Ashley Cronon – ARC Ambient

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

Korg Minilogue Filter/Resonance/EG Knobs.  Being that this is my only piece of gear that has knobs, I am more than satisfied with the sounds that can be achieved.  The possibilities are infinite.  I look forward to purchasing knobs in the future and creating my own modular synth unit.  I recommend the Korg Minilogue as a great start for anyone interested in enriching their sounds.

Filter Cutoff Korg Minilogue

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

Korg Concert 3500.  At the moment I am building my studio so all my equipment has a unique use for now.  Unfortunately the sound quality of this vintage piece is of poor condition and needs heavy repair. 

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

Akai MPK Mini

Laptop/Akai MPK Mini/Casio MT-240.  For travel sake the Akai MPK Mini and the Casio MT-240.  Both are lightweight and when combined, provide the essentials needed for recording ideas outside the studio.  I have yet to perform and personally prefer making sounds as a therapeutic outlet.

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

Garage Band is the only software I have been working with and it’s running a very old version of the program which I am not complaining about. 

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

I could eventually regret all the cheap gear I am purchasing right now.  Most likely I will hand it off to someone starting their own set-up.  I personally don’t regret my buys because I learn from them.  I have not sold anything at the moment.

Keys galore

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

Korg Minilogue.  This is my first and only expensive piece of gear as of now.  Most of my equipment has been collected and repaired. 

Korg Minilogue

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

A new laptop.  I still need to buy one with better music software that doesn’t run at a glacial speed.  It’s been a challenge but I’m surprised at what I have produced.

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

My damaged Korg Concert 3500.

Korg Concert 3500

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

All my cheap equipment surprises me if used properly.  It’s not the gear it’s the artist.


Artist or Band name? 

ARC Ambient

Genre?

Ambient/Dark Ambient/Other

Ashely Cronon

Where are you from?

California

How did you get into music?

I’ve been a band nerd since 3rd grade.

What still drives you to make music?

MUSIC

How do you most often start a new track?

It’s a therapeutic process for me so it depends on my mood.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I make short samples.  I tend to let the tracks sit for a while and open them back up with fresh ears.

Show us your current studio

ARC Ambient Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I don’t like to waste notes not even one – Johnny Marr.

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

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFTlOHmgdSm/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link


Stefan Fast – from The Pedal Zone

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

Well, generally I’m a fan of the Mix knob on pedals. That’s where the magic begins. Endless sonic shades, textures, tones and timbres can be found within the pure level and balance of a wet and a dry sound.

Mix Knob Magic

But I would like to give a big shout-out to Death By Audio. I think they are masters at making knobs an integral part of their pedal layouts, mixing knob sizes and designs in order to give the players a more organic, intuitive and playful user experience. I especially like the design of their Evil Filter, where the huge Filter knob instantly catches your attention, so you know the main purpose of this pedal is to freaking rock that filter frequency with every fiber in your body!

[Editor: And it’s got that Moog girth!]

Death By Audio Evil Filter

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

I think every piece of gear is “almost” perfect. That’s what makes them perfect. A piece of gear is a distillation of the designer’s mindset and skill set at a certain moment in time, and it’s the fact that you get the ability to figuratively experience and step into that moment when you play the gear that makes it inspiring.

Hence I always experience “Wow! I would never have thought of that!” moments more than “Why didn’t they do that instead?” moments, whenever I play a pedal, guitar or synthesizer. I know that’s probably just me over-romanticizing gear and the narrative behind them, but that’s just who I am and what I do. Plus, I see a big creative benefit in embracing limitations. A product’s small quirks and weird limits is often what prompts you to create something unique with it.

[Editor: Gear as a narrative story. That’s a beautiful way to think about it]

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

I’m currently not in any touring bands, so I haven’t dragged around my rig from venue to venue in a long time. But I’m currently in two newly started bands, so let’s see if that changes in the near future.

On a commute, I just bring my phone. There’s so many great music apps out there, and they give me all the creative outlet I need when I’m on the go. I really like the Moog Model D and Moog Animoog synth apps, the granular synthetic sample playground in Spacecraft, as well as the simple, yet immersive and calming generative ambiance of Bloom: 10 Worlds.

