Droid Zen – Robot Meditations

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

LSDJ and friends

The election of the music gear depends on the emotion feels, desires to learn new music vocabularies or the song itself ask you the tools to create it, but the DMG-01 (any Game Boy model, with LSDJ and other music rooms) is one of my favorite music instruments, because is probably the best example that making music is a game and working with this tool is so fun. You know, you can made the DMG-01 a synth, sequencer, drum machine and MIDI controler; all in one, is fantastic.  When you compose music with DMG-01 the form to see the complete music enviromment and aproach the ideas conditions the results, and let you explore unique options, wich would be impossible to conceive with other kinds of music tools; mantra: “one thing is with a guitar and another with a violin”; new mantra, “one thing is with a traditional synth and another with DMG-01”. Another favorite tool to ordering sounds is the Speak & Spell, it´s very rock, and the tape machines are pure magnetism. 

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

Another nice odd question my friend. I think if that chaos or randoms sounds are incorporated in all music tools, we could see the extra layers of the marble to create a better scupture. Sometimes we can control and generate our own chaos and random ideas, it´s part of the creative drift, but if we had the option to turn on and off an alternative chaos to compose is that what would change everything.

Light and layers

Optimize the creative cables. We all need the chaos, it´s like an angry ocean, you know, removes sediments, and create opportunities to see new forms of musical life. Imagine a random 5th channel on LSDJ; or more crazy also, like an extra random rope in the guitar, piano, violin, etc., to change its pitch without our being able to prevent it; composing assuming that randomness would be a good exercise.

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

Game Boy DMG-01 of course (it takes up little space in the suitcase) and a Zoom H6N or H4N. Sometimes I carry my guitar, but a paper and pencil are always the best tools.

Zoom recorder. Boss Pedals and GameBoys running LSDJ

Now, let me ask you a similar question.

What setup would you like to carry on a vacation to Mars or Space Station?

And imagine that there is a weight limit per passenger… perhaps Carl Sagan could advise us better at that time.

[Editor: I’d bring a tank of oxygen, it’s great for making sounds and it’s my absolute favourite for breathing. 🙂 Throw us an answers in the comments below]

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

Reason´s Subtractor Synth please! But I´d be very happy with all Propellerhead Software hardware racks, and I would like to have a Circuit Bending software, but one in which you can add and also buy toys to short-circuit them, just imagine, go to the library and select a Speak and Spell as a base, and have the possibility of hacking it virtually, for example: add controls for pitch, loops, hold, glitch, CV ports, LFO’s, etc.,

Korg Volca FM. Earthquaker Devices Dispatch Master and saucer

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

Yes, a wrong Mabuchi engine. I bought 2 of those motors to hack the Tascam Porta 03 and due to an inattention I bought the same motor model. Also I bought a TI-82 calculator and it still fills its main functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

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

Nice question my friend, and answer is: the Reason from Propellerhead Software, my guitar of course and the LSDJ. Most of my compositions start from any part of this trinity.  Sometimes I imagine a melody playing a synth from Reason and continue it on LSDJ and other times I start something on LSDJ and take it to Reason, and my guitar is always there to solve any musical puzzle that comes up and initiate other ideas.

Sound as rituals

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

Tesla and Space X Stock when those companies started too; to be able to by more synths and audio equipment, but I wouldn’t change the order of things with which I started making music: my guitar, and actually, I have the desire to buy a drum set since my childhood.

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

TI-83 Calculator! It’s so heavy to use them with the Houston Tracker, sometimes I hate it, don’t get me wrong, because when I can make it sound, the bass lines sound so powerful, and I find it crazy to be able to make music with a calculator and place notes with sine and osine, but maybe I do several things wrong because I cannot turn off the calculator once I use them and I have to do the entire Houston Tracker installation process and when I compose something I have to take photos of the screen as a backup and breathe very deeply if unexpectedly it crash, but that “little calculating bug” produces good sounds and I would live very sad if I did not have my TI-83, I would even miss my TI-82 to which I still cannot install the Houston Tracker; somebody help me with that!

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

Synth Rotek’s Atari Punk tunes very well, it is unstable, but with patience it can sound very powerful. Atari Punk in general are valuable wildcards to create and express emotions, when I connect any sound source in its CV ports, like a DMG-01, sounds really fat, on fire!.

