Dave Julian bought his first synthesizer, a Yamaha CS-5, in March, 1980, one week before his seventeenth birthday. Inspired by the sounds he was hearing from synthesizers and keyboards on the records that he was buying and listening to at the time, his early influences came from Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Human League, Japan, OMD, Simple Minds, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Wally Badarou, Bernie Worrell, and Herbie Hancock.
Having never undertaken musical training, his time spent playing keyboards in bands allowed him to learn composition, structure, development of melodies, and the use of chord shape variations and scales. Though unsigned, he did benefit greatly from the countless live performances, playing live on BBC radio, and many studio recording sessions.
In 1992, he bought his first sequencer and began a new journey, focusing his passion toward the creation and performance of electronic music. This is the path that brought him to where he is now. This year, he has performed his material live at various venues in the UK.
We chatted with Dave about how he uses Sequential instruments in his music:
What made you choose Sequential?
Having being fortunate enough to have owned and played two vintage Prophet 5’s in my life — a Rev 2 and a Rev 3.3 — I was very aware of the sound quality, power, and sonic possibilities of Sequential’s Instruments.
Much later, I was in a position to purchase new and more capable hardware. So, when that occasion arrived in 2013, I had no hesitation in choosing the Tempest to be my main drum machine (with capabilities beyond my knowledge and experience at the time, but with functions that would soon become fully utilized in my compositions and in my live performances, as well). Since the designers were Dave Smith and Roger Linn, I had full confidence the Tempest was going to be something very special and inspiring.
In 2015, I chose the Mopho x4 to be my live analog poly synth because I wanted to continue with the Dave Smith/Sequential sound in my compositions. But also because the Mopho x4 had some of the capabilities that I was familiar with from my Prophet 5’s, such as twin analog oscillators, fine tuning, and the Unison function, but also with some extras such as the onboard arpeggiator and sequencer. It was also a much more compact and portable instrument than my old Prophet-5!
In 2018, opportunity arose to fulfill what was once a teenage synth player’s dream — to own an Oberheim. The collaboration between Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim to produce the OB-6 allowed my dream to be realized. As soon as I saw demos of the OB-6, the Oberheim sound was instantly recognizable and gave me full confidence that the OB-6 was going to be something very special and inspiring.
How are you using them?
I create and perform my music without the use of computers or software applications, so the Tempest is one of my two main hardware sequencers (synced with an Elektron Analog Keys). I use the Tempest for drum patterns that I arrange in Playlists for complete compositions. I also use the Tempest for running melodic sequences with an internal synth sound at the same time as the drum patterns.
For two of my tracks, Tinderbox and Crushed by You, the Tempest is running the drum patterns in a Playlist and running a melodic sequence with an internal synth sound as well as running a sequence with an external synth module, via MIDI. In my track Organism, the Tempest is running all the beats in a Playlist. It also provides some bass grinds in one section and I am playing an internal synth sound via the pads in 16 Tunings mode as a live duophonic synth, in another section.
I use the Mopho x4 on the vast majority of the 20 compositions that I currently have on my Soundcloud page, and also or live performances of my material. I use it in Poly mode as well as in Unison mode for pure sonic impact. For recent live use, I’ve utilized the onboard sequencer of the Mopho x4 to let it run with a sequence in the key and at the tempo of my next track to be performed, while I’m loading up the next Playlist in the Tempest and the next song in the Analog Keys. I bring in the next track performance while the sequence is playing on the Mopho x4, then fade it out. This has worked for me and it avoids musical silences between my tracks.
The OB-6 is the newest and most recent addition, and it hasn’t left the house yet. However, I have played and recorded the OB-6 on my composition Tinderbox and used it in subtle and “you’d notice if it wasn’t there” ways to enhance the production and the menacing mood of the track, and recently on a new recording of Crushed By You to add some extra depth and warmth to the track. The OB-6 will be a main feature of my live synth playing on future compositions and will become a major contributor to the sound of my future productions. A recent composition was created with the Tempest and almost exclusive use of the OB-6 with no sequencing. The track will soon be completed and released for public listening.
