What piece of equipment do you have to show us today?
My iPhone 4 Synth. It’s an iPhone 4 with the Animoog app + Akai 25 key MIDI controller. All stored in a modified 1970s ‘Miami Vice drug money’ style briefcase.
How did you come across this particular item?
I had a Kawai K1 synth from the 1980s, which I used to play live. It was big and clunky and one day at a sound check the old beast sound-checked out of this world for good. I was sad, but I needed keys stat for the show with no time. I had the Animoog app on my phone, I plugged the iPhone in and it sounded cool so I haven’t looked back. I bought the Akai controller so I didn’t have to play the iPhone screen onstage (pretty teeny!) and added the briefcase so it could travel.
What is it that you like so much about it?
The Animoog app tones are interesting, and the iPhone touch screen is really intuitive for shaping tones. I can change the sounds by swiping around the filter pad on the screen. It keeps the sense of play when creating. Digital keys can sound a little at and cold in general I think, so the tube amp is there for compression/distortion to put a little fur on the tone and create tension. It helps the synth sound grip to the guitar tones. I like the idea of experimenting with pairings of analogue and digital technologies, they kind of argue and make interesting tones with a lot of personality.
How do you use it, and how has it shaped the way you write music?
I wrote the tracks ‘Melt’ and ‘Fun Machine’ off our album Colorize using the iPhone 4. Both tracks originally started with loops of a single chord that lasted for the entire song. These songs drift and float, hanging on a haze of synth cloud. It’s similar to how a harmonium or sitar might provide a back- ground drone in Indian or psychedelic music. Blending constant drones with shifting chords is a very emotionally potent sound, listen to the ebows and chord voicings on ‘What’s the story Morning Glory?’ and you’ll hear heartfelt sadness from this technique.
When’s the next show?
The iPhone synth will be producing glorious digi-analogue drones on August 13 at Yah Yahs, with Batz and Heloise.
For more details, head to the official Pretty City Facebook Page.