Rhode & Brown are releasing their debut album ‘Everything In Motion’ on Permanent Vacation on the 4th June. It’s a warm, engaging listen that spans downtempo dreamy electronica, 80s synth pop and ambient as well as some cutting edge house and techno. Ahead of the album release we got them to show us around their studio.
We just recently moved our studio in January 2021. We used to share this fun little space in the middle of Munich with our friends from COEO for the last few years. But we had to move out after one half of the duo moved to Berlin and we had some noise complaints there as well. Now we are super lucky to have found a new home at the legendary ‘Weltraum Studios’, a big space full of little studios that has been there since the early 90s. There are lots of producers and musicians from all ages and genres, which is pretty cool. The room is small and sound-treated quite nicely by the guys we share the studio with. We also don’t have to worry about noise complaints anymore, as the place is in this industrial area of the city with no local residents around. We go there every Friday and most Saturdays, as we work our day jobs from Monday to Thursday.
The newest addition to the studio and a keeper for sure. We didn’t use this on the album, as we got it just a few weeks ago, but you will definitely hear this on lots of upcoming stuff. It’s super versatile and works for everything from pads, keys, leads to fat bass sounds. To be honest, we are absolutely not hardware synth nerds or fetishists, even though we have some outboard gear in the studio. It’s rather a lot of trial and error and noodeling around until we end of with something we like. And for that approach the Prophet-6 is just the perfect syntheziser for us (besides it’s amazing sound): It is a knob per function synth with every parameter just in front of you and no menu diving at all. Super easy to understand and use. You can just start off building sounds from scratch or adjust the dope presets on the fly, which is lovely as we we want to make music and not read manuals for days and click through 3-page deep menus before ending up with a cool sound. It’s pretty stripped back as well, with only one LFO, two oscillators and this very interesting Poly-MOD section.
AKAI MPC 1000 / Ableton Push 2
Our beloved MPC 1000 was one of the first machines we bought. It seems like we have a proper on/off relationship with this beauty… There are times where we use it a lot, and times where we’d rather switch on the Ableton Push 2 which can take care of everything the MPC does to be honest. But when we want to get our heads out of the computer there is nothing that beats a MPC. We used to use it mostly for chopping and flipping samples and programming drums (lots of the drums on the album were initially done on it), but just recently made use of it as a sequencer more often. When we feel uninspired or have looked on the screen and at Ableton for too long, it’s super fun and liberating to start a jam just with the MPC sequencing some synths and not using the computer in the first place. It’s very relaxing for our minds to not be ‘in control’ of every detail for just a moment (which is hypothetically possible in a DAW, where you can re-adjust everything with a few clicks). We mostly come up with different kind of grooves, patterns and melodies when working that way, which we then record back into Ableton and have a starting point for everything that comes next.
ROLAND JUNO 106
A classic for sure and for a good reason! It was the first analog synth we bought and we think it will stay here forever. Its memory is broken, so we either have to reupload the factory sounds every time we turn it back on or just program everything from scratch (which is, again, very easy with every parameter just in front of you). It’s annoying but eventually, we got used to it and it keeps us on our toes. You hear this synth a lot on our album: For example the main arp synths and the bassline on ‘Everything In Motion’ were done with the Juno. Another track, ‘Wave 200’ was initially written during the first lockdown last year only on the laptop at home. Originally we used this VST emulation of the Juno 106 called ‘TAL U-NO’ for the bassline but felt it was lacking so much character and oomph. So when we got back in the studio together in the summer we exchanged it with the original synth which brought the track to a whole other level in our opinion. We use a lot of VSTs and really love them, but in this case the analog machine made a big difference.
NOVATION BASS STATION 2
This is our go-to hardware synth when it comes to basslines. Andy from COEO sold it to us after we moved the studio, as we just couldn’t say goodbye to it. It just a super solid analog mono synth, easy to use, affordable, and super fat sounding. We really like the onboard arpeggiator, too. We used that one on the closing track of our album ‘Cruise’ and layered it with a software synth in Ableton.
BOSS KM-60 Mixer
This one we would just keep for its look… isn’t it beautiful? We got this classic mixer from 1979 pretty cheap a few years back, after reading about how people like Daft Punk used it in their productions in the 90s. We don’t use it frequently but from time to time it is great to process drums with it to make them a bit fatter or even saturate/distort them heavily – there is a video of us jamming with it on Instagram. It’s also great to loop in some effect pedals via the send/return of the mixer.
Effect Pedals / Korg Volca FM
We have these two cheap effect pedals, both from TC Electronics. Basically it’s just a classic reverb and a delay, which we like to run our Korg Poly 800 through. It sounds pretty lame and dry on it’s own but turns into something magical once you hit it with some reverb! Also on this picture is a Korg Volca FM which we bought for 90 EUR the other day… It’s just amazing and basically a pocket sized DX7. In fact it has the same infrastructure as the original from Yamaha, so you can load up all the amazing preset sounds from back in the day and there are thousands of them around the internet. So much fun!
ABLETON LIVE + PLUG-INS
Probably not the most sexy thing to talk about but to be honest we could never be without our computer and the DAW. It’s the center of our productions. As said before, we love hardware synths – they are fun and they sound great, but there are also a lot of our tracks that were made completely in the box. And even when working with outboard gear, eventually it ends up in Ableton Live. We really love working in the DAW with plug-ins like the Roland Cloud, Korg Collection, the amazing Valhalla Vintage Reverb or the Soundtoys collection!
We will always have a hybrid setup in the studio: There are times where we exclusively work in the box, other days we only record our hardware synths and the next day we mix everything up. Some people might say it’s stupid to have (expensive) hardware in the studio, when you are not using it ALL THE TIME… but we don’t see it like that at all. The hardware machines are liberating and they sharpen our creativity, even in times where we just experiment around with them and they don’t necessarily end up in a song. There’s something calming and meditative about them that really helps when you’re creatively stuck.
THE OBSCENE PHONE CALLER / KORG POLY 800
I think we haven’t even listened to this record, after we bought it for its song title, but it’s in our studio since forever. We instantly made Rockwell our guardian angel and our strict observer. No matter where we put the record in the room, he always seems to watch us from every angle. So whenever we are not 100% sure about a tune or an idea we just give him a quick look to see what he thinks about it. Massively helped getting stuff done 😉
Also on this picture is the Korg Poly 800. A pretty cheap analog synth, that is a pain to program, so we mostly use its presets and just change some small things. It’s great for pads and strings after you hit it with lots of reverb. The strings and little synth blips on ‘Everything In Motion‘ – the title track of our album – were done with this.
You can pre-order Rhode & Brown ‘Everything In Motion’ album which is out on Permanent Vacation on 4th June.