Moog iOS apps

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

I really like the Valhalla DSP plugins. I wish their reverbs and delays were available in pedal format. They just sound divine! Going the other way, I think any pedal by Meris would become a freaking mind-blowing VST plugin. Their devices are equally adept as standard guitar pedals, synth enhancers and transcendant studio tools that can take drums, vocals or an entire mix to the next level. So being able to call them up whenever I wanted on my computer would be cool as hell.

Meris Pedals

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

Not really. I try to keep regret as far away from my life as possible, even though that’s easier said than done… That being said, I recently did re-purchase a Line 6 Echo Park. I didn’t buy it because I regretted selling my old one, but because I felt like I didn’t give the pedal a proper chance when I had it the first time around. I’m very happy that I acquired it again. It’s a highly underrated delay pedal. Way ahead of its time. I really enjoy its swell mode and reverse delay, they just sound super organic, and its multi-tap and ping-pong modes sound unreal in stereo.

But the real kicker about this pedal is that every mode can take on the characteristics of either a Digital, Analog or Tape delay. Reverse Tape Delay is the beez neez. A fun story about it, is that the algorithms are designed by Angelo Mazzocco of Meris, during his time at Line 6.

[Editor: I think I gotta check out the EchoPark again!]

Line6 Echo Park

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

My music very often starts with a mood. Hence it’s never really a specific instrument that inspires it, but instead my pedals that inspire me to play a certain way on my instrument.

Reverb and rhythmic Delay always gets me going, and my EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master or Avalanche Run always deliver inviting and inspiring ambience in spades. So they have definitely initiated a lot of my compositions. Also have to give a big shout out to my Meris Enzo, which is basically 4 instruments in one pedal (mono synth, poly synth, arpeggiator and pitch-shifter). Its swelling synth pads, amazing filters and bouncy arp sequences always puts me in the mood to create.

Loop pedals also help me flesh out possible ideas on the fly quickly, or capture samples, textures and drones that later turn into full compositions. That being said, you of course need instruments to trigger the pedals, so a nice open major chord tuning on either my Telecaster or Jazzmaster always inspires me to create.

EarthQuaker Devices and Meris

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

A decent single-coil equipped guitar (probably a Telecaster… No, most definitely a Telecaster 😀 ), a great clean amp, a dreamy expansive reverb pedal, a versatile delay pedal, some sort of fun pitch-shifting textural tool and a looper.

[Editor: Sounds like a good time]

Fender Telecaster and Revv amp with Engl cabinet

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

That would probably have to be my Chase Bliss Audio Thermae. It can do the most amazing analog pitch-shifted delay sequences, but it’s not envelope triggered and there’s no visual indicator for where you are in the pitch sequence, meaning it’s extremely difficult to recreate the moments in time where you’re perfectly in sync with the sequence.

But I’ve also really learned to appreciate the randomness and “chaotic” nature of it, and I often use it to add a bit of unpredictability and “whimsy” underneath my playing. A texture I can react to. Like having an invisible improvising collaborator, that’s constantly pushing you to creative places you would never have thought of.

Thermae has really taught me that everything in life doesn’t need to be controlled and predictable. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and see where it takes you. On top of that, when you turn off the pitch sequencing, it becomes one of the best analog delays I’ve ever played, if not the best.

[Editor: …And GOLD knobs! I feel that isn’t said enough]

Chase Bliss Themae

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

If we’re talking a specific pedal, then it’s probably my cascading octave-delay trick on the Meris Polymoon. If you hold down the Tap Tempo switch on it, it momentarily turns on a half-speed effect, which technically just makes your delay time twice as long, as long as you hold down the switch. So the trick is to hold down the switch, and play a quick melody pattern before you transition to the next chord in your progression, and the second you transition to the chord, you release the switch creating a beautiful flurry of cascading octave up delays. You can hear that exact trick in action here in my Meris Polymoon demo at 06:17, if you want to.

