Jos van de Gruiter, "Atari Cubase: The Greatest Sequencer Known To Man"

Jos van de Gruiter Atari MIDI Studio

"Atari Cubase: The Greatest Sequencer Known To Man"
Dutch musician, Jos van de Gruiter, tells his Atari story

I'm a late Atari convert. I loved playing in bands, but in the early nineties I was really disappointed about musicians who left their bands because of jobs, wives, children and other minor issues. So I decided to become independent of other people and get a computer. A friend introduced me to the music of Portishead, The Prodigy and Leftfield. He also advised me to buy an Atari computer...

When I say I was a late convert, I mean it. I started buying an Atari when the company went bankrupt. The Dutch dealer ACN dumped its goods and after six weeks of waiting, I finally received my Atari STFM complete with a SM124 monitor.

I had no luck. The SM124 went black after some annoying weeks of flashing screens; the STFM (1 MB) wasn’t very reliable either – the mouse drew lines across the screen. From ACN I received the SM144 monitor I still use. From another friend, a house musician who switched to PC, I bought an STE with 4 MB memory.


This friend knows a lot about PCs now, but hasn't made any music since switching to PC. For me, it was the beginning of the most exciting time in my musical life. For seven years I used the STE, running Cubase 2.1. I became more creative than ever. The STE was totally reliable and never crashed. I played live with the machine in the most extreme circumstances and the Atari never let me down.

Tempted by PC

But during this time, I wasn't really interested in the Atari as a machine. It was a vehicle for using Cubase. In all these years I hardly saw the GEM desktop. In fact, I didn't even know the OS was called TOS.

I was tempted to buy a PC because it looked better and promised more possibilities with sampling and hard disk recording. But our keyboard player, who had a PC running Cakewalk, always had problems with MIDI timing. When I connected the same hardware to the Atari, all problems were gone.


Eventually, I got a PC and had no luck either. It was a hard learning process: sound card compatibility, configuring the system, BIOS and IRQs. Suddenly, all the things the Atari could do automatically and I never had to think about, became problematic. Someone told me that if you couldn't get your MIDI and audio right on the PC, you didn’t know how to use a computer. Well, he was right: to make music with PCs you had to know a lot about computers and Windows, to make music with an Atari you just had to switch it on and start making music. So, I decided the PC wasn't up to the MIDI job and went on using the Atari. The feeling of respect for this old machine began to grow. PCs were good for editing and stretching samples though.


In the year 2001 my band became successful finally, we played in the most important venues in Holland, achieved radio airplay and supported international acts such as Kosheen and Lamb. During a gig in the town of Delft near Rotterdam, my Atari STE disappeared. But after some weeks of correspondence with the venue it turned up again. The guy who gave it back said it was a “...very cool machine, too bad you couldn’t use it with a normal monitor.”


This incident caused a panicked feeling: how could I manage without the good old Atari? The STE was so reliable I’ve never thought of losing it. I wanted to buy some extra STs to back me up - my Atari collection began to grow. The Falcon and Mega STE are now my favorites, but I’ll never forget my first STE that served me for so many years.


Because of this search for old Ataris, I discovered the Atari world on the Internet. I was already connected to the Internet for four years, but it never came to my mind to search for Atari. In a Future Music magazine of 1998, there was an article stating that there was nothing to find about Atari on the web, because most Atarians weren’t connected. Well, that has changed. I discovered that there was a lot more to Atari than just Cubase. Although I think it's still one of the most killer apps ever made.

Creative tool

But time goes on, and I use Cubase 5 and Ableton Live 7 on PC now. I don’t have to go on stage with a lot of hardware synths and samplers any more. But I still use the Atari as a creative MIDI tool and as a way to get some different sounding (8 or 16-bit) samples.

Dance machine

Even in the early 21st century there were still a lot of artists who used Atari: Fatboy Slim, Howie B. Moby wore an Atari T-shirt on tour, Faithless and Basement Jaxx made their biggest hits using an Atari. In the Computer Music magazine of July 2003, drum ‘n’ bass producer Klute said:

“I do all my vocals in audio …but aside from that and the SCSI stuff I do, the Mac G4 is basically just an Atari. There’s a lot to be said for the old Atari; it’s the greatest MIDI sequencer known to man, and I totally miss it.”

And now there’s a new movement going on: 8-bit sounds and Ataris are becoming popular again.

About Jos van de Gruiter

Bands: 1999-2004: 9 Days’ Wonder? (bigbeat, triphop, drum ‘n’ bass); 2008-2009: Wax ‘n’ Wane (breakbeat, drum ‘n’ bass)
Location: Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Age: 49

Jos' Falcon 030 running Cubase AudioJos' Studio Ataris

* Atari Falcon030
* 14 MB RAM
* 2 Gig SD-card inside
* SCSI Jaz drive 1 GB
* Yamaha CD burner
* Philips 17" SVGA monitor
* SoundPool FDI S/PDIF
* Steinberg MIDEX+ (used as dongle port)
* OS: TOS 4.04 and MagiC 6.2
* Applications: HD Driver 8.23, Diamond Edge 2.5, Jinnee, NVDI, PARCP, Cubase Audio Falcon 2.06, Cubase 3.1/
Score, ACE MIDI, AEX, Squash it!, Arpeggiator, Scribble Synth, EC909, Charming Chaos, Snippit Synth,
Aniplayer, JAM, SND Player, Flextrax, ACE Tracker, Clarity

Jos' Atari Mega STE running EC909* Atari Mega STE (x2)
* 4 MB RAM
* 48 MB SCSI internal
* OS: TOS 2.06 (both upgraded from earlier versions)
* Applications: HD Driver 8.23, Diamond Edge 2.5
* Cubase 3.1/ Score, Avalon 2.0, STSpeech (love it!), Soundlab, AEX, Squash it!, Arpeggiator, Scribble Synth,
Charming Chaos, Replay

Check out Jos' latest studio rack modules

Listen to Jos' awesome Atari sequenced music: "Deep", "Foolish Beliefs", "The Chase (Freaky Mix)"