TubeDigga – Maestro of the MPC

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

Akai S950 Data Wheel

I can’t isolate just one unfortunately!
Boring answer: I just bought an Akai S950 and really like the feel of the main data wheel. The knob itself is quite aesthetically boring but the mechanical click feel of it is great and responsive.

Akai S950 12bit rack sampler

Slightly less boring answer 1: I also really like the XY stick on the Intellijel Planar 2.
Slightly less boring answer 2: The main main frequency knob on the XAOC Devices Belgrad Multimode filter, superb quality!

Belgrad module by  Xaoc Devices

Slightly less boring answer 3: the main pitch knob on the Strymon Magneto is also excellent.
Slightly less boring answer 4: Most of the Erica Synths module knobs.

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

For ease of use, feature set and general overall desire to use, the MPC (previously the X and currently One in my case).
I’d change a fair few things, some examples would be latched pads/looped samples (like the Roland SP404/505 etc have, so you can have an infinitely sustaining loop. I discovered a way to override this in the MPC by tricking it into not receiving a NOTE OFF message which is the issue. I’d also have a much deeper modulation matrix. Disk streaming, ability to install an SSD (MPC One), more CV outputs.

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

I don’t do any of those things to warrant taking a machine with me! But if I toured, my MPC One plus a midi controller or an MPCx would be the logical choice. Or two MPC Ones, a midi controller and a DJ mixer.

Akai MPC One… with a nice metal data wheel and some custom decals

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

No software equivalent of anything, but a hardware equivalent of Renoise would be amazing (if it had the exact feature set and capabilities, with 16 pads of course).

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

I regret selling my MPC 2500SE for sure, I’ve also had a few Yamaha SU700’s and have always thought I should have kept one, but it’s one of those machines that can be amazing and fun, but can be irritating to use on occasion. It also looks brilliant, and unique.
No regrets buying really, not that I can think of right now. Maybe a larger Eurorack case but that would be irresponsible 🙂

Strymon Magneto

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

Once again the MPCs I’ve owned over the years, (2500se, 1000, 5000, X, One, Live).

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

An MPCx or if you mean go back in time, an MPC3000 / 4000 / 60

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

Roland MC707

The Roland MC707, I never intended to buy one, but initially bought it just to try and it’s been a complete revelation. It’s so good in many areas (the synth engine, the Scatter effect, the clips/matrix/scenes etc), but the sampling, file handling, some program parameters (like how the pads in a drum program behave in contrast to an MPC) and various other areas need much improvement. I’d really miss it if i sold it though.
Also my Ensoniq ASR-X. I very nearly sold it recently as it takes ages to load and save samples. I have the Turbo version which means it has SCSI so I need to buy a compatible SCSI drive or emulator ideally, to see if it speeds things up considerably. Also, half the pads are failing (a well known issue) and the encoders can be slightly glitchy. But it just sounds so good and is really quick, plus the effects are great. Lastly, it just looks superb in my opinion. A lovely, underrated vintage piece of gear.

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

I developed my own ‘granular time-stretching’ technique with the MPCx. You can control the start point of a sample with velocity. Dedicated sample start manipulation and automation was one of the biggest omissions from the MPC which the Elektron Octatrack could do since it was released in 2010, this technique brings the MPC feature set for experimentation up to par, but surpasses the OT because of the MPCs sound quality (something I felt always lacked with the OT). https://youtu.be/CE4ZaEExNdc

Ensoniq ASR-X – I

And again, the Ensoniq ASR-X – I discovered, or rather stumbled across a glitch when I was trying to create a synth tone, looping just a few frames of a sample. If you pitch the sample up as high as possible it can lead to some bizarre, circuit bent type effects and mixes and occasionally blends several samples together. Very cool and surreal trick.


Artist name:

Tubedigga.

Genre?

Jungle/Drum and Bass / Hip Hop / Electronica / Drone / Experimental

Selfie?

Mr. TubeDigga

Where are you from?

London UK.

How did you get into music?

Parents record collection, older sister bringing home early Electro records (Cybotron, Man Parrish, Tyrone Brunson etc)

What still drives you to make music?

I have an addiction to learning new bits of gear and making them do things the manual doesn’t mention, and I love designing sounds and discovering new textures/moods/tones/

How do you most often start a new track?

Maybe once a week/fortnight if it’s a full track, every day if it’s a basic loop/idea.

How do you know when a track is finished?

That’s somewhat subjective but I suppose when it sounds good, feels good, does the right things at the right time, and when it feels like it might go wrong or be ruined if I add more or too much.

