Recently got the chance to ask the extremely talented electronic music duo Boy Harsher three questions. Gus and Jae share their influences and more below.
Synth History: What synths are you currently really excited about?
Gus: The SH-101 sound has been a constant for us since day one. It’s on all the records. Back then it was just the sampled version on the MC-505, then the TAL plug in, and then a few years ago we bought the real deal. It is so simple and so pure. You don’t have to mess around forever to find what you’re looking for.
More recently it’s been the Dave Smith OB-6. Total opposite of the SH-101. There’s way too many sounds and possibilities. I’ll spend a day in the studio just working on patches. Incredible sounds and versatility. Also the midi control has been huge. You can control all of the parameters with CC and it’s really solid. I’ve been using it with the Four Chambered Heart scores instead of VSTs.
Jae: I perform with the TC Helicon voice live rack - which is exciting in general. I used to sing with a delay pedal in chain with a chorus pedal. Constant feedback.
Synth History: Who are your biggest influences?
Gus: Yello is a huge influence on me. I’m always coming back to Stella and You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess for inspiration. It’s the perfect blend of club music and film score. The production is immaculate, but not too polished. Heavy vibe. Amazing music videos.
Mr Fingers “Can You Feel It”. This was an epiphany for me. It made me want to make dance music. I heard this for the first time and finally understood what a bassline really is.
DOOM 1 and Resident Evil 2 (for PS1). The nostalgia feels so good and those games still scare me to this day. They both have amazing soundtracks in their own right, and the sound design is perfect. We’ve got samples of both hidden in our songs.
Jae: As for vocals, I don’t believe I was really influenced until we started throwing shows in Savannah. Before this time in my life, I thought I had a horrible voice - I was insecure, but loved being part of the show. Watching peers play music in a variety of ways helped me understand that music is so much more than a highly technical guitar solo. I remember John Mannion silenced the room with just a hand fan and a loop pedal. It was transfixing.
The first person I saw perform that made me want to try to sing was Circuit des Yeux - her set was electric - super guttural, emotional, and vastly beautiful. Like so not pop. It was inspiring to see someone use their voice in this way. Nova 88 - Circuit des Yeux.
I didn’t really know how to sing - but Gus encouraged me to keep it minimal, zero affect. Which is funny ‘cause when we performed I really wanted to be confrontational. I had seen this insane performance duo Hunnie Bunnies several times and that’s what I wanted, at least that aggression and intensity.
As for songwriting - I’m sure I’ve been heavily influenced by all the radio hits. It kinda socializes you, ya know? It’s already internal by the time emotions get you. Life becomes a chorus line.
And I’ve never been one to write real lyrical masterpieces like Bruce - The Boss, duh - or Jason Molina - however I really admire the sorrow in the storytelling within their music. I wanted to channel complex feelings - grief, lust, anger - but in the simplest way possible - lol “I love Pain”.
Synth History: What are some tips for finishing a song when you have writer's block?
Gus: Bounce your track out. Burn it on a cd or put it on your phone. Take it for a drive. Just get it out of that damn timeline. Stop looking at those clips. It’s probably a lot closer than you think.
Jae: This one is tough. I lean into blocks in not so healthy ways. I used to go to bars. Drink and dance. Get dangerous with strangers. Can’t really do that much these days. Now I try just to write - get it on paper! Maybe later those thoughts will inspire something.
It was easier to write music when I felt young and vital. Maybe that will return when the virus is done and the weather is warm.
References: Synth History Exclusive.