David Rothbaum – Cross Town Patching

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

The octave levers on my Yamaha CS-50. They are very playable. There is also just something very satisfying about the aesthetic of them as well as the acoustic clicking sound.

Yamaha CS-50

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

I would say the combination of the monome grid and ansible using kria. To me this set-up is a perfect combination of thoughtful composition mixed with performance and improvisation. Honestly, it has fundamentally changed the way I think of composition. My only issue is the grid is near impossible to see in daylight. I do a lot of outdoor performances and this is always an issue. I often bring a beach towel to throw over the grid and myself to be able to see it.

Modular Field Trip

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

I bring my modular with me a lot. I compose and record on the spot in various locations and occasionally that included what was my daily 1-5 hour commute (pre-Covid). Doing this while driving is clearly a bad idea, would not recommend at all. To be clear I only patched while at a dead stop, which in Los Angeles is most of the time.

[Editor: Ha!… Make art anywhere]

Patching in traffic

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

Paulstretch in a module would be awesome. SketchCassette too. I honestly cannot think of any hardware I’d like to see as software.

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

I am generally not too precious about gear but I did have a Roland Jupiter 4 that I sold to fund more modular and I wish I still had my Tascam 388.  

Tascam 388

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

In the last few years I would have to say again the monome / Whimsical Raps eco-system. 

Monome and Whimsical Raps in a case

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

Good taste.

[Editor: Nah, good taste is overrated…. and anyway, it’s just a by product of the artistic process, that can happen to the best of us 😉 ]

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

The computer.

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

I think in recent years it would have to be manually manipulating the Marantz PMD-430 cassette deck while monitoring live on the tape. Being able to play the tape warbles is pretty great.

Marantz PMD-430

Artist or Band name?

David Rothbaum 


Recently, I would say ambient-adjacent. I tend to write mostly melancholic ambient music but I often add more rhythmic elements (I have been obsessed with odd meters and tuplets since forever), which I think disqualifies me as really being ambient. That said, I have made music in a number of different genres. I had a solo project called Monsturo for quite a while. That was very minimalistic drone/noise music, I used to describe it as field recordings for imaginary spacecraft 🙂 I have also played a lot of metal, jazz, noise and free improvisation. I auditioned once for Donny Osmond when I was a teenager in the 80s. 


I don’t really do selfies without my kid so…

David Rothbaum +1

Where are you from?

Born in NY but have lived in Los Angeles for 30+ years and that is my home.

How did you get into music?

As a listener I became obsessed with music as a kid. At around 7 years old I got into The Beatles & Donna Summer. Then shortly after that it was The Eurythmics, AC/DC, Supertramp, Devo & horror film scores. I would make tape mixes from the radio (I had an entire tape with recordings of “Sweet Dreams”). I also made tapes from the TV, grabbing bits of music from horror movies and TV shows that I liked. I failed at saxophone in 5th grade (I did learn the “Pink Panther” theme, though), but when I was 14 I took up the electric bass and played heavy metal.

What still drives you to make music?

Cannot imagine a life worth living without it. 

How do you most often start a new track?

More often than not it will start as an exploration of a technical or aesthetic idea, be it teletype code; a rhythmic, timbral or harmonic thing; or a patch idea. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

When whatever it is I am working on transforms from the technical into something that carries some emotional weight. Or I have a deadline that has expired. 

Show us your current studio

David Rothbaum’s studio

The modular is not the only thing in my studio. I have guitars, hardware synths, an electric piano etc., but it is overwhelming the center of it.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Not comparing your work with others.  This is exceedingly difficult but absolutely liberating if you can do it.

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

I will be releasing a collection of short pieces that I have recorded and posted to social media over the last 4 years. It is called “Miniatures 2016-2020” and will be released on cassette and digital by the awesome Mystery Circles label in early 2021.

[Editor: Check out David’s lovely instagram or his website for more info]

[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…