Benjamin Shaw – Ponderer Sounds

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

Recently I got the Type One Analog Ensemble by Tom Oakes of Horrothia FX who just
happens to live in my town of birth, Cornwall in the UK. Asides from being an absolutely gorgeous chorus the Type One has this excellent arcade style button for the footswitch and it is so satisfying to click.

Type One Analog Ensemble

I also really love the Speed Control dial on my Sony Clear Voice Walkman, it’s old, plastic and the dial is knurled and recessed almost past the point of being able to turn it but the tactile experience mixed with the sonic result is awesome.

Sony Walkman varispeed

Lastly I don’t own one yet but I’m really looking forward to getting a Nakedboards MC-8 MIDI controller, the faders are a little larger and spaced nicely for using with orchestral software libraries to add that ‘human’ feel.

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

A recent addition for me is my StudioLogic SL88 Studio MIDI keyboard. I have an old family heirloom upright piano that is gorgeous but I haven’t been able to relocate it to our current residence, so getting a properly weighted, natural feeling, full size key bed has made writing with software instruments way more enjoyable and inspiring, so far I wouldn’t change a thing on it.

StudioLogic SL88 Studio MIDI keyboard

I used to manage a mates boutique shop, Pedal Empire, in Brisbane and build pedalboards professionally, so I have played hundreds, if not thousands of individual pedals, my ethos from that experience is that ‘perfect’ is a relative term and every pedal, if you allow it the time, can yield some ‘perfect’ results in the right context. I think it’s up to the player to find the gold and follow where it leads. Even something as amazingly engineered as the Chase Bliss Blooper for example, is full of quirks, artifacts and limitations of sorts, but if you ironed all those out to be ‘perfect’ it probably wouldn’t be half as fun.

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

Since moving to a rural, coastal location in Tasmania in recent years I haven’t had need to take a rig on the road much, however if we do go away for longer than a few days and I need to film a demo or make some music I’ll usually take the Walrus Audio Slö, Bondi Art Van Delay, 1981 DRV & CBA Blooper. Those with a guitar, laptop and little interface is all I need for guitar inspiration.

Walrus Audio Slö, Bondi Art Van Delay, 1981 DRV & CBA Blooper

I’m also building a small modular system that is easy to take out and make generative ambient music.
If I don’t have need for anything and just want to make some music in the moment I love using the Fugue Machine app, it’s great for coming up with a simple melody and layering in different speeds and directions… too much fun.

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

I use PaulStretch a lot, something about taking a 1 minute piece and making it 15 minutes long is so fascinating to me and PaulStretch does that in it’s own special way, I’d love that in a pedal. I’m pretty new to modular synth but perhaps there’s a module that does that.

I recently got hold of a Pecan Audio Edera which is a stereo warming unit in a small simple pedal format. Previously I would use some plugin distortion on the fx bus to warm up tracks while wishing I had something like the Analog Heat, but way less complicated, so the Edera has fulfilled that wish.

Pecan Audio Edera

Back the other way, hardware I wish was software, I still haven’t found a plugin or process that yields the same result as recording to cassette or tape and slowing down. 80’s and 90’s tape/cassette equipment all have their own oddities that they impart to a recording. They sounds so good to me and even the best tape emulation can’t quite nail it just yet. They’re getting closer and closer though.

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

Years ago I made my mind up that I wouldn’t have any extra pedals/gear laying around that weren’t in constant use or on my pedalboard so I used to sell everything surplus to my needs and made my mind up not to regret any of it. I don’t follow that mantra anymore and have heaps of gear in corners and on shelves. I have bought and sold an El Capistan about 4 times now, currently don’t have one, that’ll probably change again. I did have an original Bondi Del Mar that I let go right before the prices got exorbitantly high which is a bit of a bummer, but I kinda despise that part of the gear community anyway, I like to sell knowing people are getting a good deal.
Working at PE for years made it easy not to miss things I’d personally sold when it’s always there in store if you need a fix. I would get way too sad if I let myself think too much about what I’ve let go, safe to say I’ve moved through hundreds of pedals on my board in the last 10 years. I don’t think I’ve regretted a purchase ever because it’s all a learning experience finding out what works and what doesn’t.

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

My process for making pedal demos has always been to let the subject pedal guide my noodling and musing so mostly when you watch one of my videos you’re hearing snippets of how the said pedal has inspired me.
I always get inspired easily by Spitfire Audio orchestral samples, they just capture so much realism and are emotive to play, same goes for Fracture Sounds, The Phonoloop and Felt Instruments.
Pedal wise the Hologram Electronics Microcosm is pretty much the most inspiring analog thing I’ve owned and I can rest assured that plugging into it will spark something if I’m ever drawing a blank.

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

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

I started playing guitar in the ‘Big Amp Heavy Guitar’ era, if I could go back and tell myself to get a Telecaster and a Princeton it would make a world of difference. My first pedals were a Line-6 DL4 and a Crowther Hot Cake which I still think now for the way I like to write and play are great pedals to start with.

