Michna's Top Gear

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The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Miami prankster (sometimes known as DJ Egg Foo Young) reveals the secrets of his favorite machines.

Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-660 drum machine
I think there is a picture of this on Squarepusher’s first album. This is my first drum machine; it’s velocity-sensitive, and you can sequence in step or real time. When I first heard drum & bass, I was like, “How did they do that?” I eventually found out it was done with an Atari computer, but I tried to use this. Even though I rarely use this, I wouldn’t throw it away because sing drum machines with effects is the greatest thing known to man.

Korg Kaossilator phrase synthesizer
Thirty years after the MS-20, you have all of those sounds in this tiny thing. I’m working on a new live show and the drummer wanted to get quads–those drums they use in marching bands–but this makes all those sounds, and sound effects (good for DJing). I’m predicting that people are going to circuit-bend these, like make a knob on the side that distorts and pitch-bends the sounds. It’s a one-trick pony, but it’s fun, and battery-powered!

E-Mu SP1200 sampler
This is the Pete Rock specialty, the machine that defined the “Golden Era of hip-hop.” You’re limited to 10 seconds of sample memory, which lead to producers finding many creative ways to use this. One of the most popular is sampling a 33rpm record on 45 then pitching it up or down. All those squealing samples on the first Cypress Hill record are made from samples of B.B. King’s guitar-playing sped up. The machine itself adds grit and a bit of harmonic distortion, which means the drums end up sounding fatter.

Korg MS-20 synthesizer
A staple made in my favorite year, 1978. Aphex Twin has two or four of these, and you can definitely hear them on Drukqs; a classic move of his is to hold down a note while turning the scale knob. You could plug a guitar in here and distort it. Sometimes I run drums through it, but mainly I use it for solid, non-cheesy low bass noises.

Roland SDX-330 Dimensional Expander
An outboard effects processor that does what it says.

Eventide H3000SE Ultra-Harmonizer
If the SP-1200, MS-20, and Logic are the core elements of the soup, this is a very heavy spice. It does a couple of things really powerfully–namely reverb, pitch shift, and echo. It’s good for sampling your voice on the fly and fucking with it. I can sound like a ghost monster or, remember the movie Real Genius? “Kent, stop playing with yourself.” It’s got a very ’80s sound in many ways.

MAM 11-Band vocoder
You may remember this from the hook of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic.” I used it a lot on the track “Swiss Glide.” I take the bass notes from the MS-20 and run them through here to get a wobble. The sound is nice and rubbery, not tinny.

Akai MFC42 analog filter
These cut-off knobs can be used to add movement to anything. Having knobs is always good–you can do it with a mouse, but it’s just not the same. You can use this to get that filtered disco sound à la Daft Punk.

Moog Moogerfooger pedal
Moog pedals are more expensive but you’re paying for Moog quality oscillators–it has to do with the warmth of the sine waves. Pedals are fun because you start to play around more, like, “I wonder what my trombone would sound like through this?”

Logic Audio software
I like the Waves plug-ins for reverb and EQs. These are old ones from the 1990s that are cracked; buying the new ones is expensive, but for good reason. The Battery plug-in is huge for me as well. I skipped getting an MPC and just use that.