If you connect the Atari Punk to an arpeggiator or fuzz pedal, you can rock out for a long time, and with long reverbs they can sound like trival songs. Another trick is to rock the DMG-01. Using an overtone pedal and a distortion, you can get really crazy sounds! Sometimes it’s great to do power chords: two channels sounding at the same time, the first channel does the tonic and the second channel the fifth, but, to this channel different values are applied with the D (delay) command to each note, then you can spice it up with individual wrappers per instrument, put values in with the K (stop) command and Vualá, it sounds so close to a guitar.

Through the porthole

Artist or Band name?

Droide Zen

Genre?

I’m going to paraphrase a great musician: Kevin Johansen “Soy un Desgenerado” (without musical genre). 

Selfie?

Droid Zen

Where are you from?

Guyaquil – Ecuador

How did you get into music?

I honestly don’t remember an exact date, because I liked the music for as long as I can remember, music is part of my biology.

What still drives you to make music?

Breathe. 

How do you most often start a new track?

Again, breathe and feel peace by my limbic system, And have the fortune to see an idea that excites me. Jorge Drexler in an interview said that making music is like a hunting ground, with different entrance doors, where you enter to hunt the same, but through different doors. The song that starts from the text, a sequence of chords, a melody, noise or random proceses is different. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

Perhaps intuition, you never know, maybe a track is never finished. Songs like that have only single chord have a life and their own and their own evolutionary path. The thermometer that I trust when I make music is the feeling, if the result transmits energy to me and when I add something the original emotion changes or that energy is lost, well, it’s time to stop and let the song breathe on its own, and listen to it after a long time and if it still retains the same feeling, it was always alive from the beginning.

Show us your current studio

Studio cat

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

A universal advice: live with the mistakes that we will make. 

Another good advice is one that Leda Valladares gave to Pedro Aznar: feel the ancient cosmic, sing with the guts, without worrying so much about aesthetics, your song must be credible. In spanish you say: cantar desde las entrañas.

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

[Editor: Check out the Droid Zen channel below]

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_-K0KHWU8JNWeBR8IHtXOg/videos

CPH Mush – Head full of Synths

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

I could make this about feel or what it does to a certain sound, but I’ll answer it through another perspective. The knob that has meant most to me is the keyframe knob on mutable instruments frames module. This is going to be a long explanation, so please skip if you don’t like tech philosophical ramblings…

[Editor: Bring it!]

Keyframe knob on Mutable Instruments frames module

So what about that keyframe knob… In short, the idea is that you save settings to a chosen point of a knob and any position in between two saved states is outputting an interpolated value. But let me give you a long background of why I find this so revolutionary… I remember a late night in Stockholm (actually at a bachelor party for Daniel Araya of Araya Instruments ( https://araya.se/ )) where Jon of THC ( https://thehumancomparator.net/ ) started discussing alternative synth interfaces with me. I had made a semi-name for myself on different forums and through some explorations of alternative interfaces ( https://cdm.link/2010/11/alternative-musical-expression-a-diy-pressure-sensitive-multi-ribbon-controller/ ), so I guess that’s the reason he approached me.
We talked for 45 minutes about the most minimal interface that could still expressive and fun to play. I don’t know if that discussion lead up to anything fruitfull for Jon or if it was lost in the alcohol fumes on a late summer-night. But it managed to keep me awake all night thinking about a box with a couple of buttons and one knob. 

The concept I couldn’t stop thinking about was to wrap a kind of standard analog synth in a set of voltage controlled parameters with digital control and randomise sounds on a button click. The randomised sound could then be saved to the current position of the knob. After adding a few sounds to different positions of the knobs rotation – turning the knob would then interpolate all parameters in between the saved positions.

Of course it had some other stuff to it in the discussed design, but the idea at its core, as described, is quite simple and was born out of my love of the patch mutator / randomiser in the Nord Modular G2, with kind of a twist of the morph groups on the same instrument. I got into eurorack clone building about the same time and found the keyframe knob in the frames module to be a fantastic, while limited, implementation of the same idea (though without randomisation). 

