16.03.2021

My Rig: Joelistics

Words by Will Brewster

Jumping into the studio with the Australian hip-hop stalwart.

There’s not many artists who’ve pushed the boundaries of hip-hop within Australia quite like Joelistics has.

A founding member of pivotal Melbourne collective TZU and a celebrated Elefant Traks solo artist in his own regard, the rapper/producer/songwriter extraordinaire has helped to expand the sonic parameters of Australia’s hip-hop scene with his intricate approach to sample-based production and a keen ear for gear.

In addition to his work with TZU and pursuing his own solo career, Joel’s production has popped up across a myriad of other projects from Australian artists, including that of Birdz, 360, Haiku Hands and Mo’Ju, the latter of whom he produced the breakout single ‘Native Tongue’ for in 2018.

On his latest project Film School, Joelistics once again shows off why he’s considered as hot property in studios around the country. It’s a concept album recorded over the span of five years with a host of female collaborators from Asian descent, fusing dusty samples of ’70s pop with colourful psychedelic jams and spontaneous studio improvisations for an immersive release that explores the impact of Asia’s diverse musical diaspora.

With the recent release of the project, we linked up with Joel for a look at some of the pieces of gear that popped up throughout the recording of Film School, getting a better insight into his creative process and celebrating the triumphs of one of Australian hip-hop’s finest sonic architects.

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Yamaha CS-50 (AKA The Beast)

This is the first synth I ever bought in 2001 around the time I started TZU… AND IT STILL SURPRISES ME!

It’s a scaled down version of the mighty CS-80 made famous by Vangelis on the Blade Runner soundtrack. It’s a polyphonic four-voice beast with a gnarly low pass/high pass filter, ring modulator and a sine wave that can be mixed in to provide extra bottom (who doesn’t want extra bottom). It’s capable of weird pads, lush pads, horrific pads, basically it’s a pad machine but equally cool at leads and sound effects.

The CS-50 is truly a thing of awe and beauty from the sound of the oscillators to the old school design. It weighs a ton and sounds fantastic and I think it made an appearance on every track on the Film School album in some form.

This is my desert island synth – the synth I would have buried with me if I was Pharaoh. 

KNAS Ekdahl Moisteurizer

How to explain the moisteurizer? It’s a reverb unit. It’s a filter bank. It’s an overdrive unit.

I bought it in a shop called Schniedersladen in Berlin in 2005 not really knowing it did other than go ‘booiiiing’ but it was love at first sight. The moisteurizer is less of a reverb unit and more of a mangler.

It has exposed reverb springs which can be played like an instrument. You can bang them, scrape them or run signal through them then it routes to a filter and LFO and with some tweaking it’s capable of doom or high squeal madness. 

I often crank the Moisteurizer and let it create weird soundscapes underneath the drums.

MPC Live

There are a lot of haters of the MPC Live, probably because the old school MPCs are so revered and famous for their connection to classic boom bap hiphop and the art of sampling, and look, I admit the Live is a bit cheesy with it’s flashy touch screen and DAW in a box vibe but my goodness it’s useful.

This thing has traveled with me all over the world. It’s got a battery life of at least 6 hours which means you can break it out on a long haul flight and make beats whilst annoying the person sitting next to you (have done)

I traveled with the Live to Malaysia in 2017 and made the very first beat sketches that would become the Film School record whilst staying in KL. I bought a heap of old Canto Pop records and CDs from the ’70s and sampled the shit out of them.

Joel’s MPC in Malaysia

Delta Lab Effectron

Effectron-tron-tro-tr-n -n-n-n…

Such a dope delay rack unit. It has a crazy bright red infinite repeat button that works like a 1 second sampler, you punch it in and it loops out and you can play with the time and pitch.

I used the Effectron extensively on the drums on ‘Samsara’ on the Film School record.

My unit is actually broken, the delay mix knob is kaput so all I can do is extreme settings. That works for me though!

Roland SH5

The SH5 is a monophonic masterpiece, built like a tank from the year 1976 this thing has magic juice running in its circuitry. To be honest I never thought I’d own one, but I found one on Gumtree from a guy in Geelong who used it as a furniture piece – he called it his dinner party ‘conversation starter’ because it looks so Sci-Fi.

The sound of the SH5 is thick and warm; the oscillators are beautiful and the routing of the signal is quite advanced for its age. The SH5 was used for basslines and leads all over the Film School record.

Roland Chorus Echo 501

I’m generally mad about gear that twists and mangles sound, boxes that decimate, contort and disrupt instruments, voices and beats. It probably all stems from my early teen years of smoking weed and playing guitar through delay pedals.

I have collected delays since my earliest days of  getting into music, and the queens of all delays would have to be the Roland Space Echo range. Not as dirty as the 201, the 501 has its own set of tricks including a sweet chorus, balanced ins and a super long delay time called sound on sound. Plus the spring reverb is gorgeous.

This thing will nice up the sound on everything – synths, vocals, drums, bass. 

Korg Mono/Poly

The Mono/Poly is weirdo synth that’s capable of huge bass and crazy leads, but the real feature of joy is being able to split the voices, volumes, waveforms and octaves on an ARP pattern. You get these really strange and funky arps that have so much character.

I bought this Mono/Poly in Tokyo, Japan at a synth shop called 5G. They packaged it up all nice and snug and I carried it on as hand luggage when I flew back to Melbourne. A bona fide synth classic!

Film School, the new album from Joelistics, is out now.