After the first few eerie tones echo forth on Eliot Lipp's newest album, The Outside (Mush), one gets the sense that Lipp's "outside" is not so much a sunny day spent at the park, but more an intruder's vantage point; a hidden place from which someone might peer in on some heavily guarded area. Rather than emulating summery birdsong, the synths on The Outside evoke a feeling of trespassing, with the tones pinging out a security grid in an '80s spy flick, or maybe soundtracking a space-shuttle launch to send Afrika Bambataa to the moon. Over the years, Lipp, the Brooklyn-based electro-hip-hop specialist has amassed a number of synths, and here he tells us which ones were most vital to crafting his fifth album.


1. ROLAND SH-101
The SH-101 is a pretty popular synth and it has a very familiar sound. I use it a lot for blips and bleeps, and also long sustaining notes. If you mess with the parameters enough, you can get it to sound like a piano, upright bass, or even a TB-303 (sorta). And it has a sequencer + CV. I started making "The Meaning" by programming a sequence on the 101 and triggering it with my TR-606.

Just so you know, I bought mine way before Richard Devine or Telefon Tel Aviv got 'em (biters!). But seriously, this is a little secret weapon. It's an all-analog mono-synth that's homemade by some dude in Berlin. I used it on at least half of the tracks on The Outside, like for the really wet-sounding loop in "The Area." It has MIDI capability, and I filled it with dope sounding sequences so I started using it live for a while. I would just sync the sequencer to my clock on Ableton Live but the little guy kept slipping out of tune halfway through my sets, so I gave it the boot. I still use it in the studio like crazy though.

It's hard to find an affordable polyphonic analog synth that doesn't sound like piss. This one is awesome, though! It's great for Depeche Mode-style chords and really thick leads. It has MIDI, too, and you can adjust any parameter on it to get super-weird sounds. I made "Opening Ceremony" when I first got it. I was just playing one of the presets with mad reverb on it and I had to start recording it.

My pal John Hughes (a.k.a. Slicker, and the head of Hefty Records) got me into this modular shit. I really don't know what I'm doing with this thing, but it's super-fun and I used it on damn near every track on the album. The cool thing about building a modular system is that you can do it one piece at a time, and in the process you learn so much about how a synthesizer works. My favorite module so far is the Plan B Model 15 oscillator. I have two of them. The bass sounds retarded (check "Baby Tank" or the end of "The Area") and the FM modulation will make a typical patch sound insane!

5. KORG MS-20
This was the first real synth I ever bought. It's probably my favorite keyboard ever! I play this a lot on all my albums. I used it for the bassline and the high-pitch lead on "See What It's About." I got a custom case for mine and tour with it sometimes, but it's getting pretty scary now that they are worth like $2000 or something.

Mush Records