Exploring the immense scope of these available soundscapes is a joyride. At the same time, looking for a sound for hours does not necessarily mean your mix will be all the more beautiful. John, who was awarded the prestigious SOCAN Songwriter of the Year Award in 2017, shares:
When I write a record, I need to find a good idea and just map it, and this allows me to do it. And very often, these sounds make the final cut.
Diving into SQ80 V, our highly praised emulation of the iconic Ensoniq SQ-80, John discovers and plays with the First Rave preset. The evocative rumble coupled with its industrial undertones is disarming to say the least.
The power of it truly lies in the synthesis section where you can balance the oscillators, but also create movement with the LFOs. Within minutes of messing with it, I got a really mean sequenced bass sound and an iconic 80’s pad with pitch modulation. Once you understand it, sky's the limit! I really dig the sound of the filter as well.
At the heart of Arturia’s mission, we want music to continuously erupt and fall in all the right places. This is a commitment that can lead to a producer’s dream come true:
If you have great sounds at your disposal, you can just flow through the session.
A Classic Collision
We witness John getting lost on the piano playing Beethoven. When he comes back from his momentary trance, he shares:
I’m a huge fan of classical music. Since I was a very young kid, it stuck with me. And even nowadays, I think I carry that with me, whether it’s in pop production, or if I’m doing more score-oriented type of records. There’s something about mixing orchestral with electronic that’s just really magical.
John then shows us a piece of music he wrote using Arturia’s synths.
The layers that build this epic, suspenseful ride are FILTER Mini, JUN-6 V, Comp FET-76, CMI V, and Pre TridA. To truly understand how these different elements work together, John will guide us through them separately.
The Good Kind of Mean
We start with one of the main elements of this piece: the arps. It’s JUN-6 V’s preset Kids with Marbles, a plucky melody with an echo of emotional urgency.
This is an instant 80’s vibe. I love these types of sounds, they’re so retro - and they’re mean. It’s got that crazy filter sweep.
His love for the rich-sounding synth recreation is unlikely to fade. In John’s words, it’s
absolutely amazing! I can get something modern or retro really fast and it’s really easy to tweak. Also, the chorus is absolutely iconic.
Another preset by JUN-6 V, 13 Strings 3, blesses our ears with a satisfyingly impatient ‘wah wah’ sound:
Jun-6 V once again being an absolute rockstar.
He then uses Rev INTENSITY on this track, and we listen to the contrast between the dry and the wet mix. That section of the piece rapidly goes from a linear beam to a multi-dimensional wobble. John then plays it in the context of the whole song. In his words, this is a ‘mean little guy’ that comes to add a lot more story to the piece.
I love to get creative with weird sounds. I love when they creep up on you and add a little bit of tension.
Finally, we look at the CMI V, which John states
has got tons of crazy sounds.
He picks the preset Silver and Blue, an eerie, pressing beauty with a massive emotional scope that can go from elevated to drastic in a matter of few seconds