Show us your current studio:

I keep those things private, sorry 🙂

[Editor: But here’s a photo of TubeDigga’s studio monitor]

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Creative advice would be to try and take a step back from being too serious (electronic music and being a techie/geek can get like that sometimes). A great engineering tip from a well known jungle producer was ‘cut more, add less’ when it comes to EQ and mixing. I often ignore that advice though 🙂

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

Rinse FM Mix with Double O (Rupture)https://soundcloud.com/rinsefm/rupture120820

My private online lessons: www.tubedigga.com/lessons

If you would like to show appreciation for any help I’ve provided you, please consider donating an amount of your choice:

PayPal: http://paypal.me/tubedigga

YouTube: http://youtube.com/tubedigga
My Website: http://www.tubedigga.com

Benjamin Shaw – Ponderer Sounds

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

Recently I got the Type One Analog Ensemble by Tom Oakes of Horrothia FX who just
happens to live in my town of birth, Cornwall in the UK. Asides from being an absolutely gorgeous chorus the Type One has this excellent arcade style button for the footswitch and it is so satisfying to click.

Type One Analog Ensemble

I also really love the Speed Control dial on my Sony Clear Voice Walkman, it’s old, plastic and the dial is knurled and recessed almost past the point of being able to turn it but the tactile experience mixed with the sonic result is awesome.

Sony Walkman varispeed

Lastly I don’t own one yet but I’m really looking forward to getting a Nakedboards MC-8 MIDI controller, the faders are a little larger and spaced nicely for using with orchestral software libraries to add that ‘human’ feel.

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

A recent addition for me is my StudioLogic SL88 Studio MIDI keyboard. I have an old family heirloom upright piano that is gorgeous but I haven’t been able to relocate it to our current residence, so getting a properly weighted, natural feeling, full size key bed has made writing with software instruments way more enjoyable and inspiring, so far I wouldn’t change a thing on it.

StudioLogic SL88 Studio MIDI keyboard

I used to manage a mates boutique shop, Pedal Empire, in Brisbane and build pedalboards professionally, so I have played hundreds, if not thousands of individual pedals, my ethos from that experience is that ‘perfect’ is a relative term and every pedal, if you allow it the time, can yield some ‘perfect’ results in the right context. I think it’s up to the player to find the gold and follow where it leads. Even something as amazingly engineered as the Chase Bliss Blooper for example, is full of quirks, artifacts and limitations of sorts, but if you ironed all those out to be ‘perfect’ it probably wouldn’t be half as fun.

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

Since moving to a rural, coastal location in Tasmania in recent years I haven’t had need to take a rig on the road much, however if we do go away for longer than a few days and I need to film a demo or make some music I’ll usually take the Walrus Audio Slö, Bondi Art Van Delay, 1981 DRV & CBA Blooper. Those with a guitar, laptop and little interface is all I need for guitar inspiration.

Walrus Audio Slö, Bondi Art Van Delay, 1981 DRV & CBA Blooper

I’m also building a small modular system that is easy to take out and make generative ambient music.
If I don’t have need for anything and just want to make some music in the moment I love using the Fugue Machine app, it’s great for coming up with a simple melody and layering in different speeds and directions… too much fun.

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

I use PaulStretch a lot, something about taking a 1 minute piece and making it 15 minutes long is so fascinating to me and PaulStretch does that in it’s own special way, I’d love that in a pedal. I’m pretty new to modular synth but perhaps there’s a module that does that.

I recently got hold of a Pecan Audio Edera which is a stereo warming unit in a small simple pedal format. Previously I would use some plugin distortion on the fx bus to warm up tracks while wishing I had something like the Analog Heat, but way less complicated, so the Edera has fulfilled that wish.

Pecan Audio Edera

Back the other way, hardware I wish was software, I still haven’t found a plugin or process that yields the same result as recording to cassette or tape and slowing down. 80’s and 90’s tape/cassette equipment all have their own oddities that they impart to a recording. They sounds so good to me and even the best tape emulation can’t quite nail it just yet. They’re getting closer and closer though.

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

Years ago I made my mind up that I wouldn’t have any extra pedals/gear laying around that weren’t in constant use or on my pedalboard so I used to sell everything surplus to my needs and made my mind up not to regret any of it. I don’t follow that mantra anymore and have heaps of gear in corners and on shelves. I have bought and sold an El Capistan about 4 times now, currently don’t have one, that’ll probably change again. I did have an original Bondi Del Mar that I let go right before the prices got exorbitantly high which is a bit of a bummer, but I kinda despise that part of the gear community anyway, I like to sell knowing people are getting a good deal.
Working at PE for years made it easy not to miss things I’d personally sold when it’s always there in store if you need a fix. I would get way too sad if I let myself think too much about what I’ve let go, safe to say I’ve moved through hundreds of pedals on my board in the last 10 years. I don’t think I’ve regretted a purchase ever because it’s all a learning experience finding out what works and what doesn’t.

