For half a century, the studio was the central creative location for the production of electronic music. A magical place, dominated by a mixing desk and various hardware synthesizers and effect units feeding it. However, the evolution of computer technology changed this by providing powerful substitutes for all those machines and much more created in software, making hardware less and less necessary. When I started making electronic music in the mid 80s affordable computers just began to find their way into music production and the most amazing technological inventions could still be found in sophisticated digital hardware synthesisers. The release of a new synthesizer created an excitement unthinkable in today's world of free software instruments.


The instruments I bought over the years had an enormous influence on my music. While discovering its possibilities I came up with musical ideas and these ideas changed my approach on how to use and judge them. I also noticed that my relationship with my instruments changes over time: I re-discover machines that I did not touch for years and suddenly come up with new ways of using them.

Four a few years I made most of my music completely in software, with nothing but a laptop on my desk. But I love my machines, and the more I spend time in front of a screen all day long, the more I move back to hardware when composing. The machines in my studio are not only part of my musical history but also landmarks of technological innovation and they transmit the ideas and desires of their creators. In comparison with current technology they are very limited and sometimes behave quite odd, but they all show a unique character which you have to accept when working with them; they are alive. The aim of this page is to provide a bit of a personal insight into some of those objects of desire.

Studio 2003: Oberheim Xpander, Yamaha SY 77, Roland Juno 6, PPG Wave 2.3, Prophet VS...

Roland Juno 6

A Roland Juno-6 was my first synthesizer and contributed to all Monolake records till 2004. Currently it is not in use so much but I am still amazed how good one single real analogue oscillator plus filter can sound. The Juno-6 is quite simple to use and is capable of creating a range of warm and inviting sounds in no time which makes it a real pleasure to work with it. And it is possible to access every parameter with a slider. In fact, since it is a true analogue synthesiser, the sliders are directly connected to the sound generation hardware.

In 2012 it got stolen at the Berlin University of Arts. I am waiting for the day it shows up on ebay...

TG77, ASR-10 R, PCM80 , Speck Filter

Yamaha SY 77

The Yamaha SY77 is the opposite of the Juno-6. Extremely complex and rich sounds, hard to program, takes forever to explore. Contributed almost every percussion and drum sound on Monolake records till 2003. The TG77 is the same without keyboard. Used mostly as drum and percussion generator. I found it always more interesting to create my own drum sounds via synthesis instead of using classic drum computers. The SY77 is still a favourite of mine.

Oberheim Xpander

A few years ago I bought an Oberheim Xpander. It looks very cool but I rarely use it. Envelopes are terribly slow, but works well for strings and for layering with FM sounds. I maybe should spend more time with it, for some reason we both do not get along together so well. I will not give up. I know that the key to this instrument is not using it with a player attitude but rather as a big modular self oscillating system. Some day...

Sequencial Circuits Prophet VS

The Prophet VS is one of those machines one can love and hate at the same time. It is almost impossible to realise any determined sound idea with it, since it never sounds like you would expect. The approach of it is brought to the point with a nice hidden feature: Pressing "Enter" and "2" at the same time randomises all settings and creates sounds one would never program.

I bought mine in 1997 and used it extensively on the albums Interstate and Gravity. In 2001 I gave it away to friend, later I started really missing it and now I have it back. I created a lot of string and textural sounds with it, often used as a sound source for sampling and further processing.

ppg wave 2.3
Ensoniq ASR-10

My first and only hardware sampler was an Ensoniq ASR-10 R. I made the last sample with it years ago, it has been fully replaced by software. But I cannot sell it, too much personal history... and I still occasionally use the build in reverb since it sounds very unique.

My cathedral is called Lexicon PCM 80. The reverb from this effects unit certainly contributed a lot to the colour of the Monolake records. Still in use sometimes, typically I add some reverb before recording my hardware synth into Live. ( Recently I also aquired a Eventide H3500, not sure if we are becoming friends )

PPG Wave 2.3

Another legendary instrument is the PPG Wave 2.3. I got mine in 2003 and my first impression was: Oh shit, it is broken. I took a while to realise that all that dirt in the sound and the cryptical and buggy user interface is part of the game. The PPG was a dream of mine when I was young, so I had to buy it when I got a good offer. The PPG has been used a lot on Momentum and on Polygon Cities, especially for basslines and chords.

