Alexandr – With Meraki

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

Microbrute’s filter. First of all, I believe that this Steiner-Parker filter is one of the best I’ve put my hands on. And since the Brute was my first analog synthesizer it holds a special place in my heart. From the first sweep, I fell in love.

Arturia Microbrute

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

Hmm it’s really difficult to say that something’s perfect. I will be super super boring and give it to the Launchpad. I work in Ableton’s session view all the time and it makes things so much faster. The only thing I would like to see is a 16×16 version to be able to see my whole project at once. 

Novation Launchpad

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

I actually was at my summer house for 3 weeks last month and I decided to bring the things I use the least to get to know them. So it was the Volca FM which I haven’t really used since I got it. Although the tiny knobs are horrible, the sounds are excellent. And with that I also used my iPad a lot. The apps you can find on the iPad are simply mind-blowing and highly underrated.

The DRC synthesizer is my absolute favorite iPad app. Beautiful sounds and super easy to program.

DRC Synth iOS app

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

Easy one. All the Valhalla DSP stuff. Best effects out there. If they could make hardware versions of their plugins and stay reasonably priced they would just destroy the whole pedal/ effects market. 

Valhalla DSP Vintage Verb

I don’t really think I would want something hardware to become software. The physical connection you can have with a piece of gear is unbeatable in my opinion. 

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

Korg Minilogue

I don’t sell a lot. Even if I don’t use something it’s hard for me to go on and sell it. So from the things I’ve sold through the years, I regret none. And something I regret buying.. If I leave aside all the cheap stuff I got, I would say the Minilogue. I have a love-hate relationship with this synth. It’s great for the price, no argue with that, but it just leaves you every time wanting a bit more. It sounds “ok” but rarely great. So for anyone who’s looking to buy a poly synth, I would recommend to save and get something much better.

Korg Minilogue VCO

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

Might sound weird but it’s a dirt-cheap Casio digital piano. Having a 61 keys keyboard with full polyphony unlocked so many possibilities. I only use 2 piano sounds that sound decent, but it’s almost on every track I’ve ever released.

Casio digital piano

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

Acid Pro 3.0

Ableton Live vs FL Studio. I’ve been making music for 15 years. Actually my first DAW was one called Acid Pro 3.0. Only the 80s kids might know this one.. But my first actual DAW was FL studio. Switching to Ableton was life changing for me. For me, its workflow suits me perfectly and it was a catalyst for me to finish songs instead of just struggling with loops. 

Acid Pro 3.0

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

The 4-track cassette recorder for sure. It’s a Yamaha MT100. It’s big, I’ve repaired three times so far but I love using it. Everything is going through tape so I simply cannot live without it.

Yamaha MT100

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

Elektron Digitakt screen

I don’t deep dive to my gear. I want them to be simple and I prefer things that do only one thing really well. A nice technique I use for drums is the LFO assigned to sample slot on the Digitakt. I create a project with very few samples on it (10-16) and besides the kick I apply the LFO to the other tracks to come up with new patterns every time. That way you can make cool variations and you also audition sounds for your drum patterns. 

Elektron Digitakt

Artist or Band name?

Alexandr

Genre?

Ambient, IDM, Downtempo

Selfie?

Alexander Voulgaris

Where are you from?

Athens, Greece 

How did you get into music?

I’m drawn to all kinds of art. I take photos, I make videos, I draw, I sculpt.. Music is just another way to express my creative side. And besides that, as a kid I’ve always dreamt to become a rock star but never got into a band. So I’ve decided to have this one man – band thing going on nowadays. 

What still drives you to make music?

I don’t really know. I just can’t wait to get to my studio and start playing around and create something. It is something that relaxes me and I deeply enjoy it. 

How do you most often start a new track?

It always starts with the piano. I write some chords, a melody and start building from there.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Oh that’s so hard.. Once I finish arranging (and this is the hardest part for me) I know I’m really close to call it finished. So when I start mastering and then run it through tape I simply commit and call it a day. 

Show us your current studio

My beautiful mess

Home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

My dad, who is also an artist, always told me that you have to put “meraki” to your art. Meraki is a Greek word that means: “To do something with soul, creativity, or love.”

