Kir Åge Jæger – Persian Electro Orchestra

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

The ROLI Seaboard (midi-controller) has an X/Y-Pad which is very powerful because it connects with the software “Strobe2” that has a so-called “Euclid” processor. It’s way easier to show on a screen, but imagine that when you drag the “target” symbol with your finger on the ROLI, the small dot (orange arrow on picture) follows the target. You can program HOW the small dot should follow the target with different parameters like slew, damp and rate in order to create some pretty original soundscapes. So far I have only used it for film scoring.

Roli Seaboard with Strobe2

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

This is probably not very original, but just like clichés exist because they are usually true, the PUSH 2 (from Ableton LIVE) works very well for both music production and live performance. What would I change? The fact that Ableton LIVE does not include quartertones as a standard.

Ableton Push 2

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

My setup is quite simple, actually. Even when I play with my orchestra, I can carry everything myself. My laptop, soundcard (Behringer UMC404HD), microphone (sE2200A||C), and headphones (Sennheiser HD 280 Pro) usually do the trick. A small midi-controller is useful too (AKAI MPK Mini). I once brought this with me to Beijing to visit my friend and we ended up inviting a vocalist from Tinder to jam with us.

Travel setup

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

I would love to have the VsT-plugin “Manipulator” by Infected Mushroom as hardware. Manipulator is always in my effect rack when I perform live on my santoor.

Uuh.. Speaking of… A midi-signal santoor would give my music production wings!

Infected Mushroom Manipulator VST

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

Hmm… I really regret buying any “Waves”-VsT plugins. They tried so hard to prevent people from cracking their software that it ended up being a headache to use legally. I decided to boycut them some years ago. 

Waves

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

Well… If software is gear I think “Nexus” from “REFX” inspired me the most. It is a so-called ROM synthesizer. The sounds are so delicate (yet expensive) and the software is very intuitive. I even heard that they programmed the sounds in order for you to combine them.

REFX Nexus

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

I started in “Music Maker” for Playstation (1998), then I changed to FL Studio (2003) and eventually Ableton LIVE in 2013. I definitely would’ve skipped FL Studio and gone directly to Ableton LIVE.

FL Studio

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

Hehe… That would be my cheap-ass in-ear monitor system that I bought for my orchestra musicians so that I can talk to them during a live show and they can listen to their own performance on a backing track. The sound is absolutely awful, but they’ve accepted it so far. 

Wireless In Ear Monitoring

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

That would definitely be the world of Persian tonal systems through my santoor. They have 7 tonal systems in Iran. We only have one in the western hemisphere. Working with electronic music (and thereby frequencies) has made it easier for me to understand these systems.

Santoor

Artist or Band name?

Persian Electro Orchestra

Genre?

Hmm… Well… Downtempo/Techno/World/Organic/Persian

Selfie?

Kir

Where are you from?

Copenhagen, Denmark

How did you get into music?

No one in my family plays an instrument. The interest was kind of there from the beginning. I started borrowing cd’s at the library at the age of 10.

Free CD’s from the library

What still drives you to make music?

Music – and everything that surrounds music – is the reason I am alive.

How do you most often start a new track?

With a fat polyrhythmic beat!

How do you know when a track is finished?

None of my tracks are ever finished. I always make new mixes and arrangements for live performance, hehe.

Show us your current studio

Kir’s home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Finish your shit and get it out there – even though it is not “perfect”. It will only make you thirsty for more when you get your first “real” feedback.

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

There is a bunch of songs being released soon, but meanwhile check out “Losing My Impatience”:
https://song.link/dk/i/1488153140

Søren Lemmike – Russian Corvette

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

The freq fader on the VCF section of my SH-101. Riding the cutoff frequency on that synth is just such nice squelchy acid techno sound that’s been used on many classic records. It was also the first analog synth I got and the one I learned basic synthesis on. Most synths have a big old knob for cutoff control these days, but I like that the SH-101 is all faders.

[Editor: Yeah, I like how faders are easier to read visually too]

Roland SH101

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

The Elektron Digitakt is great, but I would like to see a bandpass filter, an extra LFO and maybe some more sequencer playback options like reverse and random etc. Maybe we will get it a firmware update some day.

Elektron Digitakt

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

On holiday I would bring a Model:Samples – still waiting for that battery handle so I can make beats while I sip drinks in the swimming pool, haha.

Elektron Model:Samples

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

It would be cool to have Madrona Labs Aalto as a hardware synth, preferably Eurorack-compatible. The sound and design of Aalto is inspired by a Buchla synthesizer, so it could actually make sense in hardware form. It’s just a lovely sounding synth and the patchable UI is great fun. Seems like most hardware has been ported to software already whether it be, pre-amps, tape machines, fx units or guitar amps – a lot them sound great.

