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My Toolbox: Sonny Ism

Sonny Ism shows us his studio tools in a new My Toolbox feature. His sophomore album 'Island Impressions' is out now.
Sonny Ism

Sonny Ism

Australian-born artist Xavier Bacash aka Sonny Ism has released his new album Island Impressions. His musical career began in Melbourne, playing in a soft rock band. However, his music really shifted towards a more electronic sound as he started this project and following a move to Copenhagen, culminating in the release of his debut album Union: Integration Of The Shadow last year. He began his sophomore album not long after the release of his debut, but then Denmark entered lockdown. He and his wife then moved to a Swedish island called Ingarö, in Stockholm’s archipelago and from there, he found the inspiration for Island Impressions.

Island Impressions finds the joy in the world around, surrounded with vibrant life both mechanical and very organic. There are atmospheric, hazy 80’s-sounding records like “This Modern Life” or the deep and soothing follow up “Alpha Rhythm” that you might bop along to in an opening DJ club set. The title track takes you outside as nature collides with synths and rhythms in magical new ways. Island Impressions ends with a surging acid remix of “This Modern Life” by Kasper Marott.

This project was created with inspiration from nature, but using tools one might recognize in a producer's studio. We asked Sonny Ism to take us into that studio for a new My Toolbox feature. Pick up your copy of Island Impressions now and make sure to listen to this summery and fun new dance record now.

1. Studio

This is my studio. I like having something uplifting to look at whilst making music (there’s always deer moving like smoke through the bushes and changing seasons out from this window), so when the pandemic hit, moving out to this part of the Archipelago in Stockholm made a lot of sense for writing a new record. I don't have another picture of it, but my Roland Re-501 Chorus echo (sitting on the right under the CompuRhythm with colorful knobs) has acted as a middle man in most of the recording of my new album. 

Sonny Ism Studio

Sonny Ism Studio

I find using tape machines slow down the creative process for me and I’m not good at them, plus I prefer shooting from the hip and getting ideas down fast, so running all my instruments through this and then into my sessions allows me to have a lot of control over fx like chorus/reverb/delay but more importantly get that underlying rich tape vibe when running a dry signal.

2. Roland Cr-8000

This is my Roland Cr-8000. I had been chasing one for a long time that wasn't all beaten up, and happened across this one on a trading site in Copenhagen just before I moved to Sweden. When it goes through the 501 with chorus maxed, the hats become really original and colorful. I used it on “Favoured State,” “Archipelago Balearico” and “Vibe Science.” It's been the ice breaker for feel on a lot of the tracks I begin, which allows me to concentrate on being guided by feeling in the recording process instead of getting bogged down on grooves.

Roland Cr-8000

Roland Cr-8000

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3. OB12

This is my OB12 - one of the most underrated and undervalued synth out there IMHO! It is really fruitful for balearic house pads, but it really shines when layering sounds and also for lead sounds. It has an interstellar feeling to it, which I reckon juxtaposes nicely as an ingredient against the backdrop of tape drenched vintage drum machines.

OB12

OB12

4. x0xb0x 303 clone

This is my x0xb0x 303 clone. I really love it, but it doesn’t work all the time because I had it shipped from AUS, so I need to probably get it looked at. Easier to use than people let on and I think they scare people off, but a highly recommendable unit!

x0xb0x 303 clone

x0xb0x 303 clone

5. Roland TR808

This isn’t my Roland TR808, but my good friend Kris Baha's. They are so expensive now that I can’t afford to get one, but Kris has always been nice enough to post his to me for extended periods of time. I used this one a lot on my first record and also during moments of my new record Island Impressions. I just saw that Behringer have replicated the original chip from the TR808 in their Mk2 clone, so that might push me into the clone market. Not much else hasn’t already been said about this machine, so I’ll spare you the didactic rant.

Roland TR808

Roland Tr-808

6. Casio CZ5000

This is my Casio CZ5000. I feel like I could just post this picture and accompany it with "...". It features on 95% of every Sonny Ism album. I don’t have very fancy or expensive synths, but I try to dig out the sounds that have attitude or sound a bit bad - the CZ has plenty of those and has been good to me over the years :)

Casio CZ5000

Casio CZ5000

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