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

My Spotify where I release all my music: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5MPLFK5gfmmo0Tm0EiTnqP?si=cDwtSJ05QXC91wlElXzAAA

I also use Bandcamp a lot and there you can also find the Sample Packs that I create every month: https://alexandristaken.bandcamp.com/music


Vincent Ligny – Analog Gr’ Owl

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

Moog Filter Knobs

It’s more emotional than technical. My first machine was the MOOG Mother-32. Experiencing the Moog sound in such a small object, put me in a certain state. The first knob turned was the cutOFF (not boring at all) and resonance. Discovering this sound palette, its depth confirmed to me, the idea that musically and emotionally, I had made the right choice.

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

Moog Matriarch

I recently acquired the Moog Matriarch which to my eyes represents the perfect synth. A sublime musicality, a grain that is both historic and modern and semi-modular! Accessibility is total. The stereo mode, combined with spacing, stereo delay and modulations, allows you to create beautiful sweeping effects without external effects.
A rediscovery every time.

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

For the holidays, OP-Z, OP-1 and my Master and Dynamic MH40. Travel light for a maximum of possibilities. 

OP-Z, OP-1 and Master and Dynamic MH40

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

I fantasize about the Valhalla VST in a physical multi-effect box. We know their precision, but aesthetically, putting steel around these effects would be magical.
Surely the OTO Biscuit as digital software would be great! Unique ability to mute or invert each of the 8-bit converters, not to mention the effects sections: Waveshaper, Delay, Pitch Shifter and Step Filter … a beast.

[Editor: I’ve just been told on instagram that there is in fact a software version of the Biscuit by Softube … All hail ye great internet brain!]

Oto Biscuit

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

I sold a few years ago a Fender Coronado 2 Rosewood Sunburst from 1966. Ultra thin neck and a fantastic clarity in sound, crystalline even. A twinge of heart every time I cross paths with a photo. I’m trying to find one in lake placid blue.

Fender Coronado 2

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

My Moog Matriarch and modular system. It is just easy to get lost with these two machines and I easily arrive at hypnotic sequences, percussive arps, pads without necessarily messing around. I like it to be instant and not overly thought out. The best often happens through mistakes, little misses.

Eurorack modular

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

I think I would turn to the Korg Minilogue (XD).
An easy to understand deck, a clean, polyphonic look.The pleasure is immediate.
The OLED oscilloscope shows you, in real time, how your waveform changes as parameters change, giving you visual feedback on how to shape your sound. Perfect for beginners.
Considering all of its features, this synth alone unites all the advantages of a vintage synth, but with an elegant and practical interface that is decidedly modern. The price is also within the budget of a musician today (very affordable).

Korg Minilogue XD

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

The Yamaha Portasound PS-1, piano, organ, clarinet, sustain > (deplorable) but coupled with a Microcosm (Hologram Electronics) and / or an OTO BAM reverb, you get to draw sublime ambient pads. I love it, I bought it for my son, I hope he will love it too.

Yamaha Portasound PS-1, Oto Bam and Hologram Electronic Microcosm

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

The Midi/config Shiftmode allowing onto to completely destroy the pattern and do lots of soundscaping, press then FUNC + No to reload pattern and we are back to the original. The ultimate live combo, but it’s also just an ergonomic pleasure. Thank you Elektron.

Elektron Digitone

Artist or Band name?

Vincent Ligny

Genre?

Ambient / Cinematic atmospheres

Selfie?

Vincent Ligny

Where are you from?

France. Bois-colombes, small town next to Paris.

How did you get into music?

My grandfather played classic guitar, my father played folk. I naturally started bass and guitar.
I listened to a very wide spectrum, different musical genres, but I crossed into electronic music and started to experiment with that, about 6 years ago now.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s just inexplicable. It is inseparable from my way of living or rhythm of my daily life. It is a need. Electronic music opened me up to wider fields. There are no limits.

How do you most often start a new track?

There is nothing written, nothing parameterized. The first notes are imperfect. I ask myself, I run a sequence, then I develop, I make mistakes. Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it’s a wonderful surprise.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I hesitate to bid, to drown. Now is the time to stop.

Show us your current studio

Home Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

It is not necessary to know the music, only to feel it.

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

I appeared on a vinyl compilation from a young german independent label Deeptape Records: 
Deeptracks Vol1
Vincent Ligny – Velvet
https://deeptaperecords.bandcamp.com/album/deeptracks-1-2
 
I’m working on a 3 track EP – Pio’s journey which should be released normally at the start of 2021.


Close your Eyes – Wide Open

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

Feedback knob on my Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo. I like balancing on the edge of a wild totally uncontrollable feedback. Or even crossing this edge sometimes 🙂

Strymon El Capistan

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

Red Panda Particle 2.  For me it’s a perfect granular delay pedal. It can go from gentle reversed echoes to the wall of glitch and chaos in sound. And it’s stereo! It is important, as I use to process synths, drum machines or even groups of tracks through it.

