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The Collectors: David Norley

This month's featured collector is a reader who also happens to be dance musician and praducer David Morley. We visited his studio out in Germany to see all his synths and outboard gear... Words: Pete Forrest * Photography: Julia Knorr (pics coming soon!)

TROLLING AROUND IN deepest Bavaria, you might not expect to stumble across an English musician and producer with a stunning collection ofsynths and record ing gear. You might, of course, be wrong. David Morley is a professional with an amateur's obsession for gear, as wit nessed by the massed ARPs and Buchlas he's acquired over the years, not to men tion the five vintage mixing desks..
In the 90s, tracks produced from his bedroom studio/demo set-up impressed Renaat, boss of the new R&S label, and he quickly became a pivotal member of their studio team, along with Cisco Ferreira and CJ Bolland, and the Apollo back catalogue is full of his contributions. Since then, he's probably best known for his collaborations with Andrea Parker; particularly for KISS MY ARP, released on Mo'Wax. He'sjust finished a MiniMoog sample CD for Bigga Giggas, and he and Andrea have had a piece used on the Vanilla Sky soundtrack.

FM: How did you get into making music in the first place?
DM: After I left school, I was studying guitar and my teacher had a professional studio. I kind of went to work there, learning how to engineer and produce. Basically, there was no way I was going to do anything else once I'd started!

FM: What's your history?
DM: When I was eight, my parents emi grated to Brussels, which was full of peo pie who are now doing interesting stuff in music or arts. I did A levels at boarding school in England, and that's where I first heard Tangerine Dream and kraftwerk. We sneaked out of school at night and went driving and someone put Tangerine Dream in the cassette... it was one of those moments you don't forget. After years of rock, I heard something I'd never heard before. Sequencers, sweeps, echoes, glurps, voices and ambience! From then on, it was electronic music that interested me. I went out and bought a Casiotone!

FM: How did you become `that English guy' at R&S Records?
DM: Back in Belgium, I started doing more and more music, with Roland gear: a sequencer, a Juno and, a bit later, an S- 10 sampler. A friend and I wrote some new beat music that Renaat at R&S liked. He asked if I'd like to setup his studio and do some tunes and it took off from there.

FM: Should Andrea Parker's Kiss My ARP record really have been called Kiss David Morley's ARP?
DM: guess so! Almost all my synths got a good thrashing from Andrea, but the ARP26DO, 2500 and Odyssey (which has an incredible factory multi-mode filter) are her favourites. Since then she's got herself a 2600, so mine suffers a little less these days. She is extreme, the sounds she forced me to come up with are shocking! I would work towards a rough direction and she'd be going "More, more, now doubled, now an octave down, etc..until we came up with something useful. We used my Prophet 5 and Fairlight CMI lIx a lot too.

FM: What are your current projects?
DM: Andrea has released some tunes we wrote on her own label Touchin' Bass, and Quatermass in Belgium are releasing some of my songs on a series called 'Personal settings'. I'm finishing off an album of material, possibly for Quatermass, and have an ambient electronic project coming up on my label.

Film is the next step. A piece by Andrea and me was used in Vanilla Sky and I really enjoyed hearing my music behind a film.

FM: How did you set about doing the MiniMoog sample CD?
DM: Danny zelonky, aka Low Res, told Bigga Giggas they should contact me as I had a good set of synths. I suggested I did a MiniMoog CD for Gigasampler as I had a great sounding MiniMoog (used to belong to Bernie Worrell), and figured 'Why not?'. It's interesting to sit down with one machine and get as much out of it as possible.

Everyone thinks a MiniMoog is good for leads and basses, but believe me, it's capable ofa whole lot more. It's a subtle machine - small changes can make a big difference - and it's a dream Setting up sounds. It's the best laid out synth ever. I'm about to start work on another CD for them, but I can't say what just yet.

FM: Is gear collecting a sideline type hobby for you, or is it crucial to you as a musician?
DM: I consider certain machines like my ARP 260D irreplaceable. I've used it in some way or another in nearly every song I've written. So in this case, irs irrel evant what it's worth to a collector as I won't ever sell it. Anyway, it's already paid itself back tenfold.

I tend to sell things I don't use, or won't in the future. But certain things I love, even if I don't use them all the time, like the Buchla 200 and VCS3. As a musician, I think it's vital to have something prnsonal in your equipment, something you can show your personality on. I feel very at home with an ARP2600 or 2500; I can always get something started on those machines. I don't see it as a hobby. synths are ulti mately tools. But if an instrument isa pleasure for a musician to use, perhaps it leads to better music.

