Will Gregory’s Synth Playlist

Will Gregory – one-half of electronic music duo Goldfrapp and lead performer of the eclectic Moog Ensemble, shares his top 5 synthesized music picks with Society of Sound.

1) John Carpenter – Escape from New York
All John Carpenter’s soundtracks were made by himself on analogue synthesisers and because the person making the films is making the music there’s a wonderful synchronicity between the music and the image and the instruments. The soundtrack is very basic, and simple but very atmospheric and characterful. The lines, all the sounds, are wonderfully chosen. Lean and tough and exciting. His “Assault On Precinct 13” is also iconic.

2) Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk were writing music that was all lines because there were then no polyphonic synths… no instruments that would play like a piano with lots of notes at once, so they had to be very careful about the lines they chose. Musically it’s wonderfully constructed: an example where the instruments have brought something to the music because of their limitations.

3) Giorgio Moroder – I Feel Love
One of the things these synthesisers had on board was an external control voltage that would determine pitch and the envelope or how fast the sound would happen … which enabled you to precisely sequence events. Suddenly, for the first time, this kind of mechanistic music could happen because you could impose an radically tight clock on the rhythm. It is the first time anyone had ever created this completely robotic and inhumanly groovy feeling. You can trace all “Electro” and “Techno” back to this song.

4) Vangelis – Blade Runner (Music from the Original Soundtrack)
Vangelis’s vision of some sort of terrible urban environment using these very evocative, long, morphing sounds. That’s an amazing score: an education for anybody who wants to write for film. The music and the sound effect roles are continually blurring and merging into each other …. A masterclass in sound design before the concept was even invented.

5) Gil Melle – The Andromeda Strain
This uses synthesisers as sound effects really, more like the Stockhausen approach, and it’s very purist because there is no traditional instrument there at all. Not even a traditional melody or pitch so it’s quite bleak and perfectly in synchronisation with this horrible virus that starts to infect everybody. It’s almost like an alien vision of music. I think that’s why composers for film have been allowed to explore the potentials for these instruments further than anybody trying to make pop music for example. Especially in SiFi, they’re allowed to hide behind the idea that we’re not supposed to understand the music because it comes from another world or some future vision. Makes for inspiring use of synths.

The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble – Undercurrents is available as a high-quality download from Society of Sound.


  • Patrick Butler says:

    Great list of music! Will Gregory should check out Walter Murch’s bio. Walter coined the term sound designer and his work on 1979’s Apocalypse Now was a seminal moment in the field.

  • Alen says:

    Have you listened to any of Larry Fast’s work (Synergy)? As an analog synth aficionado you must have. His first few albums use entirely analog synthesizers and the first album – Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra – is almost all Minimoog and Oberheim SEM (with a touch of Mellotron here and there), recorded, of course, one line at a time. ERFRO is a blend of rock and classical and uses unabashedly electronic sounds alongside orchestral imitations.

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