The simple synthesizer was never built (I may still revisit the concept in the future as I still find it brilliant), but the idea of the keyframe knob has kept on hunting me. In the last couple of years my own eurorack construction is made by modules I design from scratch using kicad – and as anyone with a huge eurorack I have a certain jealousy on the Buchla 200e series. The patch saving is so neat and fun and the internal databus is simple and clever. I will however never spend that kind of money on an instrument…
…and the implementations on it still leaves something to be wanted. So, where does that leave me?! What I have done myself is to replicate the code and the micro controller-based setup of the MI frames into my own modules with a central external control and 8 DAC channels and 8 VCAs on each module. I save settings on each module through a press of a button on the central control module via a databus and I send a voltage out on a CV-bus to each module of the current position. In that way I can control presets and interpolate between them in a theoretical infinite Modular system with one knob.

Right now I have 4 different module designs based around this architecture, but whenever I have time and ideas I’ll design some new ones… (Sorry, I won’t show any pictures or release any code or schematics as I can see a future commercial potential in this system) So how does it make me feel?! Well, the pleasure of sweeping and finding sweet spots in the interpolation is great, it opens up totally surprising movement to sounds. And as the frames, this parameter is voltage controlled, which means that simple sequencing of it creates the weirdest stuff ever… To finish up this infinite explanation…
…the reason I picked the Knob on the frames, is that it keeps reminding me of the most clever innovative concept i personally have been implementing and using in a musical instrument. My story tries to put light on the wonderful synthesis of different concepts, born from different designers and how it can be used create something new. 

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

Korg Stage Echo SE-300

The Korg Stage Echo SE-300. It looks like a more serious brother of the Roland RE-301. The preamps has a great sound when overdriven, the tape delays has a really nice sound on self-oscillation and the spring reverb has a nice quality to it. I can put the spring reverb on just the delays if I want, but I can’t put it into the internal feedback of the delay – so if I want the delays to drown out more and more for every repetition I need to patch it up in creative ways. Having that possibility with a switch would make it perfect (I can feel a modding session coming up). 

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

MacBook Pro, Arturia Keystep and Zoom h2n (well, at least this summer vacation, I usually bring the Teenage Engineering OP1 as it is smaller).

OP-1

It was really nice – I went around recording weird sounds and used the new quick sampler in logic to create instruments from it. (This piece of software is brilliant, simple auto-looping and automatic tuning of the sample). It was a great way of expanding my personal sound library as well as learning the new stuff in the latest version of Logic.

Quicksampler in Logic

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

I would love logic’s new quick sampler in a small hardware keyboard with a decent microphone running on batteries. If I hear a nice ringing sound of a garbage can, I could just sample it, automatically set looping points and tuning. And get something musical to play instantly. Like a OP1 but more usable…

Kaivo VSTi

I would also love to have Madonna Labs Kaivo with physical controls and a 3 octave keybed (it would replace the Nord Modular G2 as my “sofa synth”).

Nord Modular G2

The other way around I would love the MAM RS3 resonator as a plugin, whatever I put through that machine comes out sounding sooo great, the overdrive in that circuit is really musically inspiring.

MAM RS3

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

I have been through a phase of re-buying everything I’ve sold that I’ve missed. I’m on my third Monomachine, my third Machinedrum, my second Sherman filterbank, my second Xbase09 etc… So I don’t miss anything anymore, but I have and had stuff that I regret buying…

The Jomox Xbase09 for instance. I really love the sound of Jomox, but that interface and the choice of hardware, omg, I really hate using it. But for some reason I bought one again after selling it… The only thing worse is probably the Spectralis groovebox (also a great sounding machine). I traded my Machinedrum and Monomachine for it and got lots of gray hair plus resentment towards yet another synth-designer. Thank God I managed to trade it half a year later for a Machinedrum UW and a vintage small stone pedal (the Machinedrum left again… …but a few years ago I picked up another one at a price I couldn’t resist… )

Elektron Monomachine

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

My Nord Modular G2 – I traded a shit-ton of synths for it. The idea I had was to focus almost solely on just one synth. I made patches everyday, learned lots about modular synthesis and produced music in my most prolific flow ever. ( an example of a track from that time where almost every sound is from the G2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOen47S0jco )

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

An acoustic piano (after wanting one for 25 years I finally got my self one of those fancy new ones where you also can play it digitally with headphones, and it has really been inspiring to play for an hour each day – I get more musical ideas written down than ever before in my life – and I actually feel that I get an improved musical sense every day)

Piano

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

Probably my DAW – Apple Logic. I find that DAWs are really old school in their setup – using piano-roll and analog mixing paradigms. I usually build stuff in a very Modular way using aux-channels, feedback and complex routing between effect plugins and the fact that these combinations can’t be saved as ‘racks’ to be inserted into other projects is really turning me off… I keep doing so much screen-patching over and over and I can’t manage to make templates that fits every way I want to go… But it is still the center of all music I make.