Madrona Labs Aalto

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

I regret selling my Fostex 280 4-track cassette recorder. I still have a bunch of old tapes in the basement with recordings of songs and demos that would be fun to have a listen to today. I regularly check the market for used ones, but seems like they’re either too expensive or too hard to get a hold of these days. The demand seems to be high so maybe it’s time Fostex, Yamaha or Tascam start up production again?

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

For any genre I would say the electric guitar. Specifically for electronic music I would say a computer with Ableton Live. I switched from Logic to Ableton back in 2003 and from getting ideas down to a final track, I think this setup has led me to produce the most music. I do think it’s healthy to shake things up now and then and try new ways of working. I recently setup a couple of small hardware only workspaces in the corners of my room just to get my eyes away from the computer screen and see what happens. One is based around a modular setup and the other one is based around some drum machines and analog monosynths.

Hardware setup with monosynths and drum machines
Modular setup
Modular setup from a swish angle

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

A computer or maybe a sampler. When I upgraded from the multitrack cassette recorder I bought this Roland VS-1680 harddisk recorder, which I used for a long time. It was ok, but quite clunky and difficult to edit recordings. Looking back I should have just have skipped it and gone with a computer and good soundcard, but computer/software and soundcard solutions were kind a of new thing then and not that stable back then.

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

I have this Roland GI-10 guitar to midi interface which has terrible tracking. You listen back to the recorded midi file of your performance and it has all these random ghost notes that you didn’t even play on the guitar. It’s quite annoying to have to sit and clean up the file afterwards, but it’s also just fun playing synths and triggering samplers from guitar. You just have to kind of embrace the chaos or play really clean with it.

Roland GI-10

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

Generally I am fascinated by distortion and how it can either subtly or radically change the timbre or transients of a sound. Instead of making synth sounds with standard saw/square-waves I like waveshaping a basic sinewave and see what comes out. Instead of grabbing a compressor to treat the transients on drums I might try distorting them instead.  Not really a musical tip, but I was pleasantly surprised that you can twist the voice mode knob while powering on to play a video game on a Korg Minilogue. Easter eggs are cool.

[Editor: WUUUUT?!!!]

Korg Minilogue startup game

Artist or Band name?

Russian Corvette.

Genre?

I try to avoid sticking to genres.

Selfie?

Søren Lemmike aka. Russian Corvette

Where are you from?

Copenhagen, Denmark

How did you get into music?

My dad had a classical guitar hanging on the wall in the house I grew up in. I just picked it up one day and tried to figure out how to play it by playing along to records I liked. I think I was about thirteen years old. The year after I got an electric guitar and a 4-track cassette recorded and started recording my own sounds.

What still drives you to make music?

I just find it exciting, entertaining and fun. I get really restless if I cant make music on a regular basis in some way or form. It’s like stepping into an unknown fantasy world. Especially working with electronic music, there is so still so much new ground to cover and new stuff to learn, it never gets boring.

How do you most often start a new track?

Usually it will be a sound that grabs my attention and that inspires me to build a track up around it. The initial sound or idea can come from anywhere really, but usually it will come from a synth, guitar, field recording or sounds in nature. If it’s a techno/electro track it will usually start with a beat made on a drum machine or Ableton.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I try to trust my intuition to tell me when a track is finished.

If I feel like it’s not getting better when working on it or if I get bored with it, it’s usually a good time to let it sit and come back to it later – lot’s of times it will sound finished after letting it rest a while.

Setting up predefined rules, such as max number of tracks, only live recordings, no overdubs etc. or a deadline can be helpful too.

Show us your current studio

Home studio desk

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Not sure if it was meant as creative advice, but as Da Vinci said, art is never finished, only abandoned.

I think what he is saying is to don’t expect everything you do to be a masterpiece and remember to enjoy the process of creating, as least that’s how I interpret it.

Some other good ones: think outside the box, challenge your ideals and try to do things the wrong way once in a while.

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

Here’s an ambient thing I did with the Neutron synth while I was beta-testing Aaltoverb

[Editor: Do you have any tips, tricks or fun techniques with any of the gear mentioned in this interview? Leave a comment]


Mylar Melodies – Talks With Hands

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

UA Apollo

My UA Apollo interface’s on/off switch – it’s a big silver lever that goes CLACK in an extremely loud and satisfying way. Apparently it’s actually the same on/off switch they use on their LA2A’s, so that switch has royal heritage.

