The WASP is a funky, dual-oscillator synthesizer designed by Chris Hugget in the late 70s, who would later go on to make the esteemed OSCar synthesizer. One of the earliest hybrid synths, it features two digital oscillators that feed an insane, multimode analog filter whose character lends itself to the buzzy arthropod it was named after.
And while the WASP looks more like a prop attached to a child's bumble bee costume than a synthesizer, under its exoskeleton lies a bizarre, subtractive synthesizer capable of generating wild overtones, insane FX, slick bass lines and sweet leads.
Despite its simple interface, the WASP can cover a lot of ground, holding down raw, fat waveforms, but clearly specializing in more complex, circuit bent-like screeches and screams.
Much of the sound is due to its buzzy filter, which goes a long way in shaping the sonic spectrum of the output no matter what you do. Even when the cutoff is at 100%, turning the resonance up sharpens the sound like a knife as new frequencies begin to pierce out of the filter. And by lowering the cutoff and applying some envelope modulation, this sharpness becomes warmer and punchier, yielding funky, evil analog bass:
To get more bizarre sounds, we combined LFO and envelope modulation, and in the process found some flaws in the synthesis architecture that yielded some of the weirdest (but still useable) sounds we've ever heard out of a conventional synthesizer.
In fact, many of the results were tonally inconsistent across the synth's temperamental (but super funky!) electro-static keyboard. To save you the headache of navigating the WASP's atonal qualities, we perfected and retuned all of the wonky notes, but still kept a layer of unpredictability within each instrument.
Finally, we incorporated some third party hardware to spice things up - by adding a Lexicon PCM42 delay with its own modulation, we were able to create a special, drunken sound that served as a refreshing alternative to the WASP's otherwise sharp tone. Now, the WASP sounded like it was buzzed on some potent mead, creating dizzy swirling textures perfect for leads, pads and swirling FX:
After spending even a little time with this synth, it's quickly apparent the WASP is more of a BEAST than an insect. With sharp leads, cutting bass, a buzzy filter, and wonky FX, it's clear why its sounds are sprinkled all over Broadcast's discography (we actually sampled the same one they used!). And it's no shock that John Casale (Devo) named checks the WASP as his favorite old synthesizer, (even after stage lights melted its cheap plastic casing during a performance).
Especially when the sampling process is able to clean up the synth's irregularities a bit, the WASP From Mars is a powerful way to inject bizarre, late 70s digital x analog synthesis into your DAW (with no risk of melting).