Meris Polymoon

If we’re talking in general, then it’s the importance of the volume and tone knobs on a guitar. This is definitely a no-brainer and not surprising at all for a lot of people, but it really took me a long time to understand and appreciate them.

When you start out on guitar, you (or at least I) just want to go full blast all the time. Why would want to turn down your guitar? and why would you want to kill the lovely clear high-end of your guitar with the tone knob? If I could, I would honestly have removed the volume and tone knob on my guitars long into my guitar journey.

But over the last 4-5 years I’ve discovered how important they are for finding your place in a mix, especially if you do a lot of loop compositions, like I do. If everything is full blast and full frequency all the time, then things will begin to sound un-dynamic and lifeless really quick.

On top of that, the volume and tone knobs are so pivotal for unlocking new tonal nuances when using dirt. I really like to use a very sharp and biting square-wave fuzz, and then roll back the tone on my guitar for rounder synth-like tones. It’s basically the same concept as subtractive synthesis. You have a wave-shape, and then you remove harmonic content via the tone knob to change that wave-shape. So guitarists, start rocking those controls closest to you!

Vol and Tone knobs

Artist or Band name?

Stefan Fast – Ambient noise-maker and host of YouTube channel, The Pedal Zone.

Genre?

Ambient/Post-rock.

Selfie?

Stefan Fast from The Pedal Zone

Where are you from?

⦁ Currently I reside in Aarhus, Denmark.
⦁ Born in Randers, Denmark.

How did you get into music?

It’s a long journey, I guess. I’ve always loved music. I have fond childhood memories of me laying on my parents’ couch reading comics and listening to Bryan Adams and Michael Jackson. I really cherished those moments, and somehow the music just augmented the reading experience. But I didn’t really get into playing music before I was 17-18 years old. I picked up a guitar in high-school because some of my class-mates played, and I thought they were cool, and I wanted to be cool.

When I discovered it wasn’t enough to just have the guitar to be cool, I decided I might as well learn to play it. So I learned some Metallica, System of a Down, Kashmir and Radiohead, and had fun with that.

But it wasn’t until a local post-rock band played at our high-school that my musical path was revealed to me. I had never heard anything like it. How so much emotion could be conveyed solely through instrumental music. I had never experienced music as dynamic and touching. I bought a delay pedal the next day, a Boss DD-6, and quickly discovered that the pedal could self-oscillate, effectively transforming my guitar into a synthetic instrument of doom and chaos. I haven’t looked back since!

What still drives you to make music?

When I make/play music on my own, it’s in order to reach a state of zen and calmness. Just strumming a guitar or listening to a 20sec reverb trail decay is pure meditation for me. It’s not a means for escape, but a means to create or restore balance within myself. When I play with others, it’s in order to be inspired by them, go new sonic places I would never travel on my own and to reach a heightened sense of unity and togetherness through the music we create.

How do you most often start a new track?

Often with a texture or a mood created by a slew of pedals. Other than that, plenty of reverb, delay and slowly played guitar arpeggios will always open doors to new tunes.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I start to just drift away and let myself live inside the music, instead of thinking about EQ’ing or if tracks need to be added or taken away.

Show us your current studio

The Pedal Zone Desktop Studio
The Pedal Zone Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away – Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

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

I upload new pedal demos or tutorials almost every week on my YouTube channel The Pedal Zone. So if you’re interested in ambient/post-rock/indie-rock applications of pedals, then it would be an honor if you stopped by and checked out some of the videos here -> www.youtube.com/thepedalzone.

[Editor: The Pedal Zone is a fave channel. Definitely worth a gander and a subscribe]


Hors Sujet – MusicMaker & FXbuilder

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

Definitely the frequency knob on the Randy’s Revenge from Fairfield circuitry. The pedal has a ton of amazing different sounds, I feel like they chose so perfectly the right potentiometer value to cover such a wide-range amount of sounds for the ring modulator and for the tremolo. Plus, having a big knob makes it even more enjoyable to use, and for once the pointy knob also adds to the feeling of super-precise setting. I’m not that much a pointy-knob guy (just because of its look), but Fairfield circuitry nailed it on all of their pedals : their potentiometers truly have a super precise feeling when changing the settings, even by doing super small adjustments.

