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Jeremiah Chiu Recommends

Synthesist, artist, and graphic designer, Jeremiah Chiu, recommends some studio essentials!

In 2023, he released In Electric Time on International Anthem - a record improvised and composed from a two-day session at Los Angeles’ Vintage Synth Museum (Lance's place!). He'll also be opening for legend Suzanne Ciani next month in Chicago. Tix.

Jeremiah Chiu
Jeremiah Chiu.

1. Yamaha CS01

The CS01 has been with me for almost 20 years and has become my go-to-synth for finishing records. I sort of know that when I’m at the point of using it, an album or track is in its final stage. The simplicity and sheer ripping sound is something I’ve gotten really used to playing. I had to also nab the MKII version, which has a slider instead of a switch for the resonance paramater, but ultimately, I don’t find necessary.

Jeremiah's CS01.
Jeremiah's CS01.

2. Elektron Digitakt

This has become the brain of my live performances. It really feels like an instrument to me because it’s finite in what it can do—and doesn’t have limitless sample storage. I rely on it so much that I have a back-up. Elektron, in my opinion, makes future synths. They’re all incredible. After having worked with the Monomachine, Machinedrum, Octatrack, Digitone, A4, and Rytm, the Digitakt is the one that remains. At this point, I haven’t swapped out samples on it in years as I have a palette of horns, voice, and percussion—really organic sounds—that have become used to working with. For live performances, I use it as the master clock for my modular and it sequences the Squarp Hermod+ and Five12 Vector Sequencer through MIDI program changes.

Jeremiah's Syncussion and Double Knot.
Jeremiah's Syncussion and Double Knot.

3. Pearl Syncussion & Lorre Mill Double Knot

The Syncussion and Double Knot are sort of decades-apart relatives. I’ve had this (original) 1979 Syncussion for a decade now and its sound never gets old. It’s got that Kraftwerk-style ping that—paired with a touch of delay—is unbeatable. The Double Knot can be both chaotic and dialed. It’s a modern percussion synthesizer that has two identical oscillators playing together in a shift-register. It brings an unpredictable polyrhythm to everything and has a very buchla-like sound. While I love my 808/606… I find that creating “drum” parts not using the traditional kick-snare-hat combo makes it more unique—i.e. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Riot in Lagos.

4. Roland JX-3P

Whenever I see electronic musicians or shops post about the JX3P I get nervous that the prices of these gems will start to spike. Yet, here I am, doing the exact same thing—talking about how excellent this synth is. As someone who has a Juno 60 and has owned a 106 and JP-6, I still prefer the JX3P for its polyphonic sequence trigger input. It’s actually strange to me that more polysynths don’t have this feature as it’s incredibly useful and beats an arpeggio input any day. The sequencer functions the same way as an SH101 or TB303 where you linearly input notes, rests, and ties with the ability to input chords as well. Kinda the best.

5. SH-101

Find me a synth with a tone that gets more rubbery than this one—maybe impossible. Like the CS01, this is a go-to synth for me when programming bass or lead lines. I love the approach to inputing linear notes into a sequence vs. playing notes in time as a sequence because the mistakes and the randomness create incredible rhythms that you would never program otherwise. And I suppose that, for me, is the joy of programming sequences—the dance.

6. Cwejman BLD & VM1s

In my studio, I have a modular systems that’s set up for studio experiments and then I have a travel case that’s dedicated to live performance. Because I do a lot of touring, I’ve worked on getting the road setup as compact as possible, while keeping things analog, sequenced, and live. Having worked with dozens of different oscillator voices over the years, I finally found myself with the extremely well-built and resonant Cwejman modules. The sound of cwejman modules are robust, close to what you’d get from the Yamaha CS series. They stay in tune. They look great—I prefer a more science lab approach to the design, with clear, concise typesetting and an underestated use of color.

7. Make Noise Morphagene & Instruo Lubadh

Beyond analog synthesis, a large part of my musical approach is dealing with samplers and real-time manipulation of sound. This can be through collaborations with other instrumentalists—Marta Sofia Honer on Viola, Josh Johnson and Patrick Shiroishi on saxophone—or by resampling my own sequences and performances. For a long while, and I suppose currently still, I was quite obsessed with Terry Riley’s “time-lag accumulator improvisations” (i.e. Poppy Nogood, Persian Surgery Dervishes) and have been using the Make Noise Morphagene, Instruo Lubadh, and other various samplers to bring in live sound and play with the recorded performance. This is more than just looping, as both samplers handle grains, pitch shifts, speed, and randomized stereo throw in different ways. It’s a great way to re-contextualize your go-to motifs and licks.

8. Five12 Vector Sequencer

Sam Prekop and I spend a lot of time talking about sequencers—I’m sorry if I just outted you, Sam. There’s a few different approaches to sequencer design and as someone that performs live a lot, I like having the flexibility to manipulate things on the fly and to recall sequences and patterns. Oddly, the most common comment I get after performances is: “I’ve never seen someone play “songs” using modular, so cool!” In conclusion, the Vector is amazing: chance operations, tons of outputs, MIDI sequencing, drum sequencing, subsequences. Highly recommend.

9. Vintage Synthesizer Museum

Lance Hill has a very large collection of Serge Paperface, a Korg PS-3100, EML Electrocomp, and a Gleeman Pentaphonic. It’s an endlessly inspiring space, expertly set up, and one-of-a-kind. In June of 2023, Scott McNiece and I attended a performance at VSM on a Sunday morning and after the show he said: “Man, this place is kind of made for you, it would be pretty amazing to record your EP here.” Without skipping a beat, Scott had me in there that same week with Ben Lumsdaine engineering direct to Tascam 388 and David Burkhart filming the whole thing. The result of that two-day session is the album In Electric Time. (And sure, the CS80 is excellent, but don’t sleep on the CS70m).

10. The Hermosillo Bar in Highland Park

Los Angeles isn’t a town know for it’s impromptu hangs. As a former Chicagoan, I’ve kept the spirit of “what are you doing right now, come meet me” alive and my go-to spot is The Hermosillo. I love this spot because it’s usually not crowded on a weekday night and is no-frills.

Synth History Exclusive.

Photos provided by Jeremiah.


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