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

My process for making pedal demos has always been to let the subject pedal guide my noodling and musing so mostly when you watch one of my videos you’re hearing snippets of how the said pedal has inspired me.
I always get inspired easily by Spitfire Audio orchestral samples, they just capture so much realism and are emotive to play, same goes for Fracture Sounds, The Phonoloop and Felt Instruments.
Pedal wise the Hologram Electronics Microcosm is pretty much the most inspiring analog thing I’ve owned and I can rest assured that plugging into it will spark something if I’m ever drawing a blank.

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

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

I started playing guitar in the ‘Big Amp Heavy Guitar’ era, if I could go back and tell myself to get a Telecaster and a Princeton it would make a world of difference. My first pedals were a Line-6 DL4 and a Crowther Hot Cake which I still think now for the way I like to write and play are great pedals to start with.

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

I feel like maybe I’m in a sweet spot where I’ve narrowed down my choices to equipment that largely improves my work flow. That said, I recently dived headlong into modular synthesis after a few years of deliberating, and though I have a clear vision for what my desired sounds from Modular are, the learning curve is pretty dramatic. The Patch & Tweak book from Kim Bjorn Bjooks is helping a lot though.

Ponderer Sounds eurorack

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

In the box I love to duplicate tracks, hard pan them, and then zoom in and move one of them just a few milliseconds ahead for a massively wide sound. Also a fun trick is recording something to tape, physically speeding it up and recording it again and then slowing it down and stretching it out to overlay with the original recording. This adds textures that I absolutely adore the heck out of.

Hardware wise the Horrothia Type One I mentioned earlier is a terrific widening tool with the chorusing effect dialed at it’s slowest where you can’t actually discern the movement. I nearly always record guitars for stuff other than demos through the Type One in stereo even if I later end up panning or summing to mono, it just sounds so good and I leave it on constantly. The only downside is I don’t get to smash that arcade button as much as I’d like!


Artist or Band name?

Ponderer Sounds – My Youtube Channel for gear demos and music creation

Genre?

Ambient/Post Rock/Dream Pop/Orchestral

Benjamin Shaw

Where are you from?

Originally Cornwall UK – Live in Tasmania Australia (but probably not for too long)

How did you get into music?

I played piano under my grandmothers supervision from about 4 or 5 years old. Music was always encouraged in our home. I have fond memories of crawling under the dining room table with a small cassette radio and a cushion and listening to George Harrison’s Cloud Nine album till I fell asleep. I would have been 6 or so. And I grew up with a nice collection of records from the Beatles, Bee Gees and Creedence Clear Water that I played to death, plus when someone else wasn’t playing music my mum always had Beethoven or Tchaikovsky on. My childhood had a constant soundtrack.

I think I started guitar when I was 17, I’d steal my sister’s boyfriend’s sparkly silver Ibanez and teach myself how to play punk rock like Rancid & Bracket. I remember discovering the power chord and then it was all full steam ahead. Later I got into Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Foo Fighters before getting into less mainstream and more indie/emo stuff in the late 90’s.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s my life blood, being creative is the way of the future and I believe it will only become more and more important to us the more automated the rest of our lifestyle becomes. It amazes me that there’s only a handful of notes, limited combinations of them to create chords and melody, but somehow the human element of interpreting them constantly yields fruit that didn’t exist previously, and an individual can move so many strangers with mere vibration.

How do you most often start a new track?

I’ve never been one for learning other peoples music, when I sit at the piano/keyboard or pick up my guitar I gravitate towards making something myself. I’m in the process now of adapting small musical ideas from pedal demos and turning them into full tracks so typically that’s where a new idea spawns.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I don’t really know, but when I’ve added everything in my head and find myself getting lost in it, when I’m supposed to be listening back subjectively, I know it’s pretty much ready to go.

Show us your current studio

Ponderer Sounds Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’ Pablo Picasso.

Always start, move yourself till something moves you and then chase that down.

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

Head over to my youtube channel (Ponderer Sounds) to watch weekly demos on great pedals and gear, and stay tuned for a new song creation series I’m working on.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgHpuhheoXRxZVKONOOFE_g/

[Editor: All photos in this interview are by Tiarne Shaw]

Josh Semans – Ode To The Martenot

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

Ondes Martenot

Maybe a cheeky/tenuous answer but – the ribbon of my ondes Martenot. It’s essentially a knob. You wear the metal ring on your right index finger, and it is attached to a string which is wrapped around a drum inside the machine. As you move the ring, the drum spins, a potentiometer is turned, and the pitch is altered. The amount of expression offered by this simple mechanism is unparalleled. My alternative answer would be another tenuous one – the touche d’intensité of my ondes. It is the volume control, and it’s name doesn’t translate exceptionally well into English. It is very tactile and very sensitive. It really is the soul of the ondes, and all your articulation comes from this wonderful key. The further you depress it, the louder the sound gets – simple! 

