Michael Hell – Minimalist Conjuring

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

I think this is a toss up between the fader on the Octatrack and the magnetic encoders on the OP-Z, they both feel great on their own terms so I would say both.

Octatrack Fader and OPZ encoders

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

The OP-Z is great and I think it is almost perfect. The big one is of course the hardware itself. I am currently having lots of issues with miss triggering and double triggers and it’s getting a bit annoying tbh and of course I hear people having issues with warpage of the OP-Z itself and popping encoders. On a lighter note, I would love to have the tonic drum engine (from PO-32) in the OP-Z as well, then it would be perfect.

Teenage Engineering OPZ

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

I think it might be obvious by now…. OP-Z.

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

I would love to have OrcΛ in hardware form, I just dreamt of a hardware device similar to Polyend tracker, but instead of a tracker for sequencing it’s OrcΛ.

PolyEnd Tracker

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

I miss my Moog Minitaur a lot actually, the bass that thing churns out is staggering. I also miss the MPC Live at times, it was a really nice partner with the OP-Z. But I found the workflow really boring tbh

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

OP-Z for sure. I love how you can twist and bend a sequence with it.

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

Octatrack, It’s just a stream filled with possibilities.

Elektron Octatrack

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

The SP-404 I love the thought of it, but I hate using it, but I don’t want to sell it. One day I will truly master it! and I also feel like i should enjoy Eurorack a lot more, but I’m actually on the fence about selling all my Eurorack. I’m really down with minimalism. Ohh and the keys on the Arturia Keystep are atrocious, but that little thing is so damn handy.

[Editor: I had the SP404 years ago and sold it coz I just didn’t use it enough. Then I just got the SP404sx model with sd card. It’s strangely a lot more useful. Dunno why]

Roland SP404

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

Octatrack and QY70 go really well together. The standard midi template on the Octatrack corresponds with the midi implementation of the QY70. So basically you just have to connect them via midi and then start p-locking parameters without even setting up the CC’s. Also realizing that the midi implementation on the MPC Live is actually fantastic once you connect the devices with both midi in and out. the MPC reads all the midi CC settings so you can automate everything on the machine. its pretty incredible tbh.

Octatrack with Yamaha QY70

Artist or Band name?

Grååskala or Graaskala for you non nordics Genre? IDM…. i guess… Glitch… Maybe?

Micheal Hell

Where are you from?

Märsta outside of Stockholm. Currently living in the north of Sweden with wife and family.

How did you get into music?

Played piano and violin as a kid (briefly) but really connected with music through a friend who was doing troubadour gigs at the age of 21. Learned to play guitar and sang to that. Then I went on to study music as a vocalist for two years. Played in bands and such as a vocalist. Got into the electronic hardware thing just a couple of years back, when I wanted to get back into music, but didn’t have anyone to play with… so basically I made a one man band.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s a stress relief thing, I just love disappearing into music. Plus I have a primal need for creating stuff, I guess that’s why i became an engineer by trade so that i can always be in the process of creation.

How do you most often start a new track?

Drums. Almost always drums.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Through my work I’ve learned to adapt to the phrase “good enough”. I know a track is ready when I feel like I have a structure in it or rather a story, there’s almost always imperfections in my recordings, but I chose to honor it instead of shunning it.

Show us your current studio

I’m not a collector in any sense. I have a ‘one-in-one-out’ policy and I strive towards having a streamlined workflow and most importantly FUN. So this is what I’m playing with currently.

Michael’s studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

On the subject of writer’s block Björk stated something in her Reddit AMA that really resonated with me. TL;DR don’t force your creativity.

“I think creativity always lives somewhere in everyone, but its nature is quite pranksterish and slippery and every time u grab its tail, it’s found a new corner to thrive in. Perhaps the trick is not to force it and put it up against a wall and want it to be in a particular area. But rather with a lot of kindness sniff it out and wonder where it has gone to this time around. If its in sauce recipes , writing theater plays , paper-mache improv with nephews, discovering new hiking routes or simply trying to figure out a family members sense of humour . I definetly don’t succeed in this all the time, but feel overall things have been more fertile when I trust this creatures instincts and follow it, rather than me willfully reforming it into a circus animal colouring by numbers”.

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

Well it’s not new by any sense, but it is my latest, my OP-Z only album released on Golfshoe Music. Straight stereo recordings of performances, with imperfections and all.

Thanks for having me! Stay safe and creative folks!!


Per Barfot – Last Norwegian Viking

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

I love the joystick on the Elektron Analog Keys (Freudian interpretation anyone?). It’s made of plastic but has the right feel in terms of resistance. And controlling different parameters with the tip of your finger is simply so much fun. And while we’re on the Analog Keys, the sound selection wheel isn’t too bad either. Sure, it is also plastic and a bit wobbly, but it’s big, and most importantly, it gives audible click-feedback when turned. Satisfying.

