Junkie XL’s 5U Modular Synthesizer Performance

Composer Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) makes synthesizers and electronics an integral part of his film scoring work.

This video captures Holkenborg demonstrating his approach to working with his massive 5U modular synthesizer wall.

In the interview Junkie XL & The Art Of Scoring With Synthesizers, Holkenborg discusses how he uses his modular system to create material that he can shape further in Cubase:

“Every Sunday is modular day.

On Sunday, I just get out of bed in my pajamas and then I walk into the studio with a cup of coffee. Then, everything that I’m doing, all day, is just making sounds with the modular.

Cubase is on record. I record everything that I’m doing. Sometimes it’s a drone, sometimes it’s a sequence, sometimes it’s a very complicated wave shaping patch, it can be anything.

Whatever I do on Sunday is going to get recorded in Cubase. Then, at the end of the day, I just sort it quickly, these are bass sounds, that is drones, that is this, that is that.”

Holkenborg expands on this idea in the video – noting that his goal in working with the large-format modular wall isn’t to create a finished piece or to score a film – but to create musical elements that he can use on his scoring projects. See this earlier video for Holkenborg’s introduction to his large-format modular synth wall.

While Holkenborg’s goal with his modular is to create music that he can developer further on the computer, his performance, features great sounds and sequences and develops in interesting ways.

Check out the video and leave a comment with your thoughts!

20 thoughts on “Junkie XL’s 5U Modular Synthesizer Performance

  1. i enjoy junkiexl’s video and appreciate what he does, but it gives me the willies to watch him smoke a cigarette right up in the face of all these electronics. 🙁

    1. A few weeks ago in his kitchen time episode he stated he was trying to quit (was chewing some nicorette while cooking). It’s a tough habit to give up for sure, even more so when you smoke inside your house. After seeing what smoking inside did to my first apartment I vowed never to smoke inside again. I’ve also had the memorable experience of working on PCs where the user smoked next to it. Forcing myself to go outside helped me cut back and eventually move to vaping. I’m sure smoking around the modular isn’t good for it but at least it doesn’t have fans pulling the smoke in. I’m also pretty sure he has a good filtration system.

      Don’t give up Tom! It’s hard to go cold, even with the gum. Don’t wear the patch over night unless you want psychotic dreams. Give vaping a shot. Then you can scale back the nicotine over time and eventually quit that too. Great performance too.

      1. In the youtube comments he mentiones that this video was recorded back in january. so there is hope that he still goes strong and away from smoking

    1. John, haven’t been on YouTube in many years now, got into landscape photography about 6 years ago and it overtook my passion for music making but I always loved your videos, hope all is well. Got back into serious music making again about a year ago. Maybe a collaboration someday? All the best. Cheers.

  2. So basically, I just fiddle about and hope something good happens. I’ve been doing that since before Tom was born.

  3. Tom Junkie
    Junkie Tom
    Wat wat wat
    That’s tonnes different interesting you could done and you know it.

  4. Living in an area, where “real” junkies are rife. I, no matter how much I enjoy his vids, I cringe when read/hear his nick name. It’s not cool bro., to many it equates death, theft and general human mystery.

  5. Tom is a smoker, say it ain’t Tom! Oh well, we all have our vices I guess. Good luck to your attempts and quitting. Nicotine addiction is one of the toughest there is to beat. And, make no mistake about it, it is a chemical addiction requiring a lot of support for the smoker trying to quit.

    Anyway, I absolutely love the meditative nature of this piece. I know you say it is incomplete and I can hear that but, I definitely enjoyed listening to it in this “rough” form. Really very, very good. And also a wonderful demonstration of how one can make very good music without having to touch a keyboard.

  6. i think it kind of works as a performance because of all this standing up and moving around, but musically? Probably the best argument for va’s. There is nothing even remotely interesting from a sound design point of view , and this guys is going to make modular tutorials??? come on!

  7. This is th eonly video i’ve seen of a massive modular set up and a dude who knows what he is doing. The rest of the videos just appear to have a modular set up as background noise or really expensive football cards for a collector.

  8. oh man… at last a modular performance that makes sense and pleases my ears, unlike the rest of the immature noisesense out there. bravo, Tom!

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