New York-based pop-rock band Cobra Starship recently returned to the studio after more than a year of touring and promotion in support of their third album Hot Mess, which reached #4 on Billboard’s Top 200, to complete their as-yet untitled follow-up. Both on the road and in the studio, Korg synthesizers and beat-making products play a big part in songwriting and production and help define the band’s danceable sound.
The microKORG Synthesizer Vocoder has long been a feature of Cobra Starship releases and live performances, contributing bass lines, spacey backgrounds, strings and other sounds, in addition to prominent vocoder effects. “The microKORG will always be one of my favorites,” reports band guitarist/keyboard player and co-founder Ryland Blackinton. “We've used a lot of the bass synths on our records as well as some of the arpeggiators.” “Pleasure Ryland” from the band’s 2008 album ¡Viva La Cobra! serves as a particularly good example of the versatility of the microKORG, which was used to layer everything from Funkadelic-like bass synth to atmospheres to vocoder on the track.
Blackinton’s current rig also includes the Korg R3 synth. “The microKORG had been really good to me. The R3 Synthesizer Vocoder was what I picked next, and it's a perfect size for touring. I like the full-size keys and the XLR input for the vocoder microphone. The LED backlit knobs also make editing parameters a lot easier.”
As for beats, Blackinton reveals that a Korg drum machine from the 1980s (the DDD5) can be heard on some Cobra Starship songs, as well as some current products, “We use a lot of samples from the KAOSSILATOR for transitions, and I love the digital toms.”
Ideal for a band that writes and produces during travel and downtime while touring, Blackinton notes that in particular, iPad® apps such as the Korg iElectribe beatbox and the iMS20 virtual analog synthesizer are crucial writing tools: “Both the iMS20 and iElectribe are useful for producing in tight quarters like planes or buses. They both sound great at loud volumes too, which a lot of the other iPad synthesis apps don't.”
Despite the appeal of apps, to Blackinton, there’s also an allure to some Korg hardware products: “I recently played an SV-1 , which was really impressive. I always think that MIDI/VST electric keyboards and clavs sound so lame – the SV-1 sounds very realistic!”