Name: Casey Cooper aka CoastalDives
Occupation: Producer, sound artist
Recent release: The new CoastalDives album Next Light, mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri, is out via Data Airlines.
[Read our Rafael Anton Irisarri interview]
Tool of Creation: Sequential Prophet 6
Type of Tool: Analog poly-synthesizer
Designed by: Dave Smith
Country of origin: American
Became available in: 2015
CoastalDives uses the Sequential Prophet 6 on: His new album Next Light: “It was made almost exclusively with the Prophet 6. It was sort of my maiden voyage with it. I began creating my own patches and recording short ideas as I was learning how this particular synth works, and that built up slowly over the course of about a year and the end result was my album. Most of the tones are fairly smooth and gentle. I wanted the album to be warm and inviting tone-wise, but compositionally unique.”
If you enjoyed this interview with CoastalDives about the Sequential Prophet 6 and would like to explore his work in more depth, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
What was your first encounter with the Sequential Prophet 6?
I don’t think I had ever played one before purchasing. I bought a Prophet Rev2 first for the 16 voice polyphony. That’s a great synth as well.
But then I started listening to patches and reviews of the P6 on youtube, and immediately fell in love.
Just like any other piece of equipment, the Sequential Prophet 6 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?
I honestly haven’t dug in on the history very much. I do know that Dave Smith is a synth pioneer, and I knew that Dave Smith Instruments had a great reputation.
I saw the Prophet 8 being used by some of my favorite artists like James Blake and Radiohead. And if they trust it, then so should I.
What, to you, are some of the most interesting recordings made with the Sequential Prophet 6?
Thom Yorke’s “Dawn Chorus” is one that immediately comes to mind. M83’s album DSVII I know relied heavily on the Prophet 6, and it’s a beautiful listen.
What interests you about the Sequential Prophet 6 in terms of it contributing to your creative ideals?
I love the warm, thick, analog sound. It’s just comforting and inviting to me. And that inspires me.
Simple ideas can sound so unique on the P6 because of its depth and tone.
What are some of the stand-out features from your point of view?
The low and high pass filters are so nice. And the onboard distortion can add a really nice texture to an otherwise plain patch. And the layout is great. Everything is tweakable with a knob which is so much nicer than having to scroll through menus.
Prior to using it for the first time, how did you acquaint yourself with the Sequential Prophet 6? Will you usually consult a manual before starting to work with a new device – and what was that like for the Sequential Prophet 6?
I watched a bunch of youtube videos featuring the factory preset patches and reviews. Once I started down that path, it was a short matter of time before I purchased mine. And of course I played it for hours before opening the manual.
I’m still figuring things out on this synth. It’s easy to use but also has a lot of depth.
Tell me a bit about the interface of the Sequential Prophet 6 – what does playing it feel like, what do you enjoy about it, compared to some of your other instruments?
I like the simplicity. You can start from scratch with just one oscillator and it immediately sounds good. Tweaking the sound from there is a lot of fun because I never know where I’ll end up. The range is great too. It creates beautiful pads, but is also really good for leads and basses.
And the build of the synth is second to none. It feels great - the knob turning is really smooth with just the right amount of resistance.
How would you describe the sonic potential of the Sequential Prophet 6? In which way does the Sequential Prophet 6 influence musical results and what kind of compositions does it encourage / foster?
Pads are so lovely on the Prophet 6. Simple ideas sound really nice once you get the patch dialed in; simple chords, simple melodies. And that is very inspiring.
It creates an immediate feeling of nostalgia even if what I’m playing is brand new. I find myself playing chords and just letting them sustain until I can decide where to move next. This lends itself to slower, more ambient compositions most of the time for me.
The sequencer is a lot of fun too which has led me down some unique compositional rabbit holes. I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this synth’s depth, which is great because I plan to compose a lot more with it.
More generally, how do you see the relationship between your instruments and the music you make?
I usually start with a very simple idea either on synthesizer or piano. It could be just a couple of chords or a simple melody. Once I know it’s interesting and want to explore the idea further, I turn to my synths to get tonal and textural inspiration.
Oftentimes I don’t stray too far from where I start, tonally, on the synth. If an idea is recorded with a certain tone, that usually becomes part of the idea itself and I don’t want to move too far away from that. On the other hand, if I’m not sure of a progression or melody or I’m feeling uninspired, I’ll just start messing with presets on the P6.
Once I find something interesting, I’ll tweak it and make it my own. This almost always leads to a new composition or idea.
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 think the most important thing in music is concept. If the concept is strong enough, it will shine through any medium. Of course some instruments will convey the ideas and concepts better than others. But the goal is always to find a pairing that works best; a strong concept paired with the best instruments.
If you have a synthesizer tone that you fall in love with, chances are it will inspire you to compose something tailored just for that tone. And that’s when you know you’ve found something special.
But I think the composer should be able to step away from that, and play the music with another tone or on a different instrument and see if the composition still holds up.
How does the Sequential Prophet 6 interact with some of the other tools in your studio?
I’ve paired the P6 with my Elektron Analog 4, and they’re pretty unique in sound from each other but combine really nicely. It also sounds really nice doubling a rhodes or piano tone.
Are there other artists working with the Sequential Prophet 6 whose work you find inspiring? What do you appreciate about their take on it?
I mentioned Thom York/Radiohead, M83, and James Blake earlier. Their use of the Sequential synths were definitely a selling point for me.
Blake is an amazing player and has really nice, unique voicings which make the synths shine even more. Anthony Gonzalez is an insanely talented composer. His ideas sound like theme songs from 80’s era sitcoms. But his writing is so smart, and I love his tonal choices. He’s using the Prophet 6 all the time, so I knew it would be a great synth to own and an important one to have in my studio.
In the light of picking your tools, how would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music?
Originality is key. I’m not ever trying to write something that people have heard a dozen times over. That might be a better path to success in some ways, but I prefer to challenge myself and write music that pushes my own creativity and the listener’s reception of it.
There will always be influences from all the other artists I listen to. But I think the best way to leave a mark is to make your own path.
And in that sense, I think music that expands the creative palette will prove itself to be timeless.
Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
All music is influenced in some way by what has already been written. That is inevitable. So tradition will always be carried forward. And for good reason.
Classical theory is a wealth of knowledge in understanding how music works. And it only helps to have those methods and tools at your disposal. But pushing the boundaries is very important. Music should evolve and expand over time while still relying somewhat on methods of the past.
The world always needs new ideas. The goal is to enrich people’s lives and experiences, and I think new creative ideas do just that.