Little DAW, but lotta reading 🙂

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

Most of what I do in my studio today is based around combinations of effects and creative routing. A few simple units running parallel or in series with some feedback can create the most imaginative soundscapes… For me this started when I bought a Boss SL20 slicer pedal 10 years ago – it was kind of a one-trick-pony and not that interesting… …until.. I put it after a reverb. It created all this pulsating harmonic rhythms from even simple piano playing ( I have an example of the first track I made with it and the reverb: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MZpNx41Ugc ). This kind of combination has kind of been my sound since and a thing I keep coming back too, sliced reverbs in different forms… I eventually sold the pedal and replaced it with (3x) Boss VF-1 which also contains that slicer effect.

Lotta synth, but a little guitar too

Artist or Band name?

FEJLD / The Mush Orchestra / Copenhagen Noise Lab

Genre?

Usually ambient or other electronica not centered around rhythms

Selfie?

Cph Mush himself

Where are you from?

I am an exile swede living in Denmark since 2010. 

How did you get into music?

My father was a musician, that helped my early gear acquisition phase, but I think that I got into music making cause I was inspired by some older kids. I was shown a tb-303, a tr-909, a tr-808 and lots of other techno machines by these kids in 1993. They made sounds I had never heard before and I got obsessed. A few months later, just after my 13th birthday I went to the local music store and bought my first synth – a Korg MS10. That was the start of my identity and the sound of the 303 became the soundtrack of my teenage years. 

What still drives you to make music?

I am not really a musician or a producer. But I believe that the need to create is an essential part of my being. I used to write music to have a diary in a sense, to help me remember my life. Nowadays I don’t need it in that way anymore – but I need to create, whether it is designing circuits, building furniture or composing music, I can’t breathe without it. I do however feel no strong need though to share the stuff I do. Sitting in the studio, patching up a rhythmic drone on a Modular and playing some improvised piano hook on top is as least as rewarding to me as making a finished piece of music. I enjoy the creative process. The place where the mind is focused and absorbed by a creative task is the main place to be for me. 

[Editor: Amen to that]

How do you most often start a new track?

I usually sit down with a machine or a module trying to learn how to use it better (I have way too many instruments). Usually I find something interesting that I feel the need to record. And once I have recorded it, I’m kind of in a flow and I start recording improvisations on other instruments over it. …I never learn to use the stuff in better ways as I kind of gets lost into the flow of music production…

How do you know when a track is finished?

This is an interesting question. Mainly because it highlights how little recorded music has evolved as a concept during the century it’s been around… Let me explain…

My work is as a chief of a technical development department. If we release some software we can be sure it won’t be the final version, we expand functionality, we fix stuff and keep working on it after it has been released. Music is now a digitally distributed product, just like the software mentioned, but it is supposedly done/perfect once it has hit Spotify/Bandcamp/SoundCloud/whatever. Films suffer a bit on under the same failure to adapt – but with platforms like Netflix/HBO/etc. we are beginning to witness some change. It would be lovely to see more experiments that highlights the great part about this digital distribution system for music…

So, how do I know when I’m finished? When I make tracks I try to finish them up before I need to go to bed, so I can start from scratch next time I get inspired, if I don’t finish it before bed I will probably never finish it. (With my piano however I keep writing and rewriting the score sheets for weeks – I haven’t recorded anything written with it yet though)

[Editor: Perhaps music has unnecessarily, become an artform like scuplture or architecture. Where the final product is static and unchanging. This could easily change with generative or ‘interpreted score’ based music and digital distribution via programmable interfaces. Perhaps a bit like Brian Eno does with his music apps? Where we basically see the role of composer and listener become more and more blended together]

Show us your current studio

Cph Mush synths
Cph Mush studio from above
Cph Mush Mega Modular
Cph Mush spaghetti
The CPH Mush Synth Cave

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Be creative with whatever you have around. Great art is created from great ideas, not from having the latest gear. The perfect tool is not important. (I know… Kind of weird thing to promote on a gear-centric blog)

[Editor: Yes its weird, but also thought provoking!]

