FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Setup/Breakdown: Populette & Kim Ann Foxman

Arps. Minimoogs. Rolands. An in-depth tour of Brooklyn's Throne of Blood studios.
June 21, 2013, 6:30pm

STUDIO: Throne of Blood Studios

LOCATION: Brooklyn, New York (US)

ARTISTS WHO WORK HERE: Kim Ann Foxman (Need Want)
Max Pask, one-half of Populette (Throne of Blood)
Andrew Potter, one-half of Populette and Pleasure Planet (Throne of Blood)
Brian Hersey, one-half of Pleasure Planet (Throne of Blood)

Max Pask and Andrew "Wiz" Potter (aka Populette) have spent many a late-night marathon in this studio, producing new tracks and remixes for The Rapture, Scratch Massive, Black Strobe and Francis Bebey. Released on the Throne Of Blood record label, their music is all about dancefloor energy and analog synths — it's deep, druggy, and not for the faint of heart. Max gives us a tour of their studio.

Advertisement

ARP 2600
I would say we use this piece the most. It's kind of the basis for everything we make and it's been used on everything I've ever done. It's a classic semi-modular synth from the '70's. Unlike early modular synths, where you had to physically patch modules together to create sounds, this one already has pre-patched sounds inside and every feature of the synth is accessible via an 1/8th inch plug, so you can bypass the pre patched signal and create your own signal path.The options here are pretty infinite and I'm still learning things about it every time I play around with it. At first, I was a bit confused, and once I started figuring it out, I fell in love with it.

I bought this Arp 10 years ago from a composer called Eric Rehl. He was selling his whole collection and he gave me a really good deal, I got lucky, now you can't find one under five or six thousand dollars which is crazy, but at this point they're nearly 40 years old so they're getting close to be museum pieces and they're quite rare.

All the hardware here is linked together via different types of signal: The Roland 606 and 707 drum machines and a 303 clone called the x0xb0x are slaved to the computer via DIN Sync and MIDI Beat Clock, and the synths are hooked up via MIDI. I use the x0xb0x as a synth module and a sequencer. The computer is the master so all I really have to do is hit play in Ableton and everything starts and is locked together. It lets me play it all in a very instinctive way, I let it run and start programming patterns and play keyboards on top, it's a great way to start laying down basic ideas for a track.

One thing i love doing is using the x0x to trigger the arp 2600, I tune oscillator 3 a fifth above oscillator one, which creates a richer, more complex sound than with just one oscillator. Then I modulate that with oscillator 2 which I put in LFO mode.An LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) is at such a low frequency that you can't hear a sound, but you can use the signal to affect other sounds. For example, if you plug it into the filter, the filter will open and close according to the LFO rate and shape. It's a great tool to create movement on a sequence for example.

Advertisement

P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

X0X BOX "THE BEAST" (ROLAND TB-303 CLONE)
This is a clone of the famous TB-303 by Roland, the classic "Acid" machine. 303's fetch insane prices now, so this is a great, much cheaper alternative. I think this is a great clone and I don't really mind if it's an exact clone of the original or not. It produces great sounds and is really easy to use. What I love about it is that it has CV/Gate outputs. CV/Gate is the pre-MIDI triggering system for analog synths. CV means "control voltage," which controls the pitch of the signal. The gate is the trigger start/stop part of the signal. You can create sequences really easily and then feed those in vintage analog synths, which I do all the time.

Which Roland machine is your favorite?
I don't really have a favorite, they are all complementary. They all have great sounds, I use the 707 snare and hats all the time, I love processing the 606 through the ARP 2600, it gives it a lot of character by adding distortion and reverb. I really want an 808 too!

P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

MOOG SOURCE
My first synthesizer ever, the Moog Source. I got it in 2002. This one is from the early 80's, and it has that particularity of having a membrane with buttons you use to select features and just one big knob to change the value, so you can't affect different features at the same time, but it does sound great.

It has that really fat signature Moog sound, but it's different from a minimoog for example, a little more 80's. I got it fixed recently so I have been using it a lot on my recent productions.

P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

MINIMOOG
This one is such a classic and I guarantee you have heard it on many records, like a lot of 70's funk. It's got a very classic vintage sound and you can really do anything with it, from bass to leads and other weirder stuff. One thing I especially love about the Minimoog is the noise which I use all the time. I make hi hats with just the white noise and a very short envelope, with a longer envelope and attack, it creates amazing textures and atmospheres, like the "disco wind" effect.

Also, the Minimoog has two outputs and one filter input, so I drive one output into the filter input and this creates interesting distortions and harmonics. It's also great to process other signals.One of my favorite pieces in this studio.

DOEPFER DARK TIME SEQUENCER
My partner Andrew just got this. It's an analog step sequencer. Basically we use it to create sequences and trigger synths. There are 16 buttons and every button represents one step of the sequence. So you can choose to play a step, skip it, and modify the pitch. This is a great way to write music. It's very instinctive and simple. You say yes or no, high or low — anything you want. There are no menus or tons of stupid stuff that you don't really need. Also it supports a lot of formats, from vintage ones to USB, so it can work with everything. Plug it in and play. I don't know how to play keys or guitars or anything for that matter, so I love having simple, hands on pieces of equipment like this one that allow me to write sequences in an intuitive manner, I like that a lot better than sitting at the computer and create midi sequences by clicking on a mouse.

THUMP: You said it's a new piece. How often do you buy new stuff?
As often as the bank account allows it.

How do you find the gear? From other artists?
When you are into gear, it's kind of an obsession. I'm not into most of the new gear that comes out, so my focus is mostly on vintage stuff, so I have a wish list and I look for some stuff in particular. A lot of stuff here is older than me. There are forums and dedicated sites but I don't look at them so much. It's mostly ebay. Being a vintage gear enthusiast usually means being an Ebay addict as well.

OBERHEIM SEM
This module was originally released in the 70's and Tom Oberheim started putting out a newer version which is an exact copy of the original with added features, I have the MIDI to CV version which allows me to use the synth to transform a midi sequence into the older CV/Gate system, so i can trigger vintage synth from my computer through the SEM, it's a cool feature. In the 70's, Oberheim released keyboards called the 2 voice, the 4 voice and the 8 Voice, which are essentially 2, 4 and 8 SEM paired up, respectively. Each SEM has two oscillators and one filter, so if you put several of them together, you can create huge, harmonically complex sounds.They have a particular sound that is different from Moog / Korg and Arp. You can hear a lot of Oberheim on early techno records. I really want to get more SEM modules in the studio.

Filter plug-ins can't do the same thing?
All filters have their own signature. I'm sure you can recreate them even if there is an actual Oberheim emulator, but this is not the point. I like to collect gear. I use a computer a lot but plug-ins don't feel the same. They don't have knobs and they don't look cool…

Antoine likes instruments' knobs a lot but he's too busy Tweeting with his phone keys to make music - @AdePointZero