2000F – Strøm Førende

[Editor: There are gear geeks, and there are gear freaks…. AND THEN there is the artist 2000F aka. Frederik Birket-Smith, who has got to have one of the most extraordinary collection of vintage synths, drum machines and outboard gear in all of Denmark… and this is just one of several locations where he has his gear. He is also the CEO of Strøm Festival – which is pretty much the biggest yearly electronic music festival in Denmark. So enjoy!
Also, if you’re wondering about the title, it’s danish for… ‘electric conductor’
]

1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?

My fave has got to be the Cinema Engineering Corporation Model 6517/e.

Cinema Engineering Corporation Model 6517/e

This is a low and high cut filter from Burbank, California, made in the 50’s, early 60’s. Originally made for, what you would call the telephone effect for film. It’s quite an extreme low and high cut and this unit in particular, has been modified by a local danish tech called Fairman, with a resonance control filter Q knob.

Cinema Engineering Corporation Model 6517/e front panel

So you can make it very aggressive and brittle sounding, and I use it for dub music, to get those extreme cuts. Most filter units of this type only have a low cut. Which is nice, but this one has high cut as well.

Lots of delay and reverb outboard

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

The Fender Rhodes 88 suitcase. Gotta be the suitcase version, not the stage. Has to be the one with the speakers. And I wouldn’t change anything about it.

Fender Rhodes 88

I have one from 1980 here in this studio and another one at home, from 1976. At one point I had both together in the living room, the kids and the wife were a little bit “Okay we need two?”. But my wife is really big fan of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea as well, so she loved it. Still… it takes up a lot of room.

’80s Fender Rhodes 88 suitcase

But the interesting part of having two was that, while the sound of the one I have here is really good, the other ’76 Rhodes, the body and the weight is much deeper compared to this one. The ’76 almost feels like a proper grand piano. It’s really nice.

Solina String Ensemble

3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?

Smartphone… one with Koala Sampler.

And then just the built-in Memo app on the phone, that’s the only things I would bring.

I especially like the Memo app. Actually I just use it to record stuff… Sometimes it’s ideas and melodies or basslines or rhythms. Sometimes it’s just something I need to explain to myself, like an idea that I need to remember. Sometimes it is sampling something.

Quite recently I recorded a sound while they were rebuilding Fisketovet [Editor: a shopping mall in Copenhagen]. And there was this crazy huge drilling machine that was so loud. I’ve never heard anything like it, but I had to record it. It was just banging a huge pile-driver into the ground. The reverb tail was intense.

Oberheim DMX

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

I’m not sure I can answer that, to be honest. Because I like both worlds. If I HAD to say something that could be an answer, I think it would be, that in the last couple of years, the integration between outboard hardware and the digital audio workstation is getting pretty good. Life is getting so much easier with the new analog patch bays that can be digitally controlled.

I mean, it’s so easy to intermix it now. And I actually like both analog and digital because they’re both very different, so it is great that they can now be integrated.

They’re merging and I think that’s really interesting. I come from an old school hardware kind of workflow, but the funny thing is, a few years ago, I tried to force myself to use only stock Ableton plugins, just to to see what I can do… and boy, it sounded pretty, I still prefer hardware and all that, but I did two 12-inch releases that way.

Roland JD800

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

Regrets selling? Nah… but there’s some stuff I regret NOT buying.

There was an Arp 2600 that was for sale in a shop near where I used to live. I think the shop was called ELSound. It was just in the display winder. Still haunts me that I couldn’t buy it at the time.

I’ve had quite a lot of gear, as you can tell, so I haven’t sold that much, actually. I’ve sold a Jupiter-4 and a Polysix and I don’t miss them. I also had the very, very big Yamaha SK50D. Which is the huge poly synth they made, just a big as the CS-80 and just about as heavy, but a cheaper version. Even though it certainly wasn’t cheap. But I don’t miss that either.

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

Samplers. And the Emu Emax.

Emu Emax

That’s the one I grew up with. It opened up the world of music production for me. Actually, I can tell you a funny story. Particularly that unit over there, which my father bought in ’86. I remember so clearly, because when I was young, my mom used to be a DJ and my dad collected records and all that studio stuff. So I listened to a lot of music.

Akai S950 and S1000

I listened to stuff like Kraftwerk and especially Art Of Noise. Early Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel… you know, with all those Synclavier sounds. But I never really understood how they did it. I understood the music and I loved it, but especially the Music Nonstop album, Electric Cafe album from Kraftwerk, where they used samples heavily, people don’t rate it. But I loved it because it was so digital.