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

I don’t share much of what I do nowadays, but checkout my Instagram ( https://www.instagram.com/cphmush/ ) and don’t be a stranger if you want to have a philosophical discussion about the future of musical instrument interfaces. 😉


Scott Brackett – Digital Retroist

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

Yamaha QY100

I actually really love the keys for the QY-100/QY-70. They are cute little rubber calculator buttons that work keyboard keys and data entry. They’re not velocity sensitive, they’re probably too bouncy for most, but for me there’s something very pleasant about both their form factor, and the sensation of playing on them. I think the LCD reminds me of old “Tiger” hand held games, and the buttons remind me of old casio calculators, and the QY itself kind of reminds me of a gameboy, so the whole package together really helps me get in touch with a playful, less serious side of my musical self. Also, I have pretty small hands, so the size of the keys allows me to play parts that I would never attempt on a full size keyboard which can lead to some really interesting voicings.

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

All of it! Every instrument is “almost” perfect. Part of the fun of making art through technology is the game of asking “what would make this even better?” Of course, at some point you have to sit down and make something, so it’s usually wise to wipe that question from one’s mind and treat any limitations as a creative challenge.

Diagram of synth characteristic stats

Sometimes I draw a diagram to help me figure out how I feel, here’s one that’s kind of like a character creation stats screen from a video game:

OP-Z has really cool sequencer effects, but is very light on editing utilities and the actual buttons to trigger notes are not super pleasant to use. MODX is very pleasant to play physically/tactilely, but the midi sequencer is more of a midi recorder with very light quantization and velocity editing, plus some minor non-destructive variation via the “play FX.” The MPC Live of course is amazing as a MIDI writing tool and has tons of editing capabilities, but the UI takes me some time to get my head around, and the sequencer randomizations are destructive edits so any given randomized pattern still sounds exactly the same, which is not the way that I prefer to use probability in my music.

My favorite sequencer is probably still the one on the Yamaha MOXF (a.k.a. the baby Motif that came out before the MODX), but the one thing I wish they had kept from the QY100 user interface was the “undo” shortcut. On the QY-100 (and QY-70, I think) you can hold “shift” and press the “job” button and it will undo whatever you just did, which is really nice. However, on the MOXF you have to actually go into the “job” menu and click at least one more button to undo the last action (two more button presses if the “undo” menu isn’t already showing!).

Synths and doggie

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

Usually op-1, Nintendo Switch or my 2DS. I love the op-z but sometimes it’s buttons are a little frustrating when I don’t have the device on a table top and I have yet to gel with the hand-held thumb-pressing grip I’ve seen some people use. The op-1 is usually what I’ll pick for a flight, since it’s a delight to play and the battery life is good enough to handle even the weirdest of connecting flight tom-foolery. The 4 track tape workflow of the op-1 is great for off-the-cuff creation which helps me stay in tune with my surroundings so I can draw on my environment for inspiration. With the nintendo switch I can use it to play games, or I can compose using Korg Gadget (an incredibly capable mini-studio), but the hand-held nature of the device means it’s a little more friendly to situations where I may not have a lap, or I’ll be getting up and down a lot. If I really need to go small I bring the Nintendo 2DS which has decent battery life, is super small, and I can run the Korg DSN-10, DSN-12 or MD-01 software.

Teenage Engineering OPZ and Empress Effects Reverb

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

I wish the original Native Instruments Massive plugin was a stand-alone piece of hardware. I LOVE it’s sounds and incredible routing flexibility, but don’t love having to run a standard operating system, sound card, video card, etc. just to get to it.

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

I did regret selling my Volca Keys, but I have since re-bought it already 🙂

I am generally not too precious about holding onto my gear, I sort of treat the second-hand market like a synth library. With each synth I buy and eventually resell sometimes I make money, but more usually I lose about 10-15% of what I paid for it. I consider that loss essentially my membership fee for being a synthesizerist.

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

Old-school “Yamaha-style” sequencers. My first and greatest love in this regard was and still is the MOXF. The MOXF itself is like a budget version of the Motif, but the variations of that core sequencer engine are also present in the QY series and a few other preceding machines.

