Droid Zen – Robot Meditations

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

LSDJ and friends

The election of the music gear depends on the emotion feels, desires to learn new music vocabularies or the song itself ask you the tools to create it, but the DMG-01 (any Game Boy model, with LSDJ and other music rooms) is one of my favorite music instruments, because is probably the best example that making music is a game and working with this tool is so fun. You know, you can made the DMG-01 a synth, sequencer, drum machine and MIDI controler; all in one, is fantastic.  When you compose music with DMG-01 the form to see the complete music enviromment and aproach the ideas conditions the results, and let you explore unique options, wich would be impossible to conceive with other kinds of music tools; mantra: “one thing is with a guitar and another with a violin”; new mantra, “one thing is with a traditional synth and another with DMG-01”. Another favorite tool to ordering sounds is the Speak & Spell, it´s very rock, and the tape machines are pure magnetism. 

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

Another nice odd question my friend. I think if that chaos or randoms sounds are incorporated in all music tools, we could see the extra layers of the marble to create a better scupture. Sometimes we can control and generate our own chaos and random ideas, it´s part of the creative drift, but if we had the option to turn on and off an alternative chaos to compose is that what would change everything.

Light and layers

Optimize the creative cables. We all need the chaos, it´s like an angry ocean, you know, removes sediments, and create opportunities to see new forms of musical life. Imagine a random 5th channel on LSDJ; or more crazy also, like an extra random rope in the guitar, piano, violin, etc., to change its pitch without our being able to prevent it; composing assuming that randomness would be a good exercise.

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

Game Boy DMG-01 of course (it takes up little space in the suitcase) and a Zoom H6N or H4N. Sometimes I carry my guitar, but a paper and pencil are always the best tools.

Zoom recorder. Boss Pedals and GameBoys running LSDJ

Now, let me ask you a similar question.

What setup would you like to carry on a vacation to Mars or Space Station?

And imagine that there is a weight limit per passenger… perhaps Carl Sagan could advise us better at that time.

[Editor: I’d bring a tank of oxygen, it’s great for making sounds and it’s my absolute favourite for breathing. 🙂 Throw us an answers in the comments below]

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

Reason´s Subtractor Synth please! But I´d be very happy with all Propellerhead Software hardware racks, and I would like to have a Circuit Bending software, but one in which you can add and also buy toys to short-circuit them, just imagine, go to the library and select a Speak and Spell as a base, and have the possibility of hacking it virtually, for example: add controls for pitch, loops, hold, glitch, CV ports, LFO’s, etc.,

Korg Volca FM. Earthquaker Devices Dispatch Master and saucer

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

Yes, a wrong Mabuchi engine. I bought 2 of those motors to hack the Tascam Porta 03 and due to an inattention I bought the same motor model. Also I bought a TI-82 calculator and it still fills its main functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

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

Nice question my friend, and answer is: the Reason from Propellerhead Software, my guitar of course and the LSDJ. Most of my compositions start from any part of this trinity.  Sometimes I imagine a melody playing a synth from Reason and continue it on LSDJ and other times I start something on LSDJ and take it to Reason, and my guitar is always there to solve any musical puzzle that comes up and initiate other ideas.

Sound as rituals

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

Tesla and Space X Stock when those companies started too; to be able to by more synths and audio equipment, but I wouldn’t change the order of things with which I started making music: my guitar, and actually, I have the desire to buy a drum set since my childhood.

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

TI-83 Calculator! It’s so heavy to use them with the Houston Tracker, sometimes I hate it, don’t get me wrong, because when I can make it sound, the bass lines sound so powerful, and I find it crazy to be able to make music with a calculator and place notes with sine and osine, but maybe I do several things wrong because I cannot turn off the calculator once I use them and I have to do the entire Houston Tracker installation process and when I compose something I have to take photos of the screen as a backup and breathe very deeply if unexpectedly it crash, but that “little calculating bug” produces good sounds and I would live very sad if I did not have my TI-83, I would even miss my TI-82 to which I still cannot install the Houston Tracker; somebody help me with that!

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

Synth Rotek’s Atari Punk tunes very well, it is unstable, but with patience it can sound very powerful. Atari Punk in general are valuable wildcards to create and express emotions, when I connect any sound source in its CV ports, like a DMG-01, sounds really fat, on fire!.

If you connect the Atari Punk to an arpeggiator or fuzz pedal, you can rock out for a long time, and with long reverbs they can sound like trival songs. Another trick is to rock the DMG-01. Using an overtone pedal and a distortion, you can get really crazy sounds! Sometimes it’s great to do power chords: two channels sounding at the same time, the first channel does the tonic and the second channel the fifth, but, to this channel different values are applied with the D (delay) command to each note, then you can spice it up with individual wrappers per instrument, put values in with the K (stop) command and Vualá, it sounds so close to a guitar.

