Vince Clarke Talks Synthesizers, Analog & Virtual

Vince Clark, of Yazoo (Yaz), Depeche Mode & Erasure fame, is going on tour with Yaz partner Alison Moyet, and sat down with Native Instruments for a short interview that looks at the technology behind the new tour:

You are famous as a user and collector of analog synthesizers, but computers made it into your setup list very early on as well. How would you describe the role of the computer in your creative work?

I started using computers around 1984. Prior to that I was using analog sequencers like the Roland MC-4, which is essentially a 4 Channel triggering device.

I started to use computers with a software called UMI, which was made for the BBC Micro computer, a machine that was employed for basic education purposes in the U.K. The UMI software was a 16-channel MIDI sequencer that I used for years on the same computer. Even though technology went way ahead of me I stuck to the same piece of equipment.

The reason for that was that its limitations really helped me to make the right decisions when it came down to making music. I couldn’t get thrown over by having too many choices and that helped me focus on what was important in the song.

When I moved to the U.S. I started using Logic and Max/MSP while I was waiting for all my equipment to arrive from the U.K. That’s when I really got into software synthesizers. It was the first time I read a manual in my life. A rather difficult experience.

Which technology has had the biggest impact on your music?

When I first started using Logic it was purely for convenience and practical reasons. I just couldn’t get all my gear over from the U.K. fast enough. It wasn’t love at first sight. Later when more and more software synthesizers came out that were based on a lot of analog gear I really started to get interested.

Where do you see your musical influences when it comes to working with synthesizers?

I’ve always been a fan of music based on synthesizers. In the 80s the two key bands for me were Human League – before the girls joined the band – and OMD, especially with their first album. I loved the fact that they were using synthesizers in a pop context.

What is your stage setup?

It has changed quite a bit over the years. Right now we’re using Logic. But I had to cut up all the tracks of the individual songs due to synchronization problems. You know, we record to tape in the studio. It was a lot of work but it sounded much better and really tightened things up live. What I would like to get into more is using hardware interfaces with software synthesizers. I really like the idea of using two hands to create a specific sound rather than a mouse. That has to be a good thing.

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