Red Means Recording – Jeremy Blake

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

The Hydrasynth main encoder knob. It’s huge.

Hydrasynth main encoder knob – it’s lit from beneath

Second place goes to anything that turns up the volume. 

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

I wish the Synthstrom Deluge had an OLED screen and I wish the Mashine+ could make actual synth patches from scratch. 

Native Instruments Mashine+

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

OP-1 or Deluge or iPad for granular apps like Borderlands.

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

I used to think a bunch about this, but after getting the Hydrasynth I don’t really care about software in hardware. If I could get Pigments as hardware that would be dope. I would love more wacky probabilistic and self-patchable software stuff.

Slow spagettification of a studio

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

Zero regrets in selling. Selling is freedom. 

A corona lockdown audience

Buying, I dunno. Everything I’ve bought I’ve bought because it had a reason to exist in my setup at that time. When I sell it, it’s because it’s redundant or I’ve outgrown it.

Vivid colors of eurorack

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

Neatified cables

Up until this year, the Teenage Engineering OP-1. This year it’s been eurorack.

A rainbow in eurorack

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

I still think a good DAW with a decent sample library, one good synth VST, and a hunger to learn is the best thing you could possibly start with. So I would do that.

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

Anything involving my computers, haha. I know that’s a cop-out answer, but like, man. They can do everything, but fuck up harder than anything else.

Can’t get around computers. But you can mount them up high!

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

I think audio-rate modulation, in general, is something that never occurred to me until recently. Everytime I see DivKid do something with it I’m like “oh right, I can do that”. It’s wild.

Audio rate mod everthing… in eurorack

Artist or Band name?

Jeremy Blake for music, Red Means Recording for YouTube

Genre?

Electronica, Downtempo, Alternative Electronic

Selfie?

Jeremy Blake aka. Red Means Recording

Where are you from?

Seattle, WA

How did you get into music?

I started playing the flute in Elementary School. Was lucky enough to be exposed to orchestral playing and jazz ensemble. Flunked out of music performance school because I was spending too much time sneaking into the studio to use the equipment and I didn’t wanna play the flute anymore. Was playing with trackers and anything I could get my hands on. Went to audio engineering school, kept experimenting. Eventually fell into YouTube music production videos. Most recently I’ve fallen hard for modular and I’m having a blast.

Desktop inspiration

What still drives you to make music?

When life gives you cables, make yellow shelving organisers

All the little pieces of things I know can be rearranged to augment some new idea. Everything can be recontextualized and spun into a new idea. There’s no end to the inspiration.

Gratuitios knobalation of the Sequential Pro 3
Knobalicious

How do you most often start a new track?

Lately, a lot. Modular has been a really refreshing platform for experimentation. I’m writing at least one new thing a week.

How do you know when a track is finished?

With modular and hardware it’s easy: when the performance is done and I’ve mixed and mastered it. With DAW-based stuff, it’s when I’ve gone through all my iteration passes, like idea, arrangement, mixing, re-arrangement, ear candy, and mastering. I go by a rule of three approach: if I can listen to a track 3 times and not mess with it, it’s done. If something bothers me 3 times, I change it.

[Editor: That answer is one of the most systematic and quantified approach to that question. That I’ve read. Excellent!]

Show us your current studio

Jeremy Blake’s very red Red Means Recording studio
Blackmagic ATEM Mini and a tuner

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Limitation breeds innovation, tied with “put a donk on it”.

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

I make music performance and education videos here: https://www.youtube.com/redmeansrecording

You can find my music on all platforms here: https://rmr.media/findme


[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…
]


Emily Hopkins – Harpedalist

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

Meris Enzo

This is definitely the little button on the Meris Enzo that puts it in “Arp” mode. It essentially turns the chords you play into sequenced patterns at whatever tempo you set. It was such an amazing experience interacting with that mode for the first time, because I heard Enzo go from doing my bidding, to it having some thoughts of its own and playing alongside me. If you split your signal so one is dry (or going through a separate pedal chain) and the other one is through Enzo on arp mode, the sequences create a wonderful foundation for improvisation. I wouldn’t depend on being able to recreate some of those moments easily; but that’s why I love Enzo. Meris pedals are like people.

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

EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath V3

I’d say the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath V3 is near-perfect for me. The reverb pairs perfectly with the harp, and pretty much every other instrument (especially voice)! It would work well in any piece I play. The only improvement I can think of is an upgrade to stereo output.

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

Out and about with a Harp

Unfortunately my electroacoustic Camac harp is too large and too sensitive to the weather/humidity to bring on vacation; I’d just be worrying about it the whole time and not be able to enjoy myself! On vacation or long car rides, I usually bring my Harpsicle; it’s a tiny budget lever harp that I don’t have to worry about as much. If I want to bring a few effects pedals for fun, I’ll bring whichever pedals I got recently, with my tiny travel amp and either my Organelle or keyboard to play through them. I just got my new Lottie Canto Colour Palette electric kalimba, which will now be a vacation staple. My wedding gig schedule doesn’t usually allow me to tour, or perform far from my home state, but I’d love to consider it after the pandemic! 
If you’re wondering how I transport my harp to gigs:

https://youtu.be/1SAcSHNpTvE

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

I wish I had Fab-Filter Pro-Q 3 in a pedal box, with the same spectrum analyzer graphic display on a screen, complete with dynamic EQ. I know, it’s a lot to ask for. I’ll keep dreaming.

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

Cooper FX/Chase Bliss Audio Generation Loss limited edition pedal, hands down. The pandemic hit me really hard. I’m primarily a wedding musician, and at the start of the pandemic, I had so many gigs being cancelled/postponed and the uncertain future forced me to sell the majority of the pedals I owned at the time. I’d have to pay an insane price to get one now due to the limited availability/price inflation. I’m hoping Cooper FX decides to make a Generation Loss V2 so the amazing sounds of Gen Loss can be more available to everyone!

Cooper FX/Chase Bliss Audio Generation Loss

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

Chase Bliss Audio’s Thermae has such insane chemistry with the harp and my playing style. Whenever I plug into it and improvise some sketches, I create some of my best music. That pedal has resonated with me above most others over the past few months. It’s not so much direct inspiration from understanding the gear or thinking about it; more so the dialogue between Thermae and the harp in real-time has brought my improvisation to a higher level. The first time I used it, I was recording a demo with it for my YouTube channel, and I’ve used pretty much every sound made in that demo for original music releases, or background music across my YouTube channel. The foundation for my new single, Backyard Spaceship, is actually directly from my Thermae YouTube demo! It was such an amazing moment that I couldn’t recreate in the studio, so I just decided to use that audio as the starting point for that project.

Chase Bliss Audio’s Thermae

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

If I could go back, I’d definitely get a higher quality amplifier than the one I started with! I was playing my brand new electric harp through a very small $150 amp; it was like putting a bumper sticker on a Ferrari. I was new to gear at the time, and didn’t understand my options and the importance of investing in a higher quality amp.

Harp with PA

I also probably would have got an EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath right away, which is an amazing device to help introduce yourself to more out-of-the-box effects pedals if you’re new to electric instruments and effects.

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

My camera tripod is currently the bane of my workflow. I do a lot of reamping and desk recording, and it just doesn’t really go well with my setup and what I need it to do. I’m yet to find one in my budget that does what I need, but for now, I’ll have to keep taping mine to the edge of my desk on an angle and contort around it to make it work.

Camera tripods

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

The other day, I found out the EarthQuaker Devices / Death by Audio Time Shadows pedal has a secret mode. If you put the switch in the center (it doesn’t click in place but it will stay there) it’ll create some interesting Rainbow Machine-like modulation.

EarthQuaker Devices / Death by Audio Time Shadows

Artist or Band name?

Emily Hopkins

Genre?

‘Cool harp stuff’. I always have trouble putting myself in a genre.

Selfie?

Emily Hopkins

Where are you from?

Long Island, NY.

Working with the harp

How did you get into music?

When I was 8 years old, I went to a Mexican restaurant on my birthday and there was a man playing harp during dinner (I later found out this was the amazing Edmar Castaneda during his college years!). I was absolutely mesmerized by his music, and begged my mom for harp lessons. Since I was homeschooled, I had plenty of time to practice, and was already playing piano for 4 years by the time I started (I tell everyone the harp is essentially just a piano flipped on the side!).