Photo on top: PPG Wave 2.3, photo on the right: Synclavier II VP/K keyboard

synclavier vpk keyboard

New England Digital Synclavier II

A very exciting instrument and very much out of reach for me in the 80s was the legendary New England Digital Synclavier II Music Computer System, introduced in 1982 and refined and updated till the early 1990s. It was probably the most expensive and at this time the most amazing piece of commercial musical hardware on this planet.

The first Synclavier, originally developed in the late 1970s at the Dartmouth College, USA, was a quite advanced digital synthesiser, later models also allowed sampling and hard disk recording, a field where NED was pioneering. I got an offer for a small system in 2004 and could not resist. This was the beginning of a long odyssey since the machine refused to work correctly and forced me to dive deep into it`s hardware and software. Well, I learned a lot about the system and got in contact with some very nice people who share the same passion for a very unique sounding piece of music instrument history. The Synclavier came in so many revisions that it is almost impossible to find two equal units.

Synclavier terminal screenshot

inside the computer unit

In its current state mine has 32 stereo FM voices, runs with a CPU model C, the VP/K keyboard and the Sample-to-Disk option. Software version is release O and I rebuild the whole computer and voice card unit, a separate huge rack full of circuit boards and big fans. With a running Synclavier you do not need a heater anymore. The sound is quite unique, pretty rough and full of character. I love it. The metallic percussion sounds found on many early Depeche Mode records [see interview section] are typical examples of Synclavier II sounds. The sonic palette of the Synclavier is also well represented on the Polygon Cities album, the track Digitalis for example has been produced exclusively from sounds made with it: [sound example]. And all basslines and percussion sounds on Pipeline: [sound example].

In spring 2007 I dismantled my old studio and put all synthesizers and other hardware in cases. The Synclavier moved to the living room where it serves as an appropriate 20th century version of an old piano. My work environment now is a laptop, two speakers and software. [Since I have been asked: no, I will probably not sell my old gear. I still like those machines, I just don't need them anymore to achieve the sonic results I am looking for.]

Picture on the left: My workspace in May 2009. Monodeck II, Synclavier. 6x Genelec and a big screen.

In 2010 my physical space looked almost the same as in 2007, I felt perfectly fine doing most of my music in software. But I also came back to capturing field recordings of atmospheres, machines, street noises, acoustic instruments etc. Those in combination with a variety of amazing tools for sound manipulation will makes sure there is no shortage of great sounds to play with for the next 2000 years. Image left shows a MaxForLive device I wrote to accomplish a specific sound design task for the Silence album.


Spent most of the summer and fall 2011 in the room on the right, working on the Ghosts album. Did not use the Synclavier much, but re-discovered the Yamaha DX-27, and had a lot of fun with the PPG and the Prophet VS. Biggest change was the replacement of my old Genelecs by Strauss SE-NF-3 monitors. I was thinking a lot about diving into modular synthesis but still sceptical about it in terms of money/effort versus results. Also thought of getting a Continuum Fingerboard, but not sure about it either. Invested some time and money into various IPad apps, and ended with the Liine version of Lemur, which I really enjoy. Touching a glassplate is stupid, but they made the best out of it.


A lot of things got added in the last years: Modified Linn Drum, Emu SP-12. Dave Smith Prophet 12, Korg MS20M, a small modular setup, a Lexicon 480 L, Quantec Yardstick, Eventide H-3000 & Eclipse, Yamaha DX-7. I replaced the Strauss monitors by Neumann 310's and finally added a Dynacord DRP-20 to my collection of early digital effect units. Plus there is Ableton Push 2, waiting for detailed explorations. My favourite instruments in 2015 were clearly the PPG Wave 2.3 and the Linn Drum, processed with my modular system and hacked into pieces in Live 9.