Joystick on the Elektron Analog Keys

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

That would be any instrument/module/effect before I buy them. Actually owning and creating music is often a struggle, even though it can be an enjoyable struggle. But some pieces of gear make the struggle easier. I’m talking about gear I can co-create with to produce an environment of happy accidents. Lately I’ve been moving away from precise and controlled sequencers like those in Elektron machines, and towards a more intuitive approach with modular and Monome equipment. And I’m in love with Grid as a sequencer. But, actually, the first one that comes to mind when I think “perfect” is Chase Bliss Thermae. Pair it with anything and it will be an “almost perfect bit of kit”. It’s a magic little box (well, it’s actually an analog pitch shift delay with just the right ratio of control vs surprise). As long as you let it be in control, giving it enough room to express itself freely, the result will often be mind blowing.

Chase Bliss Thermae

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

I’ve changed up my equipment a lot lately, so if I’d go now (well, when the pandemic is over) it’ll probably be Monome Norns with Grid and maybe a tiny modular system. But last time I brought an instrument on vacation was when I took the Analog Keys on a bus trip to a friend in Norway. Let’s just say I won’t do that again (bringing the Keys on vacation that is, Norway is the best).

Monome Norns

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

Soft > hard: I have a 2hp Pluck that emulates a string instrument, which I use a lot. But I don’t know of a module that emulates a piano. Sometimes I can make the Mannequins Mangrove sound a bit like one (well…), but how cool wouldn’t it be if Felt Instruments released their pluggin Lekko in eurorack format?!

Tape loop over Norns and Elektron Keys

Hard > soft: I love the way tape color sounds (mostly), but actually working with tape can be annoying. The recorders are old and sometimes malfunctioning, the tape loops break, and hiss can be too loud or too harsh. I’ve tried a number of pretty good tape emulation plugins out there, but it’s not the same as real tape. And maybe will never be?

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

Half a year ago I sold a modified Marantz CP430 (it had a double speed switch). At that time I was tired of tape, and of recorders breaking down. I had bought three Marantz recorders within a pretty short time, but ended up selling two of them. I regret I didn’t sell the unmodified one instead.

Marantz

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

A couple of months ago I got the Monome Grid. Using it with Ansible running Kria is probably the closest I’ve come to “effortless” sequencing (well, learning Kria was a bit of a hassle). I love how it allows me to discover happy accidents within a framework of control.

Monome Grid

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

I started my synth journey with the Analog Keys. I had it for more than two years without any other pedal or additional synth. And I found that to be liberating. Now as I’ve gathered more and more gear I do feel more stress, and maybe a bit of shame, that I’m not using each piece at it’s full potential. So I’m happy I began my journey as I did.

A nest of Eurorack

But I could also see myself staring over with Norns, Grid and a tiny eurorack system based around Crow and a couple of Mannequins modules.

More Eurorack and a wooden egg

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

It could be a number of different answers. I don’t use the Analog Keys so much anymore since getting into modular. It’s a big synth with a small screen. And it doesn’t inspire me very much at the moment. But it can do almost anything. It even has 4 configurable CV outputs for gates, pitches, lfos, envelopes, and even a CV sequencer. And sometimes it’s just feels nice to play on actual keys.

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

It’s been mentioned before, but I’d have to say live-processing anything into a tape loop on my Marantz CP430. It makes almost any sound 100% better, objectively speaking. I’m normally running the sound from my case through the recorder and then back into the case again for delay/reverb processing. I imagine some of the harsher aspects of tape will disappear that way, but I could be mistaken.

Bonus technique: using randomised arpeggios and conditional trigs on the Analog Keys to create unpredictability, and thus turning it into a happy accident machine.


Artist or Band name?

Per Barfot. Might change in the future. Per is my middle name. And Barfot is the name of a Norwegian king (1073-1103). My grandfather studied genealogy and discovered that Magnus Barfot is our common ancestor, supposedly. He is described as the “last viking of the Norwegian kings”. “Barfot” means “barefoot”, a name he (probably) got because he at one point had to flee from Swedish soldiers without shoes on.

[Editor: What a great story! Keep that name]

Genre?

Melodic lo-fi ambient.

Selfie?

Anders aka. Per Barfot

Where are you from?

Kungälv, Sweden.

How did you get into music?

Played guitar as a teenager. Recorded two singer/songwriter albums in my twenties. Discovered experimental synth music maybe five years ago (mostly via Hainbach’s YouTube channel I think).

What still drives you to make music?

Few things touch me as deeply as music does. It’s a crack in the fabric of reality. I want to be a part of that.

How do you most often start a new track?

I turn on the modular system. Press on a number of buttons on Grid without too much thought. Listen. Adjust. Often I record long pieces so I have the opportunity to come back later and continue working with the best parts.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I’m never finished. I started recording a lo-fi indie synth pop EP a year ago. It’s been 90% complete since last fall. But now the songs don’t correspond to where I am at musically, because I’ve moved on. But I also don’t want to let it go because I’ve spent too much time and effort making it. Will it ever be finished? No idea.

