Project Null – Noise and Dropouts

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

The speed selector of the Uher 4000 Report-L. You have to push it down and drag it like a gear lever, so satisfying.

Uher 4000 Report-L

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

The Tascam Portastudio 424. It’s a 4 track tape recorder, you can adjust the pitch by more or less 4 semitones, you can switch the speed from « high » to « normal » and to « slow », that’s pretty unsusual for a tape recorder, it distorts well when you record a hot signal, it has a good and effective EQ, panning for each track. Only regret is that there is no xlr input and no phantom power to use condenser mics with it – but this is not really a problem, I use a portable phantom power supply -.

Tascam 424

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

For sure my Volca FM, a tape recorder or a dictaphone, my shortwave radio and a Zoom MS70. (However, when I’m on holidays (which is rare), I don’t do music that much (if I do, its generally field recording))

Volca FM, tape recorder, shortwave radio and Zoom MS70

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

I don’t use that much my computer when I produce music. Of course, I edit/mix my tracks with it, especially when tape recorders are too noisy using a denoiser or to compress a little bit using Klanghelm’s MJUC, or to arrange the stems. However I tend to say that iZotope’s Iris 2 would be great in hardware.

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

Not really a regret because it’s objectively a great synth, but the MS20 (mini) doesn’t really suits me. It’s the first synth I bought when I started – because it looked cool with the patch panel, I felt like a mad scientist or some shit – but I rarely managed to use it in my music, even though some patches are unique and amazing. Sold it 1 week ago because I’m low on money.

Korg MS20 mini

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

The Minilogue has definitely inspired me a lot, especially the mono voice mode – highly underrated imo -. You can bring a sub oscillator, detune you 2 vco a fourth, a fifth or just a little bit, affect your lfo to the pitch or the shape – to get some shifting in the sound – at a really slow rate and you get a massive sound on the lower notes. Also, the sweet spot on the Q of the filter is really nice. The built-in delay is incredible too, noisy as hell and dirty, absolutely perfect.

Korg Minilogue

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

I would get the Yamaha VSS-200. The sampling section is insane on this one, I use it a lot in my music production. I sample basically anything and everything, from other synths to acoustic instruments such as flute, guitar, even my voice, and it sounds so gritty, lovely. I made this demo on my YouTube channel, to show how it sounds like: https://youtu.be/vxlvFDanYbo

Yamaha VSS200

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

The Casio CZ-101. I love this synth, great evolutives sounds and has a warm character for a digital one, but it erase all the presets you’ve done if you don’t use it for two days. It uses those big expensive batteries (type D I believe), and I didn’t figured out yet how to mod it so it can use standard AA’s batteries. It’s a pain to program too, especially the enveloppes, so I use my iPad and Patch Base to edit my presets and manage them.

Casio CZ101

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

The generation loss technique. It’s mostly known for vhs, but it works with regular cassette tapes as well. When you record something into a tape, and sample it back into another tape, you experience the generation loss. And each generation sounds « worse » than the previous one, with more artifacts. I use it a lot with my two vcrs, but sometimes I also use two walkmans and bounce my stem from one to another. Experienced it on this little snippet on my Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/p/CBLj1X9o4De/

(you can hear the dropouts and the subtle wow and flutter as soon as I engage the vcr)

VCRs

Artist or Band name?

PROJECT NULL

Genre?

Electronic

Where are you from?

Draveil, France

How did you get into music?

When I was 17 years old, I watched on YouTube a drum solo by Joey Jordison, drummer of Slipknot, I was impressed and I wanted to play drums.

What still drives you to make music?

Making stuff that I would like to listen to, I mean, I put a lot of pressure on myself, I don’t want to share anything if I am not ok with it.

How do you most often start a new track?

I start by finding a chord progression or a melody. Then, I work the sound on a synth, depending on the type of sound I’m looking for I’m gonna use a different synthesizer or a different effect chain. Finally, I record it into my tape recorders, reel to reel or vhs, and if I want to give it some mood I resample it again and again, degrading it until I like the result. Then, I add other stems, like some noises, samples from my own stuff, some radio interferences, field recordings… Recently, I even tried to add subtle rhythm (recording real drums/various percussions mixed with electronic sounds) but I’m not really satisfied by the result.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Honestly, I don’t know, I am never satisfied by how my track ends.

