1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
The grid buttons on my Empress ZOIA are little works of wonder. I use ZOIA on every single song and the buttons are the living force that represent the amazing sounds. Some people have created literal works of art using the buttons by editing the colors AND they are functionally great since they can give you real-time feedback of levels/tempo/other stuff. They also feel real nice and make me feel like I’m plugged directly into the sounds themselves.
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
My Elektron Model:Samples is the piece of gear I daydream about when I’m at my day job and I begin all sessions with it. I wish it had the ability to program user-created scales to the 16 step sequencer for simpler live-playing. The 16 specific note value for more fluid playing.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
I crafted my tabletop electronic board specifically for this purpose! My performance gear fits on a Pedaltrain Classic Pro and it’s been a breeze to pack into my tiny Honda and go play. If I were going on vacation I’d probably be fine just bringing the Model:Samples and ZOIA; last summer I actually brought ZOIA alone on a beach trip and got lots of quality-time in.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I’m not a big software user and typically only use REAPER as a recorder. I have some aspiration to track down a reasonably priced Tascam tape recorder someday to remove myself from the computer entirely, but it’s not something I need. The Arturia V Collection seems like it’d be pretty neat and I’d happily take anything from there in hardware form!
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I try my best not to dwell on what I’ve moved on from but I do miss the Casiotone 401 I traded when I last switched apartments due to its size. I’m Casiotone-obsessed and it was a dream to own and play after years of wanting one. I’m a firm believer that every piece of gear has a place somewhere and never regret anything I buy. If it isn’t right for me or the moment, that isn’t anything to fret over. I relish being flummoxed by something new.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
Probably the Boss RC-202 and soon the Chase Bliss Blooper. The 202 is so functionally in-step with my brain and provides exactly as much control over loops as I’ve needed. Blooper is a recent addition and is reminding me of my first few months with the 202; it’s already inspired tons of new sounds and experiments and I use it every time I play these days.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
A Roland MC-101 & ZOIA. The 101 seems to be a perfect mix of stuff I already have in a smaller package with top notch sounds and performance functionality while not skimming on experimental options. ZOIA is the perfect companion to any piece of gear and the huge community of users paired with its deep functionality have made it essential to me.
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
My Casiotone MT-100 has the scratchiest volume slider and is generally inconsistent volume-wise, but I am so enamored of the sounds inside. I always find a place for it when I’m working on new tracks and it’s not going anywhere until it dies. My Ibanez DMD-2000 rack delay doesn’t get used enough because the jacks are on the back and it won’t save presets after being unplugged, but GOSH it sounds so good. I’ll probably sell it, but may miss it once I do.
9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of gear?
The Novation Circuit Mono Station is not-so-secretly the coolest mono synth, but also the best drum machine I’ve ever owned. It has the ability to flip patches per step and record motion sequencing; pair it with a looper and you can put have bass, lead, drums, and harmonies with this monophonic beast.
Artist or Band name?
On YouTube & Instagram I’m Pedal Friends. When releasing my solo music, I’m iff. You can always call me Bryan.
I like the phrase “Experimental Pop” because my songs are all based in pop-song structure but I like to explore ambient, lo-fi, cartoon/8-bit music, and shoegaze.
Where are you from?
I live in Philadelphia, PA and originally hail from New Jersey.
How did you get into music?
I was a choir kid in high school and wanted to play the guitar since my brother got a black Stratocaster when he was a teenager. Reading “Please Kill Me” by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain cemented the notion that anyone could make music and I formed my first (awful) punk band when I was 14. Electronic music is a recent expansion for me fueled by a lack of inspiration from the guitar-based music I’d previously been making. I’ve found it to be an inspiring and fun form to create in.
What still drives you to make music?
I find making music very freeing and liberating. It’s constantly on my mind and I’m always coming up with new EP ideas or album themes or song titles that need music to go with them! The community I’ve found online also deeply inspires me and I cherish the friendships I’ve formed with people all over the globe. I make for me and I make for them.
How do you most often start a new track?
9 times out of 10 I have no idea what’s going to come out when I sit down and I’ll choose a key and start programming a basic rhythm into the M:S.
For the EP I just put out I set simple rules for each track like “no long decay”, “focus on polyrhythms”, “just make it pretty” and global rules of no percussion or vocals. This was particularly hard because I love crafting percussion and the Model:Samples makes it so easy to get really fun with drums but it was really informative and fulfilling to focus on the more melodic/harmonic aspect of that machine in particular.
How do you know when a track is finished?
When stacking more sounds into the mix isn’t adding anything. I view my setup as “maximally minimalist” in that I only have so many sound sources with a limited number of tracks that I can manipulate in infinite ways via effects and creative sequencing and looping. It usually gets to a point where I’ve either maxed out the number of available sound sources or when I notice that a track feels bloated when adding in another sound. It’s a sense I’ve worked to refine over the years.
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
I see it online from time to time and it’s the idea that practicing for 2-5 minutes every day is better for your brain than 20-30 minutes every other day. I sometimes take long breaks between sessions and find that it never comes out the right way the first few sessions after. When I set aside even 2 minutes to strum a guitar or ukulele every single day it all flows so much better the next time I sit down.
Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
I released my first full-length album back in March and have a new EP out in April on my bandcamp (or any streaming service):
You can also always catch up with me on Instagram and Youtube:
[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw a comment below…]