These days music producers have access to a world of sounds from the comfort of their laptops. The digital age offers endless samples, plugins and tools to utilise—meaning music producers can create virtuosic and boundary-pushing compositions without ever touching a traditional instrument.
Despite their physical appeal and that special something you get from analogue synthesisers and drum machines, many young producers are opting for simpler studio set-ups as analogue equipment can often be expensive, harder to access, and take up valuable space in the studio (or bedroom studio).
Although it’s becoming rarer for upcoming producers to have access to analogue gear, there are organisations like MESS (Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio) — a unique not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the creation of electronic sound— who are helping to provide artists and producers with access to analog instruments.
The heart of MESS is the MESS Studio, a fully functioning sound production workshop representing one of the most unique, eclectic and historically significant collections of electronic instruments in the world. Working from within the studio is the MESS School, a place for people to engage with the history, technique and artistry of electronic sound and music creation presented in a format that is flexible, affordable and artist-driven.
For part two of our collaboration with MESS we linked up with Hugh Lake, a songwriter, producer and DJ who has already made a mark on the Australian music scene with an eclectic mix of singles to his name.
Lake’s unorthodox journey to success follows his start as HFNR, a notorious club DJ in his hometown of Melbourne; he is known for his eclectic sets appearing alongside Sophiegrophy, Lil Spacely, Genesis Owusu, Manu Crooks, Hancoq, Kwame and more. He soon moved into production, first in his bedroom and then in a makeshift studio dubbed ‘The Cabin‘ built in the backyard of close collaborator and friend Kwasi, with whom he signed WVS/Onelove in early 2017 as Kwasi x HFNR. The HFNR-era saw a slew of new wave hip-hop projects that were pivotal in shaping the new Australian hip-hop sound.
In 2020 he dropped the HFNR moniker, broadening his scope as a songwriter and producer. He would show off his impressive writing and production skills on R&B artist Ceeko’s debut EP Where Do We Begin, co-written and produced by Lake.
After a move to Sydney, Lake wrote and produced the grungy rap-ballad ‘Riot’ for Phi11a before hopping on BOY SODA’s debut ode to heartbreak ‘LOVEU2BITS’ and following it up with local hit ‘Westside’ by Nardeen which won the Paramatta Lanes 2021 song competition. Hugh is currently in the studio with R&B artist Lara Andallo, working on her debut EP.
When we brought Hugh Lake down to MESS, he was introduced to the Vermona DRM1 MKIII, a playable equivalent of the world-famous Roland 808 drum machine. With turnable knobs to manipulate each drum sound, the Vermona DRM1 allows the user to use the drum machine in a live context and manipulate the sounds as it plays.
In addition to the final track which you can stream below, MESS and Hugh Lake also created this Vermona DRM1 sample pack for Ableton Live, which you can download for free to use for your own creations.
Check out the full video above and follow Hugh Lake here for more.