With two studio albums and a slew of remixes behind them, Simian Mobile Disco (AKA James ‘Jas’ Shaw – pictured left – and James Ford) are one of the most-talked-about production duos of the past few years (Ford has also produced for Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons). Future Music recently headed over to the rented London studio that spawned 2009’s Temporary Pleasure long-player, and discovered that SMD’s reputation as synth-heads is well-deserved.
The Wardrobe is the name given to Jas Shaw’s most recent eBay purchase, a unique modular synth built by Steve Urquhart. “He had a gig at T in the Park Scotland and as I live in Aberdeenshire, his guys picked it up for him,” says Steve.
Korg’s MS-20 remains SMD’s workhorse synth, as Jas Shaw explains: “[It’s] one of the few synths we have with a keyboard too, and as much as it’s cool to track stuff with analogue sequencers or MIDI, it’s also nice to just be able to play something from time to time.”
Pro Tools HD
Although they use Ableton Live when they’re, err, playing live, Pro Tools HD is the centrepiece of the SMD studio. “[It’s] used like a digital tape recorder for us, we rarely use plug-ins,” they say. “Having zero latency with Pro Tools HD is perfect for us because we use so much outboard gear.”
Sitting at the top of SMD’s rack is a Grampian reverb unit: “cheap spring reverbs like this are all over the new album,” they say. Elsewhere in the studio you’ll find a Lexicon 200: “a sort of weird ‘80s reverb, but we really like the sound of it,” report Jas and James.
The big picture
The size of SMD’s outboard collection is revealed here, while up to the left you’ll notice a Revox tape machine. “We used tape a lot for phasing effects as digital phase doesn’t quite sound right,” say the duo.
The live show
When they’re on stage, SMD work their way around a ‘synth table’, and are engulfed by light strips. “The core of the live rig hasn’t changed really,” says James Ford. “It’s still a mixer with a bunch of outboard including the modular and the MS-20. But we’ve added a Dave Smith Prophet ’08 that sounds great”.