I apologize in advance for this, but I’ve been so much into old synthesizers and all the adventures they have been a part of that I have to get it out of my mind. So… To continue on the synthesizer nostalgia theme, here is collection of old photos that show some of the gear that was used back during the Lagoona years, both for stage performances and in the different studios. The main studio was always (with the exception of a short period in 2001) located in my band colleague Björn’s apartment, while I usually had a few keyboard synths in my apartment.
I still have old versions of the Lagoona website stored on my computer, where all gear was listed and reviewed. If anyone would want to know more about it (which I assume no one will, honestly), let me know and I’ll consider posting it later on.
Rewind to the beginning of the 2000’s…
…a time when you still needed hardware synthesizers, MIDI cables, a powerful rack of effects – and when the mixer was the heart of the studio…
Access Virus Indigo – One of the original 500 Indigos that were manufactured. Based on Virus KB, with aluminium panels on the sides.
Korg MS2000 (left) and Roland JP-8000 (right), in my apartment in 2002. The piano in the background is the same as I have written about in an earlier post.
Oberheim OB12. There is indeed something special with blue synthesizers… This was a true monster in terms of size and weight, visually beautiful. But I didn’t like its sound, and it was difficult to program. It was used for only one live performance, during which it fell right on my foot.
Close-up of the Oberheim OB12 arpeggiator.
Classic Lagoona live setup as it could look back in 2002: Yamaha AN1x and Novation K-Station to the left (played by me), Behringer Eurorack MX1602 and a Sony Minidisc player in the middle (handled by a temporary third member of the band acting as a DJ) and finally Roland XP-30 and Access Virus Indigo to the right (played by Björn).
The Lagoona studio in early 2002, located in Björns apartment. The left rack included a Roland XV-3080 and a Yamaha EX5r, as well as a couple of basic sound modules like the Yamaha TG55 and a Roland U220. The computer was a PC running Windows XP, with a powerful Creamware Pulsar soundcard with a number of DSPs for running softsynths and effects. Beside it is the digital mixer, a Fostex VM-200 with 24 channels. The rack on the right side were effects units (compressor, limiter, an Antares Autotuner and patch boxes).
Access Virus Indigo, Roland XP-30 and Yamaha AN1x, during preparations for an outdoor music festival at mount Storknappen in Jokkmokk, Sweden, summer of 2003.
Rack-mounted sound modules: Yamaha TG55 and Roland U-220. Lagoona also had a similar Korg module, but today I can’t remember the model name of it. These were never really used, but they made the synth rack look a bit cooler!
And then return to year 2014 again…
There were more machines and units than the ones above, like the Yamaha CS1x, a Roland MC-505 groovebox and a Waldorf micro-Q among others. But I’ll stop there, because my point will hopefully be clear already: Back in 2002, this was a really cool collection. But today, just over a decade later, any single computer with a USB-connected keyboard, can do a thousand times more in terms of sounds, effects and mixing possibilities. While hardware can still be really cool, it is no longer necessary. The concept of having a room full of gear only to make electronic music, is more or less outdated. It can still be done like that, but it probably takes an enthusiast to find a hardware studio to be a better option than a software studio today.
When I look at myself, I feel that the time of using a hardware studio is completely over. I see no reason at all to have 25 different physical machines to create or manipulate sound, if I want to make music. All I need is a simple USB-powered keyboard to record MIDI into my software-based synth/sampler/effect rack. I use Propellerheads Reason, and it offers is all I could ever need. I don’t even use any of the incredible VST-synths that are out there, because the possibilities are endless – and by putting up a limitation by deciding that my software-based studio is the Reason rack only, I still need to find creative ways to combine the Reason synths and effects get the sound I need. And it makes it all a bit more fun, than just loading up a 20-gigabyte sample library and automatically have anything and everything.
The exception for hardware synthesizers are for live use. Just as in the studio, a computer on stage can do much more than a whole set of hardware synths. But when playing and performing, I still prefer to use traditional hardware synths. Which is why I got so fascinated with getting a Yamaha EX5 a few days ago. I will never use it to record music, but it would be awesome to use on stage at some time. Anyway…
Forced limitations to enhance creativity, good philosophy or not?
Today, anyone with a regular computer can make music that sounds truly amazing in terms of sound quality – all without ever having to touch a hardware synthesizer. But as readers of this blog have probably already noticed: I still like playing around with old synths. There is still something special about spending a few minutes turning knobs, adjusting values, selecting oscillator modes, adjusting envelopes and routing the mixed signal through various effect units. And then playing the created sound directly on the keyboard while tweaking filters, pitch and modulation in realtime.
I would never have the patience to work in a full hardware studio again, if I wanted to make new music. However, by keeping Reason as my studio and choosing to not step outside into the much larger world of VST:s, I keep a little bit of that old “what do I need to do to get this synth to sound like I want it to”-feeling.
Is there anyone out there, perhaps among my old fellow music producer friends from older times, who feel the same? Or am I the only one who adds limitations on purpose to force myself to keep creativity levels up? I’d love to hear your views on the incredible journey that music production technology has taken in the last 15 years…