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Three Questions With John Carroll Kirby

The amazing pianist, record producer and composer John Carroll Kirby answers three questions (plus a couple extras!) John has collaborated with a number of artists, like Solange, Frank Ocean, Connan Mockasin and more. In 2023, his album Blowout was met with critical acclaim and I highly recommend it!


John Carroll Kirby by Zach Sulak.
John Carroll Kirby by Zach Sulak.

Synth History: Yourself, along with The Mizuhara Sisters (Kiko and Yuka), recently covered Haruomi Hosono. Can you tell me about some of your favorite Japanese pop records?


John Carroll Kirby: Yellow Magic Orchestra and all the solo projects, side projects, side productions, film scores, etc. or each of the members is a wealth of music that could last a lifetime. Not only are the individual albums all special, but the entire body of work feels like a piece unto itself, like an epic narrative.


John Carroll Kirby and Kiko Mizuhara by Zach Sulak.
John Carroll Kirby and Kiko Mizuhara by Zach Sulak.

Synth History: What is inspiring you most in the studio right now?


John Carroll Kirby: I moved into a new studio in Altadena, California. It's surrounded by fruit trees and flowers and wild parrots. In the 1900s a poet named Hildegarde Flanner lived on the same property, she wrote a book called At the Gentle Mercy of Plants. That's how I feel!


Synth History: As a solo musician who has also collaborated with other artists, what's one tip you have for approaching a new collaboration?


John Carroll Kirby: My tip is to just be around the people that inspire you as much as possible. Even if it means just hanging in the studio not making music. Learn to be comfortable with other people's processes and understand that sometimes the best thing you could do for someone else's music is not touch it.


Synth History: Top three synths of all time (and why)?


John Carroll Kirby: In my studio I go with the classics:


Minimoog Model D: Powerful bass, mean leads.


Juno 60: Easy to program, can be beautiful, can also be mono if you learn the cheat code.


Yamaha DX7: Very very versatile once you learn to program.



Synth History: Analog, digital, or both?


John Carroll Kirby: Both for me! Use real sounds, use fake sounds, use expensive sounds, use trash sounds.


Synth History: The teaser vid for Oropendola features a Prophet 5 and Arp Odyssey - super cool! What is your opinion on vintage synths in general?


John Carroll Kirby: Vintage synths are just fine but use whatever you got! Friend of mine uses only stock sounds in Logic and his music sounds sick.


Interview conducted by Danz.

Photos by Zach Sulak.

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