Thursday, May 3, 2007

Ryo Okumoto

Ryo Okumoto was born in Osaka, Japan. He began playing classical music on the piano at the age of 3 and continued through 13. He became a professional musician at the age of 15 performing at the Live House in Osaka for a year. Because of his great desire to learn more about different styles of music and his strong independence, he moved to Tokyo at the age of16. Ryo performed in nightclubs and discos for the next 5 years.

Ryo's first real break started in 1978 when he was 19. He toured with a well-known group called "Creation" and recorded on their album "Best of Creation." The next year Ryo toured with the legendary, "Kitaro" and recorded on Kitaro's album, "Live in Parco."

In February 1980, Ryo's first solo album, "Solid Gold" with Canyon Records was released. He recorded this album at Air Studio in London with well-known musicians: Richard Baily (drummer for Jeff Beck), Kuma Takeda (bass), Katsutoshi Morizono (guitar) and Delandro Winston (guitarist for Elton John).

Two month later in April, Ryo released his second solo album, "Makin' Rock" with Canyon Records. This record was recorded at Sound Labs Studios in Hollywood. He once again had the best musicians recording behind him: David Foster (keyboard), Jay Graydon (guitar), Steve Lukather (guitar), Jeff Porcaro (drums) and Neil Stubenhaus (bass).

Ryo's third album was released in June that same year with Canyon Records. This was called "Synthesizer" and recorded at Sound Design Studio in Tokyo.

The next year, Ryo decided to move to Los Angeles in March. Tokyo seemed stagnate to him now and he yearned to learn more about the different styles of music that LA had to offer.
Ryo studied at Dick Grove School of Music for the next 4 years. Upon graduation his talent and creativity were welcomed by the American music scene, and he has been involved in a numerous projects worldwide ever since. The artists he has performed with include Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Barry White, Eric Burdon, Peabo Bryson, and Roberta Flack. He also has been part of countless world tours. His professional credits are listed below.
It was 1987 when Ryo became part of progressive rock group "Spock's Beard." Their 8th album "Octane" was released this year, and their Europe tour was a great success. Ryo's talent is internationally recognized now and he is reaching audiences all over the world. He has been featured on many magazines worldwide. Dutch rock magazine "iOPages" is one of them.

Ryo's talent has no limitations. Ryo's undying passion for music, will always keep him visible, whether it be rock, jazz, R&B or a broadway production. He will always be in the public's eye.

Performed and/or Recorded with:
Phil Collins, David Foster, Debbie Gibson, Al Green, Eric Clapton, Steve Lukather, Lamont Dozier, Nichele Nichol, Natalie Cole, Jeff Porcaro, Richard Elliot, Roslyn Kind, Barry White, Simon Phillips, Jennifer Holliday, Louis St. Louis, Kitaro, Jay Graydon, Sue Raney, James Ingram, Peabo Bryson, Original 5th Dimension, Aretha Franklin , Dionne Warwick, Aaron Neville, Marilyn McCoo, Melissa Manchester, Johnny Gill, Eric Burdon of the Animals, Roberta Flack, Pointer Sisters, Brenda Russell, Glenn Hughes, Patti Austin, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Bobby Kimball, Sheena Easton, Eric Carmen, Teena Marie, Robbie Robertson =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Ryo Okumoto on Spock's Beard: 'We're fine. Everything's cool.'

Michael Popke @ Sea of Tranquility
Posted on Tuesday, December 31 2002 @ 12:49:02 CST

Now that singer, multi-instrumentalist and chief lyricist Neal Morse has left Spock’s Beard, the band he founded in 1992 and fronted for a decade, the four remaining members of the progressive-pop band spend a lot of time on the phone with each other. "That was Al," keyboard player Ryo Okumoto says to writer Michael Popke, referring to Alan Morse, Neal's brother and the Beard’s guitarist, after wrapping up the most recent call regarding the band’s future.
That future, as you’ve no doubt heard, involves carrying on the tradition of Spock’s Beard, arguably one of progressive music’s most unconventional yet talented bands. Plans call for drummer Nick D’Virgilio to step out from behind the kit and handle lead vocals, with probably a new drummer joining the band for live performances. "I’m hoping that I can cover all the keyboard parts, but when Nick sings, we’ll need a really good drummer – and one who can sing, too, so we can still do songs like ‘Thoughts,’ " Okumoto says, adding that the Beard will forge ahead as a quartet in the studio. "We’re fine. Everything’s cool. We just have to go into the studio, record some material and see what we can do. I’m not worried about coming up with new material. Sonically, the music is going to be Spock’s Beard. The lyrics and the voice will be different. I don’t know what it will sound like, but it’s still going to be good."

