Jonas Bjerre – Very A-Mew-Sing

[Editor: It’s with great pleasure that I present this interview. In case you didn’t know, Jonas is the lead singer in Mew; a very influential danish alternative rock band. A bonafide rock-star and a music gear junkie to boot]

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

The frequency knob on my Analogue Systems RS-240 Bode Type Frequency Shifter is pretty tasty. It’s huge! And I love turning it slowly to find the sweet spot I want to create a sort of strangely widened stereo image from a mono signal.

Analogue Systems RS-240 Bode Type Frequency Shifter

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

A few years back I bought a slightly expanded Make Noise Black and Gold Shared System, which I love dearly. I use it almost every day. I have a lot of other modules as well, but could probably get by with just the Black and Gold system – except I absolutely needed to be able to send clock from my DAW, which is why I opted for adding the Polyend Poly as one of my first additional purchases. I appreciate that Make Noise wants it to be separate from computers, and I think it would be strange if they made a midi to cv module, but that was the one thing that I absolutely needed.

Jonas’ Make Noise Black and Gold Shared System with lots of buddies

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

Usually just my notebook, my laptop, and a little usb keyboard. But I rarely work on music during vacations. I tend to take pictures instead.

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

Oh, I don’t know. They both got their own thing going on. I can’t think of anything.

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

There are some modules in my modular system that I don’t use very often. Maybe because they don’t feel as intuitive as I would like them to. I mainly don’t like modules with sub menus and whatnot, as it tends to disrupt my creative flow. But I have no regrets, I will get into using them when the time is right, or I will sell them. 
Quite a few years ago I bought a Paca, to run Kyma X, and I have still only touched the surface of that. It’s a bit like Max, but it runs on its own hardware. I really got into it at one point, and it’s an exciting system, you can do boundless things with it, but I am a little unhappy that it still only runs on soundcards with firewire (and a few oldish usb ones). And it’s not just about the connection, and getting an adapter, it really has to be specific soundcards. They really need to upgrade that soon, to usb-c, or I don’t think I’m going to be using it again, as I no longer have a firewire based soundcard, and it seems kind of foolish to have to buy one.
I regret that Mew sold our Juno-6 many years ago.
[Editor: Ouch!]

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

Honung & Møller Grand Piano

My very sweet parents gifted me a Tascam Portastudio 424 (mk1) 4-track casette recorder when I was about 14 (thanks mom and dad!). The fact that I could make overdubs opened up a whole universe to me, and we recorded the first demos for Mew on it. Of course this seems like ancient history today, with DAWs. Over time it’s probably been my Fender Jaguar and my Hornung & Möller piano. These days I am using my modular synths for almost every project, as well as my cello.

Yamaha CS-50, Prophet VS and Rhodes MkII

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

At present day, probably a laptop, soundcard, DAW, and mics. To me, the studio is the most important instrument. But then of course you’d need something to make sounds, and I don’t really like the feeling of using software synths. So I would get a nice analogue polyphonic synth, and a guitar. And a piano. And some drums. I’d definitely get into modular synths much sooner than I did.

Jonas’ instruments

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

Most problems I experience are with the software part of my DAW, corrupted preferences files, etc. Can’t do much recording without it, but sometimes I wish I had some simpler way of recording. In the last 5 years I’ve been using my Oberheim Matrix-1000 a lot, and that unit has caused me some headaches occasionally. I don’t really mind though. I don’t mind that things take time, and effort. To me, that’s part of the process of finding the happy accidents, and appreciating the results.

Marshall JCM2000 and Telefunken U47 vocal mic

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

Making feedback loops through reverbs and delays. You can design whole worlds of sonic texture, mixing an output back into an input. The Make Noise Erbe-Verb has this brilliant thing where the volume of the main output is translated into a control voltage, which you can patch and use to control the decay, so that it never completely distorts. Put a sound through it, and let it just reverberate for hours, cv-ing all the variables, it goes through an odyssey of sonic changes.


Artist or Band name?

Mew, Tachys, and Apparatjik

Genre

Oh man. 

Selfie?

Jonas Bjerre

Where are you from?

I’m from Copenhagen, Denmark.

How did you get into music?

I think I got into creativity as a whole, not necessarily music at first. I think, when I first watched Yellow Submarine with my dad as a kid, that’s when I first thought “oh of course, you can go wherever your imagination takes you”. So today I’m really into music and animation. It was the friendships with people at my school that formed the band, not so much wanting to be in a band necessarily.

What still drives you to make music?

More than anything, curiousity. And then of course this underlying need to create things, I am not sure where it comes from. I don’t want to believe it’s all escapism, but it’s probably all escapism.

How do you most often start a new track?

It really depends. I try to rid myself of methods. I just go with what happens. I always get the best results when I work without having a specific goal as to what the piece is going to be used for. Once I get too goal-oriented, it becomes less of a pleasure, and I think my best work comes from a process that I can take some kind of pleasure in. But I suppose a lot of the time, I start at the piano, or patching up something unexpected with my modular.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Sometimes it’s difficult. The really big ideas usually come about in an instant, and then I (or we) spend months trying to finish it in a way that doesn’t go against the flow of the initial idea. And towards the end, it’s often hard to let go and say it’s done.