Red Panda Particle

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

I’ll go with Digitakt and Hokema Electro Kalimba. Digitakt is an in-a-box workstation which allows sketching, playing jams on my own or with fellow musicians, and almost to do a finished track, while this kalimba is just tiny magic.

Elektron Digitakt and Hokema Electro Kalimba

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

It’s a tricky question, because all of my favorite plugins already have hardware prototypes. At the same time, I’m not a big fan of software to wish anything hardware turned into soft.
Nonetheless, recently I discovered amazing plugins by Puremagnetik. Although they obviously have some hardware inspiration, the plugins are truly unique and have strong personality in sound and usability. So yes, I wish I could have these in hardware.

Puremagnetik Plugins

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

The only thing I got rid of without any doubt was an AKAI MPK249. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing midi controller which is perfect for its purposes, it just doesn’t work for me personally, cause I’m not really a controller-kind person. In this case I clearly realised that I cannot rely on computers in creating music. With this MPK249 in setup, I had an almighty controller and a laptop with awesome software, but I couldn’t come up with any idea for weeks.  Being honest, I actually don’t regret buying it, because it helped me finally to understand that midi-controllers are not my thing, speaking on composing workflows.
Talking about selling, I didn’t sell that much to regret something.

APC Key25 (the midi controller that stuck around)

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

Definitely my piano. If you’d do me the favour to call it “gear” 🙂

Piano money shot

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

No surprises — a piano! 🙂

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

Definitely any computer. Now I set myself a goal to reduce the computer part in my music production and live sets. However, I’m far from this right now, the computer still does lots of work. I don’t like endless possibilities which computers give, preferring a simple gear which is capable of very limited things — but does it perfectly.

MacBook

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

Turning a three-headed cassette recorder into a tape echo by creating a feedback loop on a mixer. I do it with my Marantz PMD 222, it sounds lovely.

Marantz PMD222

Artist or Band name?

closeyoureyes

Genre?

electronic

Selfie?

Close Your Eyes wide open

Where are you from?

Saint Petersburg, Russia

How did you get into music?

Melodica, Ukulele and Xylophone

I was obsessed with the idea of playing guitar in high school, so I tried to self educate. I played several bands, something like indie/funk/rock, we all know this good old story. Then I realized that composing music with the band doesn’t work for me personally, and no matter how awesome the band is. So I quitted all bands and started to search how I can do music on my own. This led me to electronic music — as a field where I can compose and perform alone. Nonetheless I still love acoustic instruments, therefore I use a lot of them in my production. Like ukulele, melodica, kalimba, flute, toy pianos, obviously not to mention guitar and piano. So the outcome is an electronic music filled with tricky processed acoustic instruments.

Pedals and Toy Pianos

What still drives you to make music?

A conviction that for me it’s the very best way to communicate with the world and to release feelings and ideas that I carry inside.

How do you most often start a new track?

I start with a piano or polyphonic synth mostly. The very first thing is the sound. Usually, I need to prepare my  piano with felt because a quiet sound with a lot of rustle going on is what I really like, and also do some experiments with mics positioning. At the same time I may apply some effects like delay or granular stuff because these effects  drastically change the way I will play the piano. When the sound is ready, the next step is to come up with a nice chord progression or/and melody. At this stage I try to catch the idea of the whole track with all its changes and turning points, and then use other instruments to amplify the emotions which are already included in the piano part.

Behringer DeepMind 12

How do you know when a track is finished?

I listen to it a lot. Mostly while walking in the streets, I listen and ask if I want to add something or get rid of it. When everything’s fine, it’s finished.

Show us your current studio

Close Your Eyes Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

There were two actually.
1) Listen to your most inner voice. You have a lot of inner voices, but there’s one that always was there since your early childhood. Find it and listen to it.
2) Start to compose with the opposite of what you used to associate with yourself. You will add all this to your common features later, but the start should be far far away from your familiar territory.

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

Well it’s been a while since I released new music, but something new  is coming really soon, so I’ll leave these links in case you want to stay in touch:
instagram.com/closeyoureyesmusic
(here I share most recent news, studio sketches and some daily music related routine)
youtube.com/closeyoureyesmusic
(here I share live sets, both electronic or acoustic, gear demos, tutorials and all this YouTube stuff 🙂
And if you want to support what I do, you are always welcome to my bandcamp
closeyoureyes.bandcamp.com