Modular Icons: Artist & Synth Spotlight

In May 2019, industry giant Native Instruments released Modular Icons, a sound library featuring a plethora of legendary, iconic modular synthesizers with sounds created by some of the world’s most respected musicians and sound designers. Since that time, much of our energy was devoted to the opening of our new Moogseum, but as we approach the end of the year we wanted to pause and feature each artist and modular that is included in this unique soundbank.

Sixty percent of the proceeds from Modular Icons is donated to the Bob Moog Foundation to help support our important work. You can purchase modular icons here: http://bit.ly/ModularIcons. We will be featuring one Icon every week for the rest of the year,

Steve Porcaro: Custom Polyfusion Modular

About Steve

Steve Porcaro’s love of the synthesizer gave TOTO’s music a unique voice and helped to cement the synthesizer’s place in rock history. He was born into a musical family with a session drummer for a father, flautist mother and brothers that would take up drums and bass. His childhood home was full of classical & jazz music as he began taking piano lessons at age four. Once he saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, like so many others, his path was forever changed, and like many synth players, an Emerson, Lake & Palmer concert focused Steve into the world of modular synthesis.

When his dad, Joe, worked on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, Steve met conductor Marty Paich, and his son David, who would become his partner in crime and keyboard teammate in a band they’d form called TOTO.

Steve’s career became increasingly prolific in the late 1970s / early 1980s with co-writing and touring opportunities. While many know that he wrote or co-wrote several songs for TOTO, including “Takin’ It Back”, “Hydra”, and “It’s A Feeling” (off Grammy-winning Toto IV), he also performed and arranged songs on hit albums such as Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, Earth Wind & Fire’s I Am, Boz Scaggs’ Middle Man, as well as records by Hall & Oates, Don Henley, Brothers Johnson, Heart, Donna Summer, Al Jarreau … and the list goes on, as well as participating in the landmark charity recording “We Are the World”. His most well-known contribution to pop music may be his composition, written with John Bettis, “Human Nature”, a #7 Top 40 hit from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which was later recorded by Miles Davis to the delight of Steve and his dad. It was sampled in 1993 by SWV for a song called “Right Here (Human Nature remix)” reaching #2 Pop and #1 Soul for seven weeks.

Steve left TOTO as full-time member in 1987 to focus on his own compositions and recordings, mainly for film & TV.

Steve released his first solo album working with Michael McDonald and others, on one song resurrecting and completing an early 1980s recording that featured Mike & Jeff, who had both passed away by this time.

In last ten years Steve has continued the musical family tradition by working with his daughter Heather on her 2011 debut and scoring music for the TV show, Justified. He’s also rejoined TOTO as a full-time member, singing lead on “The Little Things” from Toto’s XIV album as well as playing on their international 40 Trips Around The Sun tour in 2018-19.

Steve has been playing Moog synthesizers since the early ‘70s, had a longtime friendship with Bob Moog, and has been a big supporter of the Bob Moog Foundation, including having performed at its fundraising gala, and donating sounds to Spectrasonics Bob Moog Tribute Library.

Modular Icon Background

For Modular Icons, Steve Porcaro helped create sounds from his iconic 1979 Polyfusion modular systems Ramses and Ophelia, which he used both touring around the world and in the studio with TOTO.

Having been used in 1982 to create most of the FM timbres on Toto IV, the system was being restored by synthesizer tech Jim Soloman in Charlotte, NC, and we were able to travel the short distance from Asheville, NC to visit. Jim worked very closely with Steve to create and sample sounds from the legendary system for the Modular Icons project, and got some extra help as well, as he explains here:

“It was difficult for me to work over Skype with Steve because there are so many things to tweak when designing a patch.  As an example, I just wasn’t getting the desired effect Steve was going for during one Skype session.  After the session, I had a brainstorming session with my partner, Jammie Logan, and he was able to help me tweak the sound into something Steve was going for.  I sent the sample to Steve and he said it was much better and then asked us to add a few more things.  Seeing how I was struggling a bit – in order to try and get the best patches we could, Ron Folkman (Designer of the Polyfusion Modular/Current Owner of Polyfusion Electronics) flew Matt Baxley (Moot Booxle) into Charlotte to help with the rest of the patches.”

This collaboration lead to the following patches from the soundbank (found on the “Sound Sources” page from the product):

Brass Skool Polyfusion System (Steve Porcaro)
1975 Horns Polyfusion System (Steve Porcaro)
FM Radio Polyfusion System (Steve Porcaro)
Growth Pad Polyfusion System (Steve Porcaro)
Sawland Polyfusion System (Steve Porcaro)

If you want to get another glimpse at Steve’s Polyfusion setup, buy a copy of Jellyfish’s 1993 album Spilt Milk. On the inside photo there is Steve’s keyboard amid all of the other studio gear. The band rented it specifically for that photo shoot.

Many thanks to Steve, Jim, Ron, Matt, and Jamie for their support of this project!

Jean-Michel Jarre: Custom Moog Modular

For the past four plus decades, Jean-Michel Jarre has been one of music’s most prolific and influential electronic composers and performers, with 80 million albums sold, three Guinness World Records for largest outdoor performances, and often referred to as the “Godfather of Electronic Music”. He has become known for his use of vintage and contemporary synthesizers in his compositions, his highly experiential outdoor concerts, and his use of new technology as it launches (such as projection surfaces, large scale laser mapping, and 3D audio technology for music). Of his 2017 Coachella performance, Entertainment Today wrote, “…“Jarre, [is] no stranger to extravagant live productions…This Frenchman was doing EDM before they even named the genre.”

For the Modular Icons sound bank, Jean-Michel recorded patches from his prized custom Moog Modular in his studio in Paris. Jarre also used this modular on his highly influential 1976 release Oxygène, which has been described as having “led the synthesizer revolution of the Seventies” and sold over 15 million copies. He shared a strong connection with Bob Moog, which developed over decades and which he discusses in the upcoming documentary about Bob’s sonic journey, Electronic Voyager. On stage he can be seen using a Memorymoog as one of his main keyboards, which he has listed as one of his top ten favorite synths.

Jean-Michel’s sounds were featured on the following Modular Icons patches (from the Modular Icons Sound Sources page):

Organ PluckCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Alien DroneCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Mono GlideCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Iterative FXCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Modular FXCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Engine in GCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Bode LayerCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Sharp BassCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Lead for MistressCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
For Brassy SeqCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Lead SeqCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Bass NoisyCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Brassy BassCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Sub OneCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Sub El TauroCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Dusty LeadCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)
Epic BrassCustom Moog Modular (Jean-Michel Jarre)

Merci bien, Jean-Michel, for your generous participation in Modular Icons, and for your support of the Bob Moog Foundation!

You can purchase Modular Icons here: http://bit.ly/ModularIcons.

One Response to “Modular Icons: Artist & Synth Spotlight”

  1. Guy Cooper

    A fa n of JMJarre for over 40 years, a leader in synth music and shows!

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