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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jun 2019 > HOWARD JONES


80s synth star Howard Jones is going back to his synth roots with his new album, Transform. He will also be taking it out live across the UK and USA, backed by cutting-edge live tech. We visit Howard and production partner Robbie Bronnimann to talk about the synth’s resurgence and modular temptation…

The legendary Howard Jones was one of the first wave of high-profile synth users. Throughout the 80s, he utilised the best in analogue technology to produce a string of hit singles and albums. He was a regular in the UK singles charts but, importantly, sold even more records Stateside, scoring Platinum sales with his second album Dream Into Action in both the US and Canada.

Since these heady times, he’s maintained a strong and healthy fanbase around the world. Howard’s new music is still hotly anticipated, selling tens of thousands of copies of his newer records and can even command the odd 35-date tour of the US, something that most current artists can only dream about.

For his new album Transform, Howard collaborated with US dance producer BT (who will be supporting him during the US dates), and he also teamed up with long-term collaborator Robbie Bronnimann, cementing an almost 20-year studio partnership. We head down to Robbie’s incredible Bristol-based Recognizer Studios to talk synth technology with Howard and Robbie.

From the joys of Omnisphere to the possibilities of modular, it’s certainly a great time to be making music with synths, we’re all agreed. The only problem being, as Howard laughs, you have to have access to more than one lifetime to enjoy it all…

MusicTech Hi guys, so how did you two first meet?

Howard Jones On the street, weirdly enough! Robbie had sent me some demos and I had written back to him saying I though they were brilliant. In fact, he now has that letter framed in his studio – it seems a bit patronising now! So I hadn’t actually met him, but had heard his demos, thought they were great, and then by chance I had just come out of a dentist in Maidenhead and Robbie was walking by. It was years after the letters – around the early 2000s – and was literally a total coincidence. I said: ‘Oh, you must come down to the studio,’ and that was it, we’ve been working together ever since. It’s weird, isn’t it… weird but true!

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About MusicTech

In this issue, we look ahead, and analyse two massively exciting innovations that are already fundamentally affecting the music-making and listening worlds. In our cover feature this month, we explore the history, science and music-production implications of virtual reality. VR headsets are becoming increasingly popular and with a wide range of music-themed VR applications available to buy or in development, we ask whether making music in virtual space will rival the traditional DAW-based method, and how composing with virtual reality in mind requires a whole new approach to mixing. Elsewhere, we explore the astounding new realm of hologram performance, speaking to those companies that have used modern optics technology to, in a sense, resurrect deceased musicians and send them back out to the live arena. We discuss the technology behind – as well as the ethical implications of – holograms. Also in this issue, we speak to the legendary Howard Jones, LA’s genre-defying Battle Tapes as well as video-game sound designer Matt Boch, who explains how, when working on the recent game Ape Out, he approached soundtracking in an incredibly unique way. We review the latest tech from Universal Audio, Elektron, EastWest and Korg and also bring you a buyer’s guide to turntables, should you want to try your hand at a spot of DJ’ing. I hope you enjoy the issue.