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Cassette heaven: crafting retro hip hop in Bad Math’s home studio

To be perfectly honest, we really don’t know much about Bad Math. He’s a Sydney producer, but given he’s hidden his face behind some sort of animalistic mask, the knowledge ends there.

But last week Bad Math’s debut beat tape Celestial landed in our laps, and we were blown away. A throwback to the hardware-driven hip hop made famous in the ’90s, we knew there had to be some righteous gear behind the mask.

We reached out to Bad Math, who was happy to show off some of his collection.

bad math celestial happy mag roland sp-404sx

Dusty FX, scratchy tape and humanised beats: Bad Math runs us through the hardware behind his wonky hip hop sound.

Dr Groove 202

The Dr Groove 202 is one of my most used pieces! I love this little drum machine! The bass on this bad boy sounds so good!

You can get some of the raddest FX out of this if you use the roll function on your percussion combined with the delay. A lot of my sweep transitions come straight out of this box!

Marantz Cassette Deck

I got this bad boy in complete working order from eBay. I love going to op-shops and digging for weird cassette tapes. Vocal/talking samples are a big part of what shapes my style, you can find so many weird audiobooks on tape.

Novation Bass Station

I recommend this to anyone who wants to purchase their first monophonic synthesiser. Really easy to use and the sounds that come out of this will melt your face. Sub bass to Nintendo chip-tune sounds.

Also if you shift the weight of your fingers on the keys you don’t even have to use the mod wheel.

Roland Gaia

Surprisingly I only really use this for FX sounds and pads. Sometimes I get an odd pluck out of it as some of the keys don’t work, but it does the job!

Roland SP-404SX

The SP-404SX is the centre of my hardware set up. It’s loaded with some of the most iconic FX in hip hop production and lets me create without a click track or setting a BPM. I originally started sampling with an MPC1000 until seeing MOHI (Sydney hip hop artist) perform live at the Gladstone. He really inspired me to purchase one for myself.

While I was waiting for it to be shipped I watched hours of YouTube tutorials so by the time it arrived I already knew the ins and outs before even laying my hands on it.

The faceplate sticker was provided by StyleFlip. I dig Where’s Wally – 100 points if you find him.

Wellington Turntable

This was the cheapest turntable I could find on eBay that didn’t need a preamp. I never really sought out to spend too much money on a turntable as I was looking for the most dustiest – cheapest sound possible.

I actually manually drag my finger across the record to slow it down as the SP-404SX doesn’t really have a great pitch shifting effect (its only drawback). I’ve dropped this thing so many times and it still works somehow.

Yamaha MT4X

I run most of my stems through the MT4X for that warm tape saturation before it gets digitalised. Call me hipster but I love that cassette warmth. Also if you redline or clip on tape it creates some interesting textures.

Keen to hear it all in action? Listen to Bad Math’s debut beat tape Celestial below: