he gave the LPs to Bob Moog in person and said ’What do you think of this guy? He would love to have a Minimoog.’ Bob loved the music! So I became an endorser and got a Minimoog with a [Model 1130] drum controller. That’s when I started to use electronics in my work.”
The acquisition of a synthesizer immediately led to experiments onstage and in the studio. “I was looping Moog sounds with the tape recorder, lowering the pitch by playing them at half-speed, playing the tape backward, all those kinds of classic electronic techniques.” His growing synth collection inspired him to explore different genres. For example, his released a “German Cosmic Rock” (referred to as Krautrock, today) project under the pseudonym “Elektriktus” (combining the words “electric” and “Ictus”). “On that record I also used a cheap Italian keyboard instrument called the Davolisynt made by Davoli in Parma. That little two-oscillator synth could make very interesting sounds.”
At the same time, Centazzo incorporated live electronics into his improvised performances. “I used the Moog drum controller with my set, but it was more of an effect at that time. It had a sample and hold, so you got a sound based on how hard you hit it. You couldn’t really control the tuning accurately.”
With endorsement deals from Premier and Paiste, Centazzo’s kit had grown to an enormous size, incorporating numerous drums, cymbals, gongs, and other percussion. The added weight of the analog synth proved to be too much. “The first step was to take out the brain of the Minimoog and use it with the drum, leaving the keyboard at home. But that was still too big and too much trouble. Then I found a French instrument called the Syntoba by Rameau Electronique. This was more compact – the size of a bongo – with two or three controllers on the side, and I used that for a period because it was much easier to carry with the 200 lbs. of percussion gear I had. Although the Syntoba was more limited in sound, it was perfect for creating electronic sounds while improvising on percussion.”
Still, Centazzo wanted the kind of subtle control over his electronics that he had with his acoustic instruments. “Later, at a NAMM show in Atlanta, I discovered the Synare 1 by Star Instruments. It had four pads that you could program. This was a big step up from the Syntoba and the Minimoog, where, depending on how hard you hit the instruments, you were never sure what would come out. The only problem with the Synare 1 was the hiss. It had a high level of noise. It was really annoying. Sure, you could turn the treble down on the amp, but the result was a muddy sound. But from there I went directly to the Simmons.”
A close-up of Centazzo's current electronics rig.