Electronic pioneers: How to sound like The Chemical Brothers
Manchester bigbeat pioneers, The Chemical Brothers are responsible for bringing dance music to the mainstream in an incredibly cohesive and definitive fashion.
Few electronic artists have such influence with the range and depth of their style, while still being able to collaborate with top artists like Noel Gallagher, Tim Burgess, Beck, Q-Tip, The Klaxon, and Aurora.
How The Chemical Brothers developed their sound
Although they started small, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons became known for some of the most impressive electronic hardware workflows – both in studio and on stage.
Cubase VST 3
Although they used a combination of samplers and a Doepfer MAQ16/3 sequencer for synths, The Chemical Brothers completed their early album production on Mac running Cubase VST 3, Recycle, and Rebirth.
It might look archaic now, but it was very much an advanced DAW system at the time, offering powerful editing features and the versatility of early VST instruments and effects.
While they later moved on to Logic and Ableton Live for their live shows, Cubase is nevertheless an intrinsic part of the early Chemical Bros. sound.
Sampling happened on a collection of keyboard and rack samplers, including an AKAI X7000, an E-mu E64, and the AKAI S1000, S2800, and S3200XL. However, the MPC3000 was the central sequencer for the sample workflow.
The MPC3000 is a 16-bit 44.1 kHz sampler with up to 32MB memory and pro features like sync and timecode. It also provides powerful MIDI sequencing capabilities, for controlling external hardware.
Today, the AKAI legacy is very much alive and instruments like the MPC One are still versatile creative tools.
The Juno-106 was part of the early studio and stage setup for The Chemical Bros. Today, it’s the quintessential entry point into any vintage analogue synthesizer collection, with its simple controls and wide scope of sound creation possibilities.
Introduced in 1984, the 106 offers 6-voice polyphony with its stable, warm-sounding DCOs, 128-patch memory, MIDI, and the famous ultrawide Juno chorus effect.
As an alternative, the Behringer Deepmind 6 is also a lush-sounding 6-voice analogue synth with high-quality effects.
Octave The Cat
The Cat is a legendary analogue monosynth from the mid-70s, similar to the ARP Odyssey. It may look quite basic but the sound is so textured and full of character, and the Duophonic feature offers some interesting options.
A warm monophonic synth like this really suited the signature dance hooks that The Chemical Bros. became known for, complementing the hard-hitting tone of their drum sound perfectly.
Without paying vintage prices, the modern Behringer clone can produce similar results.
Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress Flanger
As a band, The Chemical Bros. is famous for effects production, using pedals and rack gear for crafting their outrageous drops and breakdowns, as well as processing instruments and vocals.
Useful on synth leads and stabs, as well as drum breaks, a flanger can create a range of rhythmic tonal and stereo effects that completely change the original sound or enhance and widen it more subtly.
EHX is still going strong, and the modern Stereo Electric Mistress is similar enough to the vintage model to achieve decent results.
What are your favourite pieces of gear used by The Chemical Brothers? Please let us know in the comments below!
More about The Chemical Brothers:
- Official page
- More sound-alikes
- Everything vintage
*Note: This article contains promotional links that help us fund our site. Don’t worry: the price for you always stays the same! We will receive a small commission if you buy something through these links. We appreciate your support!
- Steinberg Cubase VST 3: eBay
- AKAI MPC3000: RL Music
- Roland Juno-106: Doctor Mix / Youtube
- Octave The Cat: Matrixsynth
- Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress: pedalesdeguitarra.com