Show us your current studio

Jonas’ home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Let the song be what it wants to be, don’t force it. I think Michael Beinhorn told me that.

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

I did the soundtrack for a documentary series about Scandinavian Star, a cruise ship which caught fire in 1990 and killed 160 people. The music is pretty dark, for obvious reasons. I did most of it using my modular system, cello, and violin. It is out as a soundtrack album.
Currently I’m working on first Tachys music, my new project with Tobias Wilner of Blue Foundation, I’m really excited about that project!

[Editor: Scandinavian Star Soundtrack on Spotify]

[Editor: Also check out Mew]


[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…
]


Pablo Ortega – Mellow Cello

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

The volume knob on my monitor controller. It is huge and I am constantly using it when mixing. 

Monitor controller

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

Yellow Cello very Mellow

I think my cello. But like all string instruments, there are days when it sounds better and others when it sounds worse, it is a bit moody depending on the weather. I would want it to always sound the best! But that is just the nature of the instrument.

Prophet Rev2

I also find the Prophet rev2 pretty pretty good. It would really be a dream if it would include a proper analog high pass filter and a better sounding reverb (I find its reverb sadly almost unusable).

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

I usually try not to take any piece of gear when I go on holidays because otherwise it is harder for me to really ‘disconnect’ if I know that I can make music at any time. When going on tour I always have most of my instruments with me anyway, but in most cases my laptop with Ableton Live would be enough to keep creating. When I am away I mostly do sound design or drum loops, witch I can use when back on the studio. 

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

Macbook running Phonec VSTi

I have recently discovered a very special soft synth called Phonec 2. It has lots of character and some very interesting integrated effects, like a random pitch modulator like Shallow Water. On top of that you can randomize all its parameters, which sometimes leads to unexpected patches. It think it sounds more organic than many hardware synths I have played – the problem is that I don’t love to use soft synths, I much prefer to be able to turn every knob with my fingers.
A hardware unit that I would definitely love to see in software is the Moog MuRF.

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

Precisely, I kinda regret selling my Moog MIDI MuRF. It seemed to me like a lot of money for a single effect at the time, and because of that it was difficult to justify keeping it. But it has a very special and lovely sound. Now that they are not being produced anymore they have gotten even more expensive. As of regrets I honestly don’t have many, if buy some gear with which I don’t connect after a while, I sell it rather fast.

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

Probably my piano or the Prophet 08 (and later the rev2).

Schimmel Upright Piano

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

A laptop with Ableton Live. Then, a polyphonic synth and a piano. Also a simple but high quality soundcard interface and a pair of Beyerdynamic 770 or 880. I would have more than enough with that for a long while.

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

I kind of love all pieces of gear I currently have. I have a bit of a minimalistic mentality, so everything I don’t love or use regularly I end up selling. That allows me to get to know more gear, expand my music making approaches and then integrate the instruments and workflows that really suit me.

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

I like to make my synth sounds subtly imperfect, so I love to map a slow random LFO with low amplitude to parameters like filter cutoff, amp envelope, oscillator tuning, amp decay, noise… there is no limits there. I do this all the time with the Prophet rev2.
Another one little trick I discovered a short while ago on Ableton/Mac is to create a custom key combination for freezing and flattening the tracks. That is saving me a ton of time and it allows me to not have to interrupt my workflow that much.


Artist or Band name?

Pablo Ortega

Genre?

Electrónica/Ambient/Classical

Selfie?

Pablo Ortega

Where are you from?

I was born in Spain, but I have been living in Germany for the last 10 years.

How did you get into music?

I started learning to play cello in my city’s conservatory when I was 11 years old, and piano a couple of years later.

What still drives you to make music?

I have a strong need inside to keep creating, it is something I cannot ignore for a long period of time . Maybe it is a bit like an addiction (a good one I hope?). 

How do you most often start a new track?

I usually improvise on the piano till I come across an interesting idea, which then I record and try to develop into a longer sketch. 

How do you know when a track is finished? 

I often come to a point where I feel that if I keep adding or changing things, the track is gonna get worse. I think that is when. Then, if I find it to be good enough, I wait a couple of days/weeks and then I mix it. If the track isn’t that good I just accept the fact that maybe it isn’t meant to be and move forward. I try not to seek perfection with every piece I produce because that way it is easy to get lost into a rabbit hole.

Show us your current studio

Pablo’s studio
A cellist’s pedal board

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Don’t try to make your music perfect every time, just keep creating -this is also kind of my inner mantra when trying to keep myself creative.

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

My last (and also first) EP ‘Still Waters Run Deep’ which I released two months ago:

https://sptfy.com/stillwatersrundeep

Also my youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/PabloOrtegaMusic


[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…
]


Andreas Hald – Playful Filmic Composer

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

Roland Space Echo RE-201

Ahh, that’s a tough one – there are so many! But – I like big knobs and I can not lie – so I’ll have to go with the Mode Selector on my Space Echo RE-201. It’s big and clicky, and it sits on one of my absolute favorite piece of gear. Sometimes I just turn it on so that I can hear the tape whistling around in there. So great.