I have nothing against virtual or sam pled synths, but the feeling you get when manipulating a modular or sam pling on the Fairlight lix is special. It's fun. Give me five monosynths over a new workstation any day!

FM: How do you start a track?
DM: sometimes start by setting up a sound and sequence on a modular. Either that or I find a beat I like, or some chords. On a modular, however, your sound/sequence can evolve into some thing completely different. It may Start as a blip and end up as seven VCOs modulating each othei; then shoved into a ring modulator before being passed through another modulac. It's a very open way of working.

FM: How did the collection start?
DM: Because of my health! I actually became diabetic and couldn't drive for a time, so rather than travelling to R&S every day to work, I decided to buy my own gear. I got a mixer; 16-track, OAT, etc., and bought synths that were cheap and available: a jupiter 4, a jen string machine and a TR-BOB.

I also found a Greengate DS:4 sam pler but without a manual. By chance, I called Music Control and asked if they had one, and John Molloy, the guy on the phone, said, "Of course I do, I wrote it!" He sent me a manual, the latest soft ware and a list of stock. A Fairlight CMI lix caught my eye and I travelled over to check it out. Needless to say, I came back with it, as well as an ARP 2600 and a Prophets. I was hooked! This was all maybe 10 years ago.

FM: Do you have any advice for people starting out collecting gear?
DM: Just get anything cheap and use it! Stanley kubrick's advice to young film makers was, "Get a camera and some film and make a movie." I see synths as technology used to make music. Fortu nately they can be glorious artifacts in their own right!

FM: What are your favourites?
DM: The ARP 2600, ARP 2500, Buchla 200, MiniMoog and my Fairlights. If someone built a modern equivalent of the Fairlight - a system with keyboard, sampling and sequencing (of various sorts) all in one - I'd get it straight away. I know it exists in theory, but I want it with the Fairlight's way of working; everything tied in properly with help pages and no crashes! Anyone who's worked on a Series II probably knows what I mean. You switch it on and start making music.

FM: You love old outboard as well as synths. Any favourites there?
DM: love my EMT 140 plate reverb, it cant be beaten for certain things! There's a nice early EMT digital reverb and a Dynacord Vocoder (a rebadged Synton). I have a 1963 Klein & Hummel Valve EQ which sounds superb and a Roland SPH-830 phaser.

However, my absolute favourite is the ex-Kraftwerk MCI mixer, from their Kung Klang studios. I just feel so smug thinking they used it to write some of my favourite tunes and now I can use it on my tracks. The only other thing I would dearly love is an ex-Tangerine Dream Mellotron!

FM: How does the vintage stuff corn pareto using new gear?
DM: The DX? comes through a mix like nothing else, and nothing can beat a 2600 kick for pure violence! The main advantage of modular stuff is that I can use it for sounds or for processing. Also the hands-on approach ofanalogue still lends itself to electronic music. But I expect there are 16-year-olds out there with computers packed full of soft synths and plug-ins, and they are the next gen eration of sonic manipulators.

FM: What's your stance on modern gear, are you totally against it?
DM: No! For example I'd love a KYMA sys tem and beside my Series Ill Fairlight, I have a Yamaha A5000 sampler. Modern synths I'm not so impressed with. They all try to do too much. I'm not multitasking ready, I'm afraid. Give me a juno for a bass, a couple ofARPs for sounds, an BOS for beats and a Prophet for chords and I'm off. The virtual synths I've checked out sounded surprisingly good,

FM: Where do you find room for all your gear?
DM: By having a very chilled girlfriend and a garage at my parents'. Seriously, it's a problem, especially with mixers; I seem to have accumulated five or six of them! But since a week ago I now have the lux ury of two rooms for my studio, so l can actually walk around in there.

FM: Would you ever sell anything from your collection?
DM: sold my TB-303 because the prices being paid were silly and I only used it once in a blue moon. I really don't regret that. I do regret selling my jupiter 4, as I made 'Evolution' for Apollo Records on it, and that's one of my favourite early songs.

Right now, I'm buying cheap stuff! Cru mar pianos, crappy organs, string machines, Wersi synths, Bohm stuff. They are fun, undervalued and musically valid. Also with two kids, a studio and a flat to feed, I'm afraid the big toys are out of my league for the minute (but just for the minute)! FM

You can find out more about Morley's forthcoming MiniMoog sample CD at and keep up to date with his latest projects at

Originally appeared in the June 2002 issue of Future Music