When my father bought home the Emax. I can tell you where exactly in the living room I was standing and where my mom stood, when my dad used it for the first time. He set it up and plugged in a microphone, and my mom came into the living room and said, “Dinner’s ready!”.
And it was recorded. When my Dad started to mess with that sample… Then suddenly I was like, ‘That’s how they do it!’ … My whole mind was just blown away.

Emu Emax

So I was like… ‘Gimme that!’ and I borrowed an Atari ST2 computer, the Emax and Pro-One and the PPG and made lot of music. From then on I started buying stuff, so since I was 14 years old, I was just hooked. Spent all my money, I bought my 303 and right after that the 909 and all that.

But the sampler, that was the start.

Classic Korg Rack synths

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

The computer.

The thing is that nowadays you’ll be able to go online and find answers to absolutely everything. And at that time around ’86 you couldn’t find any answers to anything except if you knew somebody. So a computer would, whether it was an ’86 or 2023, open your world in any direction you wanted to go.

So then I think inspiration comes from other stuff. I mean, gear can inspire me and anybody else, but I’m not sure that’s the main thing, to be honest. I think the computer will just be the door that opens the world.

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

Oh, that’s everything. Everything! Just keeping and maintaining a synth mausoleum like this one. That’s grief…. and a lot of money. I would say being a collector, it’s just a major headache.

Classic Drum Machines and Synths

Cabling and setting up wires is a huge headache, but refurbishments and service on this stuff, that’s just a downwards spiral of agony and pain. And money out the window.

The most expensive restoration I have, which is still ongoing, is the EMT-250 reverb, which is at a repair workshop in Germany right now, and has been for the past five years. Kinda crazy.

The EMT250 is the only thing my father never got to hear or see working, before he passed away. He was an avid gear collector and once even managed to find a Fairchild 670 on Den Blå Avis [danish version of Craigslist], but the 250 we found at Sweet Silence Studios, and it’s super rare. Gotta be less than 200 in the world.

It even came in the original flight crate from Germany. So this wooden box came through Kastrup Airport, and then through the distributor up in the north of Copenhagen, then finally to Sweet Silence Studio, where we discovered that it had some water damage.
So it was sent to the US to repair at Studio Electronics and they said “we can’t fix it”. It had some humidity things that happened to it.

But eventually I found this guy Stefan Hübner in Hamburg. Who I was recommended by an old PPG factory tech. Who said, I have this young apprentice called Stefan, who is willing to take a look at repairing your EMT.

But the problem with the EMT was that, they never and still haven’t ever released any schematics or diagrams for it. At the time of production, they were so afraid that the Japanese would copy it, so they even sandblasted the tops of all the chips. So it doesn’t say anything on them.
There’s no traces, or anything. It’s all point-to-point soldered in the back. It’s just one huge board of chips, which no one knows what is. So Stefan has two EMT250’s on his workshop table, and he is trying to trace and test the electronics, and build up his own diagrams to figure out what happens inside of it and what each component is.

It’s just a never ending story.

So that’s the longest and possibly the most expensive restoration that I’ve ever attempted. I have never even heard it working. I just bought it and shipped it around.

Lexicon 122-s
Echoplex Tape Delay

9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

I spent a lot of time listening to and trying to figure out all the old mysteries of dub music. I like Prince Jammy and King Tubby, but I especially like The Scientist, who was the apprentice of King Tubby.

Stack of delays

I loved his way of mixing dub and I always liked that sharp filter cuts he had. And that was the knob that King Tubby built from a unit like the one I told you about before. [Editor: Cinema Engineering Corporation Model 6517/e]

Those filters, I mean, you don’t find them. You have to build them… And I’m sure that King Tubby’s version was also modified, because he just needed it to be more aggressive.

Unknown Dub Machine

Artist or Band name?

2000F

Genre?

Bass music

Selfie?

2000F aka. Frederik Birket-Smith

Where are you from?

Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, Denmark.

How did you get into music?

Mom was a DJ. Father was musician and studio owner. Guess it’s in the blood.

What still drives you to make music?

Exploration of bass and sounds, I think.

Novation Bass Station mk1 keyboard
PPG Wave 2
PPG Wave 2 Close up

How do you most often start a new track?

A beat or some sort of rhythm.

