Dave Smith interviews artist Justin Melland on his experience using the DSI Prophet 6 and OB-6.
Multiple award winning film composer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Justin Melland primarily works in the demanding world of film and television, creating refreshingly inventive scores at his studio The Eleventh Laboratory, in Los Angeles, California. Recent projects Justin has scored are Dark Net (Showtime), Water and Power (Sundance, 2017), The Force (Sundance, 2017), Parched (Jigsaw and National Geographic, 2017), Extremis (Tribeca, 2016), Belief (Own/Discovery, 2015), In Football We Trust (Sundance, 2015), The Kill Team (Tribeca, 2014), The Redemption of General Butt Naked (Sundance, 2011), and Life 2.0 (Sundance, 2010).
We chatted with Justin about how he’s using the Prophet-6 and OB-6.
“I chose the Prophet-6 when I was heading into Dark Net (Showtime) season 1. Because I have to write so fast as a film composer, I was attracted to its MIDI capabilities and fantastic sound. It was very important to me to be able to track many parameters at once via MIDI and have it play back the same way every time. Then I could use it like a hardware plugin with a huge expressive range and a sound that is far better than anything I could make with software. Once I got hooked on this method of writing, the OB-6 came out, so I bought that as well for the same reasons. I do want to be clear though, the main reason for wanting these synths was because they sound awesome. But I allowed myself to get them because I could easily integrate them into the insane pace that I work at.”
How are you using them?
“I use them to write film scores in my studio in LA. They are part of my growing synth laboratory that is designed to integrate with Logic, so that I can write all my parts with high-quality analog synths and have them all able to track at the same time. I’ll write 3 to 6 different synth lines for a piece (each on different synth), but I don’t usually commit them to audio until the whole thing is written. This way I can make changes while I’m coming up with the piece and make sure everything is working to picture. It’s basically large-scale composing in real time. The OB-6 and Prophet-6 are used on eighty percent of everything I write for Showtime’s Dark Net, Jigsaw and National Geographic’s Parched, and the two Sundance films I scored this year Water and Power, Produced by Alex Gibney, and The Force, by director Pete Nicks. I also enjoy recording live modular and keyboard pieces and posting them on my YouTube channel.”
What are some of your favorite things about the Prophet-6 and OB-6?
“I love the sound of them. I love it when they’re clean and huge, heavy, modulated, and insane, when they’re pulsing and dramatic, and I love it when they’re being a high-end supportive pad. They’re wonderful tools. One of my favorite ways to take the OB-6 into the land of the bizarre is to heavily modulate various parameters in the Cross Modulation section. I feel the same way about both synths, but one thing that is very special about the OB-6 is that I can very easily take it into that iconic SEM sound when I need to have that vibe, but I can also sculpt it into something very modern and unidentifiable, which is what I have to do a lot when working in Hollywood. Sometimes you want to sound iconic, and other times very otherworldly. These synths can come with me to both places.“
What do they give you that other instruments might not?
“The MIDI implementation of both synths is the best I’ve come across. It’s why I paid the extra money to have one of each. Also, the obvious thing: one is an authentic Prophet and the other is an authentic Oberheim. They are perfect versions of what they claim to be. They are not just ‘Prophet and Oberheim inspired.’ I have much less interest in imitation products like that.”
Any interesting tricks or techniques you’d like to share?
“The best thing I can say about learning these synths, is that one should really get into them. Listen to all the things that they can do, and how you can tailor them to fit your needs. Don’t get stuck trying to make one sound like another. Get into what these things sound like, and watch how great things start to get very quickly. Also, the more you know about synthesis, the more you can really use these things like the incredible tools they are. We are in such a great time for synthesizers. I commend DSI for bringing all the advancements of modern technology and functionality to truly beautiful synths so that they can function in a high-energy modern music studio.“