Yamaha moXF6

The midi sequencer has 3 modes: 1 for live-tracking midi record-style, a second a step-edit mode that uses staff lines and music notation, and an event list editor that just has a textual list of every midi event in chronological order. I’ve never been great at reading music, but I don’t find the typical midi piano roll particularly exciting for some reason. So these alternate visualizations are really nice to me.

The 16 track version of this sequencer that is in the MOXF lets you do stuff like put a 3 measure long loop next to a 17 measure loop in the same pattern (up to 256 measures!). You can also record parameter changes and whatnot for some really fun experimentation that I’ve only ever been able to duplicate with Ableton.

These sequencers do a crazy blending of pattern based groove box type functionality with a sort of classical/pop vernacular. It ends up creating a tool that is highly effective if you put in the time to learn all it’s features, but ultimately very stylistically unopinionated.

The MOXF boots up in 7 seconds, and then I’m writing songs and depending on whether I feel like tracking into a recorder, or programming in some stuff on the step editor it’s all ready to go in a stable and dependable package.

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

Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing!

I am very much informed by exploration of whatever raw material is in front of me, but when I first got interested in bedroom recording, I started with crummy consumer arranger keyboards, a 4-track tape machine, and fruity loops. I think the challenge of trying to make music I liked with those raw pieces helped develop a mindset that there is a corner of every piece of equipment that will be the exact right thing for some song. It’s more important to use whatever you have and put in time with it, ultimately and I think my path led me to that conclusion pretty early on. It is always worthwhile to focus on your own technique in order to shore up what your instrument can’t do for you. Electronic music is definitely a conversation with manufacturers, a collaboration with their design team… but it’s important to remember that you are ultimately responsible for making good music.

When I was learning the trumpet as a young goober, I didn’t ever stop and think “This thing should have a fourth valve, then I’d really be killing this cover of the jurassic park theme song.” I just thought: “Man, I need to practice and get better at this instrument.” Then I’d go play megaman X instead. But the point is, I didn’t blame the company that made the trumpet for it.

That’s not to say that manufacturers shouldn’t be held responsible for ripping people off, or phoning in their designs, but I think as creators we have to take responsibility for our part too.

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

By far it is the personal computer. I get so frustrated wrestling with sound drivers and forced OS updates, but it is impossible to publish material in the digital age without some form of computer (or mobile/tablet device).

I tend to work best if I’m composing a little at a time, maybe 20-30 minutes a day with a longer session once or twice a week. So in order to avoid wasting a lot of time waiting for a computer to boot up and disconnecting/reconnecting USB devices, I typically choose a single device that boots up quickly. Working with dedicated devices like the MPC Live, or keyboard workstations like the MOXF/MODX are my happy place.

But at some point, I have to figure out how to get that material into a publishable format. Sometimes, like with the MPC Live, I’ll export the tracks as stems to mix on my computer. Or if I did some writing on the MODX, I’ll stream all the separate tracks into Ableton to mix and master. Other times I’ll do the arranging and mixing on the device like with the OP-Z or the MOXF and then just record a stereo mix onto my computer for mastering, naming and uploading the files to bandcamp or DistroKid.

The point is that at some juncture, my material has to cross through that membrane, and I find the more work I do on the pre-computer side of that divide, the more I enjoy myself. That said, I often prefer the end result of the projects that are closer to 50/50. Maybe it’s a bit more tedious in the later stages, but if I do my mixing in the computer it often sounds better, and I can do it faster. At least at my current skill level with dedicated hardware.

Something I’ve been working on lately to combat this aversion to the personal computer as an art tool is to really invest a ton of time into a piece of software that excites me: Sunvox. It’s a tracker/modular synth that’s free and open-source for PC/Mac/Linux. TBD on if that helps me make good art, but I am enjoying working with the computer more!

Computer generated glitch art in place of photo of a computer

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

Actually, it’s one of yours Martin. I saw a video on Youtube that you posted about how to use blank samples and assign them to layers that can be randomly triggered for an MPC Live keyboard program and it blew my mind. The end result was that you added a note trigger probability to an instrument that didn’t have that functionality. You found a way to work with what was already there and get the functionality you needed and I thought it was brilliant. I actually prefer the end result of that more than the randomness that they eventually added in a firmware update!

[Editor: I’m glad you found my youtube useful. I gotta admit though, that I believe that I got that trick from either MPCHead or TubeDigga’s channels… and embarrassingly I forgot which one]


Artist/Band name:

Scott Brackett/thebrackett

Genre

Ambient-ish, pop synthy, lo-fi hip-hop …wave?

