Name: Rodolfo Abrao Wehbba
Nationality: Brazilian
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Recent release: Wehbba's Dynamo EP is out now on Drumcode.

Tool of Creation: Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie
Type of Tool: Semi-modular synthesizer
Designed by: Behringer (clone of the legendary ARP 2600)
Country of origin: Germany
Became available in: 1971 (original ARP 2600) / 2020 (Behringer ARP 2600), 2021 (Gray Meanie)
Wehbba uses the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie on: “Strange Dreamz”

“First because it just oozes character, anything you do with it gets you something extremely useful, so just patching a triangle wave form into the preamp and driving the filter harder before cutting the high frequencies made such a powerful bass patch that it got me moving quite fast from the get go. Then the main stabs came from just a simple PWM patch, and using the S&H to trigger the envelope, creating those crazy repeats that give the sound its big character.“

If you enjoyed this interview with Wehbba about the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie and would like to explore his work in more depth, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.

We also recommend our earlier Wehbba interview, in which he expands on a wider range of topics.

W E H B B Λ · Wehbba - Dynamo [Drumcode]

What was your first encounter with the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie?

The Behringer 2600 is a hardware clone of a legendary design by the now extinct Arp manufacturer, the Arp 2600. My first interaction with it was in the form of a plugin, around 2004, with the first software emulation of the Arp 2600, from Arturia.

It was also my first contact with a semi modular tool, which blew me away. The fact I could shape the synth to do completely different things just by plugging a few cables was so exciting!

Just like any other piece of equipment, the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie has a rich history. Are you interested in it? And if so, what are some of the key points from this history for you personally?

The Behringer version is quite new, but the original design does have an immense history, which for a gear addict like me obviously is a huge deal. Just the fact that an instrument manufacturer would design something like this to be a learning tool for universities, etc … is such an amazing thing.

It’s basically like a time machine to how things used to be before digital technology took over, and how things seemingly naive nowadays were the groundbreaking tools that brought us to where we are now.

Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I think that what drew me the most to electronic music in general at first was the fact that it felt like it came from the future, and not only that, it was also leading us into the future at the same time. It felt free, because the sounds were so different than what pop or traditional music usually offered, and also the performances were so quirky and interesting, the arrangements so hypnotic. And by being free, this music offered expansion.

Most of the sonic evolutions that happened in music, overall, in the previous three to four decades seem to have been spawned from incorporating electronic music and electronic tools into more traditional styles.

The tools from the past still have a lot to offer, and I think they are the key to hooking people in while bringing up new sonic tool explorations to keep driving things forward.

What, to you, are some of the most interesting recordings made with the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie?

I’ve yet to hear the stuff that has been made with it, though I invite people to listen to my recent release on Drumcode “Strange Dreamz”, the baseline and the main stabs were all coming from this beauty, ha!

But the classic Arp2600 was responsible for many beloved records, everybody used it. Recently I saw seen a really cool video of Paul Hartnoll from Orbital describing his first experiences with it, and how it was used in one of my favourite tracks from them, “Belfast” …but there are tons of other examples when you start poking around.

But I guess the absolute most iconic use of it was as the voice of R2D2 from Star Wars. And it’s allegedly also a part of what makes the Darth Vader voice! How’s that for interesting?

What interests you about the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie in terms of it contributing to your creative ideals?

I just love the way that it has no presets, but everything is laid out in front of you easily so you can get a sound going quite fast, and the raw tone of the synth is superb! It’s sharp, fierce, smooth, round, aggressive, all at the same time.

So, if you dial in a very simple sound, it’s already gonna be useful to whatever you’re working on, but once you start fiddling with it, patching cables in weird places, you start to get some amazing things you wouldn’t expect, and off you go!

What are some of the stand-out features from your point of view?

I think the sound of the oscillators, the saturation of the filter, the snappiness of the envelope and the versatility of having 3 different envelope response speeds, the huge amount ion modulation possibilities, and the sliders.

I just love sliders to control parameters, to me they are more fun than knobs, and being able to have fun with a synth is a huge if not the main factor for me in choosing one.

Prior to using it for the first time, how did you acquaint yourself with the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie? Will you usually consult a manual before starting to work with a new device – and what was that like for the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie?

I read somewhere a long time ago that it’s a great exercise for our brain to start exploring a new tool without reading the manual, this way your brain starts to create those new neuro pathways, that are inherent to learning, a lot faster, and in the process you end up creating your own way of working with that particular tool. I totally clicked with that idea.

