1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
I love big quality knobs, due to my clunky fingers. I enjoy Pittsburgh Modular’s knobs, they turn smoothly and feel secured so well. The knob on the Morphagene’s Vari-Speed control is housed off-center, so when you turn it in the dark, you can feel it dip down and away. That’s superb.
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit?
What would you change? I love old tape machines. Reel to reels, cassette players, microcassettes… but they all seize up or break so easily. They are very fragile, and when played with too much, they turn into duds. With big reel to reels, these are heavy lemons laying around. I have a couple that just “look really pretty” at the moment and need costly repair. I wish there were more knowledgeable repair people in my area.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
Before the pandemic I was doing a lot of traveling for work and staying in hotel rooms across the state. I started bringing a micro cassette player to do field recordings, a handful of pedals like a Chase Bliss Mood, a Hall Of Fame 2 reverb and a Ditto looper, to make drones. I was really into lonely hotel room serenades for myself. Sometimes I would bring a Bastl Kastle and an Arturia Microlab midi controller to play on a laptop. Finally, you can’t go wrong with apps like MiRack, Quanta, Synthone and Ripplemaker on an iPad.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
If Quanta, a software app by Audio Damage, were a hardware synth, I’d purchase that. I used to want test equipment in software form, but I just saw a Hainbach advertisement that solved that problem with the new Fundamental program by sonicLAB. I have yet to download, because I know I will need to plan to lose a week straight of my life.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I do not regret much. Most of the duds that I bought, have been thrift store purchases for very little risk. if I buy a child’s keyboard and it doesn’t end up working, it’s a few dollars. I simply paid for the adrenaline of the find. It’s like playing the lottery. I don’t regret selling anything, because I like to tell myself that the person that bought gear from me is going to make wonderful music with it and be inspired by it, and that makes me feel very good inside. I do miss my my guitar gear from 20 years ago though. I sold it all to move across the country.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
I’m a gear junkie, I like to nerd out to new programs and hardware, so what inspires me the most is the discovery phase of a new vehicle for sound. I do like to just switch on a VCO and sit with the unadulterated pure sine for a minute or two, and just soak it up. Pgh Modular’s Primary Oscillator is a common go-to for breaking the silence.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
A second job to afford more gear! Haha, jokes aside – I wish I had gotten into synthesizers earlier. I have been a guitar and bass player since I was 13, and before that a clarinetist. I have always loved electronic music, but I hadn’t bought synth gear for a couple decades. To this day, I’m not sure why, but I would have loved to have jammed on some Korgs in the 90s.
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
Vintage test equipment, by far. Gigantic, heavy, smelly old things. they’re a pain in the ass, and they put other gear at risk. I would never give them up, however, and they inspire me to want to get more pieces.
9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit
With modular synthesis, it’s endless fun learning how to manipulate signals, it never gets old. I learned that there’s always a new and different way to use them. Using an envelope pulse as a sound source, using a VCO to rapidly CV a switch, or side chaining a side chain. A world of discovery always awaits!
Artist or Band name?
“Experimental Acoustic Electronic” is probably the most accurate.
Where are you from?
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
How did you get into music?
I sang along to Motown hits on the radio as a child, and I ended up in the church choir. My mother thought a clarinet might satisfy my instrumental thirst. Thanks mom, wink wink.
What still drives you to make music?
It relieves the tension of the world burning. Most nights I cannot sleep unless I patch up a tune. It’s therapy for me. It’s the only time that I can focus entirely on something else beside thinking about pain and suffering and injustice. I know that sounds cliché, but for me it feels very true and real. It’s a raw escape.
How do you most often start a new track?
I get an urge, I’m angry or sad about something in life and I make a beeline for the gear. I hit a few piano keys or just start plugging patch cables in and fooling around. Sometimes I hear a sound I like and I sample it and work around a sample.
How do you know when a track is finished?
Is it ever? Sometimes I think it’s done and then I hear another part in my head, and return to it. I have one of those brains that can hear all the parts of a song simultaneously. Sometimes I’ll listen back to a recorded track and my mind will play a part that isn’t there.
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
To never make music for the purpose of “gaining a following.” If people like your music, then they will come and listen. Make music that you actually love and makes you feel good.
Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
I’d like to give a shoutout to all my wonderful musical comrades from @internationaloscillators – building musical community and raising up fellow independent artists is very important to me. I have a collaboration LP called “Half Speed Heathache,” with the very talented artist from Copenhagen @SongsFromTinAlley
My latest album, “Spoilers: We All Live, We All Die,” is available now on Bandcamp. An entirely modular synth and vocal storytelling experience of drone ambience and noise for your deathbed.
[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…]