[Editor: Possibly the greatest knob on the greatest fx ever]

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

I don’t think so. What comes the closest, is my old trusty Juno-60. To me, it’s the most musical sounding synth I know of. It’s perfect with all its imperfections. Warm and noisy – “brown- and round-sounding” to be cliche, it so inspiring to turn on. Instant greatness. It would be fun to add some of the features from a modern synth like the Prophet 6, but again – the limitations that this (and others) instrument has, is what I like about it and keeps my fluids going. In my line of work I need limitations, so I welcome them.

Roland Juno-60

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

Well, back in the days I always towed a guitar, amp and ALL of my pedals to any vacation, but ending up not really playing it. So I don’t bring that much anymore. It’s more than often an instrument or synth of a kind that I want to check out further and haven’t had the time to do so. On my last holiday I ended up bringing my cello and a drum machine. I have this weird sickness, that I can only do proper work in my studio, so I try to avoid working elsewhere and don’t bring computer or anything. I need too much hardware to do my work.

Prophet 6 and Juno-60

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

In software to hardware – Xils 4, an “Analog Matrix Modular Synthesizer” from Xils Lab. Would love to have that as an enormous beast in the studio. I love that plugin, but mainly use my (hardware)modular synth now. But that plugin tickled me in all the right places. I’m really a big fan of hardware, so I wish that all software was hardware and that we from birth learned to write music on paper and record on tape ;-). That being said, I’m obviously a slave of the modern world.

Xils 4 VSTi

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

I only think I’ve sold three pieces of gear actually, and I regret all three. A Fender Hot Rod Deville 4×10 amplifier. A Bogner Shiva head amplifier and a Custom made Fender Stratocaster. Especially selling the Fender amp is a regret. I’ve listened to some recordings from back in the days when I had that, and it sounded awesome. I sold it to buy the much more expensive Bogner, which I then also sold. So because of that, I’m never selling anything again. I still have a Bogner amp though, and I’ll post a picture of it – just because it’s so cool looking. Can’t think of any regrets in buying.

Bogner amp

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

Pianos. There’s something incredibly satisfying in playing a real piano. Hard to beat. Instantly something sounds as proper music. I haven’t always had a piano at a studio, but I have now – and I would love to get a Grand Piano one day. But for now, I’m really digging the intimate and noisy sound from this upright. Just got it serviced, and it’s so good now.

Upright piano

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

Hmm. Good one. A cello or a pedal steel guitar. I want to be good at those and would (now) have loved to have played something else, that every kid on the block didn’t also play (guitar). I would also tell myself to buy the best equipment. Quality over quantity. I have a pedal steel with humbucker now and love the sound of it.

Cello

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

Maybe my Kemper Profiler. I use it all the time and love and adore it, even though I should record amps instead. I do both, but the Kemper is just so convenient. It just looks cheap – like it jumped out of the 90’s – and the menu scrolling is horrific. But sound and work-wise: Love it. I could add my computer to the list. Love/hate relationship – but I just can’t live without it.

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

Hardly a trick – but making my monophonic Korg MS-20 sound like an awesome stereo synth by using the headphone out in the external signal processor and then having two outputs from it, to plug into a mixer with panning possibilities and adding effects. Great revolution for me personally. I used that synth ALL THE TIME on a feature Netflix movie.


Artist or Band name?

Andreas Hald, composer for film and media. NBrigade – music teams for film, television and games.

Genre?

Filmmusic (which means all kind of weird genre-less music).

Selfie?

I don’t do selfies, but here’s a picture of me playing the pedalsteel!

Pedal Steel and film composer Andreas Hald’s silhouette

Where are you from?

Skagen, the very top of Denmark. Very small town.

How did you get into music?

Started playing rock music with a buddy when we’re 10, renting our own rehearsal space when we were 13 (one where we could do parties, drink beers and skip school without our parents noticing).We discovered and experimented with music together, and I’ve never let go of it. 

What still drives you to make music?

The moments with zen-like qualities that you can’t get elsewhere. They don’t occur daily, but when they do – it all makes sense. 

How do you most often start a new track?

With a weird sound created on a synth. Other times at the piano.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I’m passed deadline. I need the deadlines.

[Editor: I also like the wooshing sound they make as they go by]

Show us your current studio

Here you go, a few pictures of studio and gear. My modular synth setup is connected with my guitar pedals most of the time, and i use Intellijell modules to do that. I didn’t have a 1 unit space in my rack, so I drilled them into a plate myself.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

“No matter how good you get, there’s alway ten Swedes better than you”.

[Editor: Ha!]

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

I’m currently working on two tv-series, one called Friheden ll (Pros and Cons) – which is the second season of a Viaplay Original series, and a series for DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation) currently untitled.

Andreashald.com


[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…
]