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Front 242 synths?

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:56 am
by Happyman
This is a fairly poor topic, I know, but I've enjoyed their music for many years and have recently been wondering what synths they used in the past. They always seemed to use the most metallic weirdly thin sounds available (Never Stop, Headhunter etc.) I'm assuming they used an Ensoniq ESQ 1 like most other industrial bands at the time but are there any more interesting ones?

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 4:34 am
by eskimo

[Q9] What gear do they use?
A9. While most of the information below is obsolete, it might give one a good impression of what they used or still use.
In 1991, the setup was as follows: [Rock This Town special issue 1991]

Sound studio: Analog Synths: Roland System 100/100M/101 (+Roland Midi interface MPU-101);YAMAHA CS-40M (in the Take One video); Oberheim Matrix 1000; Digital Synths: Yamaha DX-7 (2); Ensonic VFX; Roland DDR30; Yamaha tg77; Korg Wavestation; Sequencer: Atari 1040 (Sequ. Cubase 2.0); Samplers: AkaiS9000 (2); AkaiS1000 (8Mg + Hard Drive Mfile 44); AkaiS1000PB (4Mg); Emulator II; akai 1100, e-mu Procussion, roland s-10 for live use @ the mixing desk; Effects: Lexicon 480L; Yamaha SPX90 II (2); Roland SRV-2000; Roland SDE-3000; Alesis Midiverb II; Alesis Quadraverb; ART DRX; spx 1000 (x2); Eventide h3000 se; Mixing: Table TAC Scorpion 32/16; Recorder TASCAM MS16 tracks; Recorder DAT Luxman; Speakers Yamaha NS 10M pro ATC SCM50; QUAD ampli (for NS-10M); Diverse: compressor/limiter, noise gate, parametric eq.
Live: Backline: Akai S9000; Roland DDR30; Simons & Roland Pads; Emulator II; TASCAM238 8

Graphic Studio: Commodore Amiga 2500 (6Mg + Hard Drive 40Mg); Commodore Amiga 500; Digitizer SNAPSHOT; Camera Sony CCD V-200E; Laserprint NEC Silentwriter LC890; Monitor NEC Multisync 2A.

For the Re:Boot tour; it's rumoured they used Rebirth 1.0 evaluation and final edition and I saw a Nord Rack II virtual analog synth in Ternat. They use an Apple Powerbook to run the sequencer software on. On stage they use a custom made 7 string guitar, a Roland jp 8000 and the Roland virtual drums.

"We're working with two Nord Lead, a keyboard module and a modular module. We'll soon get a Z1 that will replace the Prophecy Korg; so we have a VL, Akai 3200, a Groovebox as many and Wavestations from time to time. Sometimes we switch on an old Oberheim, just to get an pure analogical sound, that's what we're touring with right now." [Patrick Codenys in an interview by Jocelyn Chappaz, Le Miroir d'Encre, 1998]

It's said that Up Evil was recorded on 48 tracks (mixing by Andy Wallace).

--I don't know how accurate that actually is.

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 4:45 pm
by gfriden
You might be able to identify some of the synths they used from this 1986
242 documentary:

I remember watching this one at a friend's place every afternoon for a whole month back in the day! :lol: Those American audiences look completely bewildered...

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 4:50 pm
by Analogue Crazy
They used a CS-40M early on.

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:57 pm
by Bitexion
I never like their 80's stuff, sounded too Depeche Mode-y.
But I totally love the stuff they did around Up Evil, Evil off, Tyranny for you, Reboot live. Guess I'm more into heavier stuff than light synthpop.

I wonder what triggered that massive change in their sound..was it progressively harder from album to album in the 80's? Or did they just suddenly switch to the ...Evil Off sound with distorted vocals and evil sounding synth riffs and nasty samples?

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:28 pm
by gfriden
Bitexion wrote:I never like their 80's stuff, sounded too Depeche Mode-y.