Roland CR-78

I’m not sure I’ve got a methodology or something. I least I can’t explain it. I don’t think about it really, but I just bang it out real fast. The rhythm.
I think the rhythm shows for me where the track goes. Also, I build a lot of my songs as a DJ. Which is a bit like putting music together like how I would build with Lego bricks. And I actually like it when it’s almost mechanically switching from one part to the other.

Roland TR727

Even though I mix dub stuff, I grew up listening to a lot of jungle drum-and-bass, especially grime music from the UK, and most of that is so cheaply made and is so swiftly made, that you get, a part A and a part B, and they just switch. Just so rough and so simple.

Roland CR8000

Before grime was called grime, it was called 8-bar, because the rappers just had 8 bars to rap on top of, before the song just switched sound, and I love that very, very simple almost mechanical way of building music. So I always tend to think of this as a DJ.

Roland MC-202
Roland JP8080

How do you know when a track is finished?

I test it out quite a lot… DJ’ing. I feel that it’s essential.

In bass music, people make dub plates. I used to cut a lot of plates. But I test tracks and I play them out a lot of times and then I listen. I’m listening to gauge audience reaction.

DJ decks and rack mixer

It’s actually mainly the response of people, if they appreciate or not. And what I do is even though it’s bass music, and it’s really aggressive, really dark. I like to make people almost implode.

2000F vinyl collection and decks on the back wall

I do BassUnderBuen, which is huge rave with 10,000 people here in Copenhagen under a motorway. I’ll play two or three new tracks and I can just tell… ‘okay, this track really works, this one needs work’.

I gotta test it out on a proper dance club sound system. And then I come back to the studio and rework it a little bit.

Show us your current studio

2000F Studio left side wall
2000F Studio right side wall
Unknown Prototype Valve Microphone from the ’50s
Danish DISA tube mic pre

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

This is for producers working specifically on computers, try to close your eyes as often as possible. You’ll listen differently.

Like when I have my analog mixer setup here in front of me, after I have built up the basic structure, all the stems, patterns, parts of the rhythm and the bass and so on…
Then I switch off the screen. Because I came to realize when I was in the studios, that the more I look while I mix, the more I know what is going to drop and what is going to happen. So I don’t listen as a person on the dance floor would.

The other thing I haven’t quite learned yet, but I’m trying to tell me myself all the time… is that if you’re doing edits or changes during the song structure that people need to notice in a club or in a rave situation.
It has to be very, very particular. I mean, keep it simple and obvious.

Another thing, don’t do social media. Do music.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

2000F on Spotify


Danny Kim – DSKO

1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?

Modal 008

Favorite knobs would have to be the Modal 008. They are metal, round with a dimple on top. Favorite fader would have to be the Juno 106. Just a couple millimeters makes the filter morph into a different sound. I’ve ridden the cutoff fader for miles. I also like the fader on Roland System 100 Model 101. Old, but sturdy and stylish.

Roland Juno 106

For Eurorack, I’d say my fav knobs are on the Rossum Evolution. They’re kind of similar to the pots on the Dave Smith PolyEvolver.

Dave Smith PolyEvolver

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

Well I guess that would depend on three criteria for me. The character of the sound, depth of synthesis, versatility, intuitiveness of the interface, build quality. I also like a bit of a challenge to learn. But not so complex that it takes forever to get to a sweet spot.

Modal 008

For me, one all-encompassing synth would be the Modal 008. It is the most refined sounding analog poly synth that I’ve played in the past 20 years. It has 15 different filter modes, tons of physical controls at your fingertips. There are no on-board effects but you can dial in some very refined and inspiring sounds without too much difficulty.

Modal 008 with 15 filter modes

Then you have a great sequencer that can trigger notes or modulate almost any parameter with the “Animator” feature. It does have a bit of a wonky menu, that sometimes freezes on a knob turn. I wish I could update the processor to eliminate some of those glitches and give it an OLED touch screen to improve the navigation but nothing’s perfect.
The designer George Hearn moved on from Modal to found a company called UDO. In late 2020, he released the Super 6 binaural synth. It’s a really cool 12 voice polyphonic synth with high resolution digital oscillators. I’m looking forward to diving deep into it this coming year.

Modal 008 Sequencer

3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?

MPC Live 2

I have a retro MPC Live 2 that is pretty cool because it has a sound bar, is rechargeable and you can produce full tracks on it with some diligence and patience. You can load it up with a ton of samples. It can even be upgraded with an internal SSD drive. I recently got an ASM Hydrasynth Explorer that can take batteries. I think I might bring it next time I travel.

