Noctopolis – Mattis Hencke

1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?

Jen SX2000

I’m not that emotionally attached to individual knobs and faders, but there might be a few which have been important. First, the ”Frequency” fader on my first synthesizer, the Jen SX2000, which gave me the first real player experience of an actual filtered analogue synth sound and gave birth to a lifelong fascination.

Korg MS20 Mini

Second, maybe the MS20 Mini Lowpass filter knob which brought me back to analogue synthesis after many years of playing mainly samplers and vst plugins. And finally, any of the SOMA Lyra 8:s VCO tuning knobs which made me listen to sounds in a different way and appreciate imperfection.

SOMA Lyra 8

When it comes to tactility I must say that my Bugbrand banana cables mean a great deal, though. They’re a pleasure to use. Colourful and sturdy fun!

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

The word ”almost” is important here because the perfect bit of kit doesn’t exist, I think. Gut feeling right now whispers about the Ciat-Lonbarde Cocoquantus. It never disappoints and has opened up a vast sound palette to me. Though ”perfect” is certainly not the correct word for any C-L gear. Which is the wonder of it!

Ciat-Lonbarde

3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?

Always: Field recorder. A pretty crap one, my old Zoom H-1 (the Rec button on that one´s been very important, too). For many years the small holiday setup was Laptop/Cubase, USB audio interface, master keyboard.

Lorre Mill Double Knot

If I ever start travelling again I guess the Cocoquantus or the Plumbutter (or my most recent addition, the Lorre Mill Double Knot) would be great to bring but I’m not sure I’d risk them.

Ciat-Lonbarde Plumbutter

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

I’m not very good at wishing for what isn’t there already. Nowadays I find it really hard wishing for hardware to be anything else. The tactile side of playing electronic instruments has grown extremely important to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t like software. There are lots of great fx and instruments which I use a lot. I love the Sketchcassette, Valhalla Supermassive and NI Kontakt, for instance.
Software into hardware… if Soniccouture suddenly turned their Geosonics library in a portable, beautiful little synthesizer I’d probably be curious about it.

Tactile synths

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I regret selling my second synth ever which was the Roland SH1000. I sold it for very cheap around ’98 when it seemed completely obsolete (and it probably still is, but what a clumsy old beauty!). To be honest, there was some divine justice going on since I sold it to the same guy from who I bought a Yamaha CS5 even cheaper a few years before that.
I kind of regret that I sold my Tascam 388 quarter-inch tape/mixer studio too, but that may be mostly from nostalgia and considering the recent tape hype.
Through the years I’ve bought lots of gear which I’ve sold pretty quickly. I’d say most of the Volcas and a Roland Boutique JX03 were all pretty regrettable purchases. And I didn’t gel with the Eowave Quadrantid Swarm, sadly. Maybe I should have been more patient.

Hyve-Synth

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

Chronologically: my family’s upright piano, my first Porta studio (Fostex 260), the AKAI S2000 sampler, and most recently the Ciat-Lonbarde instruments. All of these have shown new and compelling paths into new territories, or territories looking more and more like the ones I vaguely started dreaming of exploring as a kid. It’s not that different now from what it was back then.

Ciat Lonbarde Deerhorn-Organ

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

Piano, DAW, a nice bass guitar and some assorted percussion. And after that I´d discover touch- and gesture-based synthesizer instruments a bit earlier 🙂 .

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

I usually sell the annoying stuff. One instrument I think will stay with me is the Lyra 8. It changed my listening a lot and I love it but to be honest, those tuning knobs really take some patience. The lower they go, the more mindfulness demanded to get the wanted notes. But having grown into that routine has made tuning of the Ciat-Lonbarde instruments a breeze, so I guess I should be grateful to that sturdy little ”white angel”, annoying as it is.
The Tocante Bistab is on the whole extremely annoying and I could definitely live without it, but it’s a fun curiousity.

9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

To my surprise I´ve become a much better bass player through switching to fretless bass. Over all, everything that forces you to listen carefully, instead of having safe routes and measures laid out all the time, is good. As long as we leave the Theremin out of it, of course. And a bunch of other instruments. But – baby steps …

Fretless Squier Jazzbass

Artist or Band name?

