Interview with Ed Howe

Corey Redonnet, NS Design’s artist relations manager, recently sat down with Ed Howe, a violinist who plays the CR-5 and who has worked closely with Ned over the years. Here is the transcript of their conversation:

NS CR: Allright Ed, thanks for coming out today. I’d like to get a little bit of background, where you are from, what you’ve done,

ED: I’m a fiddle player. I got into electronic music at an early age. My father was a mechanical engineer, and for the longest time, I kept the two separate until just recently when I met Ned Steinberger, and I said “Hey, this is a wonderful idea to put the two together, and now I’ve got this crazy electric violin (NS Design CR-5), that I’ve been touting around and having a ball with it.”

NS CR: Coming from more of a fiddling background, playing an acoustic instrument of course, what was your big turning point to actually pick up an electric violin, instead of staying with a pick up system on a regular acoustic (violin).

ED: Well the biggest thing with an acoustic violin that what I’ve come to understand is that it’s one of the most complex instruments to create sound. I often occurred to me while I was playing on louder and more complex stages, was what was coming out of the instrument was not exactly what I remember hearing when I played it acoustically. Therefore sent out my quest (to find) someone who put enough attention and detail into their instruments with the pickups built into them. So, that I could create that Stradivarius sound plugged in on a loud stage, for my wonderful audience.

NS CR: How DOES that electric violin compare to the 3 Stradivarius’s you currently own?

ED: OH, gosh, I’d say it comes awfully close.

NS CR: Why the NS CR series? I know we’ve spoken about this before at some concerts we’ve done together, but what are some of the things you cherish about the instrument, that you didn’t have to rip apart and change too much? (ED has a tendency to do some circuit bending on some of his effects so I wanted to clarify his minimal alteration of the NS)

ED: Well the biggest thing that really caught my eye about the NS is the attention to detail. It’s a wonderfully crafted instrument. All of the materials involved in this instrument are of the upmost quality. The electronics he, gosh, EMG does a tremendous job builing the pre-amps. As Ned has said this is one of the best pre-amps you can get that runs off of a 9-volt battery.

Every time I have a little issue with the instrument, Ned is right there, boom, to help me out and make sure that this is everything I expected.

(Editor’s note: Ed and Ned have developed a unique relationship over the last few years. Living a few miles away from Ned’s workshop enables Ed to provide quick and precise quality control and feedback.)

NS CR: Tell us about some of the uses in the Reels and Contra-dances that you perform in with your guitar player John Cote, and some of the jams you do (traditionally) with the fiddle and how the NS has been received or not received. I know you don’t seem to bruised from anything lately.

ED: When I first started applying my electronics knowledge into the acoustic world, it was taken aback a bit. You know when I drag a speaker out on stage, the traditional people will tend to look at me a tad bit sideways. But the real test of the situation is when the music starts being played and the performance starts happening and you feel this incredible amount of power come from the stage that isn’t a gimmick, it’s not something that I’m trying to achieve, and it comes across as being very traditional, very true to it’s nature, but there is an added sense of clarity, there is an added sense of “soul”.

NS CR: How has your electronic set-up been perceived by some of the more traditional players in the area?

ED: Well, first of all, when you take the music that we play, which is of a certain traditional manner, you take it into a studio and you have a whole plethora of tools at your fingertips that are available to you to make the music what you want. You’ll see a lot of traditional artist go into a studio and use very high-end microphones and multi-tracking equipment and effects and reverb and EQ to create a very clear and present sound. It’s wonderful to pop that into a CD player and hear it, but I wanted to be able to creat that in a live setting. I often find in the traditional world that people have difficulty getting the sound that they really want on a louder more complex stage. And, I have this ideosyncracy about me that just want to say “I want to go out on stage and plug in, I don’t want to worry about anything, I want to sound absolutely perfect. This instrument and some of the fun little toys I’ve added to it, has definitely given me that ability to not only get the sound I’m looking for, and I would have to be, I would say I’m getting one of the best acoustic-like sounds from aa solid-body electric violin that you will find out there. But not only that, it has the ability to go out on very loud stages without any feedback issues, I can add effects, really wild effects to it, and the biggest thing I love doing is “looping” it, multi-tracking. Now I call it multi-tracking, because I can double vlolin, triple violin, I can make it sound like a cello, I can even create my own quartet onstage if I wanted to. And might I add it’s very close to studio quality, large-diaphram microphone on an acoustic violin like sound.