Selfie

Scott Brackett

Where are you from

Northern California originally, but have been in Austin Texas for about 15 years.

How did you get into music?

When I was in maybe 4th grade I joined the brass band at my public school. I originally wanted to play saxophone because of Lisa Simpson, but I panicked when they asked me and I picked trumpet, so that’s what I ended up with. I pretty quickly started trying to pickout 16-bit JRPG soundtracks by ear which led me to also playing keyboard and piano. I still played horns but also got into guitar and drums in my teen years. Eventually I settled into the “utility player” role because I could kind of pick up whatever and at least hold down a simple part, but my staples were usually cornet/trumpet, hand percussion and keyboards.

What drives you to make music still?

Playing music helps me to be with loved ones who are no longer here, dream up worlds that I’ve never been to, and connect with the kindest part of the universe I’ve ever met, in a way that I cannot find anywhere else.

I’ve got kind of a long story to explain what I mean:

My decision to stick with trumpet as a lad allowed me to take advantage of the great horn boom of the early aughts. Seems like you couldn’t swing a singer-songwriter without hitting an essential trumpet line for a folk-rock song, at that time. That serendipitous backdrop and my pleasant demeanor landed me in a touring band called “Okkervil River” in 2005. Their horn player dropped out a few weeks before a tour opening up for a band called “The Decemberists” and so I dropped out of college to go see if I could hack it playing in a “real” band.

I toured hard in several bands for the next 8 years and got to learn from some amazing musicians along the way. One of them, Travis Nelsen (who passed away a few weeks ago) taught me a lot about rhythm, stage presence and remembering to have fun with music.

Trav would do this thing where he would throw a stick way up in the air and then instead of catching it, he would pull another one out of his pocket right before coming back in on a nice sludgy ringo-style tom fill. Just when you thought: “there’s no way he’s going to catch it,” he would pull out the other stick and come back into the song with a smile on his face.

Travis was also notorious for his hard-hitting style. Some of his magic was not to do with how hard he hit the drums, but with how he played with timing. When he wanted a fill to really stand out, or a snare to really land hard, he’d let it drag a little bit later than you’d think would be musical, but that would mean the other instruments were already decaying on that beat, and so there would be this little space for the drum part to just come out pop you right in the face.

Off stage there wasn’t a tour where he didn’t look around at some point and make sure we all acknowledged how lucky we were to be playing music every night. On stage he would always go out of his way to try and get me to smile at some point in the show.

That’s a long way to answer your question, but the point is this:

My musical habits are little fractal grains of my personal experiences, seeded by the influences of the wonderful people that I have known and loved in my life. During creative acts, you get to spend time with all the moments that led up to that point.

Yes, I love to share my music and I hope other people like the end product, but making it and/or performing it allows me to access something that I simply can’t get from any other activity.

Best creative advice you’ve ever heard?

In the studio:
Limitations are key to creativity. If you are stuck or feel uninspired, remove some options.

On the stage:
Be yourself. I know it seems trite. But hear me out… if you struggle on stage, that struggle will resonate with certain folks. If you are effortless on stage, that will also resonate with certain folks. Just spend time being the most “you” that you can be.

Show us your current studio

Scott Brackett Studio and Doggie

Promote your latest thing… Go on throw us a linnk

A thing I didn’t make

First, can I plug a thing I didn’t make? Go find out about your next favorite musician using this site featuring a crowdsourced list of Black artists from lots of genres: https://www.blackbandcamp.info/ Comment end 

Here are the last two EP’s I did.

An Ambient album made using a multi-tracked Microbrute as the only sound source:

https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/scottbrackett/popsicle

Here are the last two EP’s I did:
An Ambient album made using a multi-tracked Microbrute as the only sound source:
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/scottbrackett/popsicle

An ambient album using a multi-tracked Korg Volca Key as the only sound source:
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/scottbrackett/newtonian

Here’s my last full-length album
A lo-fi groovy synthwav-ey full-length. I used the OP-Z for all but a few overdubs:
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/scottbrackett/pocket-dimension

Also, check out my Youtube channel if you want…
https://www.youtube.com/thebrackett

[Editor: Do you have any of the gear in this article? Then why not share a tip or trick? Leave a comment below]