Digger: Can you please tell us
about your background David?
David: I have a background in electronics and electronic and
repairs. Radio and television.
Digger: Oh so you were a TV
David: Yes, when you had to repair them properly
rather than just swap a part.
Digger: That was exciting back
then - when the telly
would go wrong every few months and the TV repair man would
come round to fix it.
David: These great big hunks of
television that weighed a ton and we did proper repairs.
Digger: This was in the days of
Digger: I can remember the move to colour
and from 405 lines to 625, where we had a little button and it
was high-tech ďWow, weíre going into the 625 lines and
colour.Ē We were one of the first households with colour,
because I was such a nag for my poor old mum.
David: I hope you paid her back for
it. It was BBC only, 9Ē televisions and just a few hours of
transmission an evening back in those days.
Digger: How did you get into the music side
David: It was funny. I had been
working at a factory in Hackney, which made Hi-Fi in the days
when you had a turntable in a plinth with a smoked plastic
cover. This was at English Audio, and these people saw all the television
people making this audio and thought it was easy. So they made
it. They had a wood mill, because that area was the epicentre of
the lower end of the woodworking and cabinet making.
Islington was the centre for piano makers and acoustics, so
they were making this stuff and I got a job there.
Digger: You were always good at that sort
David: Yes, always picking up a
soldering iron and playing with bits of wire.
Digger: Catís whisker radios and that sort
David: Yes. But they went to the wall
eventually because they wouldnít do anything properly or spend
money. They didnít know anything about electrics and
electronics, but they thought they knew the world. Cabinet
making was their background. They were good at that.
Digger: And the two
complemented each other
David: Yes, today itís all plastic, but
in those days it was all wood. They were making cabinets
for one-man-band audio companies. So they set-up a couple of
rooms to make these cabinets and they went out and bought a
competitors' unit. But the problem was they bought a duff one
and it was dead in the water, they failed and it cost them a
lot of money. They had a ten watt amplifier but, a bit like the
Sinclair stuff, it had tiny little transistors and it could
only give you ten watts of smoke when it went pop! They limped
along and then went bust and then I was looking around for a
job. I went to the labour exchange, as it was called then, and
they pointed me at this guy who had a shop in Woodford who
wanted a repairer. He sold radio and TV and he did some trade
work for people and the local council. The shop sold musical
instruments and thatís how I got into the music.
Digger: Youíre very adaptable.
David: Well, itís all electronics so
it doesnít matter if youíre making a fluorescent lamp or a
microwave oven or computer. Itís all electronics. So itís
moved on from there to where I am now.
Digger: A few years ago they were
ďVinylís deadĒ but people hang on to this stuff and vinyl's
come back with a vengeance.
David: Yes it has. I fixed a Rhodes last
week for a guy and the other day someone in Sheffield had two
Fender Rhodes and he was going to bring them down to me.
Digger: You must have covered most of the
country a few times?
David: No, only the London area and
surrounding areas. A lot of people come to me. I have been
abroad and even up to Aviemore to do repairs taking the Caledonian
Digger: Where are customers finding you?
David: It's often repeat business or
Digger: What sort of feedback are you
getting from customers? I suppose the best kind you can hope
for is repeat
David: Yes, yes. And locally I have
found it to be very, good to be honest. Iíve got a lady who
comes to me every so often from Rugby Ė she runs a band, she
phones up and says ďDavid, Iíve got something for you.Ē Iíve got a
couple of units in the garage for her now ready and waiting.
Digger: Do you get many youngsters?
David: Yes, a couple this morning were
young. 24 or 25, and theyíve been shopping around for somebody
to fix his piano. They had contacted a piano seller
Digger: Have you put your name about with
all the local people who might be able to point customers your
David: Yes, all the local music shops.
Itís surprising actually because up here music is big. Whereas
in London it's almost non-existent because the authorities
virtually killed it off with the ďTwo in a barĒ rule. That's where,
anything more than two people, you need stringent licensing although
the coalition seems to want to revoke that.
Digger: Are you travelling far to repair
David: I tend to prefer people to
deliver them here where possible. It is usually a lot better
to repair here rather than on site because I have all the
tools and materials here. And because you can spend a whole
day driving there and driving back which is a waste of time as
well as a cost Iíd need to pass on to the customer. Most jobs
can be done better here.
Digger: Youíre now in a position
can say that and sort of dictate terms.
