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5 more artists that loved their gear so much they named themselves after it

Aug 31, 2023

It's all here: teenagers rioting, pitches being shifted, modes being selected, and Dom's Roland sampler

When we wrote the first of these features a few weeks ago, little did we know how inspiring it would be. You answered in your droves (almost double figures) with more suggestions…

Naming your act after a piece of music gear buys you longevity in this increasingly fickle world of music

…most of which we ignored. Instead, rather than lazily copy your ideas into another feature, we have, totally by ourselves, come up with another completely original list of artists who named their acts after their favourite music gear. Or in one case, a kind of music production process. Oh, and another which was named after a feature on a piece of gear. But you get the idea.

And the weirdest of things – and this was by no means intentional – is that all of our chosen acts started out in the same decade and are all still making music.

So if nothing else, we now know that naming your act after a piece of musical equipment (or very common production process) does buy you longevity in this increasingly fickle world of music.

(And if you're thinking about doing it, we've already registered 'Bontempi Organ' as our band name, so hands off that one.)

Anyway, where better to start than with the letter 'A' for 'Atari'?

With a reputation and history that includes political protests, arrests, the death of a founder member and recording with Rage Against the Machine, Atari Teenage Riot are everything the original Atari computer – used to make so much music in the late 80s and early 90s – was not.

We're not sure how or why these teenage rioters linked up with the Atari – and are frankly too scared to ask

Put it this way, you wouldn't introduce ATR to your parents, but you might show your mum and dad your 1040ST slickly running Cubase one minute and The Secret of Monkey Island the next.

So we're not sure how or why these teenage rioters linked up with the Atari – and are frankly too scared to ask. What we do know and like is that they reportedly got such a big record contract advance they decided to set their own label up with the cash and release music through it, surely a contributing factor as to why they are apparently still going and achieved so much in that time.

Over the 30 years since signing on the dotted line they have toured with everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Moby and made more political statements than just about any other band in existence.

We're not going to admit to knowing which ATR track is best as we've been messing around with Cubase for the last 30 years (and playing Dungeon Master) but Start The Riot is widely regarded as one of them.

Modeselektor didn't just name themselves after a piece of gear but after a function from the iconic Roland Space Echo tape delay. How cool and geeky is that? Well, we love it.

He said that we are the reason that he started DJing and likes dance music

Like Atari Teenage Riot above, they are another set of electronic music producers from Berlin, and even formed around the same time in the early 90s. However they perhaps couldn't be more different in sound (although they must have met, right?).

Modeselektor have since become somewhat iconic in the world of electronic music, working with another of our favourite artists Apparat to form the supergroup – and you'll like this – Moderat (which is almost as good as McFly and Busted's McBusted). They've also collaborated with Thom Yorke and other artists including Anti Pop Consortium and Maximo Park.

They told Clashmusic.com in 2011, “Thom told us that we explained to him, without words, what electronic music can do. He said we are the reason that he started DJing and likes dance music.”

The excellent album Monkeytown, which contains the results of this collaboration, is a great intro to Modeselektor's work. And if you get the chance, go and see them (or Moderat or Apparat, come to think of it) live.

Now which track from Monkeytown to choose? While the track Green Light Go with PVT is probably our personal favourite, we've got to go with the clicks, so it is Thom Yorke all the way. This is This.

Look, we make the rules right and while a pitch-shifter is not technically a piece of gear, it is a commonly used process used in everything from reel-to-reel tape recorders to Ableton Live. And if you don't like it… well you'd better not read on, as things get even more tenuous.

That album was written on Cubase on an Atari 520ST. It is is as much of a technical triumph as anything contained within the music

Anyway Pitchshifter are yet another electronic act who started in or around the 90s and are still around today. Over that time they have been changing their sound considerably, having started out with industrial metal (and heavily influenced by classic metal) and then dabbled with breakbeat, nu-metal and drum 'n' bass.

