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Myron McKinley: Earth, Wind and Fire…and Beyond

Myron McKinley: Earth, Wind and Fire…and Beyond
Renowned keyboardist Myron McKinley talks about M-Audio technology, touring with Earth Wind and Fire and starting his own music house

Multi-talented keyboardist Myron McKinley has spent the last several years recording and traveling with pop music giants Earth, Wind and Fire. Perhaps taking a cue from the continually evolving band, McKinley’s interests extend far beyond playing to include composing and producing music for a wide variety of applications and genres. The most ambitious project currently on his slate is launching his own music house, dubbed Camelot Music for its roundtable approach to the creative process. As one of the company’s first endorsees to embrace mobile music technology, McKinley continues to rely on M-Audio gear to realize his varied goals while maintaining a whirlwind schedule.

You’re currently on tour with Earth, Wind and Fire. What gear do you have with you for recording and creating on the go?

We have an M-Audio FireWire 410 that we use with Pro Tools M-Powered. The FireWire 410 makes it easy to do recordings in the room really quickly. And when we do film scores, I can write in Pro Tools M-Powered and send it to anyone and they can open the files. Pretty much everybody out here has a Mac G4, and we all have Live and Reason. We’re now thinking about trying to implement Live for running part of the show.

There’s so much stuff that you can do with all of the technology that they're coming out with now, which just makes it so much easier. One of things that I said from the beginning is that M-Audio had their artists in mind, first, as opposed to just trying to get stuff out there. They actually talk to people and go, ‘How is this?’ and ‘Who needs this and who needs that?’ You actually end up with something that's more compatible and is what people who are working need.

How do you transition between such disparate work environments—performing on the road and composing in a studio?

Working on the road is a lot more fast-paced, and it's always gonna be characteristic of the personality you're working with. Like when I’m working with Earth, Wind and Fire, Philip Bailey is constantly moving pretty fast and we're changing stuff and moving things around up to the very last minute of the show. So it's a lot more intense as opposed to a film score, where you can just get up in the morning and plan your day around watching the film and doing the score at your pace and your leisure.

But the gear I use stays basically the same, the difference is pretty much that one's a laptop and one's a desktop. I mean, you want to keep it the same so when you go home, it's not a big difference. You might have a desktop at the house and a bigger keyboard. I have the little M-Audio Oxygen8 on the road with me, and at home I have a big M-Audio Keystation Pro 88 keyboard, which makes it really easy to make adjustments when creating new sounds. But as far as the overall setup, it’s pretty much is the same, so it’s compatible when you move back and forth.

What are the benefits and challenges of using new music technology?

I think you can get so caught up in a technology that you never write, but I think that if you do know it well enough, it can become a tool that's invaluable to you. The discipline that has to happen with technology is that people have to pick something they like and stick with it because the more that you have to spend time learning that, the less time you spend being creative. If you stick with one software program, as it grows, you grow, so you never have to start all over.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I’m trying to finish up my personal album. I'm looking at it as a view of from then to now. One of the songs is on there is like straight-up, old Nat King Cole with the strings and the whole thing. And then the next thing is some trance stuff, you know what I'm saying? There are so many genres of music that I've had to deal with and the trick is to find out how to put your voice inside each one of them. So I’ll take some stuff from the old jazz artists and then take it to the next level with hip hop and just add little things like that−picking up from where music has left off.