Emily Hopkins early years with the harp

What still drives you to make music?

The desire to connect to others and to break that stereotype of the harp being an exclusively classical / “boring” instrument. I love using effects pedals to show what a versatile instrument the harp is, and to constantly discover the new sounds it can create.

Astral Destiny by Earthquaker Devices

How do you most often start a new track?

Improv! Most of the time, I discover a cool theme while I’m improvising during an effects pedal demo. My new single came exclusively from my CBA Thermae pedal demo, because I’m not overthinking anything.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When you accept that it’s finished, and you stop obsessing over it; whether it’s the composition, mix, or any tiny detail.

Show us your current studio

Emily Hopkins’ Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

The story of the “two bad bricks” really resonated with me. The short version is that Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk, built a wall of a thousand bricks by hand, but two of the bricks ended up crooked. When visitors came to the monastery, he tried to avoid showing them the wall because he was so worried about them noticing those two crooked bricks. One day, someone approached him and told him how beautiful the wall was, but he disagreed, pointing out the two bricks. The visitor said, “There might be two bad bricks, but all I can see are the 998 perfect ones.” Even if you don’t play a piece absolutely flawlessly, most of the time you’re the only person who can hear the imperfections. It’s important to appreciate the successful elements of your work, and understand that imperfections in a piece are what makes it human. Also, I don’t believe in ‘wrong notes’ — only ‘interesting’ ones. 

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

Here’s my very first single, Backyard Spaceship!

https://youtu.be/pbPayOi28II

https://open.spotify.com/album/0SZH7JV0eMWyoXpWRuMGdE?si=tbgKgYNMR0m5kuw9BRU2MQ


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]


Oriol Domingo – El Garatge

[Editor: This is interview nr. 100! Yay!!! And to celebrate, we’re doing a GIVEAWAY! Oriol has kindly donated an El Garatge expression knob to one lucky price winner. Check out how to enter on my Instagram]

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

Moog Sub 37 chicken head knob

My Moog Sub 37 has a very good over all build quality. I like that despite being quite big, the filter knob moves really smooth, but what I like even more, is the pattern type and octave selectors, even the click sound is very pleasing!.

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

Access Virus Indigo 2

I really like my old Access Virus Indigo 2. Sounds really powerful and offers a lot of sonic possibilities, but due to the metal sides it’s insanely heavy and the keybed feels really cheap for me. I already have a bigger midi controller connected to it, but I like to use the built-in keyboards, especially when I’m just creating new sounds.

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

Teenage Engineering OP-1

Most of the time, just the Teenage Engineering OP-1. It’s perfect to practice with limitations. It allows me to create full songs without using any other device and I remember discovering some cool melodies that, with another piece of gear, wouldn’t have happened, because of the way it makes me work. Also, I can use the built-in mic, line in or FM radio too, when I want to use a little more elaborated portable setups.

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

VST Synthogy Ivory Piano

As a piano player, I really like the VST Synthogy Ivory Piano. Most of the time I do my music without a computer, where the OP-1 is current main device to record with.
It would be really cool to just have that piano sound out of the computer, as most of the time I just want to play and it doesn’t make sense starting up a DAW or even a computer simply to play a sound, when I don’t want to do anything else. In fact, they did release a hardware version, but in addition to being really expensive I think they discontinued it.

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

Yamaha RM1X

Since I first discovered grooveboxes and synths, over time I ended up with a fair amount of devices, but sometimes I was more attracted to the aesthetics or possibilities, than what I really lacked in my studio.
Other times maybe I needed what I purchased, but in the end, the device didn’t fit my preferred way to work. I remember buying (and selling again very soon after) a Yamaha RM1X. It had a really powerful sequencer, but it wasn’t satisfying for me to play with. I also had fun with the Roland MC-303 Groovebox and even though I wouldn’t give it much use nowadays I still miss it sometimes.

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

Again, the OP-1 alone has given me a good amount of ideas. The workflow and immediacy to record and loop is something really well designed and that works very well in my case, because it really helps me to have visual feedback on what I’m doing.

TE OP-1

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

Probably a Korg Minilogue XD. It offers a lot of immediacy and very little menu diving, which is great to design sounds fast. In addition, the sonic possibilities and extra oscillators make it a really good synth to start with. It can easily do everything from drum sounds to bass, leads and pads. I miss a little more of polyphony, but adding a little of the internal reverb or delay effects can help with that.