But it was the band's mid to late 90s period – it's that decade again – that won them the most success, especially with the track Genius from the album www.pitchshifter.com.

“That album was written on Cubase on an Atari 520ST, an SH-101 keyboard, HR drum machine, and two Akai S1000 samplers,” Pitchshifter told regenmag.com in 2020. “When you look at the tech, and all the manually edited work in the matrix editor for drum trills and glitches, etc. back then, that album is as much of a technical triumph as anything contained within the music.”

Compared, perhaps not unfairly, with The Prodigy, the track Genius was the highlight, appearing on not one but two video game soundtracks. And if you landed even one of those in the late '90s… well, you could take most of next century off. Which is exactly what they did.

Here's the genius of Genius.

You can guess the score by now, can't you? Bentley Rhythm Ace are *holds breath*, an electronic band who formed in the, guess what, '90s and are - you know it's coming - still around.

The Ace-Tone Rhythm Ace was one of the earliest drum machines, Ace-Tone became Roland and the rest is, well, Dom & Roland

Now we always got BRA mixed up with Pop Will Eat Itself and EMF and it turns out they all originated in Birmingham in the UK and hung out together, even sharing the occasional band member. So that explains that.

BRA – which looks like an airport destination but is another official name for the band – became synonymous with big beat in the 1990s and were even signed to Skint Records, surely the label to be signed to within that genre. Oh and if you don't know what big beat is, it was a bit like breakbeat but, well, bigger. And if you don't know what breakbeat is… Look we don't have time for this right now, okay?

BRA released an album of the longer name from which the single Bentley's Going to Sort You Out became the most famous. It is our rather obvious video choice, if only because it's one of those songs you hear and go, 'oh I thought Fatboy Slim did that'.

But before that, we almost forgot the gear connection! The Ace-Tone Rhythm Ace was one of the earliest drum machines, Ace-Tone became Roland and the rest is, well, Dom & Roland (see below).

By this time we're becoming quite amazed that all of our chosen acts started life in the 1990s. But, as we explained last time, we guess this was the time when DIY music making matured into something pretty attainable by all.

I remember thinking it sounded really good when I layered a kick on top of a snare. Like, a drummer wouldn’t play that

Still, so many bands naming themselves after their gear from the time was pretty excessive. Or just plain lazy. In the 80s, for example, stars had so much more imagination, usually naming themselves after royalty or religious icons (that's us pitching for another feature, by the way).

So to our last act and, no, Dom & Roland weren't two people (who would be stupid enough to think that?). And if they were two people then you would have easily thought that 'Roland' was named after another famous Roland (Orzabel, Emmerich or Browning, for example) so not eligible for inclusion here.

But no, this 'Roland' was the sampler (an S-760) owned by Dominic Angas who signed to another legendary 90s label Moving Shadow. He used that sampler – as many did in the late 90s – to take breakbeats to a whole new level, speeding them up and twisting them into a form of DnB that still hasn't outstayed its welcome.

Best track? We'll go for the title track of one of his classic albums, Thunder, from Industry. He says of this track here, "I was sort of experimenting with rhythms. I remember thinking it sounded really good when I layered a kick on top of a snare. Like, a drummer wouldn’t play that.”

These six didn't quite make the mark for pretty obvious reasons (but might do next time...)

Kraftwerk - who provide the power for your gear

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Plug – who channel that power

And finally, this trio of Korgs: Kronos Quartet, Oasis and Kylie Mino(lo)gue...

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Andy has been writing about music production and technology for 30 years having started out on Music Technology magazine back in 1992. He has edited the magazines Future Music, Keyboard Review, MusicTech and Computer Music, which he helped launch back in 1998. He owns way too many synthesizers.

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When we wrote the first of these features a few weeks ago, little did we know how inspiring it would be. You answered in your droves (almost double figures) with more suggestions…Read more: How Dom & Roland made IndustryThese six didn't quite make the mark for pretty obvious reasons (but might do next time...)