The duo of Dave ‘1’ Macklovitch and Patrick ‘P-Thugg’ Gemayel have been best friends since childhood and have made music together for practically their entire lives. Their first album She’s In Control was released back in 2004, with their catchy tongue-in-cheek single Needy Girl becoming the catalyst for their career.
This was followed by 2007’s Fancy Footwork and, most recently, Chromeo’s 2010 album Business Casual. Future Music recently caught up with them in their Montreal studio, discovering a treasure trove of hardware synths in the process.
It might be the most famous synth in history, but the Minimoog doesn’t actually see a lot of action from Chromeo. “This is probably one of the least used synths,” says Dave. “I can’t think of one record where we used this synth for the bass. It’s much too distinct.”
Roland CompuRhythm CR-78
“We used this on our Eagles cover and on the track J’ai Claque La Porte,” says Patrick of this 1978 drum machine. “For J’ai Claque La Porte though, we sampled the hits and reprogrammed the rhythms in the MPC.”
Another Roland drum machine, but like the Minimoog, it’s not pressed into action all that often. “We haven’t really used this much recently but we used it for crash cymbals and some other bits on the first album,” explains Dave. “It’s very ’90s - new jack swing. Almost.”
Two much-loved Sequential Circuits pieces here, starting with the Drumtraks drum machine (top). “This is probably one of the most important pieces in the studio,” reveals Patrick. “We start all our demos with a beat from this. It’s really fast to use as it has MIDI and it sounds great.”
There’s also the Six-Trak synth, of which Patrick says: “This is one of my first synths and we still use it heavily. The pad sounds on Needy Girl and on Night By Night were from this synth.”
Dave Smith domination
Two more Dave Smith-designed synths here, kicking off with the Prophet ’08, which bears his name. “This is serial number 9, which is important,” laughs Patrick. Just below you’ll find the classic Sequential Circuits Prophet-5: “To back this up you have to use tape, but I’ve managed to record the WAV file into the computer and use Bias Peak to back it up, but it’s complex because if the level isn’t quite right it won’t work,” says Patrick, curiously.
“This has a particular sound because it has pickups on every string,” says Patrick of this electric piano. “It’s our Michael McDonald and Hall & Oates special! It was used on Don’t Walk Away and The Right Type.”
“This is ‘the Prince synth’ with such a massive sound,” says Patrick. “This particular one was one of a few OB-Xs that used to belong to D-Train, too.”
Another classic drum machine, but Dave feels like it’s best used sparingly: “The snare in Night By Night is from this but, like the Minimoog, it’s so recognisable that we don’t use it too much. As soon as you use it you hear all of those classic Prince records.”
And there's more
The number of classic synths in Chromeo’s studio is staggering, frankly. Patrick says that the Moog Prodigy (top-left) is “probably the third synth I bought,” while the Sequential Circuits Pro-One (top-right) is a more recent addition. “This is the bass sound on Don’t Turn The Lights On and on Hot Mess as well,” recalls Dave. “It has MIDI so Pee programmed the line in MIDI then tweaked the portamento afterwards live.”
Also in shot is the Sequential Circuits T8 (bottom): “This is the big brother of all the Sequential Circuits synths in the studio, but as you can see from the keys, it has a design flaw which makes the keybed mess up, so I need to get it fixed,” Patrick explains.
With so much gear already in place - we haven’t even shown you all of it here - you might think that Chromeo’s studio is complete, but not a bit of it. “My dream is to get a Yamaha CS-80, a Fairlight and all those big ones,” says Patrick.