1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
My #1 favorite switch is the one from the power supply to my rack mount gear. It is hard to reach, it makes a loud click sound and it is the first thing I turn on before
starting a recording session. It is my preferred one, because activating it means I’m about to create something. (I also like my modular synth power supply switch, my camera’s on/off swivel switch, my cassette player’s stop switch, my dictaphone’s stop/eject switch and my lego wheel OP1 knobs.)
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
A lot of my gear is broken / acts weird / only works sometimes, and I like them just like that. I enjoy the thought that the machines have moods and maybe don’t want to cooperate sometimes, or that they want to influence the artistic direction. I try to accept the glitches and use it to a musical advantage. I would not change anything about them.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
Sony A6000 Camera + OP1 + Zoom H6 + iLok, Laptop and Headphones (ATH M50x).
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I wish I had a hardware version of the Pusher plugin from Kush Audio. I use it to add dirt, grit and noise to any track that needs a bit more personality, be it synths, bass,
drums, etc. It works on everything. I have a EHX memory man deluxe delay pedal that I use as a kind of dirty preamp / chorus / overdrive. I haven’t been able to find a
plugin that sounds like it.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I regret selling my Strymon DECO pedal. It had a very good tape emulation sound and was stereo. I used it for live shows at the end of my signal chain. I sold it
because I needed to money to buy a sampler. (I also regret selling my Korg Poly800, it was a really nice synth.)
I don’t think I regret anything I bought, but a piece of gear that I sold after only a few days of having it was the KMI Boppad. It just wasn’t for me.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
Any instrument by Morfbeats. When i’m running out of ideas, I’ll pick any piece and throw it on the drums to add rattle and new sound possibilities, or i’ll use the melodic instruments like the gamelan strips to create an ambiant loop. They also work well with a contact mic and effect pedals.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
An acoustic piano. I’ve wanted one for years and recently was given one that I have slowly been integrating into my music. I find that composing is much easier on a real piano than on synths and if I were to start over, I would get that first.
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
My zoom H6, I like it and I hate it because it’s really finicky on SD cards, but I always have it with me for sampling, or as a portable sound card to my computer.
9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
If a snare drum counts as a bit of kit, what I like to do, is tune it low, and add a t-shirt and object on top, like bells or heavier metal. It makes it sound really deep, controlled and punchy, but you have random rattles from the bells that will add nice texture once you compress a bit.
Artist or Band name
Maysun aka. Etienne Mason.
Where are you from?
Montreal, QC, Canada.
How did you get into music?
I always wanted to play drums, I don’t know why. Maybe because my father is a bass player. After years of asking, my parents got me a snare, hihat and a cardboard box with a pedal attached to it. From there, I went to high school in a music program, took private lessons, completed a music degree in college, did a small part of a Jazz Performance degree in university, that I quit after a year. From that point I was in an apartment where I could not play drums, so I started getting into synths and recording, which turned me onto modular synths, which led to sound design, which brings me to where I am now.
What still drives you to make music?
I like sound, I enjoy completing pieces of music and I like the whole process of sculpting music through playing, recording and mixing.
How do you most often start a new track?
Recently, for my daily videos the process has been about recording a short drum performance and adding synths to it afterward. I do this as quickly as possible and try to not censor any idea while doing it, allowing the piece to go into any direction, even one I don’t like. It helps me practice new ideas and test out recording techniques, plugins, instruments, etc.
For EPs, I usually start with a strong story line in my head that I transfer to sound. The drums usually represent me, and the other instruments are my life events. I create different sound scenarios and then add transitions between them. I mess with physical movement of sound through 4 speakers recorded through a binaural mic to create ambiances and add synth textures and drums after that.
How do you know when a track is finished?
For my daily videos, they are done once I run out of time.
For EPs, it is more difficult. The last EP I recorded (should be out fall 2020), I had trouble letting go and finishing it. I think it was because I had been used to doing daily compositions, where you can always do better the next day. For an EP, I felt like it was more permanent.
And so, when I thought I had gone to the maximums of my capacities, I asked for help from another sound engineer, and together we finished it. I think it helped a lot to get a second opinion.
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
Once, I took a skype lesson with a guitar player, and I was asking questions on what exercises to practice to be able to do a certain rhythmic thing. He told me to just do it until I hear it. No secret exercise or shortcuts for learning this.
That was 10 years ago and it really changed my approach to music.
I feel like many musicians, especially online, are looking to find that perfect video, piece of gear or secret exercise that will make you play better / create better music / find your identity.
But in my opinion, I think that there are no shortcuts to building your sound and that your musical identity is not only about going directly to what you like about someone else’s performance or music, but forged through personal experiences and experimentation. It takes time, effort and patience.
In short, his advice was to simply do it, until you figure out on your own, how to make it work for you, and not procrastinate by waiting around for the answers to pop up by themselves.
Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link
[Editor: It seems like Maysun really enjoys acoustically prepared instruments: drums, piano and percussion. Do you have a favorite method for modding acoustic instruments? Leave a comment]