The Horrors are without doubt one of the UK’s most respectable musical exports of the past few years. The critics agree — The Guardian recently referred to them as “light years ahead of the current guitar-band pack” and they’ve been causing a stir since their first shows in 2005. NME reported on their packed July 2006 gig at The 100 Club in London, from which they were apparently “smuggled out of the building… for fear of being mobbed”, and their debut single was listed in indie tastemaker Pitchfork’s ‘top music videos of 2006’ chart.
It sounds really great, and it’s simple to use. What can I say? It’s a wonderful machine!
May 2014 saw the release of their fourth studio album, Luminous. We caught up with Tom Furse, keyboards and synth player for the band in their East London rehearsal and recording space, which is also home to Tom’s impressive synthesizer collection, and which also acts as guitarist Joshua’s workshop where he modifies and creates pedalboards.
Tom first fell in love with the sound of synthesizers during the early studio sessions with The Horrors. His first synth was the Korg MS20, but, as he explains, “the synth that I really cut my teeth on was the Yamaha CS30 – it was a real challenge, probably the most complicated mono-synth I think ever got designed! At first I couldn’t get anything out of it apart from stupid sounds. But eventually I really got my head around it and then everything else was a breeze.” From there, Tom caught the synth bug, and “got into all kinds of synths and went a little bit crazy, probably a little bit overboard! But I reigned it in recently, and now I have more focus. It’s less about the lust and more about ‘okay, what do I actually need? What do I wanna do?’”
Through his love for analogue synthesizers and after seeing various reviews, Tom’s attention soon turned to the Novation Bass Station II. The feature that immediately stuck out for him was the power over USB - “there’s something so great about just having one cable. You can plug in, and it works great as a synth and a controller as well, so it’s a great all-in-one controller mono-synth.”
“Also I thought the filters sound really great. There are some weird, very musical resonances coming out which I haven’t really heard in other filters before. And also the fact that it felt very flexible, in that it can be quite sweet sounding or very aggressive very quickly. That’s something I haven’t really seen in a lot of synths. I can get really nasty and aggressive if I want to, all within the synth, and not having to drive it through other stuff, so that’s pretty cool."
Tom recently took the Bass Station II along to a ‘Krautrock Karaoke’ night in London, an event where musicians get together and play various Krautrock songs requested and voted for via social media. “I just had a nice live patch set up, and I could just go crazy with the aftertouch modulation if I wanted to.”
The Bass Station II also made an appearance at a synthesizer workshop for a homeless shelter that Tom took part in over the Christmas period, where a few synthesizers were set up and people were invited to come and try them out. “A lot of people said ‘I can’t do any of this!’, but I managed to convince them with the Bass Station II – I just set up an arpeggiator and let them fiddle around with it. Some guys didn’t want to leave, and one guy even said to me ‘I’ve got to get my shit sorted out just so I can buy one of these!’ It sounds really great, and it’s simple to use. What can I say? It’s a wonderful machine!”
Aside from The Horrors, Tom has a side project under “Tom Furse” which he continues to write for as a form of relaxation in his spare time. The Horrors’ fourth studio album “Luminous” was released on XL Recordings on 5th May 2014 and charted at no.6 in the UK album charts, and the band will be playing some festival dates followed by tours across Europe and America.