After the first few eerie tones echo forth on Eliot Lipp’s newest album, The Outside (Mush), one gets the sense that Lipp’s “outside” is not so much a sunny day spent at the park, but more an intruder’s vantage point; a hidden place from which someone might peer in on some heavily guarded area. Rather than emulating summery birdsong, the synths on The Outside evoke a feeling of trespassing, with the tones pinging out a security grid in an ’80s spy flick, or maybe soundtracking a space-shuttle launch to send Afrika Bambataa to the moon. Over the years, Lipp, the Brooklyn-based electro-hip-hop specialist has amassed a number of synths, and here he tells us which ones were most vital to crafting his fifth album.
1. Roland SH-101
The SH-101 is a pretty popular synth and it has a very familiar sound. I use it a lot for blips and bleeps, and also long sustaining notes. If you mess with the parameters enough, you can get it to sound like a piano, upright bass, or even a TB-303 (sorta). And it has a sequencer + CV. I started making “The Meaning” by programming a sequence on the 101 and triggering it with my TR-606.
2. MFB Synth 2
Just so you know, I bought mine way before Richard Devine or Telefon Tel Aviv got ’em (biters!). But seriously, this is a little secret weapon. It’s an all-analog mono-synth that’s homemade by some dude in Berlin. I used it on at least half of the tracks on The Outside, like for the really wet-sounding loop in “The Area.” It has MIDI capability, and I filled it with dope-sounding sequences so I started using it live for a while. I would just sync the sequencer to my clock on Ableton Live but the little guy kept slipping out of tune halfway through my sets, so I gave it the boot. I still use it in the studio like crazy though.
3. Oberheim Matrix 6
It’s hard to find an affordable polyphonic analog synth that doesn’t sound like piss. This one is awesome, though! It’s great for Depeche Mode-style chords and really thick leads. It has MIDI, too, and you can adjust any parameter on it to get super-weird sounds. I made “Opening Ceremony” when I first got it. I was just playing one of the presets with mad reverb on it and I had to start recording it.
4. Doepfer A-100 Modular
My pal John Hughes (a.k.a. Slicker, and head of Hefty Records) got me into this modular shit. I really don’t know what I’m doing with this thing, but it’s super-fun and I used it on damn near every track on the album. The cool thing about building a modular system is that you can do it one piece at a time, and in the process you learn so much about how a synthesizer works. My favorite module so far is the Plan B Model 15 oscillator. I have two of them. The bass sounds retarded (check “Baby Tank” or the end of “The Area”) and the FM modulation will make a typical patch sound insane!
5. Korg MS-20
This was the first real synth I ever bought. It’s probably my favorite keyboard ever. The filter on it sounds cooler than any other filter ever! I play this a lot on all my albums. I used it for the bassline and the high-pitch lead on “See What It’s About.” I got a custom case for mine and I tour with it sometimes, but it’s getting pretty scary now that they are worth like $2000 or something.