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Neil Landstrumm has been around the block.

Since the mid-1990s, the Scottish producer has been pushing a hardware-driven brand of burnt-out techno that’s seen him become an unintentional poster boy (to the so-called ‘wonky techno’ movement), alienate his fans (his last album for Tresor, 2001’s She Took A Bullet Meant for Me, is either sacrilege or a classic, depending on whom you ask) and explore grime and dubstep (mostly notably on Planet of Assassins and his other Planet Mu work) from an outsider perspective before it was the done thing. The most recent move in Landstrumm’s career sees him sidestep from Mu to Sneaker Social Club for a new album, Dragon Under

To toast the album’s release on November 11 (you can preview it here), Neil took FACT on a tour of his studio, detailing 12 of his most important pieces of gear and explaining the role that they played in Dragon Under. 

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Roland Jupiter-6

“The mighty Jupiter-6 is my favourite synth. Unique in sonic character and provides many of the cutting acid, subs, bleeps and sci-fi textures of the LP. Bought from a dodgy Edinburgh Pawn shop on Leith Walk called Bostons in 1994 (whose owner soon after mysteriously vanished) with a loan from the ever helpful Raz. The 6 has been with me right from the start of my Peacefrog era. I think it’s the combination of band pass filter, self oscillation, detuneable chunky OSCs and weird LFO / modulation possibilities that make this synth so strong, warm and thick sounding. It many ways it’s more versatile than the Jupiter 8. It’s slightly broken after a forklift truck pierced its flightcase when moving to New York but that just adds to the fuzz and its very basic Midi (Roland’s first) means it’s somewhat unpredictable. Rubbish midi leads to strange patterns with strange, odd timing. Add my sausage fingers keyboard skills in there and you have a wild funk generator.”

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Roland Jupiter-8

“My two man lift Jupiter-8 comes loaded with some heavyweight Manchester electronic heritage from whence it came. It’s a real pleasure to look at, use and play. My default dark bassline, bleep and chord generator are used heavily on all my productions since my first LP on Planet Mu, Restaurant of Assassins. Its arpeggiator function is legendary when hooked up to the trigger pulses from the TR-808 as you can hear on the ‘Has Anyone seen Raz?’ track on the LP. Its a synth that always reminds me of both classic UK synth-pop like The Human League or proto New York hip hop and electro. It can’t self-oscillate so you don’t get the out-of-control madness that you do from the 6 but it makes up for it in classic symphonic textures and powerful, thick bass harmonics. When you stack all its oscillators you get single note sounds that cut right through any mixes. Soft Synths don’t even come close. It’s a great machine to sample chords or notes from and use as voices in ESX24. You get that weird, ravey pitching thing going on but with the richness of a strong OSC stacked Jupiter-8 sound. I sometimes midi all the synths up to one channel to stack them all up and build monster sounds that way. Its the most musical of all my synths, if that makes any sense, which shows up my crappy two finger style.”

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OSCar by The Oxford Synthesizer Company 

“A rare and rude synth with its rubber cheeks and beige face. The arp functions in the OSCar are pure Drexciyan electro when triggered from the TR-808 or using its own internal, quirky sequencer. The lead track of the LP, ‘The Great Nonsense’ is pure multi-tracked OSCar. The thing people forget about hardware is that all the imperfections and slackness in their sequencers and oscillators are exactly what gives them their feel and funk. Timing irregularities add up to make a unique groove which can be difficult to replicate with software. It can be a bit challenging to get it to sit in the mix sometimes as it’s quite raspy and grates a bit, but generally speaking that’s a good thing to the similarity of the Roland filter chips. The OSCar has a strong identity and its ability to assemble harmonics from unique stored waveforms make it pretty special to use. LFO routing madness and shape varieties mean a four year old can come up with something cool in about three minutes flat. Using it just makes me think I’m in The Normal.”

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Roland TR-808

“Bought by my mum in 1993 for £250 to help get me on my way. I’ve never looked back and it’ll never be sold. 3 x trigger outputs, those percussion sounds and the classic TR programming style make it the beating heart of the studio. Its an amazing beatbox just to have a play about on. So much of electronic music culture comes from this hugely powerful unit, mainly through its limitations. Now with everything produced in DAWs I find Gold Baby or similar does a better job of giving a producer the ready processed 808 sample packs. Its actually not that easy to compress, process and EQ an 808 kick drum to get it sounding as good as a Gold Baby sample pack. He’s done all the work for you, but you do miss the slight differences in the way each drum sound hits when it plays round and round . Thats what sets apart the real machine from rom samples no matter how good they are. Plus it crackles, tuns itself off now and agin and has no memory.”

