With all the current talk about MIDI, it is easy to forget that some companies have been developing their own interfacing for some years. Of course, the Roland system has received a lot of exposure with the DCB (Digital Communication Buss) allowing the MC range of sequencers to be connected to their polysynths, and also the DIN connectors which sync the TR drum machines and bass-line.
However, there is another system which has been quietly developing and expanding over the years, one which has received less publicity because of the limited numbers of dealers importing it. But now that several new people are bringing over the Oberheim system from the States, let us hope that this system attracts the interest it deserves.
The heart of this system is the DSX sequencer which can control the whole family of Oberheim polyphonics - the OB-X, the OB-Xa and the latest model, the OB-8 via a computer interface. It also has 8 separate CV and gate outputs to control up to 8 analogue synths of the 1 volt per octave variety. It has a capacity of 6,000 notes and is capable of 16-voice polyphony. It can store up to 10 sequences at any one time and there is cassette storage for building up a repertoire of sequences. Each individual sequence can be independently recorded over 10 tracks and there are two recording modes: Real Time (with a 1/192 note resolution) or Quantize which will auto-correct your playing to ½ note (minimum) maximum or 1/32 note (demi-semiquaver) minimum. There is also a programmable metronome with an internal speaker.
The Merge feature gives the DSX a particularly useful flexibility. It allows sequence looping with the ability to listen to different tracks each time round, chaining different sequences and inserting transpositions and sound program changes. This gives virtually unlimited variation within the total memory capacity of the sequencer.
The DSX is also designed to work side by side with the DMX or the more recent DX digitally-sampled drum machines (see DX review in E&MM Sept '83). The DMX works on replaceable voice cards while the DX's sounds can be changed using new EPROMs. Both machines can store 100 drum patterns (up to 99 bars) each and combine these into fifty songs. Of course the syncing facilities on both the drum machines and the sequencer allow them to be used with compatible equipment from other manufacturers.
Full marks to Oberheim, who have been producing this totally internally compatible system since 1979. Each new piece of the equipment has upgraded the potential of the system (the OB-8 improving on the spec, of the OB-Xa for example) or made similar facilities available at a lower price (the DX coming in at just over half the price of the DMX with most of the features) but ensuring that the original does not become obsolete.
Thanks to the London Rock Shop for letting us play around with their 'system'. Current prices are DSX £1,395; DMX £1,995; DX £995; and OB-8 £2,995. An extract from 'the Sound of the System' - an Oberheim demonstration single - will be included on the first of the new series of E&MM demo cassettes available in the New Year.
What equipment did you use to get the classic System sound?
David Frank: Oberheim OB8, DSX, DMX, and a Mini Moog was the start...
MM: The early System was quite simple Oberheim, DMX, DSX, OB8, and Mini Moog.
Whose idea was the name 'The System'?
David Frank: Mic Murphy, ladies and gentleman!!
MM: That's my concoction...In 1981 the people's technological revolution was just beginning. The hippest item was the Walkman and the Baby Apple computer. Everything was a system - a sound system and the system as in "we the people." The subtext was that we come from completely different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
Vocals, Guitar, Sampler [Fairlight C.m.i.], Synthesizer [Oberheim Obxa, Dsx And Dmx], Electronic Drums [Simmons], Bass, Piano, Synthesizer [Prophet], Organ [Farfisa], Harp, Mandolin, Effects [Quantec Room Simulator], Strings [Roland] – Mike Oldfield.
Tracklist Hide Credits
A1 –Daniel Sofer Dewdrops Performer, Composed By – Daniel Sofer 2:53
A2 –Daniel Sofer The Third World Of Dreams Performer, Composed By – Daniel Sofer 3:44
B1 –Todd McKinney Kimberlite Performer, Composed By – Todd McKinney 2:30
B2 –Todd McKinney Renewal Performer, Composed By – Todd McKinney 3:30
Daniel Sofer Playing a concert at the Yamaha shop in Shibuya, Tokyo.