Hydrasynth Explorer

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

I wish there was a hardware version of Absynth. It was one of the most unique sounding synths I’ve ever heard. Sadly, it was announced a few months ago that Native Instruments was going to discontinue its inclusion in their collection.

I think it would be cool to get a software version of the underrated Modor NF-1, since it is all digital and there are ten different forms of synthesis. There are a ton of physical controls but due to its complexity, there’s still a lot under the hood that you have to dive into the menu to find such as the FM operators or formant features.

Modor NF-1

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I regret selling my big yellow Waldorf Q. I was broke in Hollywood during the actors and writers strikes of 2006. I was a freelance sound editor and had just left the studio I was working at after I had worked on a big feature film called Pathfinder for 20th Century Fox. The strike went on for a long time and eventually I had to let go of one of my first synths. I’ve since owned and sold the Waldorf Microwave XT, original Pulse rack and 2 Pole Filter Pedal.

Conversely, I haven’t been as into the Waldorf Quantum. On paper and visually it looked like most amazing synth ever. But it sounds kind of sterile to me, even with the analog filter. I have a friend who likes the Iridium for its sample playback capabilities, but I generally prefer VCO’s and non-sampled realtime sound sources. I get more of my style of sounds out of synths such as the Moog Matriarch or Cwejman S1 MK2. So I may be limiting myself from the Quantum’s best features. I’ve heard other people get cool results from it. I think I would get more out of the PPG Wave tribute from Groove Synthesis, the Third Wave.

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

Lately, I’ve been really into the Elektron Syntakt. You’ve got 8 digital and 4 analog tracks. Each track can be configured to a different “machine” that is synthesized around conventions such as bass drums, snares, hats, claps, etc. On the synth side, you’ve got an 8-bit SID type of machine, chord generator that can be quantized to different scales, then an analog two oscillator synth. Unfortunately it’s monophonic, but I hope that it gets firmware to allow the combining of tracks allow for 2 to 4 voice polyphony at some point soon. It certainly has the capability with 12 tracks.

Being confined to a set of 8 unique parameters for each synth or percussion machine did a couple things for me: first, it forced me to fully utilize each machine’s sound design capabilities. Since you can quickly settle on a sound relatively quickly with the limitations, you can focus on the writing of notes and beats. The second thing it did was the polar opposite; the limitations drove me to find external/outboard solutions such as polyphonic sound sources that could be sequenced from the Syntakt’s external MIDI machine. The first candidate was an Erica Synths 42hp Pico case. I put a Supercritical Demon Oscillator and Expander with a Pittsburgh Local Florist and a Supercritical Neutron Flux stereo filter in there. So that skiff essentially became the 8th track on my Syntakt.

Eurorack

One of the things that helped me unlock the Syntakt’s capabilities is the Arturia Keystep 37. The Keystep has a great feature which is that you can hold the function button then instantly change the MIDI channel from the keyboard. So you can jump back and forth between tracks in your sequence while you’re writing melodies and parts. You can quantize your notes as they are being played in.

Arturia Keystep Pro (pictured here) and the twin Elektron Syntakts

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

Prophet XL

With my existing knowledge and experience? Maybe a Sequential Prophet XL. It covers a lot of different sounds between the virtual analog waveforms and sample oscillators. If I was starting out, I’d probably get a Juno 106, which was actually the 3rd or 4th synth I first bought.

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

JX-8P

The Roland JX-8P. Big heavy with plywood bottom and plastic ends that have fading metallic paint. Membrane buttons as frustrating as the DX-7. But the pads out of that thing sound beautiful. I was able to get a PG-800 programmer for it, which made it much more useable. The JX-10 is basically two 8P’s and is somewhat strange to program even with a PG-800 since it has two halves. The JX-10 was used by the composer Angelo Badalamenti for the iconic theme song for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, which was later sampled by Moby for the house track “Go”. I can’t seem to bring myself to sell it, but it’s so bulky that it’s usually sitting upright until I need it for its lush pads.

Roland PG-800

9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

Probably the strangest feature I’ve encountered is the countdown menu in the Modor NF-1. You have to make your selection before it finishes counting down, otherwise it exits on its own.