Show us your current studio

Project Null Studio
Project Null Studio
Project Null Studio
Project Null Studio

Sorry for the bad light, its a very tiny room (less than 7 sqm) without any window, so no natural light. Lots of mess too, especially on the last photo, and the « light spots » I use for my videos are two Ikea’s light with tissue to avoid too much reflection (hmm I should buy proper lights at some point)

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Less is more. I often want to add too much but I realised that, sometimes, when I « clean » my Ableton session by removing stems, it sounds much better.

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

I released my first album on march, you can listen to it on every streaming platform you use – I put a Spotify link here but it is on every streaming services -.

https://open.spotify.com/artist/2c52lcjvCs1T7mKbXA2fFS


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]


Hors Sujet – MusicMaker & FXbuilder

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

Definitely the frequency knob on the Randy’s Revenge from Fairfield circuitry. The pedal has a ton of amazing different sounds, I feel like they chose so perfectly the right potentiometer value to cover such a wide-range amount of sounds for the ring modulator and for the tremolo. Plus, having a big knob makes it even more enjoyable to use, and for once the pointy knob also adds to the feeling of super-precise setting. I’m not that much a pointy-knob guy (just because of its look), but Fairfield circuitry nailed it on all of their pedals : their potentiometers truly have a super precise feeling when changing the settings, even by doing super small adjustments.

Fairfield Circuitry Randy

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

I’m really happy about the guitar pedalboard that I’ve build. I like going through years with different tastes, buying and selling gear to find the ones that fit the best for what I like to do. My project went from guitar only to guitar + reel-to-reel machines + tape players + circuit bent toys + keyboards, so I also had to adjust my guitar rig to go along. I can sample a lot, play with modulation pedals, I have different textures of fuzz/overdrive, two pedals that can sustain notes and creates drones…. everything fits into the custom wooden flight case that I’ve build years ago in my tiny student room (musician’s neighbors always suffer I have to say!), it’s somehow a bit crooked and it wears some traces of the past, but I can’t stop trying to improve it ! And if I had something to add it would definitely be more stutter/glitch/looping pedals (I admit I’m lurking on the Stammen[n] from Drolo for a long time now, as much as the Bloopers from Chase Bliss Audio).

Neat treat of a pedalboard

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

When I play live, I usually bring everything. That means guitars, amps, pedalboards, tape players, synths, drums sometimes, tape/toys/keys and its dedicated pedalboard. And just by reading my answer again I understand why I don’t play that much live! And for holidays, I like to bring a small Zoom sound recorder, and a walkman to capture low fidelity sounds of friends and nature. It’s a bit heavy and it some precious space, but I do the same with photography (I always bring twin-lens reflex during holidays).

Danelectro BackTalk reverse delay

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

I don’t have anything digital, I don’t work with plugins & vsts. I record on a multi-tracks DAW of course, but everything has to start as a live composition that I could be able to play solo live, so I try to get rid of the computer as much as possible when it comes to music composition.

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

I regret selling the Danelectro backtalk reverse delay years ago (the old version one), I needed money back then but I’d love to have it back now, even if the pedal is super big, and if the effect can be found on other gear… I really liked its silly look.

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

Multiple ones of course, but the main one that help me to find a new way of composing was the Tascam 414 (a 4-track tape player) when it came to entering into tape loops. I mainly use it to support now the guitar and other instrument, but when I started with it I couldn’t stop making tape loops of anything around me. I still do, but now that I have find a better use of the instrument, I can still notice how everything often starts from it.

Tascam Portastudio

And tiny mention for the ehx freeze pedal for drones. Amazingly, having one drone and multiples pedals plug right after it open so many possibilities. I love how one sustained note can be developped for hours.

Ehx Freeze

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

Learning violin or piano. I’ve decided to add piano in my compositions just couple of months ago (I bought one last year), and the possibilities that are in front of me amazes me everytime. I also bought a violin years ago, and only use it (as the piano) to experiment stuff since I’m learning how to play with them. But I can’t stop having an accoustic set in mind with prepared instruments. A kit consisting of a piano, violin, loopers and tape machines would be something I’d love to start over with.

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

Probably the whammy 4. But just because it’s too big, it take the size of 2 pedals, and I don’t use it that much except for having an octave below and for down-tuning (sounds amazingly powerful when coupled with a fuzz). I’ve opened it once to see how the pedal was working, and immediately got surprised by the expression pedal’s system. I won’t spoil it (if you have a whammy 4, do it if you’re experienced with opening stuff… I don’t wanna be responsible if you break something!) but this tiny detail also changed my decision to sell it for a smaller version, just because I loved what I saw. And also, every time when I was posting a picture of my pedalboard on a forum or social media, I instantly got that question : “Why do you put your whammy so high? Isn’t that hard to reach it?”. At a point that it started to be my own meme, and some people that followed me were openly asking it again, and again, and again as a joke. The unreachable whammy guy.

