For half a century, the studio was the central creative location for the production of electronic music. A magical place, dominated by a mixing desk and various hardware synthesizers and effect units feeding it. However, the evolution of computer technology changed this by providing powerful substitutes for all those machines and much more created in software, making hardware less and less necessary. When I started making electronic music in the mid 80s affordable computers just began to find their way into music production and the most amazing technological inventions could still be found in sophisticated digital hardware synthesisers. The release of a new synthesizer created an excitement unthinkable in today's world of free software instruments.Instrument
The instruments I bought over the years had an enormous influence on my music. While discovering its possibilities I came up with musical ideas and these ideas changed my approach on how to use and judge them. I also noticed that my relationship with my instruments changes over time: I re-discover machines that I did not touch for years and suddenly come up with new ways of using them.
Studio 2003: Oberheim Xpander, Yamaha SY 77, Roland Juno 6, PPG Wave 2.3, Prophet VS...
A Roland Juno-6 was my first synthesizer and contributed to all Monolake records till 2004. Currently it is not in use so much but I am still amazed how good one single real analogue oscillator plus filter can sound. The Juno-6 is quite simple to use and is capable of creating a range of warm and inviting sounds in no time which makes it a real pleasure to work with it. And it is possible to access every parameter with a slider. In fact, since it is a true analogue synthesiser, the sliders are directly connected to the sound generation hardware.
TG77, ASR-10 R, PCM80 , Speck Filter
The Yamaha SY77 is the opposite of the Juno-6. Extremely complex and rich sounds, hard to program, takes forever to explore. Contributed almost every percussion and drum sound on Monolake records till 2003. The TG77 is the same without keyboard. Used mostly as drum and percussion generator. I found it always more interesting to create my own drum sounds via synthesis instead of using classic drum computers. The SY77 is still a favourite of mine.Oberheim Xpander
A few years ago I bought an Oberheim Xpander. It looks very cool but I rarely use it. Envelopes are terribly slow, but works well for strings and for layering with FM sounds. I maybe should spend more time with it, for some reason we both do not get along together so well. I will not give up. I know that the key to this instrument is not using it with a player attitude but rather as a big modular self oscillating system. Some day...
The Prophet VS is one of those machines one can love and hate at the same time. It is almost impossible to realise any determined sound idea with it, since it never sounds like you would expect. The approach of it is brought to the point with a nice hidden feature: Pressing "Enter" and "2" at the same time randomises all settings and creates sounds one would never program.
I bought mine in 1997 and used it extensively on the albums Interstate and Gravity. In 2001 I gave it away to friend, later I started really missing it and now I have it back. I created a lot of string and textural sounds with it, often used as a sound source for sampling and further processing.
My first and only hardware sampler was an Ensoniq ASR-10 R. I made the last sample with it years ago, it has been fully replaced by software. But I cannot sell it, too much personal history... and I still occasionally use the build in reverb since it sounds very unique.
My cathedral is called Lexicon PCM 80. The reverb from this effects unit certainly contributed a lot to the colour of the Monolake records. Still in use sometimes, typically I add some reverb before recording my hardware synth into Live. ( Recently I also aquired a Eventide H3500, not sure if we are becoming friends )
Another legendary instrument is the PPG Wave 2.3. I got mine in 2003 and my first impression was: Oh shit, it is broken. I took a while to realise that all that dirt in the sound and the cryptical and buggy user interface is part of the game. The PPG was a dream of mine when I was young, so I had to buy it when I got a good offer. The PPG has been used a lot on Momentum and on Polygon Cities, especially for basslines and chords.
Photo on top: PPG Wave 2.3, photo on the right: Synclavier II VP/K keyboard
A very exciting instrument and very much out of reach for me in the 80s was the legendary New England Digital Synclavier II Music Computer System, introduced in 1982 and refined and updated till the early 1990s. It was probably the most expensive and at this time the most amazing piece of commercial musical hardware on this planet.