Empress Zoia

(Honourable mention to the silver knob/button on the ZOIA! The satisfying *clunk* of clicking that button is both mine and my wife’s favourite thing about the ZOIA!)

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

I’ve loved the DSI/Sequential Prophet sound for ages, and I think the Rev2 is a super workhorse that manages to avoid being the typical jack-of-all-trades that some synths aspire to be. For my purposes it is practically perfect, but I would personally want to add a few things; an analog hi-pass filter (instead of relying on the digital one in the effects), an extra effects slot, polyphonic aftertouch, and more noise types…probably other things, too. It hasn’t let me down so far, and I’ve always managed to get the sound out of it, that’s in my head.

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet

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

I don’t know if you’d call it a ‘setup’, but I always have my phone with me, and it is a vital tool in my music making. Most of the pieces on my new album started life as voice memos, and I think I have another two or three albums worth of material on my phone, going back years. I also like to record rivers and birds, etc. Some photographer or cinematographer said that “the best camera is the one you have with you” and I think, for me, my phone is the equivalent for music. I have recordings of a sweet little piano in a BnB in Huddersfield, a few harmoniums in a schoolhouse in Iceland, a violinist in an reverberant underpass in Berlin…but mostly the piano under my stairs or sketches of new ideas on the ondes. I also try to take a notebook with me when I go away on holiday or when I am sojourned in a studio somewhere. It helps me get ideas out of my head to make room for others. I do get twitchy and a bit miserable when I’m away from my ondes for too long but there isn’t really a remedy for that, unfortunately! 

[Editor: ‘Getting ideas out of ones head, to make room for others’ is a great way to think about a sketch pad]

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

I used Max/MSP a lot in college and university, and always wished there was a way to package my patches up into hardware. I haven’t used Max as much in the past few years, but the ZOIA is certainly scratching that particular itch for me, though it isn’t quite the hardware version of Max/MSP. I don’t think I would wish ‘being software’ on any piece of hardware, to be honest. I really value tactility. I don’t particularly hate software, though.

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

I traded an ex-BBC ReVox A77 tape machine for a banjo. If you can’t sense the regret in that sentence, then trust me – I regret it. The banjo sits in my kitchen and haunts me daily.

A Banjo

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

The ondes Martenot. I’d be hesitant to brand it as ‘gear’ but, ultimately, it is a tool that allows us to make heard our own waves. It is an instrument, sure, but Maurice Martenot said “the instrument is first and foremost ourselves”. The ondes has taught me this lesson over and over again in many different ways so far. The ondes and has really become a part of who I am, physically and musically. All of my musical ideas revolve around the ondes Martenot now, and it has inspired me to release music moreso than any other instrument, piece of equipment/gear etc. 

Ondes Martenot

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

First thing I’d get is an ondes. Mine was built for me by Jean-Loup Dierstein in Paris and I wouldn’t hesitate to have him build me one if I was starting over again.

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

My computer. I just think computers are one of those “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” sort of things. I hate that it has to be there, but nothing is as convenient and practical for the music I make. A necessary evil! I don’t hate the process of making music on a computer, though, it makes sense.

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

I have this big old Soundtracs 16 – 8 – 16 that I sometimes run things through to get some of that saturation and drive that you can only really get from older analogue preamps. I remember running a drum pattern through it, along with the prophet, a function generator, and some ondes Martenot loops. Driving the preamps hard would make the whole mix pump and breathe with the drum pattern. Lovely.


Artist or Band name?

Josh Semans

Genre?

Hard to say, maybe experimental/electronic/alternative/classical. That sort of thing, I suppose!

Selfie?

If I must! (Attached!)

Josh Semans

Where are you from?

The north of England!

How did you get into music?

I’ve always been around recorded music, and I’ve loved musical instruments for as long as I can remember. Piano and guitar were my first instruments as a child, then I really got into drums and synthesisers. The drums where my main instrument for a while, now it is the ondes Martenot. I still love synthesisers, and do play the piano a lot. 

Upright Piano

What still drives you to make music?

I can’t not do it.

How do you most often start a new track?

I come up with new ideas most days, and I usually record them onto my phone or an Ableton session to be worked on at a later date. I’m currently working on about 5 or 6 new pieces. I like having multiple pieces on the go, so I can work on something else when I’m a bit worn out from another.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When the endless tweaking becomes pointless. 

Show us your current studio

Ondes Martenot
Josh’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Something that James Murphy said about why he reformed LCD Soundsystem made me dig around to find this quote from David Bowie; “Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

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

My debut album, “…And the Birds Will Sing at Sunrise” is out now.

Also here’s my website joshsemans.com