Noctopolis and Mattis Hencke.

Genre?

For Noctopolis I guess have to say electronic. And I would hope cinematic and emotional in its better moments. MH is more semi-classic, fairytale music and pop.

Selfie?

Sort of, but not really. A musical portrait 😀 .

Mattis Hencke aka. Noctopolis

Where are you from?

Living in Uppsala, Sweden.

How did you get into music?

Singing, drumming on biscuit tins and making up melodies from early age. Discovering the sound of synthesizers and pop music in general at the age of about 10 was a huge revelation. I took drumming and piano lessons and performed in different orchestras and ensembles but more importantly, I always wrote songs and formed different bands with my brother and schoolmates. Making noise, trying different instruments, dreaming up concepts and bouncing hissy tape recordings between decks with my friend to create full productions became very important, we learned about multitrack recording and from there it really took off. I’ve just never stopped creating and discovering music. Artists like David Sylvian, Trent Reznor, Scott Walker and Fennesz have been huge inspiration sources, as well as numerous neoclassical, ambient and post-metal artists and bands.

What still drives you to make music?

I want to create the sounds and represent feelings and pictures that I carry inside of my head and which are beyond words. I also strive to make the music I want to hear, it´s a way of life by now. Playing and making music is ta great path to get in touch with my core, so to speak. I wouldn´t call it an escape from reality – music and art contains so much more of creative, constructive reality than a lot of other miserable pastimes and preoccupations. Music can be an outlet for emotions and a recalibration of the soul and spirit. And that’s regardless of objective quality and results, as long as it leaves the performer curious and imaginative, I think.

How do you most often start a new track?

That varies a lot. Sometimes with a bassline or a sample, more often with improvising on the piano which turns into fragments of a song. Sometimes with a sung melody. There are plugins which have inspired quite a lot of my music too. The last few years I´ve started to improvise a lot on hardware electronic instruments and nowadays the Ciat-Lonbarde setup is a good starting point for exploring. I’ve got loads of recordings and snippets on the hard drive which sooner or later find their way into more ambient tracks or actual pop songs.

How do you know when a track is finished?

A good sign that I’m on the right track is when I get the sensation ”Wow, did I really create this?”. That, combined with a certain kind of childish happiness when listening to the music in an environment which is not the studio. The most difficult part, when it comes to knowing whether a track is really good or not, is to find the balance between emotional impact and cool or newly found sounds and ideas. That, and also to know that sometimes less is more, but that more is more quite as often!

Show us your current studio

It’s about 1,5 x 2,5 meters with no window. That’s definitely both a blessing and a curse.

Noctopolis home studio
Noctopolis home studio
Noctopolis home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Spend time away from your music before finishing it. Never mix more than one track at once. Abandon songs that keep annoying you and make you frustrated, they’re probably not that good anyway. Or (quite rarely) they are, but you need more time to grow into them.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

Recent two track ambient single:

https://noctopolis.bandcamp.com/album/a-year-ending-when-getting-back-home-single

2020 ”Space trilogy” albums:

https://noctopolis.bandcamp.com/album/malacandra-2 and

https://noctopolis.bandcamp.com/album/perelandra

…and a sentimental little something:

https://mattishencke.bandcamp.com/album/everyday-tales-bonus-tracks-version

They´re all at the major streaming platforms as well.


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]


David Rothbaum – Cross Town Patching

1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?

The octave levers on my Yamaha CS-50. They are very playable. There is also just something very satisfying about the aesthetic of them as well as the acoustic clicking sound.

Yamaha CS-50

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

I would say the combination of the monome grid and ansible using kria. To me this set-up is a perfect combination of thoughtful composition mixed with performance and improvisation. Honestly, it has fundamentally changed the way I think of composition. My only issue is the grid is near impossible to see in daylight. I do a lot of outdoor performances and this is always an issue. I often bring a beach towel to throw over the grid and myself to be able to see it.

