My Favorite Machines


By Ken Taylor

Had Depeche Mode‘s Dave Gahan not fallen ill on the band’s 2009 tour, MOTOR‘s Man Made Machine album might be an altogether different beast. You see, it was on that tour that MOTOR were playing support act to DM’s headlining slot, and somewhere along the line when the tour came to a brief halt, MOTOR members Bryan Black and Oly Grasset found themselves in a Berlin hotel room with plenty of time on their hands to make a new record for Chris Liebing‘s CLRX sublabel.

There, they laid the groundwork for a monster of a hybrid-techno album, and Beatport had the pleasure of exclusively premiering it this week. MOTOR’s friend from that tour, DM’s Martin Gore, guests on the title track, as do goth-industrial icons Gary Numan and Nitzer Ebb‘s Douglas McCarthy on ”Pleasure In Heaven” and ”The Knife,” respectively.

Man Made Machine, like most of MOTOR’s past work, is a rather technologically involved record, so we had Bryan Black tell us about a few key pieces of gear that brought it all together in this installment of A Few Of My Favorite Machines:

1. My Arp 2600 Semi-Modular Analog Subtractive Audio Synthesizer

First produced in 1971, with its last model released in 1981, the Arp 2600 is now a collectors’ item. I got my first one in Minnesota in the ‘90s. It was from a friend and in excellent condition. I think I paid about $1000, but today they go for about $6000. I typically will experiment with it for about an hour and record the whole session to my laptop. Then I cut and paste parts and create loops and interesting sounds or textures. After that, I import the session into Logic Audio. Sometimes I simply drag the audio to the timeline, but usually I will lay out a series of samples into Battery or the EXS-24 sampler, and sequence from there. The main synth line on ”Automne” is an Arp pattern which was sampled and sequenced. It’s great for creating random warm, analog bass synth patterns.

2. My Sylenth1 VSTI Synthesizer

This VSTI synth from LennarDigital, in The Netherlands, sounds as good as a hardware synth, and because of that it’s well known to any electronic musician. It first came out in 2006 and it’s dead cheap for what it does! I use it for almost everything, from drum patterns to basslines, from atmospheric sounds to distorted leads, from sequences to FX… the capabilities are just endless and the presets are simply awesome to start with. But when I go under the hood, that’s where all the magic really happens. It’s also very easy to modulate. If I didn’t have this machine, the sound would be a lot different—less punch and clarity to start with, and also less trippy.

Apart from the drums and vocals, everything else on ”Control” was made with the Sylenth1 (even the “guitar” solo). Almost everything on ”Hello” was done with it, too. Check the bass and the “303” vibe towards the end.

3. My ES2 Logic Virtual Analog Synthesizer

This is a synth that’s built into Logic Audio. Usually I will load up a preset, then take it apart, focusing on each oscillator, changing waveforms and playing with the sine level and filters. The best, most-overlooked feature of the ES2 is the Random button. Sometimes I will spend hours playing with Random and turning different oscillators on and off and switching waveforms. You can get an amazing array of sounds from the ES2, and almost all the sounds on ”Between The Night,” apart from the drums, were made in the ES2. It’s easily the most featured synth on Man Made Machine.