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The New Olympia Theatre in Paddington went a little troppo recently thanks to the madness and mayhem of the homegrown, high-energy rock musical The Island of Doctor Moron. Greg Phillips caught up with house band drummer Andy Byrnes and musical director Paul Robert Burton, and discovered that there’s quite a digital presence to their primitive island world.

drmoron1If enduring television sitcom Seinfeld was a show about nothing, then surely its antithesis is The Island of Doctor Moron, a rock musical born, bred and recently performed in New South Wales. Doctor Moron creators Chris and Lyn Dockrill, have crammed so much into the fun storyline and musical score that audience detachment is just not an option. It begins with a shipwrecked couple who are captured by a tribe of Rastafarian voodoo natives. Next, they’re drugged, almost pot-boiled and become subjects of an experiment to transmutate humans into animals. Add some more drama, adventure, sexual tension, a bunch of sub-plots, vibrant sets and lighting, colourful costumes plus a rockin’ soundtrack and you have a vague idea of what the show is all about.

The house band, visible to the audience throughout the show, consists of: Paul Robert Burton, Andrew Byrnes, Michael Hawke, Craig Morrison, and Andrew Toner. For drummer Andy Byrnes, Doctor Moron is his first foray into the world of music theatre but one he is enjoying immensely. Byrnes’ professional music career began back in the 80s touring with psychedelic rock band The Moffs and later playing with indie rockers The Clouds. He’s also a member of Jim Conway’s Big Wheel and has recorded 3 albums with that band. When he’s not involved in Doctor Moron, Byrnes’ day job is playing trance and drum ‘n’ bass music with his successful electronic act Lunaloop, who tour Europe annually.

td-30kv_kit_gal-1Despite the straight-ahead, rock and roll nature of Doctor Moron’s music, there’s quite a digital aspect to the performance. Byrnes uses a Roland TD30KV V-Drum kit in the show. It was a conscious decision to use electronic drums for Doctor Moron as the benefits seemed to outweigh the use of an acoustic kit. “For a start, it’s a small venue and I think a live kit would over-power the whole thing,” Byrnes explains. “Plus, just the clarity of sound, it’s so much better with the V-Drums, you can really get a great mix with the band. There are quite a few benefits, not just the volume but the style of sounds too. They’re pretty amazing the latest ones and they have a really natural feel.”

Byrnes and co have been recording each show of the run at the New Olympia Theatre and he’s been tweaking his V-Drum and cymbal sounds to find the optimum combination. “I’ve been working with the sound engineer and trying a few different V-Drum kits, taking all of the individual outs off the module,” he says of the recordings. “I’m using the onboard ‘mix in’. It’s all in-ear monitors with this show so I just grab my in-ear monitor and put it through the ‘mix in’ and I can adjust the levels how I like it. I can hear the V-Drums how I want. Sometimes I record my performances on the module with the backing track too. I have added a few extra pads, like a China cymbal and an old cowbell from Roland. I really love playing the ride. In fact, I love playing the V-Drum ride a lot more than my real one, it is so responsive. It washes out when you want it … you hit it really hard. All of the cymbals are incredible.”

Byrnes is no stranger to electronic drums, he first played V-Drums in 2000 on a tour with Groove Terminator and hasn’t stopped since. “I did a tour with him in 2000 after his big hit, Here Comes Another One,” Byrnes tells me. “I had a stand-up V-Drum kit because he just wanted it as an accompaniment kind of thing … he had a lot of other backing. It worked really well, lots of drum fills. That was when I bought a TD8, which I still use for teaching.  I have two V-Drum kits set up and it’s great for that. You can turn the kits up … or down, so it’s great for teaching. Then when I started playing with my band Lunaloop, which tours Europe a lot, we pretty much began writing all of the music using V-Drums and performing live with them too. The other thing is that it’s really easy to set up and pack down again. I’ve got a system going where I can get it down really quickly, much faster than my acoustic kit. I have a station wagon and it’s all packed away pretty snug and safe. It’s very convenient, especially the new rack. I find it really easy to work with”

Music director Paul Robert Burton, who plays bass and ukulele in the show is also a fan of the Roland V-Drums. “We’re really happy with the gear we are using in the show,” he says. “That TD30KV kit sounds phenomenal. I have multi-track recorded that thing, so I know. I have worked with James Brown’s drummer, Elvis’ original drummer and Chad Wackerman, so I have worked with some great drummers and recorded with The Angels, etc and that TD30KV … I bet my money that there are some professional ears that could not tell it’s a digital kit on a multi-track recording. I have never been able to say that before. With what Andrew Byrnes has got happening now, its capabilities and core sounds are fantastic. We are even recording the ambience out of that unit. It’s got some ambient stuff going on as well. The work that Roland have done generating the tones, we wanted to capture that too because it really helps the sounds.”

Like Byrnes, Paul Robert Burton has a long history of connection to respected Australian bands, including work with members of Cold Chisel and The Angels in various recording and live projects. Burton also has an active life as a solo performer and eco-activist.

gr-55_top_galAlong with guitarist Andrew Toner, in Doctor Moron Burton makes great use of Roland’s GK technology to create their sound. “I’m running a Roland GR55 and Andrew is running a VG99,” he says. “I have a uke with nylon strings and have an RFC system built in to run the GK. Andrew is running a GK3 pick up on his Cole Clark acoustic. I also have an electric axe with a GK set up for my solo stuff but for this … we originally planned to have a six piece band with keyboards but Charlie Cole, the keyboard player had a tour with Moving Pictures and wasn’t available. As it turned out, between Andrew and I and the GK technology, we found we didn’t need a keyboard player.”


vg_99_top_galWhen performing solo, Burton plays an eclectic repertoire of originals and unusual traditional musical pieces that blends blues, celtic, gypsy, middle-eastern, gospel, bluegrass, swing, jazz and folk-rock influences together into an evocative musical soundscape. It’s in this musical context, suggests Burton, where the Roland GK technology really shines. “I have an octave guitar and I am using an amazing Tracer bass patch on it … it’s rockin’. I love the COSM technology in particular and the string patch tracking capability of the Roland gear.  I do a one man band thing with looping. I absolutely love that thing because I can generate such a massive soundscape from one guy, it’s phenomenal. I call it Pink Floyd in a shoe box! I can generate the most amazing tones and colours from one instrument and no one can believe it when they hear it live.  I have a little ukulele, it’s actually a guitalele, and the octave guitar, using the GR55 (two octaves for bass and one octave for the normal guitar) to generate my virtual instruments. I can play anything, sitars and all sorts of things and they work really well live.”

drmoron2The Island of Doctor Moron’s 2014 run in Paddington came to an end in early December however the producers are keen to develop the show further for seasons next year. Drummer Andy Byrnes has another European tour with his band Lunaloop mid next year, which includes a regular spot at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival. Paul Robert Burton heads to Tamworth Music Festival in the new year as well as the Bali Spirit Festival in March.



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