Instruments

Troy plays the following instruments:

Uilleann Pipes   Bouzouki  
Low Whistles   Portugese Mandola  
Tin Whistles   Keyboards  
Acoustic Guitar   Bodhran  
Electric Guitar      


Troy is a highly accomplished player of a variety of different instruments (winning the Classic Rock Society's 'Best multi-instrumentalist' award several times in succession). Here he fields some questions on his passion for his favourites.

Q: Do you remember the first instrument that you recall specifically listening to?
A: I think it was a Pedal Steel guitar.

Q: What was the first instrument you learned to play and at what age?
A: Guitar at the age of 12.

Q: Did you have lessons?
A: No, I have never had 'formal' lessons with any instrument, but my dad knew a few chords which he passed onto me.

Q: Did you learn the recorder at school?
A: No I didnt but I secretly wanted to...but , Recorder groups were seen to be the domain of girls and I would have been outcast!

Q: What is your first recollection of hearing the ‘Celtic’ instruments?
A: Paddy Maloney of the Chieftains was the first Uilleann Piper I heard. I distinctly remember being deeply touched and confused as to what could possibly be making that amazing sound. I couldnt visualise an instrument.....I thought it was some kind of "Sheep-like" animal.

Q: What was it that attracted you?
A: It was something wild, beautiful and primal and my young mind was blown!

Q: Which did you first start to play?
A: The Tin Whistle at about 17yrs old.

Q: Is there a different technique to playing the whistle as opposed to the recorder?
A: Yes. The recorder is technically quite different as it has more holes for a start. But, the tin whistle is "soulfully" more difficult....a bit of ambiguity there!

Q: How long before you graduated to the next (wind) instrument?
A: It was a year or two until I got my first 'Half-Set' of Uilleann Pipes.

Q: Apart form inordinate finger stretching; does the low whistle require a different playing technique to a tin whistle?
A: It doesnt for a lot of players but it certainly does for me. I tend to use staccato techniques on the tin whistle but NEVER on the Low. Most Low Whistle players play exactly as if it is a big Tin Whistle. To me it is an entirely different beast.....

Q: Why do you have so many different size whistles?
A: They are all in different keys. I have ( from drainpipe size upwards) - A, Bb, B, C, C#, D and E. They are all deeply splendid.

Q: How similar is the playing of whistles to the uilleann pipes?
A: It's not at all really but it helps the physical side of things.

Q: If you need different whistles to play in different keys, why don’t you need a set of pipes for each key?
A: The pipes are pitched in a Dmajor scale but can play sharps and flats (reluctantly!) with the aid of 'keys' on the chanter. Most pipers don't use keys as the music generally played is within the traditional range of the instrument. However, I being a Megalomaniac, have a fully keyed chanter just to make things horribly difficult for myself.

Q: Who or what was the inspiration for leaning the pipes and at what age did you start?
A: The band "Planxty" was a major influence on me; Liam O' Flynn the piper has it. Finbar Furey was also a fire for me. These two caused me to make the leap at the age of 18/19.

16. The whistles seem to be simplicity themselves. What maintenance do the pipes require?
A: The pipes are notoriously temperamental and in the early years, as I was a beginner, they were truly nightmarish. You see, there are SEVEN reeds to keep in tune and as reeds are terrible with temperature changes you can imagine....going on stage in Singapore at 11pm or Scicily with the Scirroco blowing on you? Hideous!

Q: You endorse Overton low whistles and Dave Williams’ uilleann pipes. What makes their instruments special?
A: Well, Overton Low Whistles were invented by Bernard Overton (a little known fact) and regardless of that, they are just the best sounding instruments. Dave Williams is the Stadivarius of the Uilleann Pipes. Enough said......

Q: What is your technique for recording the whistles and pipes? Do you amplify the pipes or record them acoustically. What effects do you generally apply?

A: I always record the pipes acoustically but they are too quiet to contend with a rock band so "live" I amplify them. I have a system where a minuture mic-transducer is actually stuck onto the reed with a blu-tac kind of stuff. I then send it through various processors. I usually use a bit of Reverb and Echo but I have been known to use a Wah-wah pedal aswell but Greenpeace protested it was upsetting Humpback Whales in the Pacific so I had to stop.

