Olaf Hilgenfeld and Iftah Gabbai show us around their studio, featuring a neat combination of DIY instruments, analogue classics and modular synths.
Skinnerbox – My Studio
Our studio is located underneath the centre of Kreuzberg, Berlin. With no daylight or cell reception, it’s pretty much out of space and time and it’s exactly what we need in order to work.
This is Iftah’s first synth. In a true cliche manner he traded his electric guitar for it about 16 years ago and never looked back. It’s a wonderful instrument that was very much underrated for a long time. So many of our tracks were born using the onboard sequencer!
Roland Juno-106 & Jupiter-6
The Juno is our go-to synth when it comes to analogue strings. Although it’s a super simple and unspectacular synth, it’s irreplaceable when it comes to lush pads. The Jupiter, however, is a universe of sound which is much harder to tame and control, but can produce such a wide palette of analogue goodness.
This is our bread and butter, holy grail and whatnot. Olaf has been playing the Minimoog live on stage since the day we became Skinnerbox. This synth is practically one big sweet-spot and everything that comes out of it sounds just right. Fun fact: it was stolen from us after a festival show back in 2005 and we actually found it on sale in eBay, called the police and got it back.
Mainly Iftah’s addiction, and he swears by it. In contrast to all the analogue East coast/Japanese classics that we own, the Euro modules we own are more West coast and Buchla-oriented, and are terribly fun to dive into and lose yourself in some kind of a sonic meditation. By now we’ve learned to hit record at the right time.
Elektron Analog Four
Although it’s sold as a polyphonic analogue synth, the A4 became our standard analogue drum machine. It really does amazing analogue percussion and because of the deep sound engine and the fact that it’s not a drum machine, you can actually get much more interesting results. We’re also loving the fact that it has only four tracks – it keeps things tidy.
Iftah’s live setup
This is Iftah’s live setup and it’s composed of two Monomes and a self-made Arduino-based controller.
The whole thing is controlling Ableton and Max4Live. Knowing how to build instruments yourself is a curse and a blessing. The downside is that you spend a lot of time building something instead of actually making music with it, and the upside is that it gives you so much freedom and the ability to create something which works perfectly for you and your mindset – and this is super addictive.
This is a brilliant 8-track cassette recorder that used to cost a fortune back in the day and can be scored quite cheaply nowadays. We did several complete productions on it and we love the sound.
This is Olaf’s most ambitious project ever – a monumental FM synth with complete hands-on control. He started it about eight years ago and had to stop at some point because we just didn’t have the time. Every time we pass by and look at it we think that it’s a shame that it just sits there and collects dust but then we realise that this is only happening because we are way too busy making music and confusing dancefloors all over the globe – so this is a good thing, right?!