Through the porthole

Artist or Band name?

Droide Zen

Genre?

I’m going to paraphrase a great musician: Kevin Johansen “Soy un Desgenerado” (without musical genre). 

Selfie?

Droid Zen

Where are you from?

Guyaquil – Ecuador

How did you get into music?

I honestly don’t remember an exact date, because I liked the music for as long as I can remember, music is part of my biology.

What still drives you to make music?

Breathe. 

How do you most often start a new track?

Again, breathe and feel peace by my limbic system, And have the fortune to see an idea that excites me. Jorge Drexler in an interview said that making music is like a hunting ground, with different entrance doors, where you enter to hunt the same, but through different doors. The song that starts from the text, a sequence of chords, a melody, noise or random proceses is different. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

Perhaps intuition, you never know, maybe a track is never finished. Songs like that have only single chord have a life and their own and their own evolutionary path. The thermometer that I trust when I make music is the feeling, if the result transmits energy to me and when I add something the original emotion changes or that energy is lost, well, it’s time to stop and let the song breathe on its own, and listen to it after a long time and if it still retains the same feeling, it was always alive from the beginning.

Show us your current studio

Studio cat

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

A universal advice: live with the mistakes that we will make. 

Another good advice is one that Leda Valladares gave to Pedro Aznar: feel the ancient cosmic, sing with the guts, without worrying so much about aesthetics, your song must be credible. In spanish you say: cantar desde las entrañas.

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

[Editor: Check out the Droid Zen channel below]

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_-K0KHWU8JNWeBR8IHtXOg/videos

Jesper Bonde – Zen In Noise

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

I would have to to say the auto-off bypass switch on my Crybaby 95q. I had a Crybaby wah before with a standard footswitch. But I found it quite frustrating to press down and seconds later realize that I hadn’t pressed hard enough and the wah was still on. I sing and play guitar at the same time, and I really need my switches to be responsive. With the 95q I just activate the footlever to start the wah and just remove the foot to disengage the effect. Its just a beautiful feature when I need to do a lot at once.

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

Paul Reed Smith SE, Mark Holcomb signature guitar

Although its a quite recent addition to my gear, it is definitely already my favourite. I’m talking about my Paul Reed Smith SE, Mark Holcomb signature guitar. It has an amazing sound and great output range. The satin neck makes it a joy to play even the most challenging riffs and I’m just madly in love with the feel of this guitar. The only thing I would change is that I didn’t get it a lot sooner.

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

If I was to go on tour I would bring my PRS guitar and my pedal board. I’ve set up my board, just the way I like it, for now.

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

Interesting question. I’m not sure I would know how to answer it thoroughly. I mean nowadays it seems everything is possible. Guitar amps are available digitally and you can add just about any switches, stomps or racks. I’m not ready to go digital yet, but I find the concept pretty interesting.

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

I regret buying a Boss AW-3 Dynamic wah. Back when I was trying to solve my issue with the wah switch, I bought the dynamic wah to help me out. But its just not the same. The feel and sound of an automated wah is far from the one you get from controlling it yourself. I’ve tried selling the Dynamic wah for a long time, but without any luck.

Boss AW-3

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

Definitely my guitars. I started out as a vocalist, but really wanted to play guitar too. My guitars are a tool to write music and sometimes I just pick one up and start playing to see what happens. I write more songs just goofing around on a guitar than actively trying to write something. I even customized two of my guitars to resemble yin and yang, because its been a core concept in our band for years. The look of the guitars inspires me to consider both sides of an idea or theme. I don’t play the Yin/Yang guitars in the band any more, but they hang side by side on my wall to remind me to keep an open mind.

Yin/Yang guitars

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

I would still start by getting a guitar. But I would probably save up more money to get a more expensive guitar. I started with a very low budget guitar and it was really counter productive to learning how to play. I would definitely tell anyone who is starting out, to go for a great quality guitar. It just makes it more comfortable and easier to work with.

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

The pedal board. Its heavy and bulky. It needs constant updates and attention, wires, cables and pedals. You just can’t help looking for ways to upgrade or change the setup, so its constant work and worry. However it just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Pedal board of Zen In Noise

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

I’ve recently been recording in my home studio and playing around with sound settings like never before. I’ve been really surprised how significant the middle tone is to great guitar sound. I’ve learned that with high gain guitar, the middle tone is best left pretty low. Its of course a matter of taste in the end, but to me it sounds great.


Artist or Band name?

Zen In Noise

Genre?