Modular Field Trip

3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?

I bring my modular with me a lot. I compose and record on the spot in various locations and occasionally that included what was my daily 1-5 hour commute (pre-Covid). Doing this while driving is clearly a bad idea, would not recommend at all. To be clear I only patched while at a dead stop, which in Los Angeles is most of the time.

[Editor: Ha!… Make art anywhere]

Patching in traffic

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

Paulstretch in a module would be awesome. SketchCassette too. I honestly cannot think of any hardware I’d like to see as software.

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I am generally not too precious about gear but I did have a Roland Jupiter 4 that I sold to fund more modular and I wish I still had my Tascam 388.  

Tascam 388

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

In the last few years I would have to say again the monome / Whimsical Raps eco-system. 

Monome and Whimsical Raps in a case

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

Good taste.

[Editor: Nah, good taste is overrated…. and anyway, it’s just a by product of the artistic process, that can happen to the best of us 😉 ]

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

The computer.

9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

I think in recent years it would have to be manually manipulating the Marantz PMD-430 cassette deck while monitoring live on the tape. Being able to play the tape warbles is pretty great.

Marantz PMD-430

Artist or Band name?

David Rothbaum 

Genre?

Recently, I would say ambient-adjacent. I tend to write mostly melancholic ambient music but I often add more rhythmic elements (I have been obsessed with odd meters and tuplets since forever), which I think disqualifies me as really being ambient. That said, I have made music in a number of different genres. I had a solo project called Monsturo for quite a while. That was very minimalistic drone/noise music, I used to describe it as field recordings for imaginary spacecraft 🙂 I have also played a lot of metal, jazz, noise and free improvisation. I auditioned once for Donny Osmond when I was a teenager in the 80s. 

Selfie?

I don’t really do selfies without my kid so…

David Rothbaum +1

Where are you from?

Born in NY but have lived in Los Angeles for 30+ years and that is my home.

How did you get into music?

As a listener I became obsessed with music as a kid. At around 7 years old I got into The Beatles & Donna Summer. Then shortly after that it was The Eurythmics, AC/DC, Supertramp, Devo & horror film scores. I would make tape mixes from the radio (I had an entire tape with recordings of “Sweet Dreams”). I also made tapes from the TV, grabbing bits of music from horror movies and TV shows that I liked. I failed at saxophone in 5th grade (I did learn the “Pink Panther” theme, though), but when I was 14 I took up the electric bass and played heavy metal.

What still drives you to make music?

Cannot imagine a life worth living without it. 

How do you most often start a new track?

More often than not it will start as an exploration of a technical or aesthetic idea, be it teletype code; a rhythmic, timbral or harmonic thing; or a patch idea. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

When whatever it is I am working on transforms from the technical into something that carries some emotional weight. Or I have a deadline that has expired. 

Show us your current studio

David Rothbaum’s studio

The modular is not the only thing in my studio. I have guitars, hardware synths, an electric piano etc., but it is overwhelming the center of it.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Not comparing your work with others.  This is exceedingly difficult but absolutely liberating if you can do it.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

I will be releasing a collection of short pieces that I have recorded and posted to social media over the last 4 years. It is called “Miniatures 2016-2020” and will be released on cassette and digital by the awesome Mystery Circles label in early 2021.

[Editor: Check out David’s lovely instagram or his website for more info]


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]


TJ Dumser – Six Missing

1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?

Jazzmaster volume knob

Yes, absolutely, without a doubt, the volume knob on my Jazzmaster. Coming from a band background and learning how to blend with other musicians and when to step out front, I was always using my volume knob. Mostly to clean up my tone and then to send it into overdrive. I play expressively and dynamically, never with a compressor pedal so I am always going for the volume knob. I can control swells and it’s become such second nature to my playing that my pinky just sort of rests there all the time.

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

My room is pretty dialed in right now. Since my day job of being a sound designer and mix engineer for advertising, film, and TV keeps me mostly in the studio, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into making the room my instrument. I have my modular rack, my pedalboard, my synths all patched and routed so I can send and receive audio from any of those places – I have total freedom to create. But I would change the amount of space I have, haha, I always want more.