Modular Eurorack in Black light

Technique-wise, one of the coolest things about modular synths is the ability to chain multiple clock and rhythm modules. For instance, I might use the ALM Pamela’s Workout as an initial tempo generator into Vermona Random Rhythm to create a bunch of multiplied clock signals in different clock divisions. From there it may go into Mutable Instruments Grids or the more recent Mystic Circuits IDUM module. Then finally with the 3rd layer, I’ll patch into the actual sequencer be it WMD Metron or Shakmat’s Four Bricks Rook. My goal is to create rhythmic variations for the sequence that can be globally affected with a relatively simple knob or fader movement, which is ideal for live performances. Trying to achieve some randomness but still enough control to make it sound musical. That’s generally where I like to reside.


Artist or Band name?

It was Psinex, then Distco, Distortion Corporation, now DSKO. My actual company is named Distortion Productions from when I worked full time as a freelance sound editor on films and directed concert and music videos for various local LA electronic music producers, classical Indian musicians and the “Inside” video for Detroit’s ADULT.

Genre?

All over the place: electro, Italo disco, synth wave, techno, dub, electroclash, trip hop, ambient. I try not to think too consciously about genre when I’m writing something.

Selfie?

DSKO

Where are you from?

Was born in Palo Alto and raised in Santa Rosa, Northern California. Have lived in Las Vegas, Hollywood/LA and Seoul, Korea. Now I’m back near where I was born, in Santa Clara and San Jose.

How did you get into music?

I started out as a cellist in the high school orchestra. I took lessons from Corinne Antipa, a cellist in the local Santa Rosa Symphony.
Music-wise I was a big Front 242 and Depeche Mode fan as a kid. I actually just saw Front 242’s final performance at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco recently. It was great show and an emotional moment for them saying goodbye on stage. In college, I was a tech house and trance DJ during college in Las Vegas and in LA during the rave scene.

What still drives you to make music?

I’ve always wanted to see electronic musicians and the synthesizer community properly represented from a cultural and artistic standpoint. I’ve been going to shows for many years, but from 2016, I started putting on my own live synth shows in the SF Bay Area, primarily in downtown San Jose in association with the First Friday monthly street fairs organized by Cherri and Brian from Gallery Anno Domini. I built good relationships with synth companies such as Sequential, Make Noise, Folktek as well as some very talented performers from across the country such as Richard Devine, Patrick O’ Brien, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Lightbath while promoting equally talented locals such as r beny and Haptic Synapses.

My interests tend to pull me towards their origins and pioneers. It was a sort of pilgrimage traveling to the Detroit Movement Festival in 2006 and 2008 and hearing Octave One, Scan 7, Model 500, and many others there. I also had a chance to go to the 2012 Moogfest when it was still in Asheville, North Carolina. It was great to see the Voyagers on the Moog factory line along with the showroom. Those trips were a big inspiration to me as a promoter and artist. I feel like I’ve carried those experiences with me in spirit in all the events that I have held.

How do you most often start a new track?

I used to make a new track every month. Lately, it’s become either a new modular patch video on my Youtube or Instagram. I would definitely like to get back to writing full tracks and albums.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Usually when I can listen to a track repeatedly without getting tired of hearing it. I’d imagine that’s how a sculptor feels by the time they decide when to stop chipping away at the stone. I suppose the difference being that you can’t add back what you remove to a stone. With a track, it’s certainly possible to overembellish it with too many elements.

Show us your current studio

Neon Dragon
A desktop of synths
Studio Rack
Studio Buddies

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

It’s a fairly common piece of advice, but particularly important for someone as easily distracted as I am. Finish your project and don’t try to make it too perfect. Allow for mistakes and imperfections. The pursuit of perfection can lead to becoming discouraged and eventually abandoning something that might actually be much better than you might think. Like many artists, I tend to be very hard on myself.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

I’ll be performing at SynthPlex in LA/Burbank on the evening of October 29th, 2022. It’s been three years since the last event so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve got a laser show planned to go with my live synth set.

I’m also putting out the follow-up to the 2019 synth and arts print-only journal called Open Source. It’s taken the better part of 3 years to put it together. One of the most difficult projects I’ve ever worked on because of the ever-increasing scope of it.
It started from around 80 pages and now up to around 130 with original articles, artwork and interviews from artists I admire from around the world such as Robert Henke and Nonotak. By the time the project is finally completed, I think it will be worth the effort. I’m aiming to get it done in time to show at Superbooth next May in Berlin.


[Editor: There are affiliate links to the relevant gear throughout the articles. It helps to support this blog. In fact, should you be needing some patch cables or guitar strings. Then clicking on one of the above links and buying any product that you prefer, will help the blog… doesn’t even have to be the ones in the link. Thx]