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. 😉


Jesper Bonde – Zen In Noise

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

I would have to to say the auto-off bypass switch on my Crybaby 95q. I had a Crybaby wah before with a standard footswitch. But I found it quite frustrating to press down and seconds later realize that I hadn’t pressed hard enough and the wah was still on. I sing and play guitar at the same time, and I really need my switches to be responsive. With the 95q I just activate the footlever to start the wah and just remove the foot to disengage the effect. Its just a beautiful feature when I need to do a lot at once.

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

Paul Reed Smith SE, Mark Holcomb signature guitar

Although its a quite recent addition to my gear, it is definitely already my favourite. I’m talking about my Paul Reed Smith SE, Mark Holcomb signature guitar. It has an amazing sound and great output range. The satin neck makes it a joy to play even the most challenging riffs and I’m just madly in love with the feel of this guitar. The only thing I would change is that I didn’t get it a lot sooner.

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

If I was to go on tour I would bring my PRS guitar and my pedal board. I’ve set up my board, just the way I like it, for now.

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

Interesting question. I’m not sure I would know how to answer it thoroughly. I mean nowadays it seems everything is possible. Guitar amps are available digitally and you can add just about any switches, stomps or racks. I’m not ready to go digital yet, but I find the concept pretty interesting.

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

I regret buying a Boss AW-3 Dynamic wah. Back when I was trying to solve my issue with the wah switch, I bought the dynamic wah to help me out. But its just not the same. The feel and sound of an automated wah is far from the one you get from controlling it yourself. I’ve tried selling the Dynamic wah for a long time, but without any luck.

Boss AW-3

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

Definitely my guitars. I started out as a vocalist, but really wanted to play guitar too. My guitars are a tool to write music and sometimes I just pick one up and start playing to see what happens. I write more songs just goofing around on a guitar than actively trying to write something. I even customized two of my guitars to resemble yin and yang, because its been a core concept in our band for years. The look of the guitars inspires me to consider both sides of an idea or theme. I don’t play the Yin/Yang guitars in the band any more, but they hang side by side on my wall to remind me to keep an open mind.

Yin/Yang guitars

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

I would still start by getting a guitar. But I would probably save up more money to get a more expensive guitar. I started with a very low budget guitar and it was really counter productive to learning how to play. I would definitely tell anyone who is starting out, to go for a great quality guitar. It just makes it more comfortable and easier to work with.

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

The pedal board. Its heavy and bulky. It needs constant updates and attention, wires, cables and pedals. You just can’t help looking for ways to upgrade or change the setup, so its constant work and worry. However it just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Pedal board of Zen In Noise

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

I’ve recently been recording in my home studio and playing around with sound settings like never before. I’ve been really surprised how significant the middle tone is to great guitar sound. I’ve learned that with high gain guitar, the middle tone is best left pretty low. Its of course a matter of taste in the end, but to me it sounds great.


Artist or Band name?

Zen In Noise

Genre?

Melodic progressive rock (we call it Math Grunge :D)

Selfie?

Jesper Bonde

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Jutland, but moved to Copenhagen about ten years ago.
How did you get into music?
It was just always something I wanted to do. I’ve always been creative, drawing, writing and acting. But music had a strange allure to it. I couldn’t stay away.

What still drives you to make music?

For me its actually more the other way around. Making music is what drives me to keep going. I think I would lose my mind if I couldn’t make music.

How do you most often start a new track?

Mostly I sit down with a guitar and play around with chords and notes. When something starts sounding intriguing I keep going at it, till it sounds how I want it to. I usually have some idea of a concept or theme before I sit down, but having the guitar in hand is pretty important to me.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I have to play it with the band, several times. I’ve even had examples of tracks that weren’t completely finished in years. We would play them, but feel something wasn’t quite right. Then all of a sudden an idea would complete the track. In some instances my improvement in guitar or vocal technique, was the reason for a change in a track that would complete it.

Show us your current studio

Right now I use Magix Music Maker free. Its a pretty good program, but has limitations. At some point I want to upgrade to a more professional program. I use a Focusrite audio interface to record guitars and vocals. My microphone is a cheap solution from China. When recording you start realising its a costly affair.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Don’t limit yourself. There are no boundaries or rules for creating.

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

We’ve been on most streaming services for a while with 4 singles. We’ve been making our own videos, which can be found on www.youtube.com/zeninnoise and www.facebook.com/zeninnoise.