Already, Spock’s Beard has performed as a foursome at November’s ProgWest in Claremont, Calif., playing three of the band’s songs ("The Doorway," "Go the Way You Go" and "Devil’s Got My Throat"). And there’s been talk of recording in early 2003, with a summer release and then a tour. A 2002 tour in support of the monumental double-CD Snow, which Spock’s Beard released just prior to Neal’s departure, was shelved in light of the singer’s decision. "Not touring the Snow album was the dumbest thing we’ve ever done," says Okumoto, whose first name is pronounced "Rio." "We put out this mega CD, and then we didn’t tour."

Indeed, while it would have been a treat to hear songs from the epic concept album about an outcast young albino man, who in the role of the title character, finds himself confronted with a higher calling that allows him to feel and heal people’s pain, Neal’s sudden departure (for personal reasons stemming from his Christianity) stalled the band – and ultimately could have broken it up. Okumoto says he actually begged Neal to tour, but his mind was already made up. The band played only a few in-store acoustic gigs (with Neal) in support of Snow, an accessible album that contains musical and lyrical elements of such other landmark concept records as The Who’s Tommy, Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and even the Seventies off-Broadway musical Godspell.

Yet in the midst of Spock’s Beard’s darkest autumn came at least two bright spots:
1. Neal’s decision may have actually boosted interest in Snow, as listeners new to the band gave the album a spin to hear what all the fuss was about. Metal Blade, the label that released the album in the United States, made the album a priority in 2002.

2. Okumoto released Coming Through on Europe’s InsideOut Music and InsideOut Music America, his first solo album in 22 years and his first ever outside of his native Japan. His first album, Solid Gold, was released in early 1980 and featured then-Jeff Beck drummer Richard Bailey. He quickly released two more albums that year with such notable players as Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, the late Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro and session keyboardist David Foster.

With Coming Through, the term "solo album" is a subjective description, as the record features several guest appearances by his wife, Linda, on background vocals and his 11-year-old son, Sage, on drums, as well as renowned artists such as journeyman vocalist Glenn Hughes, and singer Bobby Kimball, drummer Simon Phillips and Lukather – all from Toto. Each of Okumoto’s Beard bandmates also plays on the disc. "Was I smart to use everybody in Spock’s Beard on my solo album?" he asks. "Well, I have to use who I have."

And when who he has are as talented as the guys in Spock’s, why not? The most memorable track on Coming Through – and the most appropriate, considering the circumstances – is a poignant performance from Neal, whose last recorded work may very well be the title track. The lovely piano-driven ballad features bittersweet lyrics Morse penned himself: "I know you’re down, my friend/Shedding tears for what might have been/Time won’t stand still/But if we try, time will heal." A video of the recording session, during which Neal is overcome with emotion, is captured on a multimedia CD packaged with the album.

"When writing that song, I’m sure Neal had already made up his mind about Spock’s Beard," Okumoto says. "The day after he recorded that song, he announced he was leaving. That’s probably all he was thinking about."

The goal of this record, recorded in Spring 2002 after wrapping up Snow, was to take some of the best compositions Okumoto’s written during the past two decades and rearrange them in a progressive, yet accessible style. Examples include the funky "The Farther He Goes, The Farther He Falls" (with D’Virgilio on vocals and drums), and the 19-minute "Close Enough," on which Kimball goes prog. Okumoto also includes three instrumentals on Coming Through, sequenced to fall nicely between the other five tracks. One of those, the groove-heavy and guitar-free "Godzilla Vs. King Ghidarah," dates back 17 years.

About the only semi-clunker is Hughes’ "Highway Roller," which unfortunately sounds like a Deep Purple reject. The nature of this album gives it a "Various Artists" vibe, but Okumoto’s solid and creative playing holds it together. While on Snow he proved he’s just as comfortable playing classical-inspired solos as he is banging away on the Hammond organ, on Coming Through, Okumoto just goes wherever the music takes him.

"You definitely feel that progressive thing in there, which I needed to have for prog fans, for Spock’s Beard fans," Okumoto says. "I didn’t really plan to have a pop side and a prog side. That’s just the way things happened. I wasn’t even ready to do a solo record. But Spock’s Beard is getting bigger, and now I have a chance to actually sell copies of one of my CDs. If I do well with this CD, maybe the guys in Toto [whom Okumoto has known for more than two decades] will call me, and I won’t have to call them."