Korg Minilogue XD

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

Despite having some decent synths and quality pedals, I still own, not one, but two Behringer mixers and a Tube Ultra-Q which I have only connected to my Yamaha Reface CP to add some EQ. I have one rack mixer with 8 stereo inputs where I connect all the synths. From that, I connect the main out to the other small mixer. where I add aux effects and additional synths or mics. Both mixers add a considerable amount of noise, especially the small one, depending on levels, but I’m just used to it and I keep using them for now.

Behringer mixers and Tube Ultra-Q

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

Maybe this can’t even be considered a technique, but sometimes I have fun placing piezo microphones between my midi keyboard keys and then amplify and add EQ to the noise while I play. Then I can record piano music with some real noises. I even tried placing the mic on old wood furniture to add some cracking noises while I record, which adds a little more atmosphere in my opinion.

[Editor: That is fantastic lateral thinking technique! I dig it!]

Piezo mic for mechanical noise

Artist or Band name?

I make music as Efímer on YouTube/Spotify. You can find me at youtube.com/efimer where I upload soundpacks and demos of my own devices too.

Genre?

I’d say Ambient/Downtempo, but sometimes I make piano and orchestral music too.

Selfie? 

Oriol Domingo in his studio

Where are you from?

Barcelona, Spain.

How did you get into music?

My grandparent used to take care of another family’s orchard. One day he returned home with one of these little mechanical toy pianos, that the kid of the other family didn’t want. I was 4 years old, but I still can remember what I felt when I played the first notes, I was immediately hooked and I’ve been playing by ear from that age.

The first song I played with that toy piano was MacGyver by the way, haha. When I was 8 my father understood I wasn’t going to stop playing the piano and he bought me a more decent one. From there, I discovered what I really liked was to play by ear and also create my own songs. All the synth stuff and GAS came when I was about 16 when I discovered the Roland MC-303 and Korg Electribes.

What still drives you to make music?

The act of creating something out of nothing, the possibility to create some unique music that could convey feelings to other people makes me happy. Of course it’s complicated to do anything really “new” but even the process of trying to create it can lead to understanding ourselves a little better, by trying to find our own voice. Creating music makes us wonder what do we want.

How do you most often start a new track?

I use two different methods. Sometimes when I’m learning to use a new piece of gear I just want to create some sounds. If during the process a new melody comes to my mind, I try to follow that and see where it goes, and if not, I’ll still have some patches to use another day. The other method I use is just starting with a piano or rhodes sound, which are my favorite, and start improvising while I think about other things.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When even the “worst” part of a track is still acceptable in my opinion. I usually listen to each fragment many times and try to correct the things I still don’t like. Sometimes works well too just listening to it in another moment or another day to realize there are still things to fix. I think it’s good to listen to your own old music too, in order to see if you would make the same decisions again.

Show us your current studio

I don’t have much space so it’s quite fragmented and messy.

Oriol Domingo’s home studio

I love synths with keyboards, so it can be quite uncomfortable sometimes.

The El Garatge home studio keys

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Embrace limitations. It may seem very common to hear and I think it may not work for everybody. Not just your own creative limitations, but also adding and forcing other kinds of limitations like gear or even time.
Especially when starting new songs, the less options the better for me. It’s easy to get lost in the possibilities when you have a lot of gear, you could be constantly wondering if you chose the right synth or sound to start and which effects add, etc.
If you force yourself to use one synth, sound or even sample, changing is not an option, it’s all you have, so no need to think about that again and you can now start creating.

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

In the last weeks I’ve been developing this piggyback LFO knob with extra features for pedals with expression inputs, which will be finished soon I hope!:

https://elgaratge.com/echo-knob/


[Editor: It’s been a wild ride doing this music gear blog this past year and the blog isn’t even over 1 year old. Over 30,000 unique visitors have stopped by and had a monthly readership of between 1500 to 4000 readers.

… And I’d just like to thank YOU, my fellow music gear junkie…. But also, of course, the 100 artists who contributed and made this past year a little more tolerable.

Do you have any suggestions for the future of this blog? Then leave a comment below.]