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

I feel like maybe I’m in a sweet spot where I’ve narrowed down my choices to equipment that largely improves my work flow. That said, I recently dived headlong into modular synthesis after a few years of deliberating, and though I have a clear vision for what my desired sounds from Modular are, the learning curve is pretty dramatic. The Patch & Tweak book from Kim Bjorn Bjooks is helping a lot though.

Ponderer Sounds eurorack

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

In the box I love to duplicate tracks, hard pan them, and then zoom in and move one of them just a few milliseconds ahead for a massively wide sound. Also a fun trick is recording something to tape, physically speeding it up and recording it again and then slowing it down and stretching it out to overlay with the original recording. This adds textures that I absolutely adore the heck out of.

Hardware wise the Horrothia Type One I mentioned earlier is a terrific widening tool with the chorusing effect dialed at it’s slowest where you can’t actually discern the movement. I nearly always record guitars for stuff other than demos through the Type One in stereo even if I later end up panning or summing to mono, it just sounds so good and I leave it on constantly. The only downside is I don’t get to smash that arcade button as much as I’d like!


Artist or Band name?

Ponderer Sounds – My Youtube Channel for gear demos and music creation

Genre?

Ambient/Post Rock/Dream Pop/Orchestral

Benjamin Shaw

Where are you from?

Originally Cornwall UK – Live in Tasmania Australia (but probably not for too long)

How did you get into music?

I played piano under my grandmothers supervision from about 4 or 5 years old. Music was always encouraged in our home. I have fond memories of crawling under the dining room table with a small cassette radio and a cushion and listening to George Harrison’s Cloud Nine album till I fell asleep. I would have been 6 or so. And I grew up with a nice collection of records from the Beatles, Bee Gees and Creedence Clear Water that I played to death, plus when someone else wasn’t playing music my mum always had Beethoven or Tchaikovsky on. My childhood had a constant soundtrack.

I think I started guitar when I was 17, I’d steal my sister’s boyfriend’s sparkly silver Ibanez and teach myself how to play punk rock like Rancid & Bracket. I remember discovering the power chord and then it was all full steam ahead. Later I got into Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Foo Fighters before getting into less mainstream and more indie/emo stuff in the late 90’s.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s my life blood, being creative is the way of the future and I believe it will only become more and more important to us the more automated the rest of our lifestyle becomes. It amazes me that there’s only a handful of notes, limited combinations of them to create chords and melody, but somehow the human element of interpreting them constantly yields fruit that didn’t exist previously, and an individual can move so many strangers with mere vibration.

How do you most often start a new track?

I’ve never been one for learning other peoples music, when I sit at the piano/keyboard or pick up my guitar I gravitate towards making something myself. I’m in the process now of adapting small musical ideas from pedal demos and turning them into full tracks so typically that’s where a new idea spawns.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I don’t really know, but when I’ve added everything in my head and find myself getting lost in it, when I’m supposed to be listening back subjectively, I know it’s pretty much ready to go.

Show us your current studio

Ponderer Sounds Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’ Pablo Picasso.

Always start, move yourself till something moves you and then chase that down.

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

Head over to my youtube channel (Ponderer Sounds) to watch weekly demos on great pedals and gear, and stay tuned for a new song creation series I’m working on.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgHpuhheoXRxZVKONOOFE_g/

[Editor: All photos in this interview are by Tiarne Shaw]

Aldrin – Buzzin’ Bleeps

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


These things always change. But the monome “Series” 64 grid has the most wonderful switches/buttons. Unfortunately, I don’t use it that much these days as I’ve made a DIY 128 grid. But the buttons on the DIY grid are less nice than the 64. Not only do they feel nice, but they represent a blank canvas. No visual cues to pull you in any direction until you load up a script or an app.

Blooper Knobs


Also, Chase Bliss Pedals have knobs that feel great. The traction of these knobs makes them feel sturdy and precise.

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


My fates. Fates runs monome norns, ORAC and soon Organelle patches. I am unfortunately not the most skilled in coding. But the communities based around these ecosystems make this device close to perfect. The amazing sequencers, samplers, loopers etc. that one can use here without having to open a computer is wonderful. There is not much I would change. I just need a device to connect to my Fates that lets me organize how I send/receive midi to all my Midi devices.

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

Opz and Microcassette


OP-Z (for making tunes) + microcassette Dictaphone (for sampling) + iRig1 (to get samples from Dictaphone to the OP-Z easily) + a USB to lightning adaptor to records from the OP-Z to my iDevice. I really love the sound of oversaturated tape samples.