I must say I've never heard any similarities between early Front and Depeche. (Other than the obvious: both use synths, samplers & sequencers) Stylistically I find them quite different. Besides, as contemporaries, I doubt it one can meaningfully say one band sounded like the other...

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 9:00 pm
by Bitexion
Yeah, maybe I didn't hear enough of their oldest stuff. I have the albums as MP3. But I just couldn't force myself to listen through the entire Front by front album. Gimme 1993 heavy-rave-jungle-beat Front242 instead :)

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 9:27 pm
by haricots
You should check out Geography their first album from 82. It's my fav.

I was never a fan of their later stuff. I much preferred their earlier sound.

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:03 pm
by gfriden
Yeah, Geography is really great if alittle rough around the edges. Much of that album was recorded on a 4-track! This is the first track of that album:

Bitexion, most Front fans would, I believe, regard the Front By Front album as belonging to Front's middle or late period. They certainly never got poppier than this:

I agree, that is a bit Depeche-y. But surely this classic from 85 isn't!

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:35 am
by metrosonus
I really love that era in that last vid.. but the chanting gets a bit three stoogish or mark brothers in retrospect lol ha ha ho ho hee hee hawee.....

but, I love it. and the up evil alblum.

i think at their origins they were just minimal / dark synthpop. which makes sense you know they were just taking what they had and made it into something else.. but then later they were influneced by 2 unlimited of all people .lol

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:38 am
by Bitexion

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:25 am
by celebutante
So I'm not talking out my a*s, I'm only going to mention the stuff I know for sure:

Official Version/Front By Front: tons of DX7 (easy to recognize) and Emulator II (also easy to hear)... don't know what they used for analog... probably the CS40.

Tyranny For You: tons of Ensoniq VFX (that's what's doing all the big evil sounds, as well as the "twinky" noises up top; that's one patch!). You can hear DX7 (bass on Gripped By Fear), and surely they were still using Emulator II's (maybe updated to Emaxes or Akais).

Up Evil/Off: tons of Korg Wavestation, and the DX7's were updated to Yamaha TG77's. Drums are mostly E-mu Procussion, and by this time they had defnitely dumped the E-mu samplers for Akai S-1100's.

I saw them on the Up Evil tour, and Daniel B. just stood at a the mix board with a laptop running Cubase, with the Wavestation A/D, TG77, Procussion and S-1100.

Now for the interesting part...

Back in the early 90's, I worked for a company called Sound Source Unlimited. They were one of the big synth patch companies (used to have double page spreads in Keyboard mag). I managed to meet Daniel B. at that show, told him about the company, and I ended up trading him a bunch of patches. He gave me pretty much ALL of his soundbanks for DX7, TG77, Wavestation and VFX, so me and my fellow 242 fanatic at Sound Source had all their patches. We were pretty stoked! (my friend had a VFX and a TG77, and I had a Wavestation).


p.s. pleeeze don't ask me for the patches... they're on a Mac floppy someplace in a format I probably can't decipher now :>)

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 10:08 am
by killedaway
on a related note, i e-mailed a huge list of bands i wanted my brother-in-law to listen to, and here's what he e-mailed back:

"i listened to all the bands you sent me the other day. the ones i really liked are..."

"...the winner for the worst of all, was front 242. i didnt like them at all lol."

kids today... :wink: ...actually, he's older than me by a couple years, but now that i think about it, 242 can be a bit of an acquired taste. they flip-flop between aggressive and cheesy at the drop of a hat. 'course, that's why i like 'em!

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:50 pm
by factual35
I used to be a huge fan of 242 back when I was in high school. Not so much anymore, but I still think Tyranny is one of the best industrial/ebm albums of all time.

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:41 pm
by Micke
I just found this gearlist for Front 242's debut album "Geography" (1982):

Roland system 100 (101, 102, 104)
Roland system 100m
Roland MC-4
Roland tr-808
Yamaha cs-40m
Moog source
E-mu drumulator
Roland jupiter 4
Synton syrinx (I'm not really sure they used one on this album)

Live they additionally used a PPG Wave 2