“I like to find weird stuff that’s mad rare”: Inside Carter Lang’s overflowing hardware haven
The five-time Grammy-nominated producer lifts the lid on his burgeoning LA home full of rare vintage gear and tells us how he navigates a studio session with the likes of Rihanna or Chance The Rapper
Carter Lang in his studio. Image: Nate Guenther
Carter Lang, the prolific Post Malone, Doja Cat, Lil Nas X producer and the man behind SZA’s Ctrl, points at his kitchen counter. “I got a little space right here,” he says. It’s the only living space left in his house that’s not fallen victim his music gear obession.
It really is wild. He’s sacrificed 90 per cent of his LA-based home for swathes of instruments and studio gear. We’re aghast as he shows us, pacing around the space, passing stacked synths, towers of effects units and cables snaking throughout the house like it’s some sort of hacker’s hideout. The craziest thing is – the studio wasn’t even meant to be in the house in the first place.
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“The story of the spot is,” he begins, “I found this place to rent three years ago.” The house was airy and bright, he tells us – just what Carter was looking for.
He walks across the driveway to where his actual studio is in the external shed/garage: “I turned the shed into a super studio with tons of synths. I tried to max out the patch bay and make it user-friendly. I built a little booth that never gets used and put my old high school drum kit in there. So, this was the space where I’d cook up for a while. The gear overflow was imminent, so I started putting stuff in my house.”
Carter Lang gained recognition for his significant contributions to SZA’s acclaimed 2017 album Ctrl. His journey began in Chicago’s thriving R&B/Hip-Hop scene, where he collaborated with artists from the Savemoney collective and Chance The Rapper. Trained in classical piano and bass guitar, he expanded his horizons during his time at Loyola University New Orleans, where he was exposed to diverse musical influences.
Back in his LA home, Carter recalls a period when he was really into collecting guitars, mentioning his beloved Hofner bass. That “kick”, as he calls it, then transformed into vintage rack delays from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
It was just the start of Carter Lang’s vintage gear haul, however. “I like to find weird, funky stuff that might not be uber expensive but is mad rare,” he says. “The research leads me to those things. I love to geek out on that. It’s all about having unique pieces that inspire creativity.”
Carter recently acquired a chunky, vintage Mirano echo chamber, he proudly reveals. He also shows off a Scottish-made eight-track drum machine called Bandmaster, which gives you pre-recorded “weird disco beats and grooves” in the form of chunky tapes. There’s also a delicious-looking OpAmp Labs mixer.
The wall to wall collection of hardware doesn’t go unused, we must add, unless it’s broken. Truly dedicated to his craft, a usual day sees Carter move from room to room, figuring out which combinations of gear achieve the coolest results. He creates microsetups with a vision for the future, using his house as a test bed in which to experiment with and create a setup he could integrate into a proper studio.
“It becomes like this tower – even my coffee table got taken over!” He laughs, showing us an unstable stone tower of electronic studio gear slabs. “That’s like my space station of sorts. I keep stacking stuff on top of each other.
“Some gear should be stationary on the wall: you set it up and forget about it – EQs, compressors, and other boring things that don’t make noise. The fun gear, you want to move around.” He refers to a big modular synthesizer unit that can be wheeled around like a sofa. “Different instruments should have that ability without needing a patch bay. Sometimes you just want to break the rules and go direct. It doesn’t have to be super clean.”
The Chicago-born producer and songwriter isn’t just some mad scientist bouncing alone from room to room searching for a sonic formula. He’s a keen collaborator, having worked with the likes of Rihanna, Doja Cat and Mac Miller to just scratch the surface, and enjoys inviting artists to his home. In recent times, those artists have been the likes of Omar Apollo and Post Malone. In fact, Post’s track Sunflower, featuring rapper Swae Lee, was co-written and co-produced by Lang, featured on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and is now close to three billion streams on Spotify.
“Getting to work with Omar Apollo on his Ivory record was eye-opening. There was a special bond between Omar and I. He’d just plop down on the couch and we’d write these records together.
“It’s a privilege. Sometimes, you know, when you’re in a situation like that, you’re going to look back on it, and things are never going to be the same,” he says with a serious tone. “We have the opportunity to keep those things going with our friends, you know, with SZA, with Omar, with Post. These are things that are not one and done. We’re changing. We’re growing, and we’re allowing new relationships and new opportunities to come into our lives. And we deserve that for each other. That’s why we do it, you know?”
“For me, it’s about making the experience comfortable and memorable for the artist,” Carter says. “It’s not about showcasing what I can do but creating a fun and enjoyable atmosphere.
“I like to sit down with others and write together rather than having everything pre-prepared. It’s essential to let people experiment and have fun. You also need to know when to stop without being dismissive. It’s about giving space to let creativity flow naturally.”
Carter Lang is still pacing around his house as he speaks, excitedly showing us whichever pieces of studio gear might be noteworthy. He clearly doesn’t get to nerd out to this extent too often.
Constantly working away, seeing how to achieve a unique sound by combining his wealth of meticulously researched rare gear in his chaotic cave, it’s clever to see that Carter Lang didn’t get three billion streams and five Grammy nominations by twiddling his thumbs.
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