The Foo Fighting Wallflower
Rami Jaffe and the SV-1
Rami Jaffe honed his keyboard talents in his native L.A., and quickly became an in-demand session player. After teaming up with Jakob Dylan in the Wallflowers, Rami's experiences led him to found Trampoline Records with singer Pete Yorn and Marc Dauer – all of whom had been regulars at The Kibitz Room in the back of Cantor's Deli. Rami Jaffe also operates Fonogenic Studios in Van Nuys with Ran Pink. In addition to his continued session work, Rami has also been active with the Foo Fighters in recent years. Known for his passion for vintage gear, Rami was one of the first in line for the Korg SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano. We talked to Rami recently about his musical life.
KORG: When did you start playing Keyboards?
RJ: After a long run of piano lessons, I thought it best to take my Bar Mitzvah money and head to Guitar Center for something more electrifying!! And I haven’t got enough of that since.
KORG: Who are some of your keyboard influences?
RJ: My influences are from over the place. My first and foremost master is Benmont Tench [Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers]. This guy is exactly the best in more ways than one! He's a super talent and can shred the ivories till they explode and you cry, yet his simple choices and melodies fit into songs like a psychedelic Tetris puzzle. He has the wisdom to use the brainy-musician part of his style to execute a riff that is so simple, but impresses even the nerdiest of dudes! I've been chasing his mastery ever since we met 20 years ago, and it has led me to making millions of $s, dozens of gold and platinum records and GRAMMYS®, not to mention touching people's hearts – the reason I really set out to do this before I had pubic hair! This style of playing to is referred to as "lyric" style playing by fancy journalists.
KORG: Any others?
RJ: Other great players I find myself stealing notes from are Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Richard Wright, Al Kooper, Allan Toussaint, Professor Longhair, and some great modern dudes... Zac Rae, Derek Silverman, Ran Pink. It’s a good time for keyboard players right now!
KORG: What do think it is that sets you apart from most contemporary keyboard players?
RJ: It's tough to say. I’m hoping it's the fact that I have this ability to "listen" to all the other parts and players with a deep understanding of where this ship is sailing to. This is not the hardest thing to do, but I can do that by knowing what my sounds are going to do, and what they can do, since I’ve been playing these sounds for years and years. I see lots of players with this potential but the fact that they are still thinking too much about their own sound breaks this talent, and puts their head a little too much onto their own crap. So my advice is to "know" your sounds so that you only consciously listen to others in the track. Could be confidence, really. Since what I do is simple, it's easy to be confident. I know it works for me; I see it working for producers and artists, and I see it working to get chicks. Need I any more proof?
KORG: The past few years have been busy, what with you playing with the Foo Fighters and on countless records. What else have you been up to?
RJ: Well, the Foo’s have kept me cruising the arena circuit with my head in the clouds, but still give me time to explore other avenues. I have this amazing studio with Ran Pink called Fonogenic Studios in Van Nuys. We're doing everything there. Dave Grohl has come over and we wrote a song for a Sony Playstation game. Macy gray popped in to write a song with us last month. I did all of the Kristofferson record there with Don Was – and Fall Out Boy's last record!
KORG: An eclectic Mix…
RJ: We’re all over the map. We don’t discriminate. Also, we throw these raging parties there bi-annually and I think we're going to up it to once every few months and turn it into some sort of internet or TV broadcast. We showcase a broad array of talent in a strange setting of lightshows, artists, dancers, taco trucks, bubbles and smoke. And yes, an open bar (duh!). So it's part of my wanting to make this country a better, more artistic place – or what's the point in sticking around, right? More on that soon at our website!!!
KORG: You were one of the first artists to get your hands on the KORG SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano. Care to share with us a few favorite features?
RJ: As long as you know I grew up in Hollyweird, and image drives my heart and soul (even though you might not think that having a look at me! You can even ask my daughter!), my favorite part of this model [SV-1] is the look. I know I know... shallow dude. Maybe but I'm the dude playing on all these cool records and shows, sorry.
KORG: The design was an important part for us as well. We knew this instrument had to have that vintage vibe. And the sounds, Rami?
RJ: The sounds are awesome and so easy to toggle around between them. I always tell fellow keyboardists who want to get where I am "play simpler, dude! Chicks just don’t wanna hear you shred your scales, sorry!" And this keyboard's set up does exactly that. Just by looking down at it, it's kind of telling you that just a turn to the left here or to press that button there. Basic bare bones. All that memory panel/ LCD screen stuff is for... well, not for me. The mindset behind this new keyboard is the one I try to have all the time. Play good, don’t overplay, listen to the band and your sound fitting right in with it; and look as good as you can doing it. Ha ha ha ha ha. Kinda funny, but true. Laugh all you want, but I’m the bum living in Malibu now!
KORG: Are you using any other Korg instruments these days?
RJ: I've had a KORG love affair over the last few years only. Until then I was strictly a vintage guy, so the TRITONS of the world never turned me on (though their Wurlis, etc. were good I hear). It started when I picked up the microKORG to pass time on a flight to Brazil. Imagine me on a dark night flight with my light on above, vocoder rockin', and me singing "do u wanna party tonight" vocoder style! I was hooked man. I have been using that l'il thing as my Moog sounds ever since on countless records.
KORG: Where else have you used the microKORG?
RJ: I even whipped it out in Toronto, when Taylor Hawkins and I did “YYZ” with Geddy [Lee] and Alex [Lifeson] in front of a sold out arena. The final part is where Geddy usually plays some Oberheim thing. I played him a [microKORG] patch at sound check and it sounded huger than g-d. He simply said "wow, I guess I'll play some bass; but I never played bass on that part before, since I normally had to crawl over to the synth."
KORG: Okay, so you love the microKORG; any other Korg gear in the rig?
RJ: I’ve always had a KORG CX-3 as a backup to my [Hammond] B3, or when I can’t get the organ in the door! And I’ve had a love affair with KAOSS pads since they debuted years ago. I still prefer one of those to some Line 6 thingy processor. The accidents alone are worth the price of admission!
Thanks, Rami! We appreciate your time and wish all the best.