The Six Missing hub

3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?

Since the start of the pandemic we haven’t traveled anywhere. And before that I wasn’t touring all that much since my live setup got pretty large, in fact, the setup got to the point where I wasn’t able to take the subway any longer – I need a cab or to drive to the gig. Which for people that have never lived in NYC, that’s a huge dealbreaker as you’ll often spend the money you made from your set on cabs. So the biggest thing for me when I go on holiday is my headphones. I try to create music every day so when I take a vacation, I am truly off-the-grid. But now that I’m in Austin which is far from my home in NYC, I have begun planning a travel/mobile rig – it’s Ableton based and I think the Arturia Keystep looks like the best investment in a tiny keyboard as I could integrate it into my modular rack as well as controlling VSTs. I fall prey to the “I want to have all my options be options” mentality, so traveling light will be a fun challenge I look forward to. I’ll have to check back in with you and keep you posted on how I net out!

Compact setup: MacBook, UAD soundcard and guitar

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

An interesting question indeed. I had seen someone else you interview mention that a lot of software is hardware emulations or based on some piece of hardware, which I agree with. I don’t get picky, though I do think that having Big Sky algorithms in plug-in format would be super cool. Although, I’m sure you’d need a separate computer to run all that DSP, which then circles back to having a box, so I suppose they thought about that and why they stayed away from it. I mostly feel like there’s a companion piece of hardware or software for anything you can dream of these days, and like I said, I don’t discriminate – while, yes, an original Minimoog Model D probably sounds better than a VSTs version, I don’t have the $10k for the real thing and dang if presets aren’t awesome to recall.

Moog Matriarch and Eurorack

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I’ve been fortunate enough to never really have buyers remorse because 30-day return policies are awesome. But I will say that I purchased the ROLI Seaboard recently with hopes and dreams of it completely transforming how I compose with strings and MPE devices and it was just…awkward. Perhaps I didn’t give it enough time to grow on me. The squishy part was fun for a bit, though I can see it attracting cat hair like crazy. I have only ever sold gear I know I was never going to use again. I tend to hang on to things because I’m a sound designer and having random old pieces of gear are inspiring and you never know when you’re going to need it.

Pedalboard goodies

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

Surprisingly, diving into modular gear was the most inspiring and overwhelming. And now that I’ve picked up Norns and Grid, I’m feeling that same sense of “how do I control you!” which I really think makes you enter into that beginner’s mind and where the magic happens. It’s for this reason (and I’ll get roasted for this, I’m sure) that I absolutely never read a manual. I love clicking about/turning knobs/making horrible mistakes when I first get a piece of gear. I think not knowing what you’re doing is when your true talent shines through. You just kind of use The Force to figure it out and stumble your way through. But to stop getting preachy and answer your question, modular. My newest EP on Inner Ocean Records happened in about three weeks after I got all my rack set up, it was just insanely inspiring to have semi-generative sounds morphing and allowing me space to write other lines over it with other instruments.

Norns and Grids

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

If I had to start over I would still start with just a single piece of gear and learn it completely inside and out before buying the next piece of gear. I admit to falling victim to gear acquisition a while back but I always had this sense of wanting to know how to use the gear I had before stepping up. Granted, I have a ton of pedals these days, but it took me a good three years to get to this point.

Pedals galore

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

Haha, this question is great. The most annoying piece of gear I have (though I still love it) is my DD-20, the old big block delay. When the thing boots up it defaults to being on. There’s probably a way to change that but I never looked it up and when it kicks on with the board the first algo is my custom 16-second delay. So if there’s a bit of hum from the unplugged ¼” cable or I flub a note I won’t hear it for another 16-seconds, way after I’ve forgotten and then I’ll chase line hum or a looper pedal somewhere in the chain for five minutes, until I realize it’s just the delay kicking around every 16-seconds. I have Nels Cline to personally thank for making me lust after 16-second delays.