I believe also that’s what helps me build a sound of my own, even when working with different tools, since this approach allows my brain to lead the way, and not the tool.

But I am not against manuals and after a while doing my own explorations I will eventually get to the manual to unlock things I might have missed or even bring me new ideas on how to explore the new tool further. With the 2600 it was no different.

Tell me a bit about the interface of the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie – what does playing it feel like, what do you enjoy about it, compared to some of your other instruments?

Like I’ve just mentioned above, I really love the faders. (laughs) The throw on these is a bit shorter than on the original design, but I don’t feel it’s limiting in any sense. I also love that it’s like a wall of sound, you put it standing up in front of you and it feels empowering to work with.

I also like the strong raw tone it has, some synths you need to really work on your design to extract their full power, with this thing you put one fader up and the wow factor is already there.

How would you describe the sonic potential of the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie?

It’s pretty much endless. You can even make it do paraphony, since you can sequence the oscillators individually, you can use frequency modulation in everything so you can make extremely modern sounds as well as super vintage tones.

There’s an old book form the original Arp2600 with a list of patches that “emulate” physical instruments, which is really fun to explore, and you can try those out in the BARP - that’s how I affectionately call it here in the studio.

In which way does the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie influence musical results and what kind of compositions does it encourage / foster?

I think it’s actually pretty plastic, in the sense that it can lend itself to a wide range of outcomes. You can’t really say it influences the end result in any particular way, rather it can lead your explorations by igniting your creativity, since it is pretty much limitless. It’s more of a great servant than it is a master on its own.

In my case I’ve made everything from super lush ambient patches to really expressive lead sounds or futuristic stabs for some techno bangers.

More generally, how do you see the relationship between your instruments and the music you make?

I think you might get a hint from my previous replies here that it’s a pretty symbiotic relationship.

I get A LOT of inspiration from my instruments, and if by whatever reason the one synth I’m using is not playing ball, I’ll just try different ones until I find the one that clicks with me that day.

They are like your real world friends, you know … Some days you get along better than others, so you tend to hang out with whoever has the same vibe as you that day. And the music is the result of that, which is my favourite thing in the world, and why I never get tired or run out of gas.

It’s such a dynamic process, and the adventure of not knowing what will come out of those “hang out” sessions with the instruments is what I live for.

More generally speaking, some see instruments and equipment as far less important than actual creativity, others feel they go hand in hand. What's your take on that?

I don’t see any of these statements as absolute truths. Especially due to the fact that creativity can come from lots of different sources, and often the quirks of a particular instrument or piece of equipment are those sources.

I also feel that sometimes tools can block creativity, due to boredom, or to you becoming too formulaic while working with a particular tool, or due to choice paralysis, if you have too many tools.

I do believe in exploring limitations to enhance creativity, and there are endless approaches to doing that with whatever it is you’ve got around you.

How does the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie interact with some of the other tools in your studio?

It sits right above my modular rig, and it feels at home there. I use a lot of it as modules that interact with my modular rig, so I use its envelopes, VCA and mult quite often, also I love to use the oscillators to audio-rate modulate stuff in my patches

It’s a relatively inexpensive collection of very useful tools put together in a semi modular system that is very much able to be a part of a fully modular system as individual modules.

Are there other artists working with the Behringer 2600 Gray Meanie whose work you find inspiring? What do you appreciate about their take on it?

I’m not entirely sure how many of the people that used to work with the original Arp2600 have gravitated to Behringer’s take on it, which in fact offers some extra features in comparison. I know that a lot of the artists that influenced me the most have used it extensively, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Underworld, Nine Inch Nails, Vince Clark, Orbital, 808 State, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream are all notorious users of the Arp2600.

[Read our Alessandro Cortini of Nine Inch Nails interview]
[Read our Orbital interview]
[Read our 808 State Interview]
[Read our Tangerine Dream interview]

My initial interest in it actually came from hearing Underworld’s usage of it. I always imagined from the kind of tone that it’s what they have used to make “Rez”, one of my favourite tracks from them …. I even had a go at it myself, you can check my instagram if you’re curious, I got pretty close!

I think what drew most of these people to it was the fact that it is so versatile and expressive at the same time. These are qualities that are very, very, very rarely found simultaneously in an instrument.