Dan Mansfield (You Am I) Reviwews the Hammond SK1

23 March 2012 | 7:32 am | Dan Mansfield

Imagine this. You are an organ player booked for a big tour and six weeks out from the start, your trusty rig - that should have been replaced five years ago - conks out. Sure, there were plenty of new products released over that time, but they were either too big or heavy, lacked extra voices (necessitating an extra keyboard), or lacked drawbars.

Six months ago, that was my predicament. Luckily, Hammond released the SK-1 literally days after my thirteen-year-old Roland VK-7 died.  For me, the SK-1 pretty much ticked all the boxes. At 7kg, weight is definitely not an issue, and it has a whole swag of extra voices, and yes, drawbars!

Hammond SK1

I was lucky enough to be playing keys for Australian legends You Am I, the main support for Cold Chisel on their recent “Light the Nitro” tour. The You Am I back catalogue features many keyboard parts, played on a wish list of vintage keyboards. On previous gigs with the band, I carried around an enormous rig that resembled Frankenstein's laboratory to cover them all, but those days are over!

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From the first show it became evident how good the SK-1 was. The Hammond sound is arguably the closest you'll get to the real thing at the moment. Its organ tone, chorus/vibrato, percussion and Leslie simulators form a truly authentic sound that's very inspiring to play (this is especially pleasing to a purist such as myself). I found myself doing things that would only work well on a real Hammond, like Sly Stone-style fast Leslie stabs, or slapping the keyboard à la Jon Lord. Previous organ emulations tended to sound a little embarrassing in these departments, but the SK-1 encourages adventurous playing and translates it convincingly.

The extra voices sound great, with some being truly outstanding. Throughout the tour I used many of them: Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Clavinet, Vox organ, Farfisa and piano. They are all extremely playable, and with Hammond releasing updates to be loaded via the onboard USB, here's hoping they will add some Mellotron samples.

The lightweight factor makes life exponentially easier on the road. For once my gear at the airport was the lightest! It is very easy to transport, load in and setup. This was tested on the tour twice where You Am I played secret shows after the Chisel support gig. This involved packing up quickly, throwing it in a van, loading it in (through the crowd) at the secret show, and then setting up on a stage about thirty times smaller than the previous. Its size made this simple – so simple I had a twenty-minute break before the show started. Unheard of!

Even though it spent most of its six weeks on tour in the back of a truck, it didn't skip a beat. From outdoor gigs in varying climates and conditions to countless air-conditioned venues in between, I never encountered any problems. Having access to such a great sounding, easy-to-handle keyboard is certainly going to make my playing and gigging much easier!