NS CR: That does sound awesome, no doubt about that. What are you working on now, some of your recent projects. I’ve heard you are going to be recording at one of the new premiere studios here in the Mid-Coast very soon. (Corey just got his project studio up and running – shameless self promotion!)

ED: Absolutely! John Cote (guitar) and I have a band we call “Perpetual E-Motion”,and you can find that at . We’re working on a new CD which promotes and features our wacky, zany melodies that we create, getting you to move your feet, dancing and getting your boogie on. There is a certain air to the traditional reels and jigs that makes you just want to get out of your seat and dance, and we want to take that a bit further, into the 20th century. Stick with the tradition but give it a couple kicks and Cajun spices and see what happens ya know. We should be out with the CD soon, although there is no tentative release date.

NS CR: Alright, now the fun questions. What is your worst gig experience ever?

ED: Worst gig experience ever, was dealing with technical equipment that I have been trying, that doesn’t work, that has failed, bad connections. You know it always gives me a kick in the pants to say, “How can I do this better?” “How could I keep that from happening?” Bad connections, batteries giong dead, feedback issues, bad sound, you know and that even goes beyond audience participation, going out and playing music in a place that didn’t really expect to hear what they are hearing in a bad way.

NS CR: What about your best gig experience?

ED: Oh gosh, everytime I go out with this instrumet and set up and play onstage, every gig, I say keeps getting better and better. One of my best gig experiences just happened recently. I went out to the Down East Country Dance Festival and we played for 400 dancers, and I’d say the first time I’d seen in 15 years at the Down East Country Dance Festival, we got a standing ovation, not only from the dancers, but also from the bleachers. I’d say that it was one of the most humbling experiences for me that I’ve ever had.

NS CR: What are the last 5 CD’s you’ve listened to?

ED: Last 5 I’ve listened to? Well gosh I’m going to see them tonight, Garage Mahal. I highly recommend checking them out. There is another band called Soul Live, Eric Krasno? One of my favorite guitarists. A band that is no longer out there, Flook, a band from Ireland, a wonderful, very traditional Irish group, but the energy, gosh you gotta listen to that energy. I’ve gotta say I’ve listened to an old 80’s group called 11Shadowfax, are one of my very favorites. And of course my hero Michael Hedges, playing the harp guitar, one of my favorite instruments in the world.

NS CR: Your band partner John Cote (guitarist), who does he play like? Is there a guitar player he emulates?

ED: He emulates a very lyrical style. I’d say he’s not the type to play a whole ton of notes strung together in this huge crazy solo. He’s more of the type of (player) who creates a lyrical line that I’d say is more beautiful to listen to, than technically challenging. I couldn’t really plug a musician that he plays like, because he has a very unique style of his own as well.

NS CR: Two unique player together, that’s wonderful. (pause) I’m just really upset you didn’t say Led Zeppelin.

ED: Well, Zeppelin is one of my favorite bands too.

NS CR: What would you say musically the biggest goal you’ve achieved is?

ED: Gosh, that is a hard one to answer. I’d say the biggest goal is getting that sound I’ve been looking for. I’m kind of an audiophile snob, so that is always challenging.

NS CR: We are completely excited about you joining us at the Summer NAMM show in July, how does it feel to get invited to play at a trade show like that? It’ll be the first NAMM show I’ve gone to some I’m glad you’ll be there to watch my back a little. How is it feel to be a featured player in the booth?

ED: I have to say I’m extremely honored, Ned is a huge pillar in the music instrument world. What he stands for I’ve always admired. I’ve had the great fortune in my life to work with many people of his stature, and not just in the music world, but in other forms of the industry. To go and represent NS Design, it’s definitely fullfilling one of my dreams. I hope I can give to NS Design what Ned has afforded me to achieve with my instrument.

NS CR: Thank you Ed, and I’m thrilled that we’ll be at NAMM together and tI appreciate all the help you’ve given us, with the concert last month (excerpts on, and getting me started working more closely with some of our artists. You;’ve been very kind to deal with, so thank you.

ED: My pleasure, looking forward to it.