Fairfield Circuitry Randy

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

I’m really happy about the guitar pedalboard that I’ve build. I like going through years with different tastes, buying and selling gear to find the ones that fit the best for what I like to do. My project went from guitar only to guitar + reel-to-reel machines + tape players + circuit bent toys + keyboards, so I also had to adjust my guitar rig to go along. I can sample a lot, play with modulation pedals, I have different textures of fuzz/overdrive, two pedals that can sustain notes and creates drones…. everything fits into the custom wooden flight case that I’ve build years ago in my tiny student room (musician’s neighbors always suffer I have to say!), it’s somehow a bit crooked and it wears some traces of the past, but I can’t stop trying to improve it ! And if I had something to add it would definitely be more stutter/glitch/looping pedals (I admit I’m lurking on the Stammen[n] from Drolo for a long time now, as much as the Bloopers from Chase Bliss Audio).

Neat treat of a pedalboard

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

When I play live, I usually bring everything. That means guitars, amps, pedalboards, tape players, synths, drums sometimes, tape/toys/keys and its dedicated pedalboard. And just by reading my answer again I understand why I don’t play that much live! And for holidays, I like to bring a small Zoom sound recorder, and a walkman to capture low fidelity sounds of friends and nature. It’s a bit heavy and it some precious space, but I do the same with photography (I always bring twin-lens reflex during holidays).

Danelectro BackTalk reverse delay

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

I don’t have anything digital, I don’t work with plugins & vsts. I record on a multi-tracks DAW of course, but everything has to start as a live composition that I could be able to play solo live, so I try to get rid of the computer as much as possible when it comes to music composition.

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

I regret selling the Danelectro backtalk reverse delay years ago (the old version one), I needed money back then but I’d love to have it back now, even if the pedal is super big, and if the effect can be found on other gear… I really liked its silly look.

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

Multiple ones of course, but the main one that help me to find a new way of composing was the Tascam 414 (a 4-track tape player) when it came to entering into tape loops. I mainly use it to support now the guitar and other instrument, but when I started with it I couldn’t stop making tape loops of anything around me. I still do, but now that I have find a better use of the instrument, I can still notice how everything often starts from it.

Tascam Portastudio

And tiny mention for the ehx freeze pedal for drones. Amazingly, having one drone and multiples pedals plug right after it open so many possibilities. I love how one sustained note can be developped for hours.

Ehx Freeze

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

Learning violin or piano. I’ve decided to add piano in my compositions just couple of months ago (I bought one last year), and the possibilities that are in front of me amazes me everytime. I also bought a violin years ago, and only use it (as the piano) to experiment stuff since I’m learning how to play with them. But I can’t stop having an accoustic set in mind with prepared instruments. A kit consisting of a piano, violin, loopers and tape machines would be something I’d love to start over with.

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

Probably the whammy 4. But just because it’s too big, it take the size of 2 pedals, and I don’t use it that much except for having an octave below and for down-tuning (sounds amazingly powerful when coupled with a fuzz). I’ve opened it once to see how the pedal was working, and immediately got surprised by the expression pedal’s system. I won’t spoil it (if you have a whammy 4, do it if you’re experienced with opening stuff… I don’t wanna be responsible if you break something!) but this tiny detail also changed my decision to sell it for a smaller version, just because I loved what I saw. And also, every time when I was posting a picture of my pedalboard on a forum or social media, I instantly got that question : “Why do you put your whammy so high? Isn’t that hard to reach it?”. At a point that it started to be my own meme, and some people that followed me were openly asking it again, and again, and again as a joke. The unreachable whammy guy.

Digitech Whammy

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

Nothing too fancy, but recently the unsynchronized loops on the Ditto X4 got me super excited, because I love looping a small phrase on two separated tracks at the same time and stopping the recording with a super slight delay. That way, the two samples will slightly drift from each other and create a whole new rhythm. I’ve always loved doing that with tapes, but trying it as well on a pedal was something new, since I didn’t have a multi-tracks looper. I edited and posted a video on my youtube channel called “Asynchronous loops” where I explain how I play with this technique.