In the year 1983 Daniel Sofer first met Cletus Anderson from Saturn Records who heard one of his demos. He did some sessions for Saturn with his Oberheim gear and was the musical mastermind behind Ice T´s "Coldest Rapp", "Scratch Motion", "Rhythm Rock Rap" and Unknown DJ´s "100 Speakers". He invited Unknown to Oberheim´s studio to record some scratches for the DMX. Unknown and he ended up doing a bunch of tracks together. He also met Lonzo Williams through Cletus and worked with him on productions like "Surgery" and "Juice" for the World Class Wreckin Cru. More...p>Daniel Sofers first productions were made in the electronic music studios -- first at Paul Beaver's studio Parasound, then at the Mills College Tape Center in Northern California where he studied with Robert Ashley and Terry Riley, but mostly just experimented with electronic rock music. There he had access to large modular Moogs and multi-track tape recorders so he would just record everything by himself. One of these pieces ended up in a Laserium laser light show -- the same people that later toured with Tangerine Dream. He ended up working for Laserium and programming several light shows. He did a piece for Laserium called Silk Aurora.
He also played with several electronic bands in Los Angeles at that time (1976-1981) including LEM and another band called Radience with now famous new age synth musicians Steve Roach and Richard Burmer. He had an Oberheim synth and ended up working for Oberheim as well -- there he wrote owners manuals (OB-8, DMX, Xpander), did demos, and made the drum samples for the DMX.
His muscial influences at that time can be found at the German Electronic Music (Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, etc.) and of his previous synthesizer band, LEM. Somewhere around this time he met Cletus Anderson from Saturn Records who heard one of his demos. He did some sessions for Saturn with his Oberheim gear and was the musical mastermind behind Ice T´s "Coldest Rapp", "Scratch Motion" and Unknown DJ´s first 12inch "Rhythm Rock Rap" and "100 Speakers". He invited Unknown to Oberheim´s studio to record some scratches for the DMX. Unknown and he ended up doing a bunch of tracks together like "Beatronic" and the West Coast Classic "808 Beats" on the Techno Hop Label. He also met Lonzo Williams through Cletus and worked with him on productions like "Surgery" and "Juice" for the World Class Wreckin Cru.
Daniel Sofer typical DMX electronic Sound and his musical creativity shaped the early West Coast Rap Scene in a unique manner. His nickname "Perfect Tommy" he get from Unknown were based on his "Perfect Timing".
Oberheim Electronics - The Sound Of The System 7" EP
Oberheim 80s Synthesizer DEMONSTRATION 4-track EO from 1982. Weird Synth Tracks using OB-Xa Synth / DSX Digital Polyphonic Sequencer and DMX Programmable Digital Drum Machine. 4 tracks played and produced by Daniel Sofer (A-Side) + Todd McKinney (B-Side)
A: Daniel Sofer - Dewdrops (2.53 min.) + The Third World Of Dreams (3.44 min.)
B: Todd McKinney: Kimberlite (2.30 min.) + Renewal (3.30 min.)
GEDDY LEE OF RUSH the Oberheim System
Analog synthesizers like the Oberheim OB-Xa and the Roland JP-8 have an organic punch to them that I find difficult to get out of a digital synthesizer
Neil wears headphones when we're sequencing so he can play to the sequencer. The [Oberheim] DSXs are pretty solid; the control track keeps their temp the same all the time. So as long as Neil can hear that, we'll be in sync. The [Roland] TR-808 is the master clock when I'm just using the arpeggiator on the JP-8. Because it's such a busy thing, I will send Neil a click from the 808; the same click that's pulsing the arpeggiator will go to his headphones. So when I'm using a complex-arpeggiator part, he doesn't get all that running around. He gets the fundamental and syncs to that. It's a complex setup for him but it works.
Tony has to take care of Geddy's synthesizer stack and guitarist Alex Lifeson's keyboard rig as well. "Geddy has a PPG Wave 2.2 with the Waveterm digital sampling option, a Minimoog, an OB-Xa with a DSX [sequencer], a [Roland] Jupiter-8, and a TR-808 drum machine connected to the arpeggiator of the Jupiter-8," Tony reports. "He also has two sets of Taurus bass pedals, one underneath the PPG and the other at the front mike location. When he depresses a pedal, he not only gets the bass pedal sound itself, he also gets the program that's up on the OB-Xa. He can play two synthesizers at the same time with just his feet! in addition, I've put switches on the bass pedals which allow Geddy to choose one of three octaves on the OB-Xa that the pedals will trigger. He can use the lower octave, the middle octave, or the top octave of the keyboard. Alex has two 120-program OB-Xas with two DSXs. One of the OB-Xas is interfaced with a set of bass pedals like Geddy's setup, and the other just plays sequences triggered from a remote pedal."
Geddy Lee – Rickenbacker 4001 and Fender Jazz Bass, vocals, Minimoog, Oberheim OB-X and OB-Xa, OB-8, Roland Jupiter-8, Moog Taurus pedals, Oberheim DSX and Roland TR-808 rhythm machine
Interview with Daniel Sofer February 2002
How and when did you started making music ?