Digger: So the parts - are they getting
more difficult to source? Do you have to make or manufacture
David: Some of them. Ironically itís the
new parts that are difficult to get a hold of. Itís microchips
Digger: So the newer parts are
David: Yes, and once they've gone,
theyíve gone. Old stuff like the valves you can buy. No
problem with valves and bits and pieces for Hammonds Ė theyíre
around. Thereís lots of Hammonds that have been cannibalised.
But itís the modern stuff - five years old and the manufacturer
doesn't have any chips for it.
Digger: Why would they have?
David: This is the trouble.
Digger: So what do you do in
David: Well, the other problem is how much
is somebody going to spend on this thing before they decide
it's not worth it? I had one last week and it has four
notes on piano only which has got some distortion on them. You play it and itís alright and then you play it again
and it distorts. Or sometimes you play it twice and it doesnít
sound. Iíve spoken to the manufacturer Ė I ordered a wave
memory chip and put that in and it didn't make any difference.
After that where do you go? You just tell the customer ďSorry,
you have a dead one.Ē What can you do? Itís not worth
anything. Itís alright if you donít want to play the piano. Or
if you can suffer those notes as they are. Or you can get a
workaround, and there are often workarounds. You can get a
midi box and put that in there and then play the sound on that for
piano rather than the piano itself, plus youíre going to get a better
sound because youíve got a modern sample.
Digger: Some people would be happy with the
old-fashioned shell and the modern innards?
David: Not only that, but youíll get a lot more sounds out of it because the midi expander will give
you lots of sounds and youíll probably get better results than
the original piano would have given you. Which is, what,
twelve or fifteen years old? Itís very unusual when something
is completely dead and fallen over and not capable of being
resurrected. The old stuff like the Hammonds and the
Wurlitzers Ė I can get bits for them.
Digger: Were they made better in those
David: Sometimes they were made
better. Some of the parts werenít better.
Digger: The tolerances on them werenít
David: The tolerances on these old resistors were 1% and if you wanted 1%
resistors fifteen years
ago you were talking about a lot of money. Now itís common or
garden and theyíre tiny. 10% was expensive - 5% and you were
getting special. Nowadays 1% is the norm. And theyíre dirt cheap
Digger: A lot of youngsters are going for
these vintage and analogue pieces of musical equipment. Why
do you think that is?
David: "Iíve got this guitar like Eric
Clapton had and I can play like Eric Clapton."
Digger: So itís emulating and imitating
David: Yes, but I donít knock it.
Digger: Is it also that theyíre saying
ďThis is the proper, authentic sound and I want that.Ē
David: Yes, people do want that
analogue sound and to a certain extent I would agree Ė with a
Hammond you canít mimic it or the Rhodes Ė theyíve both got a
distinct sound of their own. Your Rhodes doesnít even sound
like your friends Rhodes. Theyíre all individual and all
different. And the same with the early Strats, jazz basses or
those nice old Gibsons. Thatís why they can be sold for silly
money. You canít buy one new and whether itís worth the money
they charge for them Iím not here to argue Ė Iím here to make
sure they work. The man goes out of the door after Iíve
repaired it and heís on cloud nine. And I really value my
customers because a customer in your hand is worth ten out
Digger: Yes, itís so much more difficult to
get a customer than to keep hold of them. Youíre lucky because
youíve got a USP.
David: Yes, Iíve got a niche service.
Digger: And youíre loving what youíre doing
and have got a passion for it.
David: Yes, definitely. Exactly, itís
like somebody who enjoys painting.
Digger: Youíre an expert and people come to you Ė itís a good position to be Isnít it?
David: Yes, but of course, you donít
make money out of it. You're not going to be a millionaire or
buy a palace. Youíre not going to be able to buy a Roller. But
you pay your mortgage and you have a reasonable living and
really enjoy what youíre doing.
Digger: Itís a 24-hour business with The
Internet, isn't it?
David: People email me on a Sunday and phone the next morning
to see whatís happening!
Digger: And they say "Why havenít you
answered my email?" What about the future David?
David: Another few years maybe. Who
knows? It depends on how things go.
Digger: Youíre looking at a Ďproperí
retirement at some stage?
David: Eventually. You get to a point
where you canít work or don't want to work anymore. We might
up sticks and move somewhere else but for the moment this is
The best of luck with the business David. It's great doing
something you're passionate about for a living, isn't it?
David: Yes, I'm very fortunate.