Morten Wagner – PopGoblin

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

I think its the ON switch of my power-distribution rack… It’s distributing the power to my whole studio, eurorack gear, outboard, speakers, and keyboards. When I switch that on, the air in the studio is ripe with possibility and promise. Sometimes, all the options are too much and I dive into crazy module-housekeeping, firmware updating, or somehow just bounce icons around on my computer desktop, and after a few hours, I have to switch off the system with nothing to show for it. Other times, I’ve managed to explore sonic avenues and great musical adventures – which, mostly, I just keep to myself and stash away on some hard drive…

Studio on and off switch

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

What would you change?I know it is a boring answer – but it’s my laptop… (which is also, funny enough, maybe the most horrible piece of kit). It’s the central control hub in my studio – and it would be immensely more challenging to record, learn about, integrate all the other stuff in the studio without it. I grew up in “the dark ages” and spend an awful amount of time on tape decks, 4-tracks, etc. – and had to save up to go to a studio to record something, often at bad hours and under strict time constraints. The laptop solves all that. On the other hand, though, it removes a lot of the more tangible and analog parts of music-making; it always needs some update and seems to get slow and chunky after just a few years. And it’s a constant fight to keep it from distracting you from where you wanna go… (Yeah, so, with great power comes great responsibility – and the problem with computers, is they take no responsibility – you have to do that yourself ;o) ). If I could change anything, I think it ought to be much easier (or in Apple’s case, simply **possible**) to update processors, memory, and disk drives on laptops.

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

I’ve brought my OP-1 and Deluge a couple of times – both devices really great all-round sound and composition machines. I’ve recently traded my Deluge for an AKAI Force though, because I kept forgetting and had to relearn the interface for the Deluge. Also, I always bring some small recording gear (recently a Zoom HN6 or at least good external smartphone microphone like the SHURE MV88) traveling or commuting. If nothing else, I always bring home some “ambient” field recordings if I’ve been traveling to new places. Often, recordings like that, seem to come in handy… 

IMG_0952.jpg
Shure phone mic

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

I would love for the ORCA live-coding environment to be available in a eurorack module. It’s running on the Monome NORNS, which is pretty close, but to me, it seems a eurorack version would be perfect. The other way around; I use simple Max for Live LFO’s a lot to map out to different parameters in Ableton. It would be great to have a Mutable Instruments “Marbles” available in Ableton also…

IMG_0953.jpg
Orca live coding

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

Back in the day – maybe mid 90’ies – I bought a German soundcard (i forget the name) for my windows-based rig. It was pretty expensive for me at the time – and I think I spend years getting it to work properly and wasted a lot of precious time and creative energy on it. So, I think I mostly regret NOT selling enough gear…

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

It might be my Squarp Pyramid sequencer and Eurorack combination. It’s limited enough, that I don’t get overwhelmed by choices like sometimes in computer-based DAW’s – but it’s also advanced enough to inspire and get deep into.   

IMG_0955.jpg
Pyramid Squarp

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

I would switch to Mac WAY sooner.

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

It’s my Eurorack setup. It’s a time-wasting, out-of-tune, where-is-that-noise-coming-from gigantic energy-suck of a brilliant magical sound and inspirational theme park of creativity…

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

I’m diving into different live-coding environments – mostly for straight fun and not “serious composition” – but find it very inspiring. Orca is a great source of inspiration – and I recently discovered the visuals-tool “Hydra”, which is a great and accessible tool for visualization.


Artist or Band name?

The last few years, I’ve been using the alias PopGoblin.

Genre?

I have no idea. Pop-minimal-electro-chill?

Selfie?

Morten aka. PopGoblin

Where are you from?

Copenhagen. Denmark.

How did you get into music?

I’ve been into music since childhood – playing around with tape-recorders, pianos, etc.

What still drives you to make music?

I don’t know why – making music is just something that is an integral part of me. I’m very much into how making music can throw me into flow-states and how pieces of music and sounds from way back, immediately brings back memories and even feelings across time. Music is a great storyteller and a time machine in that way.

How do you most often start a new track?

I fiddle around with gear. Record stuff. Throw it away. Pick it back up. Procrastinate. Sometimes, all of a sudden, something is taking shape, and I follow where it leads.

How do you know when a track is finished?

A track is never finished – just either abandoned or “put aside” to maybe evolve on its own…

Show us your current studio

Popgoblin’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Austin Kleon’s series of books, starting with Steal Like an Artist, is great. They contain a lot of great advice!

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us link

soundcloud.com/popgoblinpopgoblin.com