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

I think everyone thinks it’s very easy to improve on gear, or that a manufacturer was daft not to include some simple feature when in fact it’s anything but simple (or cheap) to add just any old feature. Or that that feature is the thing stopping you from making good music. But as for perfect gear – I guess the Juno 60. It’s very simple, it has nothing superfluous, and it always sounds absolutely amazing. If I would change it, I would take presets off (because it’s so direct you don’t really need them – and of course, yes that’s a Juno 6) – and if I added anything, well I DID add the Juno 66 mod to mine, the best thing being, that it turns a precise DCO machine into a aphexy wooze-machine.
The perfect effect is the LA2A. It has two knobs, it’s set and forget, and it never fails, or sounds over the top.

Roland Juno 66

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

My iPhone, running Xynthesizr, pretty much just sequencing one blissy dual VCO with 98% echo patch, that I never modify beyond a few basic parameters. That’s all you need. I actually literally played a set at Moogfest on just my iPhone with this – directly connected to the PA through the headphone jack – I just improvised on Xynthesizr for 45 minutes with a couple of other elements for colour. I worked out the kinks about a day before. I can’t believe I got away with that, but I hope it makes a point. In fairness I had spent over a year solid jamming with that app on trains, planes and automobiles. I am always far more impressed with and weirdly, envious of (for their restraint and focus) musicians that have almost no gear, than ones that have everything. I make videos about gear, so it can’t help but pile up.

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

I wish Xynthesizr was hardware. I wish the Reason PX7 rack extension was hardware. I wish the Casio FZ1 filter was software.

Reason PX7 rack extension

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

I regret selling my second-ever synth, the only synth I’ve ever maxed out every single memory location on with my patches – a Korg MS2000.
I regretted buying the Novation Nova, which was my first synth. It was way, way, way too complicated for me and I had no idea where to start. I directly swapped it for the MS2000. And while I think the person I did the trade with thought they got the better deal, I definitely did. That was the synth that taught me synthesis. I rinsed that MS2000.
I definitely bought or traded stuff for a Cheetah MD16 drum machine at one point which I remember thinking “what the absolute hell am I doing with this grey door stop”. In fairness I probably didn’t know what I was doing and it was fine, but I’m still not convinced.

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

Ableton Live. That’s also all you need, but it’s all too easy to fall into jaded patterns of use and habits with it, which you need to be aware of or you’ll end up spending thousands of pounds on a eurorack habit in a desperate bid to rekindle the feeling of “beginners mind” once again.
But mainly, what has inspired the most music is time. Having the luxury of time in which to make music is harder and harder as life goes on and responsibilities grow, and especially the idea of being a full time musician is incredibly difficult to maintain and I’m amazed people do it at all. It’s interesting to consider that many musicians can only become successful through either being utterly utterly dirt poor, or rich to start with – being the only way one could afford the time to become successful. Is there a middle ground?

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

A Digitakt. That’s also all you need.
[Editor: And a nice doggie for company]

Digitakt and doggie

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

Adobe Premiere. It’s a bug-infested rats nest, it’s stupidly basic with audio… but I need it. If it ever truly falls over, Davinci Resolve is waiting in the wings, and is free.

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

The incredible genre-defining boundary-expanding main spooky string riff in LFO’s “LFO”, clearly the sound that inspired the track (because you wouldn’t just magically find that sound would suddenly fit what you were doing, you fit a track around IT) is a straight preset (melody and all) from the cheap as chips Kawai K1. That’s right, one of the best moments from one of the best British dance tunes of all time is a preset. Presets are not “for the weak”. Making a good tune is hard enough as it is. Having FINISHED a tune BECAUSE you used presets is far cooler than having hundreds of half finished tracks where you synthesized every hihat from scratch.
Guitar bands don’t build new instruments for every song – there’s a balance to be struck. You can separate the processes of sound design and song writing – it’s something I’m mindful I need to do more. Either way I accept inspiration wherever I find it.

[Editor: ‘Accept inspirations wherever you find it’ – that is a nicely turned phrase and great advice]


Artist or Band name?

Mylar Melodies

Genre?

Electro/techno. I’m inspired whenever I think about Aphex, LFO, Boards of Canada, James Stinson, and Kraftwerk. So hopefully I float around in their worlds musically… A bit.

Selfie?

Mr. Mylar Melodies

Where are you from?

An hours drive from where Mark Bell was from.

How did you get into music?

A perfect storm of having older brothers to who played me Orbital and RDJ, one of whom had an MC-303 (Yes, MC) which he let me fiddle around with, having access to a stack of Future Music issues in a time before the internet, and being bequeathed several grand from my late great uncle at the age of 16(!) years old.

As you might image I frittered most of that money away on stupid pointless things, but I did spend a massive chunk of it on my first ever music gear and a proper stereo, and I never looked back. That was probably the best imaginable upshot of him leaving me the money, despite me wasting most of it – it’s funny that the right gift at the right time can change someone’s life.

