[Editor: So I decided to do a blog of artist interviews and this is the pilot episode/article. I’m asking fellow musicians the same “9 Odd Questions for Music Gear Junkies”.
Why am I doing this? Well, I miss the old TrashAudio interview series about Workspace and Environments (not to mention Analog Industries and MusicThing). Also, everything is so damn Podcast-y and YouToob-ish now a days. It would be nice to have a place where one can go to read a little, maybe browse a few photos about music gear and other cool junk. (besides I’m already paying for this website and domain name, might as well use it for something interesting like an old-school blog).
Anyway, I guess I’ll have to go first, so here are my answers to… 9 Odd Questions for Music Gear Junkies].
1 .What’s your favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
The knobs on the Teenage Engineering OPZ. Coz they’re flush with the body and work like tiny little turntables. Also they’re compatible with Lego Technics which is so damn cool. I’ve never used it. But it seems fun. The flatness of the knobs isn’t just a nice looking design, it is actually functionally better, because it means you can turn several knobs at once. Using one finger per knob. I don’t quite have the mental capacity to control all 4 knobs at once in a deliberate manner, but then again so much of music is a subconscious process.
Also the flat knobs make the OPZ easier to transport and take with you wherever you go. Which is actually 90% why I love the OPZ.
2. What is your ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
Acoustic guitar is probably the instrument that I think comes the closest to perfect. I got a lovely 25 year old, dreadnought Larrivee, which feels just like home. But of course, it can’t really do all genres. I guess if I had to select one bit of kit that could do it all. It would be the Akai MPC Live… or Ableton Live, which does pretty much every type of music. If only it didn’t require a computer to run on (with all the internet bagage that comes with it), then it would be perfect 😉
3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
If I had to be extremely minimal, it would probably be my Yamaha GuitarLele and my iPhone 6s (the last model with a proper headphone output jack) running AUM and a bunch of good apps, lately I’ve been really into Koala Sampler by Elf Audio. And some Sennheiser HD650 headphones. I think I could make a whole album with just that.
For a setup that I would actually have fun using. It would definitely be the Teenage Engineering OPZ and the Pocket Operators PO33 Knock Out and PO35 Speak, processed with the wonderful Zoom MS70CDR and the super playable the Korg Kaoss Pad Mini-S. This setup would have nearly no menus, be hugely flexible fx and yet very immediate to just make music and have a jam with. Also, all battery powered.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
Is it totally silly to want Ableton Live as a piece of hardware? I guess Ableton’s Push is kind of a hardware version of Live. But the deep and detailed mouse editing is missing. Of course that would be nearly impossible to replicate in hardware.
A more realistic piece of software to make into hardware would be the iOS app Samplr. But maybe the Tasty Chips Granular FX G-R1 is basically that, I dunno, coz I don’t own it. Love Samplr though, have it permanently ready to play on an old iPad3 with a cheap Griffin 30-pin soundcard.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
Yeah, it pains me to admit that I once sold a nearly pristine Yamaha VSS-30 (aka. The ‘Sigur Ros’ lofi maker). That thing plugged into a huge reverb, and you’re done!
I also kinda regret buying a terracotta colored Danelectro via mail ordering, but only because I ordered a ‘Commie’ red one (Danelectros name) and I got another colored guitar instead. The exciting unboxing that revealed a pale pink guitar quickly turned into a disappointment. But the guitar itself sounded great… and I’ve since modded it quite heavily. Installing a piezo pickup and making it fretless and sticker bombed it too.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
Probably just Ableton Live. It’s so great to make music with and super quick too. Conversely, I find it really hard to finish music in Ableton Live. Because there are endless possibilities and there are so many avenues to explore, that I never actually make decisions and finalise a composition. One way that I’ve used Ableton a lot, is to record out onto cassette tape with a 4-track recorder. That has become my preferred ‘dj’ setup to play electronic music in a live concert… and also just to get some great lofi soundscapes. The Tascam 424 mk1 has an extra low tape speed setting that just transforms every sound into an orgasmic mush of wonder.
The OPZ, with its limited sonic palette has really been an eye-opener for me as well. I’ve gotten a lot more tracks done and finished with the Opz, than nearly anything else I’ve owned. Mainly because it is so easy to take with you, and doesn’t have a million options.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
OPZ…. If I had the skill-set that I have now, maybe the MPC Live. But if I was 15 and had no knowledge of production, then just a Macbook running Ableton Live 10, connected to the net, so I could see lots of tutorials. That would be awesome.
Although, I wonder what music I would be making if I had stuck to using just the setup that I had at the start. I’d might be making really crazy glitchy Warp level stuff, if I had just stuck to just making music on the transparent green iMac and Cubase VST 3.1, that I had in college.
8. The most annoying thing you have, that you just can’t live without?
I have a couple of Behringer soundcards with lots of inputs and outputs, the UMC1820 with ADA8200 on the ADAT i/o. They are the central part of my tiny studio, connecting my rack of moogerfoogers to my pc running ableton live. They just do the job and they are super cheap. And even though, I gotta admit to having a little bit of gear-snobbish-ness… some Behringer products are just too good a deal to leave alone. Hell, the fact that the UMC1820 has 2 headphone outputs, means that I can drive a couple of Accutonics tanks and return them via mic preamps… and voila: analog spring reverb inside ableton live!
9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
The Ableton looper has a send-return path. So you can process each pass of the loop with other plugins or even better, with external hardware. I use this to make drones and ambient soundscapes that slowly disintegrate or morph into unrecognisable audio kibble. Fun stuff. Check out this article, which describes howto set up the Looper-Insert-FX
Artist or Band name?
Martin Yam Moller, it’s right there in the url 😉
Mainly lofi beats with ambient soundscapes, but also sometimes alt-folk songs with a unique lyrical shock.
No thanks, I’m trying to quit… haha. Okay, fine…
Where are you from?
I’m half Danish and half Hong Kong Chinese. Currently living in Copenhagen, Denmark.
How did you get into music?
It’s that classic old tale again… Grunge meets boy. Boy plays drums with buddies in high-school. Mainly coz Nirvana’s Nevermind hit HK in ‘92 and also of course, Beatles records at home.
What still drives you to make music?
It still gives me that feeling.
How do you most often start a new track?
On my commute to work with an Opz. Or at home, after dinner with an acoustic guitar.
How do you know when a track is finished?
Well, I listen to the song, and if it’s 3min 20seconds later … and I haven’t gotten annoyed by something. Then it’s done!
It should also be said, that I don’t finish that many tracks or songs!
Go on… show us your current studio!
It ain’t pretty or large or anything else really…. but it’s mine.
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
“Fresh eyes or ears” can be had in 3 ways. Via Time, Space or Empathy. In other words…
- Wait a day/week/month and listen again.
- Go for a walk//bike/drive and listen someplace else.
- Listen with someone you love/respect.
Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
[Editor: If you got any artists you’d like to see interviewed in ‘9 Odd Questions for Music Gear Junkies’? Then leave a comment]