(Incidentally, Okumoto also released a CD single in Europe in 2001 called "Winners of the Heart," a pop tune written for an international ski-jumping competition.)

When he’s not working with Spock’s Beard or making solo albums (he’s already begun writing the follow-up to Coming Through and plans to call on Neal again for at least a cameo appearance), Okumoto keeps busy with side gigs. He’s been part of the live band for Hughes’ Voices of Classic Rock project, a live amalgam of some of the best rock voices from the Eighties – including Toto’s Fergie Frederiksen, Loverboy’s Mike Reno and Survivor’s Jimi Jamison. He also plays in Natalie Cole’s touring band. "I just sit there and read music," Okumoto says, comparing that gig to a Spock’s Beard show, where he ventures blindly into the audience while playing a wacky solo on his portable keyboard. "With Natalie, I play jazz instead of rock." And he says he’s not too proud to still do weddings.

Okumoto’s got more free time now that he’s at least got a command of the English language. "I started learning how to speak English when I arrived in this country 22 years ago," he says, still speaking with a sometimes thick Japanese accent. "You would not believe how hard it was. It took me 10 years to be able to argue."

That said, neither his powers of persuasion nor those of the rest of the members of Spock’s Beard were enough to keep Neal Morse from leaving the band. But even though he won’t be appearing on the next Beard record, Neal still runs the band’s web site, according to Okumoto, and he remains "part of the family."

"Spock’s Beard is as good as it gets," the keyboard player says, optimistic about the group’s future. "We don’t need to prove anything. It’s a beautiful band we have."
(For more info on Okumoto’s colorful career, log on to =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ Inside Out Music
Ryo Okumoto is not only the keyboardist of the American prog rock formation Spock´s Beard, with whom he has regularly released highly praised albums since 1997, but is also known and respected as a studio and guest musician for international stars such as Natalie Cole, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Eric Burdon and Al Green—as well as the legendary scene surrounding Toto (Bobby Kimball, Steve Lukather, Jeff Porcaro, Simon Phillips). Okumoto has also been producing his own solo albums, notably Solid Gold (1980) and Treasured Moments (1996/97) since 1980. His latest work, entitled Coming Through will be released in October by InsideOut/SPV.

The album consists of eight songs, three of which were composed by Ryo alone and four others which were written and composed together with his Spock´s Beard colleague, Neal Morse. The eighth track is by Spock´s Beard drummer Nick D´Virgilio. Amongst the vocalists who Ryo was able to win for the album, one finds not only Morse (who sings the title track, ´Coming Through`) and D´Virgilio, but also Glenn Hughes, formerly of Deep Purple (´Highway Roller`) and Toto´s Bobby Kimball (´Slipping Down`) as well as Ryo´s wife Linda Green-Okumoto. The role of drummer was filled by Nick D´Virgilio, Simon Phillips and Okumoto's eleven year old son, Sage. Bass players on the album include Dave Meros (Spock´s Beard / Eric Burdon) and Kenny Wild (Natalie Cole etc), whilst the guitar work was carried out by Steve Lukather, Michael Landau and Jun Sumida.

On Coming Through, Okumoto's aim was to re-arrange his best compositions of the last twenty years and to align them more with the directives laid down by the progressive rock which has so much become his musical passion. Apart from that, he wanted to work with his friend Neal Morse and bring to life several very special numbers. The most impressive of these is certainly the 19 minute long song, ´Close Enough`.

Ryo Okumoto was born in Osaka, Japan. He began playing classical piano when he was three and became a professional musician in Osaka's ´Live House` at fifteen. He moved to Tokyo a year later and spent five years playing in nightclubs and discos. His first breakthrough came when he was nineteen, in the nationally known band, Creation. He later played with Kitaro and together with him, Okumoto produced Live In Parco.

His first studio album, Solid Gold came together in February 1980 as he worked with Jeff Beck drummer Richard Bailey and Elton John guitarist Delandro Winston. This was followed two months later by his second album, Makin` Rock, recorded in Sound Labs Studios in Hollywood with the Hollywood elite of David Foster (Keyboards), Jay Graydon and Steve Lukather (guitars), Jeff Porcaro (drums) and Neil Stubenhaus (bass). His third solo work, Synthesizer appeared in the same year.

From 1981 he studied at the Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles for four years and this, together with his tremendous talent, opened the door to several important projects and profitable engagements such as working with Phil Collins, Aretha Franklin, Barry White and Roberta Flack.

