Welcome back to our 'My Toolbox' series, where artists highlight some of the essential tools they use to create the music we all know and love. This time, we are joined by Jake The Rapper. Jake is Bronx-born, Seattle raised, his roots are in the rock scene - he started a band with Ben Shepherd who went on to form Soundgarden. The First Gulf War saw him pack up and head for Europe in 1990. He settled in Hamburg, studied and graduated in Fine Art, experimented with hip hop and rap, and then found the nightclub Click and his love affair with club culture began. He found success in Berlin, most notably as a regular at hallowed haunt Bar 25.
Since then, his popularity in the US has risen exponentially, playing events like Burning Man. He recently released a new EP on Acid Pauli and Nico Stojan's label Ouie Circle, and as such, we thought it was a perfect time to catch up with him and take a peek into his studio setup.
Words by Jake The Rapper
Ibanez Bass Guitar
This was my first instrument. My mother got it for me when I was 14. I had a weirdo punk band when I was 15 and many other bands after that. I even played in a band with Chad Channing and Ben Shepherd, but that’s another story for another time. I knocked the frets out of it after the half-octave with a hammer and screwdriver when I was 16 or 17 - I found out later you’re supposed to use a soldering iron and heat up the resin that holds them in place and they slide right out. oops! So I could play slide bass. I also played a lot of slap bass back then. Like, speed slap bass, punk-funk :) You can see photos of some of my heroes taped on there. There’s Will my first bass mentor, and John Polle, my long-term guitar hero. I still love playing this for recordings in the studio to this day. When I was touring with my one-man live act, I didn’t want to take this with me on the plane, so I’d have the club order a bass for me. I tried everything out, but I could never get the warmth I get out of this thing. I don’t know why. Jazzmaster, Rickenbacker, etc. never nearly as thick and deep. My baby.
Boss RC 5050 Loopstation
I use this a lot in my live act. Rico Loop really opened my eyes to this one. It’s such a delight to just hammer a giant button with your fist while you’re playing and get a perfect loop. I played guitar, bass, synths, and vocals through this during my live set. It was a lot of work. Ok, maybe too much work. I didn’t have a computer or anything. Next live set incarnation will have an actual sequencer involved. The only percussion was my TR-8 (not pictured), but looking at this picture, you can really see it’s been around :) very sturdy, yes indeed!
I love this thing and have done a few tracks with it. You can hear me, Fred, and Frivolous playing it in Lullaby no 2. I also played it in “There Must Be An Answer” which I did with Click Click. That was on his Juno actually - he has one too. It’s hard not to love it! It doesn’t have the versatility of a lot of other synths really, but it just has this sound that’s so classic, I can’t resist it and it’s gotta be the machine, not the plug-in for sure. Although I will often trigger it with my Nord keyboard. I like the way it's weighted better.
Oh man, I have recently fallen in love with this monster. I read the whole manual which I never do and really got deep into it. It’s Fred Brune’s actually, the dude I share the studio with and who helped me with some of the production on Lullaby no 2. That's why it says Fred on it. I’m looking to get my own so I can take it out of the studio on tour and do a live act with this at the center. When I used to play together with Raz Ohara I would sing and he’d just crush it with not much more than one of these. I didn’t get what a groovy powerhouse this is at the time, now I do. They built it to perfection in 1987 or 1988 (someone fact check the year for me please), and everything since then is just a shadow.
This isn’t my guitar, but it’s the one I use in the studio and it’s fantastic. I personally love a Gibson SG, and I sold my guitar when I moved from Seattle to Hamburg in 1990. But this is a great setup in our studio and it’s the perfect guitar for melodies and backing tracks for the kind of music I do now. Back in the olden days when I would try and play guitar solos, I would definitely prefer the bendy action on the SG. It had a weird melty sound you just can’t get with the Stratocaster. And it’s funny how when I listen to music from back in the day, and some guy busts out with a 3-minute guitar solo, I feel like what the heck is he DOING? and I used to love the solo the most! Now it feels awkward, like someone starting to masturbate in the middle of a deep conversation. Oh, this amp rocks too.
Allen & Heath GSR-24m mixing board
This is what we mix on in the studio. It’s such a clean and concise piece of machinery. Fred Brune built the studio that we share, and I really admire his work. If you look to the right, you can see these tidy patch boards which, with a couple of short cables you can patch all of the instruments and more into the board. In my old studio, I had a Mackie mixer and the walls were covered in cables. So was the floor. Every time I started working, it would just get snakier and more entangled, and then if I had to go do a live act, I’d unplug everything roll it all up, take what I needed, and then when I got back I’d have to rebuild. I just don’t have the left brain or the patience for this kind of organisation, but once it’s in place and I understand it, I am of course very grateful. So thank you, Fred! And also thanks to my other studio roommate Willi Schumacher (Midas 104), who has done great things organising the software side of our little paradise! It’s really a great place for me to work, much better than before, so expect more stuff coming out soon!
Bonus Instrument: Sub 37
Man, this thing has got so much belly. I bought myself the Minilogue (not pictured) and hooked it up in the studio. I really liked the versatility of the Minilogue, but when I ran it head to head with this guy, I was like ohhhhh…. This has way more substance to it. Less versatility, but if you need bass, forget about it. This thing’ll shake your teeth out.