I started playing drums when I was 9 years old. I played in lots of bands in school and in college.Of course I heard Switched-On Bach, so I was excited to be able to get my hands on a synthesizer in college. At that time (1972), synthesizers were big and expensive so my university (USC) had made an arrangement with Paul Beaver (a Hollywood studio musician and Moog's west coast distributor) to let us study using Paul's large Moog synthesizer when it was available. Most of the other synth students were keyboard players so they would make a simple sound and then riff on it. Not being very good on the keyboard, I would connect more and more modules until the Moog would just play itself.
What kind of music did influenced in your work?
Although I felt most comfortable in Rock music circles at the time, I was influenced by other music: 20th century classical, musique concrete: Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and other euro electronic musicians; and later African beats and Middle Eastern, new age. These days I'm mostly into ambient...
What was your first record ?
My first records were those that I made in the electronic music studios --first at Paul Beaver's studio Parasound, then at the Mills College Tape Center in Northern California where I studied with Robert Ashley and Terry Riley, but mostly just experimented with electronic rock music. I had access to large modular Moogs and multi-track tape recorders so I would just record everything myself.One of these pieces ended up in a Laserium laser light show -- the same people that later toured with Tangerine Dream. I ended up working for Laserium and programming several light shows. I did a piece for Laserium called Silk Aurora, which you can hear on my web site. I also played with several electronic bands in Los Angeles at that time (1976-1981) including LEM and another band called Radience with now famous new age synth musicians Steve Roach and Richard Burmer. There's another piece on my web site called Third World of Dreams, which I did in 1981 whichfeatures Steve Roach. By this time (early 80s), I had an Oberheim synth and ended up working for Oberheim as well -- I wrote owners manuals (OB-8, DMX, Xpander), did demos, and made the drum samples for the DMX.
What sound equipment did you use for your early productions?
In the 80s I used the Oberheim system (OB-X/8, DMX, DSX, Xpander).
Swapping symphonic sounds for synthetic, Jeff Lynne and ELO were one of the few bands to put the entire Oberheim 'System' through its paces. Both the DMX drum machine and DSX sequencer are listed on the liners for the Secret Messages LP, and the video for the title track clearly shows Richard Tandy playing an OB.
While the song's most distinctive synth sound is undoubtedly that of the Moog bass, it was Fred Zarr's use of the Oberheim System (DMX drum machine, DSX sequencer and OB-X) that powered the proceedings.
According to Zarr, he was actually learning to program his new Oberheim toys during the sessions.
Many of us that worked there were musicians, and we had a lot of influence on the way these instruments worked and what they sounded like. I also had a Synthi AKS and a MicroMoog that I used. These days I have my Mac G3 with DigitalPerformer, SampleCell and some Roland and Kawai modules. My Oberheim Matrix12 still appears once in awhile.
We know that you did a lot of stuff with your DMX (you even wrote the manual). What was the reason that you prefer this equipment and did you ever work with the Roland 808?
I not only wrote the manual, I recorded all the sounds for the DMX, so of course it sounded just the way I wanted it to :-) We went into some big recording studios (like Capitol Records in Hollywood) to record the drums, then I went back to Oberheim where I had a system to digitize the sound and burn sound chips. Eventually I got Unknown to come over to Oberheim and record some scratches, which were sold by Oberheim and can be heard on my Oberheim DMX demo (http://www.hermosawave.net/daniel/mtv/dmx.mp3) Lot's of people had 808s though, I think we even sampled one for the DMX at one point.
Many of the artists in the 80´s started as a DJ´s and later they play their own music instruments like Rolands 808. What do you think bout this developement?
I was working with synthesizers since the Moog modular synthesizers in the early 70's, so I was interested in things like the 808. But the 808 was like an analog sequencer -- it was good from a programming point of view, but you couldn't really "play" it, like with the DMX.
Can you describe the LA Electro Scene back in the 80´s?
I wasn't really into the Electro Scene specifically, I was more into the German electronic music of the time (Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, etc.) That was also the influence of my previous synthesizer band, LEM. I can't say I was a very social person then, either :-)
Can you describe how you get in touch with the Electro Scene back in the days?
Like I said, I worked at Oberheim and was in a creative position, doing demos, manuals, tech support, etc., so musicians of many styles came through the office. Many, like Christophe Franke of TD, were personal friends of Tom Oberheim and they would come and hang out when they came into town. Oberheim´s main tech service guy, Will Alexander, ended up becoming Keith Emerson's tech for a long time.