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

I used to wish for “Ableton in a Box”. But I can’t imagine having a piece of hardware that would have that many possibilities, when recording I prefer to have some limitations and return to it for editing, mixing, mastering and some overdubs. I’ve felt a strong disconnect to computers as a creative music tool for many years, but recently I discovered the amazing Felt Instrument Lekko and Jasno(and soon Blisko I hope). I have never felt such an immediate connection to software instruments. They both feel amazing and the textures they produce almost feels tangible, but for now I don’t mind using them as software. They have been my main sound source into another piece of software I recently discovered, Fantastic Voyage. It is a software 4 track recorder, looper and creative fx unit with a patch matrix. It is like a magic box; you patch up something, send it some audio and the results are instantly amazing.

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

I traded away my Chase Bliss MOOD for an Empress ZOIA some months back, I really miss the MOOD. But the ZOIA is also wonderful, and it can do almost anything you want. But the MOOD is really unique.

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

Discovering monome grids and Brian Crabtree’s mlr script and all the variations of that changed my whole approach to making music. I am not a person who sits down and write songs, I like to explore sounds and textures by looping and stacking them, trying to keep some sort of harmonic ground. I need something that can capture that, play it back and let me do some mangling of those sounds. And when I got my Fates it enabled me to break away from the computer. The norns ecosystem by monome and all the scripts that are built around the mentality of mlr give me something new to explore every time I sit down and start making sounds and loops.

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

If I had to rethink my whole creative workflow, I might have gotten into modular and built a rig around that. But it would still be based around the same sound sources, guitar and OP-Z, just a free-flowing modular effect skiff. I really like it when equipment becomes something you collaborate with instead of control, and I am trying to “let” my equipment function that way at the moment. But I feel like a modular rig would lend itself more to that approach.

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

Behringer Mixer

My retired Behringer mixer. I used to hate the thing, but it served a purpose. I decided to scale down to a Koma Elektronik Field Kit and live without multiple AUX buses + input/output galore. And I think this makes me happier. Apart from that, if it counts: cables and batteries. All different shapes, forms, sizes and types.

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

The tape track on the OP-Z is a plethora of fun. Sequencing it and then sending live audio into it is a favorite of mine. Connect whatever you use to get audio (or the internal mic), then select the tape track, then hold the shift button to select what tracks are fed into the tape track, select the module track (so that it lights up yellow/orange) and voila, whatever external audio is being sent into the OP-Z is now also sent into the Tape Buffer.


Artist or Band name?

Aldrin, but I also play in the bands Ben Leiper and Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson.

Genre?

Ambient? Organic Electronic? Soundbathism? New Age Guitar Music? Genres are hard.

Selfie?

Oystein

Where are you from?

Rjukan, Norway. But currently living with my partner and infant daughter in Oslo, Norway.

How did you get into music?

I guess it started with mainstream mid to late nineties pop music. But I was introduced to the Beastie Boys and The Chemical Brothers at a young age by a friend. And I remember being fascinated by the rich soundscapes that both of these bands would make. I got into creating music some years later when me and a friend discovered that Mogwai’s album «Happy Songs for Happy People» had a version of Cubase with the stems for one of the songs for remixing. We started messing around with that for a while until we decided to record by ourselves. We made an EP of weird noisy instrumental music based around very unauthorized samples of dialogue from different films we liked. We actually duplicated a bunch of tapes and sold maybe 10 to people on the internet.

What still drives you to make music?

I have a deep urge to create something. Not necessarily for anyone else to consume, but for my own sake. And sitting in my living room listening to some sort of loop I just made over and over again is very comforting. Of course, I love it if someone else likes my reverb drenched sounds, but I am truly happy as long as I like whatever sounds me and my gear make.

How do you most often start a new track?

All my current stuff is improvised, but it normally starts with guitar looped some way. Then I add loops of other stuff like plucked pine cones, field recordings and whatever sound I find interesting on my OP-Z.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I stop the Zoom h4n recorder after sitting around listening to the same intertwining modulating loops for about 30 minutes.

Show us your current studio

Aldrin’s Home Studio Corner

Not really a studio, more like “the corner by the bookshelf of my living room”.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

My parents, and especially my father, taught me that you should not care too much about what other people think, the most important thing is that you are enjoying what you do. Lately I’ve been trying to follow the 12 principles of 12k records, and they feel like a complement to that early advice:

  1. Don’t tell listeners what they want to hear, let them discover that for themselves.
  2. Treat your audience as they are: intelligent, passionate lovers of art and sound.
  3. Evolve constantly, but slowly.
  4. Stay quiet, stay small.
  5. Strive for timelessness.
  6. Never try to be perfect. Beauty is imperfection.
  7. Simplicity. Anti-Design.
  8. Never try to innovate, be true to yourself, and innovation may happen.
  9. Explore sound as art, as a physical phenomenon — with emotion.
  10. Develop community.
  11. Be spontaneous.
  12. Everything will change.

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

I stream on a semi regular basis on twitch.tv/aldrinsound, follow me on Instagram or Facebook for updates.

[Editor: If you have any tips, tricks or fun techniques with any of the gear mentioned in this interview? Then why not share it! Leave a comment below]