Three questions with musician, synthesizer enthusiast and composer, Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never.
Synth History: Do you remember the first record that you felt in awe by? Daniel: Return To Forever - Where Have I Known You Before (1973). I must have still been in elementary school. My dad had a bunch of fusion records dubbed onto tape and that particular one was my favorite. I didn’t know it then because I was so young, but it was my first exposure to instrumental music that wasn’t orchestral which seemed to tell a story. This is really on display on Song To The Pharaoh Kings, a 14 minute track that starts very minimally with hushed organ and lead synth that really goes places. Chick absolutely makes it sing. The song builds into a polyrhythmic groove where Lenny White shines. He’s my favorite drummer and really owns that entire record. I think it was that specific mixture of Chick’s clav, Rhodes, and Moog/ARP all over the record that did my head in- I’d never heard anything like it. It got my imagination really soaring and I became fascinated with electronic sounds ever since. Even holding the tape in my hands made me feel a kind of magic I still can’t quite shake.
Synth History: What are your three current go-to synthesizers?
Daniel: Roland Juno-60. After taking a pretty long pause from using the Juno I’ve come back to it, particularly writing for The Weeknd. It’s not an overly complicated instrument, and I know it so well that it’s second nature to me. I love it for starting a track, writing from the ground up. But it’s also my go-to for vamps and flourishes. You can really hear it shining on “Until I Bleed Out” with the arp pattern during the chorus.
Yamaha VL-1. A really odd physical modeling synth that I first used on “Age Of” and I keep coming back to. Some of the modulation effects are very idiosyncratic because it’s mimicking things like embouchure, growl, tonguing, stuff like this. But it’s also got really nice feedback effects. It can get super cacophonous.
Roland V-Synth. A favorite of mine since Drew from Matmos introduced it to me a few years back. I use it to coax out strange textures from a sample, then I just intuitively write with that sound. If Jarre had made Zoolook in the early ‘00s, the v-synth would be the synth for the job.
Synth History: Do you remember any specific - as Bob Ross would put it - “happy accidents” that happened whilst composing a score or recording a personal album?
Daniel: When you compose without expectations then everything is a sort of happy accident. Nothing sounds better to me than some bizarrely satisfying pattern emerging from a state of chaos. All that is required is an openness to and fascination with listening really. Personally for me composing is secondary to listening.
References: Synth History exclusive, 0PN, photo Mary Kang.