How did get your nickname „Perfect Tommy”?
Unknown DJ (Andre Manuel) gave me that nickname because of my "Perfect Timing" :-)
How did you get in touch with Lonzo from the World Class Wreckin´ Cru?
I met Lonzo through Unknown.
Can you describe your work for Surgery and Juice?
At first, the guys had the ideas but they didn't have the instruments which were quite expensive at the time. So they would tell me what they were looking for and I would put something together for them... They didn't give me too much direction so it was kinda up to me...
How much money did you get when you worked for a title like Surgery?
I don't remember , but it wasn't much :-)
Did you ever visit one of the famous discos like „Radio Club“ or “Eve after Dark” back in the days? No...
Who was the owner of Saturn Records and how did you get in contact ?Somewhere around this time I met Cletus Anderson from Saturn Records. I'm not sure how exactly, he must have heard one of my demos.
Can you describe your work with Unknown DJ ?
I did some sessions with my Oberheim gear for Triple Threat Three, and then Rhythm Rock Rap and 100 Speakers. These sessions were very raw: I did my drum beats with the DMX and some other bass with the OB-8 and that was pretty much it. But this was the first time I had ever seen anyone scratching records in person, so I ended up inviting Unknown to Oberheim´s studio to record some scratches for the DMX. Unknown and I ended up doing a bunch of tracks together -- I still see him these days. He has a record label Celeb Entertainment. I met Lonzo Williams through Cletus and we did a couple of tracks as well -- the World Class Wreckin Cru. I did the tracks with ThreeD and Arabian too. Arabian has a 3D animationstudio these days. I don't really see any of these people any more, just Unknown and Arabian.
It´s strange that Unknown and Dre worked only for the Single “100 Speakers” together. Was this before Dre worked on Surgery and Unknown did his stuff on Techno Hop Records?
Yes, this was before. I think this was the first time I hooked up with them. Cletus Anderson of Saturn Records had me come to the studio -- I'm not sure how I hooked up with him, probably he heard my demo -- but I was there in the studio and Unknown and Dre were rapping and scratching.
Did you work for the Triple Threat Three Single on Saturn Records too?
Yes, I did the Triple Threat Three.
Can you describe your work for DEF Momentum?
At the beginning, the guys didn't have any equipment except their turntables and their rhymes, so I would play everything else, overdubbed.
On which Arabian songs did you participate?
I did a few, but I can't remember which ones.
Are there any unreleased stuff from those days you made? Have you unreleased promotapes or livecuts from this period?
Everyone always has unreleased stuff lying around -- and most of the time they should stay that way! ;-)
Do you still work in the music business today?
I was never a full time musician -- I worked at Laserium, Oberheim, and Kawai before starting my own digital media business. These days I build web sites -- but I still try to put in some interesting music; Flash is really a good vehicle for music on the web.
What was your greatest success as a musican and what was your greatest experience in the music scene back in the days?
I don't feel I was ever a great success as a musician, but I was able to experiment with a lot of new technologies and get some good results. I always was and still am interested in the combination of music and visual. I did video work in college, and the Laserium light shows, then a lot of visual music. Some of my things got played on VH-1 when they were just starting out. These days the web is a great place to combine the sound and visual in a new way.
Can you send us some pictures we can add to the interview?
I'm enclosing a picture of me playing a concert at the Yamaha shop in Shibuya, Tokyo.
What do you think bout the electro revival nowadays? Arabian is doin some new stuff, Egypt is really big here in Europe and we heard even Unknown is back in business.
I think it's great. Unknown was trying to get me to work with him, but I wasn't focused enough to really contribute. There are many revivals of old music these days... in the past six months my family have seen Cream, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, and David Gillmore in concert, so why not Electro?
Do you still live in Los Angeles?
Although I didn't grow up here, I've lived in various parts of Los Angeles for the past 30 years, except for two years in San Francisco... I'd end up meeting many of the musicians that were playing Oberheim gear. David Frank from The System is another guy I hung out with and was influenced by – he played the synth bass on "I Feel For You" and "SuSuSudio" In the last 15 years I've spent a lot of time in Japan and have many musician friends there as well. I don't think you'd know any of they'renames -- but I'm surprised you know about any of us!
Its a long explanation of how I ended up with Saturn Records, Cletus and Unknown, so bear with me ;-)