Artist or Band name?

Hors Sujet

Genre?

Instrumental ambient/drone

Selfie?

That’s the only picture that I don’t take unfortunately.

Hors Sujet

Where are you from?

Toulouse, France.

How did you get into music?

My parents obviously have put me on a good path. My father, grand father and great grandfather were drummers, and as a kid I once saw some picture of my mom & dad playing bass and drums with friends, that got me thinking “What would it feel to be in a musical band”. There are some picture of me behind a drumset at age 1, and my grand-father gave me his drum set when I was around 12. I only had one band in my youth, a grindcore band (I was behind the drums), then I’ve decided to start Hors Sujet around 2005.

What still drives you to make music?

I realize that everytime I wanna compose something, I wanna say something or scream it out loud, but I don’t feel able to do so. Mostly inner questions about love, solitude, injustice, anger and desire. So maybe not finding answers to those questions, but trying to liberate a bit of the energy that drives those questions to understand them more.

How do you most often start a new track?

I usually start with unexpected ideas. Some images, a feeling, an emotion, a trip, a book, a voice, anything that can produce in my brain some changes, some new air to breath. I love that feeling of having ideas out of nowhere, and having a carnival brain that never stops help. Wether it happens when I’m on my bike, in the bathroom, in my bed right before to go to bed, I try to write down everything, or record my voice singing a melody, a story…just not to forget them. I’m not that much of a rehearsal person who practice hours before finding something that I like or that could work. Most of the time when it comes, I’m away from any musical gear. Ideas are a real magical moment for me when it happens, when you stop walking just because something caught your attention inside, and when you’re in a hurry to go back home just to try to put in music what you have been thinking about. That’s usually how I start to compose. After laying down a couple of things that sound like what I had in mind, it can be pretty fast to develop afterward.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Things are obviously different when I record for professional contracts or for myself as Hors Sujet. I try to repeat to myself “Better is the worst enemy of good” most of the time when mixing a track. Because I always want to add an extra arrangement, to record something that will make a difference. As the common saying goes : the only rule is that there are no rules. Wether it can work for you in 4 months or in 4 days, then do what’s good for you.
I’ve worked once on an album for a year and this is something I try to avoid as much as possible. Every time that I start a new release I decide a deadline (so also a deadline for each track as well, to have a small agenda for myself), that way I can choose listening days in advance, so during the recording process I can let a track rest for a couple of days, then listen to it again and make a todo list of things that I have to correct/re-arrange/delete/record again, and I repeat the operation multiples times, until the todo list gets smaller and smaller.

Show us your current studio

Hors Sujet Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I don’t know if it’s related to creation, but I’ve met a sound engineer and a composer a couple of years ago that I’m now close friends with, who both work in a local recording studio, and shared with me their point of view on the music industry after years of work. Finding the proper “use” of your art. That moment when you decide to make a living out of music can be decisive, specially because all of the conditions which can sometimes result from it (way of life, intermittent work, financial issues, depression…), and they totally helped me to focus on the fact that it’s a job like any other job.

There’s a magical liberty of creating music and building a lifetime artwork, but it requiers hard work, dedication, constant efforts, humility, inspiration and sometimes perfectionism.

Talking about this condition helps a lot, in my case being in a one-man project taught me a lot of things and I’m thankful that I’ve also met great minds to help me go forward on my musical journey.

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

My latest album : “Avec la distance”

I post most of my music as Hors Sujet, and the handcrafted effect that I build as TATAKI. So you’ll find my music, my musical video clips, things that I build, demos of circuit-bent gear, and some other videos that I make when I feel like it (road trip, thoughts) here: https://www.youtube.com/user/horssujet21

My bandcamp to support me: https://horssujet.bandcamp.com/

[Editor: Do you have any of the gear in this article? Why not share your favorite trick for it? Leave a comment]