He joined the prog rock sensation Spock´s Beard in 1997 and since then, Okumoto has been able to document his enormous talent on five studio albums and two live albums which are regularly placed in the charts in many countries including Germany. During his world-wide tours with Spock´s Beard, the Japanese artiste has always demonstrated his breathtaking technique and finger-tip sensibility for song-oriented playing which has led to him being featured in numerous musicians magazines. With Coming Through he is fulfilling a long-time dream and Okumoto actually planned a great production of such high quality that he can still be proud of it in ten years time. There is no question about it - Coming Through certainly fulfilled this ambition. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Fran├žois Couture @ All Music
Since the mid-'90s, keyboardist Ryo Okumoto has been best known for his lasting tenure in the American progressive rock group Spock's Beard, but he has done a lot of different things before he joined. His track record includes recording sessions and live performances with pop and R&B artists like Peabo Bryson, Phil Collins and Aretha Franklin on the one hand, newage king Kitaro and a handful of easy listening albums on the other, plus of course the various pet projects of Spock's Beard's members.

Okumoto was born in Osaka, Japan, in a family where music was an obligatory part of a child's education. He took piano lessons from ages 3 to 13. At 15 he dropped out of school to take his first professional job at the Live House in Osaka. A year later he moved to the big city -- Tokyo. From 1975 to 1980 he played night clubs and recording sessions both as a house band keyboardist and as a "real" member in a number of Japanese rock groups. The most popular was Creation, with whom he recorded his first album as group member in 1978. While Creation's profile was rising, Okumoto also appeared on Kitaro's In Person LP and its accompanying tour. Kitaro's record label Canyon offered the young keyboardist a contract for three albums that were all delivered and released in 1980: Solid Gold, Makin' Rock and Synthesizer. Recorded in London, Hollywood and Tokyo respectively, they featured an impressive cast of musicians, including David Foster and Toto guitarist Steve Lukather.

The LPs did not garner the interest (critical or popular) Okumoto was hoping for and, disenchanted he decided to move to Los Angeles where he spent the next four years studying at the Dick Grove School of Music. His discography and live schedule pick up after his graduation in 1984. During the next 13 years, he has played the role of an adaptable sideman, performing with retro-R&B groups, pop sensations and hard rock bands while recording with Homer, Earthshaker, Kuni and Edwing, among other acts that didn't last long. In 1996-1997 he tried to earn a living in easy listening, producing three volumes of the Treasured Moments series and a couple of movie scores.

Meanwhile, in 1995 Okumoto met the Morse brothers and joined their group Spock's Beard which had just released its first self-produced debut The Light and connected him back to his roots. The group's popularity among prog rock fans rose one notch with 1997's Beware of Darkness (the first album with the keyboardist on board) and crossed over to a wider audience with the released of The Kindness of Strangers in 1998, following the group's signing with the label Metal Blade. Since 1998 Okumoto has been working almost exclusively with Spock's Beard. He released Coming Through, his first solo album in over 20 years, in late 2002. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Iconoclastic keyboard-master Ryo Okumoto soars with Spock’s Beard.
Prog: The Final Frontier

Michael Gallant @ Keyboardmag [April 2007]
These are the voyages of the rock band Spock’s Beard. It’s continuing mission: To explore strange new grooves, to seek out new polyrhythmic phrases and compound meters, to boldly go where no band has gone before. . . .

Okay, we’re done. If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably already aware that Spock’s Beard is anything but a Trekkie fan club or William Shatner tribute band. In fact, you most likely know that they’re one of the strongest and most innovative progressive rock bands you’ll ever hear, a fact to which audiences across the world will quickly attest. Drummer and vocalist Nick D’Virgilio, guitarist Alan Morse, bassist Dave Meros, and keyboardist Ryo Okumoto bring no shortage of technical expertise and sophisticated compositional chops to their latest recording Spock’s Beard (InsideOut), journeying from the intensely intertwined motifs of "Skeletons At the Feast" to the somber "Don’t Fear the Reaper" vibe of "All That’s Left." With a touch as intense as a Vulcan mind-meld, Ryo has his fingerprints all over the disc: His organ and synth hooks power many of the harder tunes, while his solemn piano-work creates bittersweet waves with the ballad "Hereafter." And don’t forget such memorable solos as his screaming B-3 testimonial on "Here’s a Man."

Ryo’s a great hang and a highly-gifted, irreverent player to boot, so it’s no wonder we had so much fun catching up with him over lunch before a recent gig.

