Show Off Your Studio: Marc Romboy’s illuminated studio is packed with rare synths
With a new release on the way and a brand new studio, the revered German DJ and producer lets us into his synth wonderland.
Marc Romboy has been producing and DJing for over two decades, playing to thousands of people around the world, releasing on influential electronic music labels such as Kompakt, 20:20 Vision and more. He also founded Systematic Recordings in 2004, which his latest project Empath/Bluethner will be released on, come 7 May.
After hearing he’s built a new studio and also re-releasing his project with Stephan Bodzin, Luna (The Original Collection), we were keen to explore his futuristic workshop and learn more about his synth-filled wonderland.
Tell us a bit about the newly-built studio, Marc.
My studio is situated in my home town Mönchengladbach, Germany. It’s inside a brick and stone building that’s over 100 years old, and there are thick, three-meter-high walls that help with the acoustics. I have no direct neighbours so I can pump up the volume from time to time. I found this place by accident and have a feeling that I have finally arrived at my perfect capsule.
How do you use your studio?
I make everything from scratch here in my studio. Most of the time, I start with a live jam which is easy, thanks to my buddies, my hardware synths and effect units. I recently made my first live recording session with the fantastic percussionist Rhani Krija, who has collaborated with Sting for more than 20 years. The mixed vibe between the synths and his soulful playing so soulful was a unique experience.
Which DAW do you use?
I only use Ableton Live and I’m upgrading from Live 10 to 11. I already have the Live 11 beta tester and I love the new features they have added. Live is simply my DAW. I worked with Cubase between 1991 and 2004 and I still like it, but Live is better for me when it comes to actualising my intention. Also, the Max-For-Live apps are always giving me inspiration.
You have a ton of gear and synths. How do you avoid choice paralysis?
With my experience and knowledge of which kinds of sound I can pull out of a box, there is no problem in choice at all. I’m happy that I can choose from so many different sources and it’s fun to alternate. However, I can only say this because I’ve been doing this for a while. I recommend all beginners to start with just one or two synths and dive into them.
What’s your process when making drum beats? Do you layer sounds from different drum machines?
It’s always different but I love to record original patterns from the old machines like the Roland TR-808, TR-909, Oberheim DMX or LinnDrum LM-2. I love each of their grooves and the fact that I can record something awesome into my DAW. I also collect drum machines and love to mix different ones into a single kit.
What synth or effect can be heard the most on your new release Luna (The Original Collection)?
Luna contains almost all tracks Stephan Bodzin and I have ever made together and I think it’s no huge surprise that we have used several Moog and Wasp sounds a lot. But we have also used plug-in sounds from the likes of Arturia and Native Instruments, plus several apps from IK Multimedia.
What is your favourite piece of gear?
The last synthesizer I would give away if I’d had to is the Minimoog. I love the warm sound, its simplicity on the panel and the novelty. I have made everything with it – basslines, pads, melodic sounds and percussive things. I love it!
What atmosphere do you try and create in the studio and how does the studio environment help you with your creativity?
My synthesizers are my friends and the only thing I need is that nothing and no one disturbs me so that we are on our own. My advice: Leave the smartphone out of the studio and the workflow will increase massively (laughs). I know it’s sometimes difficult but it’s a great thing to do. Besides this, I have installed several Philips Hue light sources everywhere in the room so that I’m able to change the mood of the room.
What’s been the biggest investment in your studio? Was it worth it?
The biggest investment was, without any doubt, the room treatment and this was the best decision I ever made. I had the fortune to be introduced to Dennis Busch by ACE Akustiks which was a bullseye. He could feel exactly what I needed in order to hear my music in the best way. When we had the first listening session in my new studio, I was really blown away as I recognised my music in a new and more sophisticated manner.
If you were left on a desert island, what one item would you take with you to make music with forever?
This is a really easy one. I would take my Devil Fish modded Roland TB-303 with me and please allow me to take my headphones with me as well. The first piece of gear I bought at the beginning of the 90s was my TB-303 and I remember sitting all night on my futon bed twiddling the knobs on my new silver box. I felt like I was in heaven because, prior to that, I always asked myself where those acid house heroes like Phuture and Adonis had these alien-like sounds from. I felt like the king of acid land (laughs).
What is next on your shopping list studio-wise?
I would love to have an AKG BX-20 to experiment more with reverb sounds in bigger rooms. Also, the Erica Synth SYNTRX has made me extremely snoopy but I think I could pull my socks up! Some bigger speakers are on my list but this will take some time.
What is your dream piece of gear?
It’s more of a romantic thing, but I would like to have the Movement MCS drum computer Dave Stewart used in the video of Eurythmics´ Sweet Dreams. The Fairlight CMI sampler is something I would love to own one fine day. But as I mentioned, it’s just for fun reasons and not really to create better productions.
Do you have any frustrations with your current set-up?
Getting everything audio- and MIDI-connected is still a great challenge and a lifetime project. Thankfully, my mate Jürgen Driessen who refurbishes old synths supports me a lot.
What is your top piece of production advice?
Be a child when you make music and don’t try to copy other artists or jump on trend bandwagons.
What is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting out building a studio?
First, treat your room. Once it’s ready, then you can think about getting synths or fancy speakers!
Marc Romboy ‘Empathy / Bluethner’ is released 7 May on Systematic Recordings. Stephan Bodzin & Marc Romboy – Luna (The Original Collection) will be released in 2021.
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