Show us your current studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Don’t be afraid to copy from who ever inspires you, and make it your own.

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

I guess, just keep updated on instagram.com/perbarfot, and hopefully some day I’ll confront my insecurities and actually release my EP 🙂


Marine Drouan – Kritzkom

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

I love the even VCO main knob from Befaco’s Eurorack module. It’s beautiful, and I
like the feeling when you turn it. And I like to use it (it changes the octave) mostly if
it’s plugged on a reverb.

Befaco VCO

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

The Octatrack is for me almost perfect. A kind of similar software like the Overbridge for the other Elektron machines would be perfect. Of course a possibility to record the 8 tracks separately, but simultaneously. Add it a simple synthesizer and it would be totally perfect.

Elektron Octatrack

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

On holiday, I take a small battery powered devices because I like to be outside. It can
vary from a sampler (MicroGrany for Bastl Instruments or SPS-404) or the Teenage
Engineering PO-35, or the iPad. I almost always take a recorder (Zoom) to do field
recording.

Bastl Microgranny
Portable samplers

If I am on the train or plane I love to work on the computer, either exploring some Max for live patches I never tried or some other little software that I usually don’t use.

Zoom sampling on a boat

It is interesting how having fewer devices force us to explore other ways to do music.
When I perform I always take my Machinedrum, often the MicroKorg XL and if not
other small synths. Now that I have one, I would also take the Octatrack. I also take a
few MIDI controllers like the Novation Lauchpad and the my old Korg NanoControl,
they are small and are practical.

Zoom recorder and various input devices

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

Borderlands (the iOS app) as a hardware could be interesting to imagine, although I
have no idea how it could look. Probably this is also the reason I like this kind of app, which really use the touch screen and couldn’t have exist as a hardware. On the other side I have the feeling most of the hardware now exists as a software. I find modular synthesizers as software pretty nice, even if it never can replace it. It is perfect to try some modules, learn to use it, or if you cannot afford it.

Borderlands iOS

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

My first machine was an MC-303, but at this time I had nothing else. It was interesting to learn, but alone it was a bit limited. I was a teenager I had no access to any studio or couldn’t buy more machines. I sold it to buy a MIDI keyboard which was at the time the best for me. If I see one I get a bit of nostalgic and I sometimes regret I sold it.

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

The Electron Monomachine, it was my first proper sequencer and it made a huge
difference in my way of doing music. Having a sequencer improved so much the way
to use synths. But then it is the Machinedrum which inspired me the most and for a long time.

Elektron MonoMachine

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

I should have get the Elektron Machinedrum as soon as it got released.

Elektron Machinedrum

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

Only an old M-audio firewire sound card which is very small and has midi in/out + 2
stereo audio outputs and one stereo input, so everything you need all the time. I took
it everywhere, it worked forever, the most stable I ever had. Unfortunately it now
doesn’t work on the new OS. I still have a hard disk partition with an older system on
my mac to use it. But because of this I use it less and less… Only because of the
driver is not updated.

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

Nothing really crazy for a user of modular synthesizers. But as I am still in the discovering phase, I enjoy this little self-discoveries, and find it funny to trigger the steps of a sequencer (In my case: Pop Corn from Bastl Instruments) just by touching the cable. Of course, it is doing an electric impulse which makes it goes to the next step.


Artist or Band name?

Kritzkom

Genre?

Electronic music of many kinds from ambiant, experimental, to slow techno with a touch of house sometimes.

Selfie?

Marine Drouan

Where are you from?

Nantes in the west of France.

How did you get into music?

I started to learn play the piano which is an instrument I like a lot, but I stopped after 2 years. I wanted to play my own tunes, still it was the first keyboard experience. I guess, it was listening to techno music late in the night on the radio as teenager, that I really started to really love music and wanted to do some.

What still drives you to make music?

Life in general, but more nature than humans. I guess I need music and often I have
something in mind I want to express. What I work on is sometimes the only thing that I want to listen to. Like an infinite exploration. The nature and listening to its subtle sounds, is definitely the most inspiring to me.

How do you most often start a new track?

By experimenting with and making sounds, textures or loops most of the time, but it can really always be different. The only sure thing, I never start with a structure.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I can be hard to know. If I don’t know, I stop to working on it and let it be, so that I can listen to it with more distance a few days later, then it’s much easier. It can either be very simple and intuitive or be super hard. It can happen that I do 30 different versions and it makes it harder to choose. Sometimes it can also mean that it’s not worth it to finish this track.

Show us your current studio

It is hard to do in one only one picture, as the room i have, is long there is not so much place to take a photo. I also have a cupboard where some gear is resting quietly and safe from the dust before I feel like using them again.

Eurorack on the rack
Studio
Home studio from above

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Trust your ears.

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

My last album “Melt Map”:
https://disorientation.bandcamp.com/album/melt-map

A new track “Infinite” on the compilation Kedi 2 on Baumusik:
https://baumusik.bandcamp.com/album/kedi-2-2

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