What was your first keyboard?
When I started playing in Tokyo, my first piece of gear was a Yamaha YC20 organ. Sly and the Family Stone was using it. It had this cheesy, Farfisa-like sound. Leslie speakers cost around $5,000 dollars in Tokyo because of the exchange rate, so Yamaha came up with a rotating speaker that was just one cabinet and one square speaker. The tweeter spun up and down in front of the bass speaker. It sounded really good. That’s how I fell in love with the organ sound. Then I started using flanger, delay, and reverb, and I bought a Hammond L, my very first Hammond organ.

What about the Hammond inspired you?
The Hammond sound. The drawbar combination can create so many different colors, and then you have vibrato, which is incredible. Certain settings can give you more presence. Between that and the drawbars, the Leslie, and the percussion, there’re so many different setups, just like a Jupiter-8. A lot of people think the Hammond is one sound, but it’s not like that.

Speaking of sound, do you have any favorite drawbar settings?
Every single time I play, I change the drawbar settings.

What are some of the nastiest gear nightmares you’ve had to deal with?
Common things, like going to gigs, forgetting the power strip, and not having AC for the keyboards. At one club, they had a cable coming from the air conditioner, so I cut it in the middle, put it in there [gestures as if plugging in wires] and it worked. From now on, I carry extra AC power.
Another time, Spock’s Beard was opening for Dream Theater. At the first show in Norway, our gear did not get there. That wasn’t good, so we borrowed Dream Theater’s instruments and equipment. It’s not the same — it’s not like top-forty dance gig, where you can grab a piano sound and go.

How did you make the move from living in Tokyo to playing with a kickin’ rock band in the States?
I was playing in Tokyo from 15 through 18 in a club, then I joined this band called Creation. They were pretty big in Japan and that was my first break. I was 19. Then I played with Kitaro. I did one CD with him, a couple tours, and then [Kitaro’s record label] Canyon asked me to do my solo record. I was 22 when I came to L.A. to record. My album had Jeff Porcaro, David Foster, Steve Lukather — that was my first time being in L.A. with all those cats. I was blown away, so I decided to move. I spent four years at the Dick Grove School of Music. I took jazz, film scoring, arrangement — this summer I’m doing some Japanese TV scoring, and I’ve done commercials, TV shows, and documentaries for Japan.

My first tour was with The Fifth Dimension, then Barry White, Aretha Franklin, Peabo Bryson, Roberta Flack, Jennifer Holliday, and Natalie Cole for something like five years.

Many of those acts are so different from Spock’s Beard. Did you approach them differently than you approach your current gig?
It’s really the same thing. There were two keyboard plays when I was touring with Natalie Cole, for example. I was doing a lot of strings, horns, organs, sounds, and the other keyboardist was doing piano. That was Terry Trotter and he’s such a great player. He reminded me of Bill Evans.

You cite Bill Evans as one of your primary influences.
He’s so warm and he plays with so much feeling.

Like Bill did, you seem to have a great range of expressive chord voicings, like in the song "Hereafter." How do you approach shaping your chords as you play?
I don’t think anymore. I used to, but now I don’t. The voicings change every time I play. The main thing I focus on is playing a melody with the top notes of each chord. Other notes go wherever they go.

So you’re focusing on creating a melody with your parts, even when you’re comping?
Yes. When I’m playing a groove, I really try to be a percussion player. I try to create a rock-steady foundation, giving the drummer something to play with. I like rhythm. That’s what I do. [Laughs.] I’m so picky about drummers. When the drummer’s not happening, I leave. I can’t stand it.

What’s the best way to develop voicing abilities?
Sing the melody when you’re playing a voicing. Let it out. That’s what I do. When you’re singing, your body vibrates, and the vibration goes to your fingers. Then, you can be together with the keyboard. Keyboards aren’t like the guitar — with guitars, it’s so easy to be expressive, because you can bend and affect notes so easily. With keyboards, they’re just switches. You’re really just pushing buttons, so you have to have a total connection with the instrument. So sing the melody when you’re comping. Sing the top note. And when you’re playing a groove, think rhythm, groove, groove, time, time.

When you were working on Spock’s Beard, did you have any specific goals in mind?
Just to make a good album. All four of us work in different ways. When I do my stuff, everybody comes to my house. I have all the gear there and we just hit it. When I do my keyboard parts, I finish in one or two days. I’m fast, and I don’t want to take a lot of time to figure out sounds. Just put it down! The idea’s more important than the specific sound for me. When you do it a couple times and get a good melody or a good voicing, just lay it down. It’s going to sound good when you mix it.

