a keytar(ish) interview with Chris Taylor of Dancer

a keytar(ish) interview with Chris Taylor of Dancer

Readers of I Enjoy Music know I have a keen interest in keytars. I've asked some kickass keytar players questions about their setups and inspirations, like Jeffrey Kornfeld from Blind Equation (who recently announced tour dates in Asia / Australia / NZ!!) and Sam Revaz from Geese.

Today we have something similar yet different. And that's Chris Taylor from the Glasgow-based post-punk band Dancer, and an instrument of his own making. When I was reading the notes that went along with the stream for Dancer's debut album 10 Songs I Hate About You, a particular paragraph caught my eye: "Chris Taylor...continues to utilize his now infamous keys-attached-to-guitar contraption, a key-tar-esque triumph in homemade music tech. Hear him veer between his 2 conjoined instruments in real time on the likes of ‘Change’ and know that it’s even more impressive in person."


It's not keytar but it's keys and geetar and that's enough for me. I knew I needed to ask Chris about this contraption, so I sent him a few questions over email, which you can read below.

10 Songs I Hate About You, by Dancer
10 track album

By the way, 10 Songs I Hate About You is fantastic and it's out TODAY—10 taut, stinging postcards from the edge with names like "Bluetooth Hell" and "When I Was a Teenage Horse," each with a perfectly twitchy but controlled tempo that has me bouncing in my seat like a damn baby. The guitar fuzz is calibrated for maximum friction. And I'm obsessed with how singer Gemma Fleet dryly introduces each track with its title at the beginning. Good stuff, give it a listen.

On to Chris Taylor and the contraption!

photo credit: Chris Summerlin

I'd love to hear a little bit about your musical background leading up to you joining Dancer—did you play in any other bands before this? How did the band get together?

I've played in various bands over the years, flitting between guitar and drums mainly. I played drums in a band called Order of the Toad with Gemma and Andrew from Dancer along with our friend Fionnan for about 5 years leading up to Dancer.

Golden Rod, by Order of the Toad
from the album Spirit Man

Gavin, now the drummer in Dancer, had been playing drums in one of Andrew's other projects, Robert Sotelo. They had written about 10 songs together for bass and drums that they had been sitting on for a while. Andrew had the idea of adding me and Gemma in, we were already doing Order of the Toad together, but we all felt like we were playing our second instrument and/or playing 2 things at a time in that band. The idea for Dancer was to put us all where we felt most comfortable and to simplify everything for ourselves, to allow it to be pure fun and less concentration. Not being used to simplifying things, I stuck a keyboard on my guitar.

Will you tell me about this keys-attached-to-guitar contraption? What inspired you to build it, how long did it take...does it have a name?

I got some Velcro tape and stuck 2 strips to the back of a Casio Tone Bank 100, as that was the best keyboard in terms of small size but still with a lot of usable voices. I stick that to a guitar, obviously the Velcro means it's removable which is handy. I plug a £4 speaker into the headphone socket, and attach that to the guitar with one of those claw arm things you use to attach a phone to a desk. I direct the speaker into the pickup with some distortion on and that's it really.

It was an idea I came up with years ago, but haven't been playing guitar in a band without singing since to have a chance to implement the idea. It was born from a conversation about signature guitars and cosmetic surgery. I've always thought it was strange that in both cases, the goal is usually "I want this to be like that." A physical change to be more like someone else you've seen, a Mustang with Jaguar electronics inside, etc. If you had the chance to make a signature guitar why not put a synth in it? If you're getting changes made to your body why not add a cupholder or a pocket or something?

There's no official name unfortunately. I tried floating frankenstein, but I call a lot of things frankenstein so it didn't really stick. I kind of like guitboard as it's sort of the opposite of a keytar in a way.

Was this the first instrument you have built in this way, or is this something you've done in the past?

Pretty much the first really. I've messed around with the more unusual stringing of guitars. I had one set up like a ukulele and one set up like Ricky Wilson from the B52's which is a lot of fun.

Ricky Wilson (B-52's) | Equipboard
that feel when it is Ricky Wilson

Outside of that, running toys through a distorted microphone and a whammy pedal is something I will never get tired of. 

What's the audience reaction like when seeing you play this instrument?

People enjoy the novelty which I like. It looks ridiculous, so it makes people laugh, but then it performs a pretty cool and useful function so the novelty falls away to reveal a fairly unique sounding instrument, or effect at least. I often get asked about it, how it works. I always ask people to guess first. It's funny because people always assume it's much more complicated than it is, like there's MIDI or circuit bending involved. So it provides another laugh when people find out it's just £20 worth of crap I got on the internet.

Thank you Chris!! Listen to Dancer's 10 Songs I Hate About You on Meritorio Records, out right this second. I just noticed that Dancer's IG bio says "Post-punk songs about the cost of living crisis"....yess, yesss!! Anyway thanks for reading I Enjoy Music, if you like it, tell a friend.