Another week of isolation is coming to a close, and while we are physically stuck inside, thankfully, the internet allows us to travel virtually anywhere we want. As such, we are taking a trip to Berlin to meet with techno artist Hybrasil. Since moving from Ireland to Germany, he has become fully immersed in the Berlin scene both as Hybrasil and as a studio technician with SRVD Live. Fresh off his recent Osiris EP via his own label, we invited Hybrasil to join us for another edition of My Toolbox. Below, he breaks down his studio essential for creating the way he does.
Words and photos by Hybrasil
Over the years I’ve collected a number of different synths, drum machines, and samplers. These are my favorites.
I bought this synth from my friend Mr. Spring, who has also serviced and modified my 909.
It’s a stripped-down mono synth from Roland's classic SH-series. It was first manufactured in 1978 and it is the older brother of the SH-101. Both synthesizers do have a similar sound, although some including myself prefer the tone of the SH-09 it doesn’t have the arpeggiator and step sequencer that made the SH-101 so popular. I absolutely love this machine. I have a track called ‘Hour Glass’ coming out on Rekids in June/July that was written with this synth.
The TR-909 drum machine was first introduced by the Roland Corporation in 1983 shortly after the TR-808. It was the first Roland drum machine to utilize samples and MIDI. I purchased this drum machine in 2016 before a show I was doing with Jeff Mills and the Irish National Orchestra. It came to my attention that one of the only 909’s in the country was for sale, I always wanted one and I also wanted to make sure there was a top-quality model available for Jeff any time he played in Ireland.
It came with quite a lot of damage which led to recurring issues with the Ride Cymbal and the step sequencer. A lot of work has gone into servicing, maintaining and modifying this particular unit. It is pretty much customized for Jeff. There are pitch mods on the Hi-hats and the Rim shot (which makes it sound kind of like an 808 rim shot). The step sequencer is bolted to the front which makes it super reliable for finger drumming. With the modifications, it is one of the only 909’s of its type.
Here is Mr. Spring explaining the modifications he made on the machine.
Elektor Formant Modular Synth
This is a rare beast from the 1970s. The Formant is a conventional Moog-style synthesizer and it is voltage-controlled to the Moog standard of 1V/octave. The schematics and descriptions were published in a series of Elektor magazine articles in 1977 and 1978. They were all hand-built by DIY Synth enthusiasts. I picked this up on a second hand / buy & sell the site in 2017. It has a truly unique sound and tone. It’s a really special synth, one of my favorites. This also features in my next Rekids release on a track titled ‘We Don’t Flip’.
Elektron Octatrack Sampler
The Octatrack is an eight-track performance sampler, designed for both live performance and the studio. I picked this up in 2017 but it took me some time to find my feet with it. Finally, in January of 2018, I spent two full weeks learning the sampler. It is definitely the hardest instrument I’ve ever learned. Luckily there is an amazing online Elektron forum for Octatrack users which I referred to almost daily.
My motivation for working with the Octatrack was to remove the laptop from my live sets, I wanted to be able to do everything within the box. My first few shows were tough, but after a few months, I got to a place where I felt really comfortable. I plan on adding a second Octatrack to my live rig later in the year.
Korg Arp Odyssey Module Rev3
The ARP Odyssey Module is a tabletop analogue synth module. The original Odyssey first appeared in 1972. It was resurrected by Korg in 2015 boasting a complete reproduction of its original analogue circuitry. I picked this up in Dublin in 2017. It has a great sound. Over the past year, I’ve been recording a lot on it and it also features on my next Rekids release.