Several tunes off of Spock’s Beard are in some tricky-sounding odd meters.
Odd meters are exciting, because you really have to think about it first. Whether you’re playing in 13 or 15, it’s a phrase, a melody that you memorize and repeat. It sounds like playing with the time, but it’s not — it’s a totally different groove. Sometimes, the drummer and bass player play the same figure with the same accents. When that happens, I try not to play with them. Instead, I want to create a different groove and go over the time. If we’re playing in seven and they’re playing four and three, I try to play five and two, two and five. Or sometimes, I put two bars together to become 14. I break it down and make another groove. But when the bass player is doing something totally different from drummer, you lock into the drums.

In Keyboard’s June ’03 article on prog rock, you mentioned that you prefer to write music in eight-bar chunks.

Eight’s the best way to go, since eight bars is one complete thought. It’s easier for me that way. You need discipline just to exercise your creativity and eight bars is easy. Four is too easy, but eight will complete one melody. But don’t stick with that — write a bunch of eight-bar phrases and keep writing. Just keep writing every day and don’t stop. When you look back, you can put it all together. When you are stuck with one idea, you waste time. If you say to yourself, "Another eight!" and then move on, you don’t get stuck with one thing.

What’s the songwriting process like for Spock’s Beard?
Neal Morse, our previous leader, was with Spock’s Beard for six CDs. He wrote all the material. He is an incredible composer. He writes, sings, plays guitar, keyboards. When he left, we had to compose ourselves, so the four of us started writing. This is our third CD without Neal Morse leading. Everybody really started developing the ability to compose and now we all have studios. We do a lot of writing at home, then come together and go over the songs — four different types of ideas coming together.

Sometimes I notate as I write, and sometimes I record and transcribe later. A lot of stuff we come up with isn’t Spock’s Beard. We try to make it sound like Spock’s Beard, but it’s impossible — we are totally different people and sometimes, when we’re writing, we just go with it, come up with one riff, put it down, and develop it. It’s not going to sound like what you might expect from Spock’s Beard, but that’s Spock’s Beard, too. If it’s a good song, we use it. Spock’s Beard is playing, so it is going to be our song. We never know what’s going to come out in the end.

Ryo’s Rig
As his role in the band changed, so did Ryo’s equipment. "When Spock’s Beard asked me to join the band, Neal Morse was the lead singer," he says. "He was also a keyboard player, so what should I play? Hammond? Minimoog? Mellotron? It’s prog! So I became the guy who played that old stuff. Before that, I was just using new keyboards. But then I started using Minimoogs and Hammonds and I really liked the sound. It’s so different when you’re on a stage, when you hear the Leslie roaring and the Minimoog wailing. That’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t want to be the same as everybody else. There’re so many things you can do just with the drawbars, for example. There are so many sounds you can make with a Hammond B-3.

"Neal quit four years ago, and now I’m doing all the keyboards. A lot of times when we play old stuff, my hands are full. Oh, so busy! Sustaining and holding and changing buttons. That’s why I need more than one keyboard. Jordan [Rudess of Dream Theater] does it with just one, but I like having lots of them. Every time when I perform, I hear different things, so I re-program my instruments when I’m playing."

Ryo used to tour with a customized Hammond organ, beefed up and armored for the road. "We took everything out of the B-3, chopped it, used only one keyboard [manual], and put that in one road case," he says. "We put the tone generator in another case, and put the preamp in a third case." On current tours, though, Ryo leaves the behemoth at home. "I don’t use the B-3 on the road anymore. I used to drag that thing, but it’s so heavy. I like the Korg CX-3. It also has extra drawbar capabilities called EX mode. When I hit it on top of the regular drawbars, I can get high, trebly, bright sounds. I really like it."

In his current rig, Ryo uses the Yamaha P250 for piano sounds, and also substitutes Korg Triton patches for the vintage Mellotron he used to tour with. "I picked one up that was black, and painted it white," he says, of the analog instrument. "It weighed 200 pounds with the case. It once cost me $1,500 to ship it over to Japan. If you’re with Pink Floyd or Yes, that might be possible, but for us, that’s another story." Ryo’s rig isn’t all digital; though he sometimes substitutes in a Korg MS2000, the Minimoog holds a prime position. "I still use it a lot," he says. "Especially for sessions. It just cuts through. I use multi-effects on it — chorus, delay — whatever they have, I rent it out." =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Ryo Okumoto's Code Red - Game Face

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