What’s one of your favorite things about them?
One of my favorite things about the Tempest is that it will perform three different tasks for me simultaneously and flawlessly. The Tempest will run my beats in a Playlist, run a sequence with an internal synth sound, and run a sequence with an external synth module via MIDI, all at the same time.
The Mopho x4 provides a healthy portion of analog goodness and wholesome polyphonic and unison sounds in a compact, easily transportable instrument.
My favorite aspect of the OB-6 is the sound. It’s distinctive and is what makes the OB-6 what it is — an instrument of dreams and desire. All of my gear has changed and affected how I play and what I write, for the better.
What do they give you that other synths might not?
For the Tempest, it’s the multi-tasking capabilities and having full access to all of the synthesizer’s parameters during the beat editing and performance processes. I am able to use what is a four-oscillator synthesizer to create and form each individual percussive sound or hit by blending tunable analogue oscillators and waveforms with digital samples of percussive sounds and hits. All of these sounds are driven by a flawless sequencer with a swing adjustment that allows for taking away the strict rigidity of “on the beat” drum pattern performance and replaces this with a far more natural feeling and fluidity to the playing of the beats. And it looks great.
Regarding the Mopho x4, as previously mentioned, I have had the experience of playing and programming two Prophet-5s. For me, owning and playing a Mopho x4 evokes those memories and sounds. It has the sound of a Prophet!
The primary gift of the OB-6, is its sound – you can’t get the sound of an OB-6 from any other modern synth. The OB-6 also looks great and like no other machine currently available. It has a great-feeling keyboard that’s very fluid and playable. Lastly, I find the OB-6 just totally inspiring and rewarding to play and to program.
Any interesting tricks or techniques you’d like to share?
Yes. Make the Tempest work for you in more ways than performing just one duty at a time, because this machine is very capable and dependable at doing so. You only need one MIDI clock signal to activate potentially three sequences running from the Tempest: drum patterns, an internal synth sequence, and external modules via MIDI. I have learned to always tune/detune the drum sounds of the kit to the key of the music that the track is playing in and sometimes add a waveform for an actual note to the drum sound as well. This really helps in making the sound of the drum kit sit with the music, and the track flows better because of this. More extreme tuning variations have made some drum sounds really stand out for me in tracks and still be in key with the music. The Tempest’s Distortion and Compressor are both great tools for enhancing or deconstructing the sound of the drum kits and then being able to store that as part of the individual beats for variations or as the whole project.
If anyone has been using a Mopho x4 for live performances, they might already be using this technique, but I recently loaded up all the sounds I was going to use for a five-track live set in descending order, so that the next sound was available to me just by hitting the Decrement button. I went to bank U4, sound 127 and loaded my first to be used sound in my live set, then hit the Decrement button to sound 126 and loaded my second to be used sound and so on. So, each time I want to select a new sound for live performance, I just have to hit the decrement button once and there it is. I’ve also found that using the Feedback Amount and Audio Mod can add some nice dirt and overdrive effects to an individual synth sound. And to use the Unison function to full effect, use detuning. It has greater sonic impact for a live audience especially. Four-voice unison with full detune and portamento together has worked really well for me. Finally, the onboard sequencer is great to use independently from other sequencers as a filler between tracks or for an intro.
As for the OB-6, I’ve only had it for a fraction of the time of my other Sequential instruments. Nevertheless, it’s my favourite synthesizer and I know that I will be using it greatly in future compositions. I would say that the onboard arpeggiator of the OB-6 is a very powerful part of the synth. I like to trigger an arpeggio on top of a Tempest beat and hitting the Hold button for the arpeggio so that it just sits tight with the beat for the duration of its presence in the track. I’m looking forward to using the onboard polyphonic sequencer of the OB-6 in future tracks with MIDI sync from the Tempest. Adding some analog distortion instantly takes the sound to another level. The OB-6 has an amazing and inspiring sound, and is capable of far more than I have discovered yet. I know it will continue to be one of my main instruments for future compositions.
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