Joe Berry is a member of M83 and joined them for their 2016 World Tour, playing piano, synth, ewi, and saxophone. In the off season, Joe is a freelance musician, composer, and educator, currently based in Los Angeles. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies with emphasis in both Saxophone Performance and Composition from Sacramento State University, and completed his Masters degree in Jazz and Improvisational Music at the University of Nevada, Reno in the Spring of 2012.
Recently Joe was the featured keyboardist for a Chobani yogurt commercial where he worked closely with composer Jon Brion and director Michel Gondry. In 2013, Joe scored music for Focus Feature’s first film adaptation of a David Sedaris work “C.O.G.” from the novel Naked, which earned him shared music credits with composer Steven Reich. That same year, Joe also appeared as a saxophonist in Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off music video. An avid improviser, he likes to get his hands on other types of “instruments” and wound up being Tony Clifton’s personal puppeteer, which led to Joe appearing as a lead puppeteer at David Arquette’s night club, Bootsy Bellows.
Joe is also a past member of Save Ferris and holds writing credit on their new album New Sound. He’s also a rotating member of Wayne Kramer’s Lexington Arts Ensemble. Joe also collaborates with music artist Allen French and co-wrote their recent Novo Mundo EP, which was released on the Kitsuné record label in 2016. He has studied and performed with Mike McMullen, Jeff Alkire, Peter Epstein, Taylor Swift, David Ake, James Winn, Anthony Gonzalez, Hans Halt, Wayne Kramer, Dave Liebman, Claudio Roditi, Phil Ranlin, Jon Brion, Bob Mintzer, Jon Santos, Roy Hargrove, Donny McCaslin, Jackson Browne, Randy Brecker, Gerald Wilson, Ingrid Jensen, Benny Green, and others.
We chatted with him about how he’s using the OB-6.
Joe, what made you choose the OB-6?
“It was a bit of fate, actually. Aside from my work with M83, I’m also VP of Artist Development for the Joe Zawinul Foundation and we were at NAMM 2016 which is where I first met Dave and the OB-6. When we started rehearsals that March the OB-6 showed up (I believe the only OB-6 that had the grey patch switches like the Prophet-6) and then I basically got to explore and fall in love with the OB-6 during our 9-month world tour last year.”
How are you using it?
“I’m using it for everything! Currently I love linking my Akai EWI4000s to the OB-6 and using one hand to control the EWI’s breath control and expression and the other hand on the OB-6’s filters etc. I’m using it for film projects, all my live gigs, meditation sound sessions, live dance classes; I even performed it in the middle of the woods in Big Bear but there were no phones or photography permitted at the event so I could’t snap a pic but I’ll tell you the OB-6 sure looks beautifully compelling in the woods.“
What’s one of your favorite things about it?
“It’s probably cliché to say by now, but for me, I absolutely love the OB-6 filters and their knob architecture. Being able to glide through low-pass, notch, and high-pass basically lets you blend the filters and find filter settings that are “between filters” and they all sound incredible — which is a blast to experiment with. And then there’s band-pass with the easy press of a finger. Also, when I link my EWI to the OB-6 I can play legato notes on the EWI with my left hand using the OB-6’s sound patch, while a sequence is running, and then using my right hand to pad or filter. Having that isolation lends itself to unlimited possibilities while performing prepared or improvised music.”
What does it give you that other instruments don’t?
“With the OB-6, I definitely feel it gives this specific beautiful brightness to any sound you combine it with. Don’t get me wrong, the OB-6 has a unlimited palette of sounds, but there is this brightness quality that I just love. You can be working with the thickest texture of sound and I always hear my OB-6 shine through in a complimentary way, just like a well-timed lens flare. And back to the filters, being able to seamlessly change between each filter gives you something completely different and unique than what most synths can do.”
Any interesting tricks or techniques you’d like to share?
“If you turn up the spring reverb all the way up to 127 and smack the right-side wood panel of the OB-6 you’ll hear that classic spring reverb “feedback amp” sound. But don’t worry, it’s not actually feeding back. Also, in Effects, if you hold down the effect on/off switch, you can adjust the amount of distortion. I didn’t see those in the manual but I won’t spoil things by revealing where I learned that from.
I just wanted to say congrats to you guys and happy 15th anniversary. It truly has been fate, you guys coming into my life, so I just want to say thanks again. I absolutely love my OB-6 and I hope you guys have a great rest of the year. I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with this year!”
Music scored entirely on OB6: https://vimeo.com/234265016
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