Digitech Whammy

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

Nothing too fancy, but recently the unsynchronized loops on the Ditto X4 got me super excited, because I love looping a small phrase on two separated tracks at the same time and stopping the recording with a super slight delay. That way, the two samples will slightly drift from each other and create a whole new rhythm. I’ve always loved doing that with tapes, but trying it as well on a pedal was something new, since I didn’t have a multi-tracks looper. I edited and posted a video on my youtube channel called “Asynchronous loops” where I explain how I play with this technique.


Artist or Band name?

Hors Sujet

Genre?

Instrumental ambient/drone

Selfie?

That’s the only picture that I don’t take unfortunately.

Hors Sujet

Where are you from?

Toulouse, France.

How did you get into music?

My parents obviously have put me on a good path. My father, grand father and great grandfather were drummers, and as a kid I once saw some picture of my mom & dad playing bass and drums with friends, that got me thinking “What would it feel to be in a musical band”. There are some picture of me behind a drumset at age 1, and my grand-father gave me his drum set when I was around 12. I only had one band in my youth, a grindcore band (I was behind the drums), then I’ve decided to start Hors Sujet around 2005.

What still drives you to make music?

I realize that everytime I wanna compose something, I wanna say something or scream it out loud, but I don’t feel able to do so. Mostly inner questions about love, solitude, injustice, anger and desire. So maybe not finding answers to those questions, but trying to liberate a bit of the energy that drives those questions to understand them more.

How do you most often start a new track?

I usually start with unexpected ideas. Some images, a feeling, an emotion, a trip, a book, a voice, anything that can produce in my brain some changes, some new air to breath. I love that feeling of having ideas out of nowhere, and having a carnival brain that never stops help. Wether it happens when I’m on my bike, in the bathroom, in my bed right before to go to bed, I try to write down everything, or record my voice singing a melody, a story…just not to forget them. I’m not that much of a rehearsal person who practice hours before finding something that I like or that could work. Most of the time when it comes, I’m away from any musical gear. Ideas are a real magical moment for me when it happens, when you stop walking just because something caught your attention inside, and when you’re in a hurry to go back home just to try to put in music what you have been thinking about. That’s usually how I start to compose. After laying down a couple of things that sound like what I had in mind, it can be pretty fast to develop afterward.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Things are obviously different when I record for professional contracts or for myself as Hors Sujet. I try to repeat to myself “Better is the worst enemy of good” most of the time when mixing a track. Because I always want to add an extra arrangement, to record something that will make a difference. As the common saying goes : the only rule is that there are no rules. Wether it can work for you in 4 months or in 4 days, then do what’s good for you.
I’ve worked once on an album for a year and this is something I try to avoid as much as possible. Every time that I start a new release I decide a deadline (so also a deadline for each track as well, to have a small agenda for myself), that way I can choose listening days in advance, so during the recording process I can let a track rest for a couple of days, then listen to it again and make a todo list of things that I have to correct/re-arrange/delete/record again, and I repeat the operation multiples times, until the todo list gets smaller and smaller.

Show us your current studio

Hors Sujet Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I don’t know if it’s related to creation, but I’ve met a sound engineer and a composer a couple of years ago that I’m now close friends with, who both work in a local recording studio, and shared with me their point of view on the music industry after years of work. Finding the proper “use” of your art. That moment when you decide to make a living out of music can be decisive, specially because all of the conditions which can sometimes result from it (way of life, intermittent work, financial issues, depression…), and they totally helped me to focus on the fact that it’s a job like any other job.

There’s a magical liberty of creating music and building a lifetime artwork, but it requiers hard work, dedication, constant efforts, humility, inspiration and sometimes perfectionism.

Talking about this condition helps a lot, in my case being in a one-man project taught me a lot of things and I’m thankful that I’ve also met great minds to help me go forward on my musical journey.

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

My latest album : “Avec la distance”

I post most of my music as Hors Sujet, and the handcrafted effect that I build as TATAKI. So you’ll find my music, my musical video clips, things that I build, demos of circuit-bent gear, and some other videos that I make when I feel like it (road trip, thoughts) here: https://www.youtube.com/user/horssujet21

My bandcamp to support me: https://horssujet.bandcamp.com/

[Editor: Do you have any of the gear in this article? Why not share your favorite trick for it? Leave a comment]