You can see how privileged I was to get that push, and the money, and to be young enough to have the time especially – I lived in the countryside, so there were no friends to see (without a lift) or places to go. It’s good to remind yourself that having access to tools and a relaxed environment and the luxury of time, where you can experiment with them – and to have taste makers like your brothers – is essential to make people who can explore creative pursuits, and I’m lucky I had it.

Ralf and Florian [Editor: Of Kraftwerk fame] were well off, how else would they afford a Minimoog, a Synthi and the time to play it?! Of course now the tools are far cheaper, and the software is free (time is still a luxury). The internet could be like an older brother, but there’s just too much noise. How do you discover your “thing” anymore? I’m encouraged to see that people do discover things like Eurorack, and that’s a route into electronic music for them.

Roland MC303 and Eurorack

What still drives you to make music?

The knowledge that if I sit down and fiddle around, something good will most likely come of it. And about thinking about those people I mentioned before, sat in their personal Kling Klangs, playing around with tools just like the ones I have, and coming up with timeless music. That always makes me want to try as well.

How do you most often start a new track?

Making music is a bit like sculpture, or seeing a dog in a cloud. I NEVER pre-imagine what I’m going to make. I just start turning dials and pushing buttons until something cool pops out and a little light goes on my head, and then I get an idea of what that blob could be further shaped into, and then I zone it in on that, and then other complimentary things suggest themselves.
At the end of it, you end up with a semi coherent thing and wonder… how did this even start out?
Usually, also the first idea is wack, but the second or third thing you make from all the sounds and sequences of the first is far better. The main thing is to just sit down and play, irrespective of whether you feel inspired (that will happen by playing), and not to be concerned whether you will make anything “good” or not (that is – partially – out of your control).

[Editor: Kinda like how it’s useful to separate sound design from composition, I guess it’s equally useful to separate the process of creation from judgement of good vs. bad... Or maybe ‘separate’ is too strict a word? Perhaps ‘compartmentalize’?]

How do you know when a track is finished?

I 100% do not know this, and I fiddle away at things endlessly. So much so, that I’ve been engineering systems, so that I have no choice, but to accept my first or second real-time pass at something as “it”. If I later decide it really is crap, I’ll just have to make something else. Quantity makes quality.

Show us your current studio

Mylar Melodies Studio

This is half plugged in right now, as I’m trying to find a way to have the stupidest amount of gear in the smallest space.
I feel obliged to say there isn’t (so far, for me) a relationship between having loads of gear and making loads of music. Just like having fifty guitars doesn’t make you a brilliant guitarist. I am not in any way proud of having loads of stuff in principle (NB: Although I love all these things, I’ve slowly gathered it all this over decades, it most definitely did not arrive overnight), and most of the things I own are individually pretty cheap bits of gear. I love these individual bits, both for what they are/do (their market value doesn’t correlate to their coolness to me in all cases) and for their place in musical history, I definitely have the curse of being a collector.

Yamaha DX7

Case in point, I own a DX7 – a proper brown old first edition DX7, and I think it’s utterly amazing for both the historical influence and as a synth. It’s such a futuristic beast, yet fuzzy and nostalgic all the same time. FM synths are extraordinary to me and much more like alchemy than subtractive ones.

But the thing I am actually proud of in that studio picture is that in the last three months I have been working to make it all completely accessible and immediate on (3!) patchbays, so I can actually make full use of it, both for impromptu live jams and recording multi-tracks to computer, and variations thereof. About f*king time. Get yourself enough patchbays to have all the I/O of your studio fully plumbed in.

Otherwise you’ll never use it! I didn’t, and I’ve started applying the “build a system” mentality which I’ve learned through Eurorack, to my wider studio. A well organised patchbay system is essential.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

A recent one:
“Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.”

I believe strongly that quality is a byproduct of quantity. Just make the music and try not to care if it’s good – in fact revel in making something terrible, if that will help you not give up, just don’t abandon it. Finish it and then see what you learned from it. And if you need an evil, but effective way to force yourself to finish something – bet a friend a significant amount of money (£100+, or more if you’re doing well) you’ll make an agreed deadline. Always worked for me.

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

Here’s a video I made about how to recreate a Buchla Music Easel in only 62HP of Eurorack modules. I’m making a whole series of these little mini “Suggested Systems”. Go on and subscribe to the channel if you like nerdy chats about synths and gear? Go on. Go on now:

https://youtu.be/B40AizE6i2g

Also I have a podcast talking to electronic musicians and gear makers, including chats with Scanner, Tom Furse from the Horrors and the wonderful Adrian Utley so far.

http://www.whywebleep.com

Am I allowed three?! Here’s that Moogfest I did on an iPhone:
https://youtu.be/7xhWLtRQ6Aw

[Editor: I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Mylar’s videos and his podcast WhyWeBleep is especially good. Have you stumbled across his videos yet? He’s made so many, which ones standout for you? Leave a comment below]