Once described by Geoff Barton of Classic Rock Magazine as “Peterborough’s answer to Vangelis,” Rob Cottingham started his musical career in high school, later forming the rock band Cinema. In the early 90’s, he gigged with an R&B band and formed the cover group, Ghost. Itching to write his own material, Rob produced his first album “Behind The Orchard Tree”(BTOT) released in 2002. From there he founded the group Touchstone, who went on to release one EP, four albums, a double live album and a live DVD. The group hit the UK rock album charts at number 34 in 2011 and number 26 in 2013 after being signed for two albums. The band toured UK, Europe and USA.
In 2016, Rob formed Cairo, keeping the same sensibilities in song craft, but with heavier guitars and more electronica in the sound. Cairo’s debut album “Say” was released to rave reviews, including a recommendation from Steve Hackett of Genesis. The band won Classic Rock Society’s Best Newcomer Award a few months later. Rob released a solo follow up to his earlier album BTOT with “Back Behind the Orchard Tree” in April 2019, and soon after, Cairo released a live album “Alive In Holland” in January 2020. Their next studio album is planned for late 2020.
We chatted with Rob on how he uses the Prophet-6 in his music:
What made you choose the Prophet-6?
The Prophet-5. I have admired Prophets and “that sound” since first immersing myself in synthesis in my late teens, when I first started tinkering around with a second-hand Transcendent 2000 mono synth kit, courtesy of my father. It eventually fell to pieces but it was my first proper synth — if you ignore Stylophones. Around that time, in the 80s, the Prophet-5 was for me financially unobtainable but I loved that sound, which was being played by some gods of the music industry.
Back in 2018, Musicradar published their view of the ten greatest synths of all time and the Prophet-5 was unsurprisingly in the top three. It had become a market leader and industry standard for many to aspire to in the 80s. It was used by Michael Jackson (Thriller is a prime example), Tangerine Dream, Talking Heads, Madonna, and Radiohead to name but a few. John Carpenter used just a Prophet-5, with its spooky analogue textures, and a piano on 1982 horror film “Creepshow.” The follow up Prophet-10 was used to record the soundtrack for “The Terminator” in 1984.
So, I have opted for a Prophet-6, which is based on an updated version of that legendary and groundbreaking synth. It simply had to be my first choice.
How are you using it?
A Prophet is one of those synths I have always secretly wanted to add to my sonic armoury, which revolves around a Kurzweil PC3K and the Korg Kronos, which for years I never quite got around to sorting out. I’m so looking forward to adding a Prophet-6 electronica vibe, together with heavier guitar work, to Cairo’s next studio album and all my future projects.
I created a demo called “What’s in the Box?” within literally hours of getting my hands on the synth. Apart from the drums, all the sounds you hear are from the Prophet-6.
What’s one of your favorite things about it?
In terms of sound design, it’s intuitive and easy to use. It took me only around an hour to get to grips with the keyboard and start producing some happening riffs. The pre-programmed sounds are inspirational to get you started on ideas. It’s a real powerhouse in a small 49-note packet.
In terms of aesthetics, I love the red glow from the control wheels, and generally the red vibe from the controls. Goes beautifully with my monochromatic studio. If you are a fan of “Sin City” you’ll know what I am getting at — big black and white and red rock style.
What does it give you that other synths might not?
That classic Prophet warm analog sound which spans generations. It appeals just as much today as it did in the 80’s because it’s based on the fundamental analog principles of sound synthesis — but with the Sequential heart and soul which is difficult to put your finger on, but is most definitely there.
Any interesting tricks or techniques you’d like to share?
Use “Slop” with care but don’t be afraid to use it with gusto. And the dual effects are to die for to add extra sauce to the raw sound. Also, Resonance and Distortion at the right balance give any unison sounds you want to use for lead line lines real beef, especially if you add a bit of glide.
There is only one way to find out with this beautiful keyboard, and that is to experiment and not be afraid to go “off piste.”
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