Q: What qualities do you feel the ‘bodhrany thing’ has over a more conventional set of drums?
A: Well they both are great in themselves. I suppose the Bodhran is a more "ethnic" sounding thing and as far as Irish Traditional music goes, it is unbeatable. No pun intended.

Q: Presumably you started stringed instruments with an acoustic guitar. Who or what was the inspiration for learning that?
A: My dad had a band and the guitarist was a big influence on me. His name was Vince White and he had a lovely open style and he was a lovely man. I also loved Bluegrass and all those kind of players. Later, I immersed myself in Traditional British/Irish stuff and there were loads of Hero's there.....

Q: And likewise the electric guitar?
A: Apart from Vince White, it was Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd. The first album I bought was "Dark side of the Moon" when I was 11yrs. I couldnt get enough from then on. I was always attracted to the melodic and restrained style of electric guitar. I am not one for running up and down scales at top speed all the time. It has its place, don't get me wrong, but too much of anything is bad as they say. I like to hear instruments expressing themselves for a reason.....

Q: How did you go about choosing your guitars?
A: My Acoustic instruments are all made by the company "Fylde" in Cumbria. They are such beautiful sounding instruments, rich and woody and very much of the landscape they are born in. I first played a Fylde Oberon Guitar in a second hand shop when I was about 15 and was smitten but it was impossibly expensive for a schoolboy. The instrument had Romance for me though and the Oberon is the guitar I play now.

I have two electrics - an Overwater and a Patrick Eggle Berlin Pro V. Both are hand made British guitars and both are splendid. "Live" I play the Eggle which has a wonderful habit of looking translucent and aquatic under stage lights.

Q: Which of the more esoteric stringed instruments came next & what was the inspiration behind it?
A: I love the sound and versatility of the Bouzouki so I had to have one. It is an 8 striged instrument and I tune the strings in pairs - A , D , A , E. My friend Michael Gill ( fellow Youslosh member) is a brilliant Bouzouki player and we used to busk as a duo in the mid eighties. He would play Bouzouki and I whistles and pipes. As he was an excellent Fiddle player too, I out of neccesity learned the Bouzouki so we could take turns accompanying each other. We had a great sound which 'morphed' into the band "Youslosh". Recently, I borrowed a Portugese Mandola from my friend Roger Bucknall ( the Man behind Fylde) to use on the last Maddy Prior album. This is really weird in that it has 10 strings - two pairs of two and two pairs of three tuned C, G, D, E. It is an absolute beauty and it is MINE ALL MINE!!!!!!! mwah, ha ha haaaa........

Q: You also have an assortment of keyboards but they are little-mentioned in your credits! What’s your main reason for having them and how’s your ability to play them?!
A: I am really not a keyboard player by any stretch of the imagination but I do love playing them. I use keyboards for the textural possibilities. But I do love rattling through songs on the piano. Especially improvising with my friend Nick Holland after 7 bottles of Shiraz. We are working on a concerto for 4 hands and 4 bottles.

Q: Considering the vast array of sounds available with electronic keyboards, what draws you to owning a harmonium?
A: I was staying in London at my friend Jerry's place and he had a Harmonium sat doing nothing in a room which could do without its prescence. Jerry being the splendid man he is said "Do you like Harmoniums?" I then had a new member of the family in the boot of my car. It lived in our living room for a while but my wife couldnt take the morbid strains of "Abide with me" any longer and treatened to set fire to herself, so it is in my music room now. It has such an Old time sound......not something which can be synthesised.

Q: Do you use any midi keyboards for composing or notation?
A: Yes I do. I use the notation and publishing program "Sibelius" which is truly wonderful. No more sitting scribbling string parts at 4 in the morning for me!

Q: What is your most prized instrument?
A: My Uilleann Pipes. They never leave my side.

Q: What would you like to be able to play that you can’t already (if there is anything!)
A: Ice Hockey !!


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