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The Chord Company

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Nigel Finn

What is your motivation throughout your work?

It’s very simple, the prospect of making music sound more realistic. That’s basically it: I think “cor blimey that sounds good, I wonder if I can make it sound better?”

What is your role at Chord?

I design the cables, I am R&D. I’d really like to have an understudy and I’ve been looking for someone who is utterly fascinated by cables, I just haven’t found them yet for some reason.

Which of your designs are you most proud of?

Tuned ARAY. I am genuinely proud of it. There’s nothing I’ve been unhappy with ever. When we first made the Chameleon we managed to find an outer jacket that went sticky when exposed to sunlight, sticky enough for you to have to wash your hands, unpleasant sticky. It was a resin in the colour of the jacket that would bleed out when exposed to sunlight. I wasn’t particularly proud of that. But Tuned ARAY made us redesign the whole range.

What are you trying to achieve with your work?

One of the things with Tuned ARAY is it answers the question, how important are cables? They are that important. If we are trying to achieve anything it’s to make people with really nice Hi–Fi systems who are genuine music lovers appreciate just how important cables are. Which at end of the day comes to; it will make their music sound better. The big thing for us is that they are really this important, they really make this much difference.

What do you find most satisfying about your work?

It’s a cliché I know but it’s happy customers. You get some delighted people writing back to you. You find every time you make a step forward in the right direction that’s usually satisfying. I like all of it, I love the fact that I have a little office system that sounds really cool, that’s really satisfying. I get to play music all day without too many complaints, which is deeply satisfying. Our dem room is deeply satisfying. There are constant frustrations but when a new product comes to completion and it works really well that’s really satisfying. I genuinely love my job, I can’t imagine what else I’d do. Rake leaves! I’d be able to see what I did, I’d be like the most expensive zen leaf raker.

What makes you happy?

I’m bi–polar I’m often happy whether I like it or not… My guitar makes me happy, my wife makes me happy, the people I work with make me happy. Lots of things make me happy which is quite good.

What is your most iconic product/the product you want to be remembered for?

Strangely enough it’s probably Tuned ARAY. I do genuinely feel that’s the start of something really interesting and I think I’ll be able to build on it as well. If you interview someone in a band they’re always going to talk about their latest album…

Who’s your favourite artist or band?

[Long pause] Who couldn’t I live without? Probably couldn’t live without Patti Smith and, a funny one, when Lou Reed died my son was going who’s Lou Reed? I thought that’s silly and I bought him the first Velvet Underground album, and that’s phenomenal. 1967. It’s just extraordinary, the story is that they only sold 30,000 copies originally but every one of those 30,000 copies made someone go and start a band. The Byrds: without realizing it I seem to have collected every album the Byrds ever did, they had a lot of line up changes but they’re all good. Neil Young of course, John Coltrane as well, did you ever listen to Ascension? He had twelve of the cream of avant–garde players and put them together. Ascension is basically Coltrane saying just play what you like, it’s 18 minutes of free. The funny thing is at the end of it, it hits a groove and it stops but once you’ve played it once you can hear that groove beginning all the way through it and it’s extraordinary. Whatever they are they’re musicians and they’re always going to find a groove, you can kind of hear it happening. Also if you want people to go home it’s a great room clearer, only beaten by Spy Versus Spy by John Zorn. Also you would have to put Steve Reich down there; Six Pianos is really good, it’s a piece written for six pianos so it hardly ever gets performed. He was hugely influenced by samples and loops so he had six pianos playing and they’re all playing loops but they keep changing and evolving. On a big system it’s just phenomenal.

What system do you have at home?

I have a pair of the big Eclipse loudspeakers [TD712], a SuperNait, but that changes, it’s only until my daughter grows old enough not to press buttons, Chord DAC 64 the original one and LP12 with a Naim ARO and a Dynavector cartridge. I’m a Dynavector man, they’re fast and they take a lot of time to run in, but once they’re run in they’re brilliant. It and the ARO balance each other’s strengths very well. The ARO you may as well call a musical instrument, it gives everything an ARO sound but I’ve kind of got used to that.

Fender Jazz bassFender Jazz bassI’ve been having epiphanies of late, one was prompted by that Imagine documentary on Jimi Hendrix. It is justifiable to say that there has not been a guitarist of his caliber since. I worked out why, there have been players since then who have been technically so proficient but actually what Hendrix was doing, be it live or on album, he made shit loads of duff notes and he was the bloke who’d try out five or six different rhythms in the space of one three minute song. People don’t do that. The guys who’ve been likened to him since then have completely refined what he does, they don’t make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes make the good bits absolutely brilliant and I don’t think people do that. That’s why the original bass and drums [Mitchell and Redding] was brilliant because they let him experiment, they gave him room to do that. He had such a good grasp of what music was and that combined with playing since he was a boy and his spirit of adventure is what made him so good.

What instruments do you play?

A Huss & Dalton Parlour guitar and a Yairi and a Fender jazz bass.

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