Boss DD-20

9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

I got to be one of a very small handful of beta testers on the Hologram Microcosm, so I had the pedal well before the public did and I have never had the opportunity to speak directly to the minds that designed and created the pedals I played, so I learned tons of fun insider tricks with it. But my most favorite trick on it, is taking a live effect and capturing it into the looper and then sending that loop back through the live effects pre-effect and processing that loop a second time but through a different live effect. So fun.

[Editor: The Microcosm is gonna be a classic!]


Artist or Band name?

My name is TJ Dumser but I perform as Six Missing.

Genre?

Ambient, Electronic… Meditation Music sounds grabby, so does Furniture Music or Music for Plants. Music that allows you to do other things and zone out to it.

Selfie?

TJ Dumser aka. Six Missing

This isn’t a selfie, but I spent money on this session with this talented photographer Shervin Lainez and so I usually like to get some mileage out of it 😛 

Where are you from?

I’m from NY, but have been spending the past year (lol, let’s be real, quarantine) in Austin, TX. 

How did you get into music?

I have always loved music and performing, I used to do it even as a baby in diapers, shouting nonsense into a microphone and directing orchestras through the kitchen. But it really hit when I saw Back to the Future and caught my first glimpse at Marty’s red Gibson 335. After that, I uncovered milk crates of records in my grandma’s attic and heard Stairway to Heaven and had my mind blown as a 11 year old. After that, I needed to have a guitar. So I was able to convince my parents that I was interested enough for them to get me one and had been playing since I was 12.

What still drives you to make music?

Music has always been a way for me to retreat from other stresses. Given the state of the world and the general level of collective anxiety, music has given me a way to take care of myself. It’s a way that I can contribute something positive. It ends up making me genuinely feel better having taken some time to play. My hopes are that I’m able to give just even the smallest bit of relief to people who hear my music, maybe it gives them that chance to take a breath or to help them meditate or go to sleep – which I realize isn’t every musicians dream “for folks to fall asleep to my music” but hey – if that helps someone, then I’m happy.

How do you most often start a new track?

It has morphed. When I was mainly composing ambient guitar loops or guitar based tracks, I would just turn on the gear and let the DD-20 sit in 16-sec delay mode and start piling layers into it, slam that into the Ditto x 2 and knock it into half speed and that became my bed. But these days I’m spending more time with eurorack modular gear and synths like the Monome Norns. I can usually get a nice atmosphere created by sending some audio to my modular gear and manipulating over there, capture some ideas and then start adding a bass line with the Moog Matriarch. Though I’m new to it, Norns is massively inspiring and I love the idea of having a tiny digital bandmate taking care of melodies and rhythms for me.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I’m sure the answer is very different for the musicians you’ve interviewed, but for me my answer changes all the time. I have a set of tracks that comprise an LP, about 11 tracks, just sitting collecting dust because I “still feel like they need something” and then I have EPs that I sit and complete in a weekend. Honestly, it’s that different for me. I suppose there’s just a knowing you feel about the track, like, did I serve this? If so, I move on. Also, if I get bored with or anything I try to add to a track starts sounding like garbage or I spend far too long working on a line…that’s how I know. If the track tells me it’s complete. It’ll push away all the superfluous junk.

[Editor: That’s a different way of doing things, it sounds almost like your songs have their own desires and needs. I guess a more empathetic approach to composition by considering the needs and wants of a piece, independently from your own wishes as a composer]

Show us your current studio

Six Missing home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Show up each day and do something. Whether that’s reading about someone who set out to achieve a goal or career and is doing it. Or just noodling with the guitar. Or perhaps even just turning on the synth, just to let it warm up. You don’t have to expect a masterpiece, but the fact that you’ve done something with the day means that you’ve placed your intention on it and odds are you’re going to get surprised every once in a while.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

Thanks for asking! I have my debut EP coming out on Inner Ocean Records called “Patricia” on February 12th.

It’ll be available via Inner Ocean’s site as well as mine – or you can stay tuned to my Instagram (www.instagram.com/sixmissing) for more!


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]