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How I Got That Sound: Thorsten Quaeschning

Tangerine Dream ‘Los Santos City Map’ By Joe Matera
Published March 2022

How I Got That Sound

Thorsten Quaeschning is the current leader of legendary electronic band Tangerine Dream. Asked to nominate his favourite sounds he’s created on record, he picks a track that was composed for the soundtrack of the video game Grand Theft Auto V in 2013, and later featured on Tangerine Dream’s 2019 album Recurring Dream.

“This particular track, which I composed together with Edgar Froese, was meant to capture the sound of when you’re using the navigation system inside the game map in GTA V. As it’s probably the most clicked screen, it has to have a theme, a melody that works well without it being busy. Inside a game, you have a maximum of around six minutes until everything is looped, so you can’t have a busy melody. It needs to be about the texture and the sound, though the melody must work too. So, it’s not like a game like Tetris where you hear the same busy melody non‑stop from level 1‑99.”

Making A Commitment

“What I did on this track was, I used, like I usually do, a modular synth. It is good, at least for me, to have the need to find a ‘definite’ sound without having the opportunity to change parameters one or two weeks later. It forces you to record it in the moment, which you would not have to do if you used a synthesizer with the ability to save sounds and presets. At least, if you have strict deadlines. In the modular synth situation, you find one sound, record it, and for the next sound you must un‑patch everything — which is, in most cases, not 100 percent reproducible.

How I Got That Sound“I started with the chords first and then got a root note sequence happening, which I then recorded in Steinberg Cubase. I found a 16‑note sequence with changing on/off steps for each single step, a little bit like a Bach‑esque fugue around a single root note that ran and repeated every time so it didn’t change with the chords. I found the sounds interacted with each other well. Nowadays everybody talks about only using analogue, but sometimes you may need some bright, sparkling sounds, which you can easier get from digital, so I used a mixture of a Roland Jupiter‑8 analogue synthesizer, monophonic analogue — in this case two Moog Voyagers and a Moog Minitaur — a polyphonic virtual analogue Korg Radias and an Access Virus TI, and combined it with Yamaha TG77 and TX802 FM synthesizers, a Korg Wavestation EX wavetable synthesizer and the VirSyn Cube VST additive synthesizer. It’s a mixture of all these synths on that track.

“For the pad sounds, I created sounds with interacting frequency spectrums and had to combine them into each other so they didn’t cause conflict, and modulate in a good way with each other. When you see it on the spectrum analyser it’s maybe ‘officially’ bad because it starts to phase but that’s the kind of modulation I like on many levels. In a best‑case scenario, the sum of the parts is bigger than the single ingredients seem to be. And the main melody is a mixture of some sounds from the Roland JD‑800 and the Mellotron.

“I really love warm ’70s and ‘80s pads, the Mellotron harshness which, if you see on an analyser, it is horrible as it’s crackling and all, but I love it because one of my favourite bands are Genesis on one side and the growling bass sounds of the Cure on the other, combined with a sparing breathiness and reverb shimmering of Sigur Rós. All that combined is at the core of my favourite sound microcosm. I just try and get sometimes close to those favourite band sounds, but hopefully with enough of me and my own tastes.”