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Roland TR-909

“Ahh, the battle-damaged TR-909… Dragged round who knows how many clubs since 1994 ’til it was officially retired in 2005 with an Elektron Machinedrum taking over live drum responsibilities. She still gets hauled out and fired up for kick drum, rim shot or hi-hat service in the studio though. Blown up by Si Begg and his 240 volt live Akai S950 case at a Subhead ‘Growth’ party in Shoreditch in 1996 it survived, albeit with a custom power supply and re-soldered internal circuits & components. It was never the same though with no retained memory, and it started its party trick of turning on and off if you even look at it funny, which when playing live was a bit of a pain. It did make using it quite entertaining though. I really wanted Jeff Mills to use it when he was playing in Edinburgh last year just to see his face when he saw it. It would have cut down on his 909 Tom-a-thons which might have been a good thing too. Still jacks harder than most though and was the real heart and soul of my Brown by August LP. These days i have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the 909. It’s given electronic music so much but in some ways its really limited whats become ‘acceptable’  or the norm for drums which is a little sad.”

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Sequential Circuits Pro-One

“Completely broken and has the worst earth hum known to man but I can still get it to do something useful on most tracks. Internal sequencer is the biz and you can play jungle sub-basslines on its filter which will routinely flap your trouser legs. Route modulation to anywhere, plus it’s got mushrooms illustrations on its circuit boards – what more do you want from a synth? A bleep and bass monosynth boss which does a surprisingly good Chicago ‘woop’.”

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Electron Suite (Monomachine, Machinedrum & Octatrack)

“Modern machines. Excellent design, build and sound quality in the spirit of all the classic machines. I use the Monomachine, Machinedrum and Octatrack live on the road and in the studio and, for me, they’re the hands down best instrument manufacturer at the moment. Dig deep into these units, carve out your sounds and you’re handsomely rewarded with drums and synths of strong character, plus they’re small enough to be desktop units. Good all-rounders and what I recommend when anyone asks about what new hardware to buy. The Octatrack is a complex beast though and has a steep learning curve by any stretch. It’s replacing Abelton live for my set-up and it sounds amazing straight out of the box. The warping and control you have over samples inside the unit is limitless and I look forward to developing new sounds and ideas with this unit going forward from this LP.”

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Dave Smith Evolver

“The modern acid box which in my opinion blows the TB-303 out of the water. Don’t get me wrong i love the original TB acid sound as much as anyone but I just feel everything that can be done has been done with the 303, and at this point in time acid music needs to reach beyond it. I use this for patterns on the LP and it’s generating the Moroder-esgue bassline in ‘Dragging Under’. It’s not an easy machine to use or understand due to its matrix editing and mind-boggling amount of sequencers and assignable functions. Truly great value though and a great live unit. Shame you lose the knobs in about 10 minutes after getting it home.”

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Crane Song STC-1 / Thermionic Culture Rooster

“My tracking and processing combo. You don’t really need to do much with these other than have them on. I run stuff through them into the soundcard to Logic for warmth and sonic quality. The compressor / limiter keeps everything in control and can slam or just massage sounds. The Rooster gives everything a bit of bite and harmonics. I got these in a deal with an ex-hire company along with Madness’s rehearsal mixing desk, a Midas Venice 24.”

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E-mu SP-1200

“The classic 12-bit hip hop machine and pretty hard to find now properly working. It’s like Fisher Price decided to make a sampler. You can’t emulate its gritty sound and the way the sequencer shuffles to give that distinctive roots hip-hop swing and feel. Bought on hire-purchase from Rogue Music in New York in the late 90’s but sadly sold recently to pay for Nursery care and tires for the wife’s motor, a break dancing b-boy bloke came all the way from Norway to buy it. Weep.”

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Yamaha DX-200

“DX synthesis is a black art; no question about it but the clonks, clangs and hollow 1990-1991 bass notes you get out of this are pure UK acid-house and R&S rave. The DX-200 was a sales flop but what most people don’t realise its an expanded DX-7 in a box with way more features included. The sequencer is limited to one bar (Why Yamaha, why?) but that just makes you work harder to get something good going on. I can’t get out of the habit of pretending to be in LFO with it, but its weirdo synth capabilities and heavy DX acid sounds are a win-win for me.”

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Montesa 315R

“My trials bike, just rebuilt here in The Witness Rooms studio. Takes you anywhere you care to point it and can hang on. A top buzz for enjoying the Scottish hills and a real head cleaner.”

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