Melodic progressive rock (we call it Math Grunge :D)

Selfie?

Jesper Bonde

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Jutland, but moved to Copenhagen about ten years ago.
How did you get into music?
It was just always something I wanted to do. I’ve always been creative, drawing, writing and acting. But music had a strange allure to it. I couldn’t stay away.

What still drives you to make music?

For me its actually more the other way around. Making music is what drives me to keep going. I think I would lose my mind if I couldn’t make music.

How do you most often start a new track?

Mostly I sit down with a guitar and play around with chords and notes. When something starts sounding intriguing I keep going at it, till it sounds how I want it to. I usually have some idea of a concept or theme before I sit down, but having the guitar in hand is pretty important to me.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I have to play it with the band, several times. I’ve even had examples of tracks that weren’t completely finished in years. We would play them, but feel something wasn’t quite right. Then all of a sudden an idea would complete the track. In some instances my improvement in guitar or vocal technique, was the reason for a change in a track that would complete it.

Show us your current studio

Right now I use Magix Music Maker free. Its a pretty good program, but has limitations. At some point I want to upgrade to a more professional program. I use a Focusrite audio interface to record guitars and vocals. My microphone is a cheap solution from China. When recording you start realising its a costly affair.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Don’t limit yourself. There are no boundaries or rules for creating.

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

We’ve been on most streaming services for a while with 4 singles. We’ve been making our own videos, which can be found on www.youtube.com/zeninnoise and www.facebook.com/zeninnoise.


Stefan Fast – from The Pedal Zone

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

Well, generally I’m a fan of the Mix knob on pedals. That’s where the magic begins. Endless sonic shades, textures, tones and timbres can be found within the pure level and balance of a wet and a dry sound.

Mix Knob Magic

But I would like to give a big shout-out to Death By Audio. I think they are masters at making knobs an integral part of their pedal layouts, mixing knob sizes and designs in order to give the players a more organic, intuitive and playful user experience. I especially like the design of their Evil Filter, where the huge Filter knob instantly catches your attention, so you know the main purpose of this pedal is to freaking rock that filter frequency with every fiber in your body!

[Editor: And it’s got that Moog girth!]

Death By Audio Evil Filter

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

I think every piece of gear is “almost” perfect. That’s what makes them perfect. A piece of gear is a distillation of the designer’s mindset and skill set at a certain moment in time, and it’s the fact that you get the ability to figuratively experience and step into that moment when you play the gear that makes it inspiring.

Hence I always experience “Wow! I would never have thought of that!” moments more than “Why didn’t they do that instead?” moments, whenever I play a pedal, guitar or synthesizer. I know that’s probably just me over-romanticizing gear and the narrative behind them, but that’s just who I am and what I do. Plus, I see a big creative benefit in embracing limitations. A product’s small quirks and weird limits is often what prompts you to create something unique with it.

[Editor: Gear as a narrative story. That’s a beautiful way to think about it]

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

I’m currently not in any touring bands, so I haven’t dragged around my rig from venue to venue in a long time. But I’m currently in two newly started bands, so let’s see if that changes in the near future.

On a commute, I just bring my phone. There’s so many great music apps out there, and they give me all the creative outlet I need when I’m on the go. I really like the Moog Model D and Moog Animoog synth apps, the granular synthetic sample playground in Spacecraft, as well as the simple, yet immersive and calming generative ambiance of Bloom: 10 Worlds.

Moog iOS apps

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

I really like the Valhalla DSP plugins. I wish their reverbs and delays were available in pedal format. They just sound divine! Going the other way, I think any pedal by Meris would become a freaking mind-blowing VST plugin. Their devices are equally adept as standard guitar pedals, synth enhancers and transcendant studio tools that can take drums, vocals or an entire mix to the next level. So being able to call them up whenever I wanted on my computer would be cool as hell.

Meris Pedals

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

Not really. I try to keep regret as far away from my life as possible, even though that’s easier said than done… That being said, I recently did re-purchase a Line 6 Echo Park. I didn’t buy it because I regretted selling my old one, but because I felt like I didn’t give the pedal a proper chance when I had it the first time around. I’m very happy that I acquired it again. It’s a highly underrated delay pedal. Way ahead of its time. I really enjoy its swell mode and reverse delay, they just sound super organic, and its multi-tap and ping-pong modes sound unreal in stereo.

But the real kicker about this pedal is that every mode can take on the characteristics of either a Digital, Analog or Tape delay. Reverse Tape Delay is the beez neez. A fun story about it, is that the algorithms are designed by Angelo Mazzocco of Meris, during his time at Line 6.

[Editor: I think I gotta check out the EchoPark again!]

Line6 Echo Park

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

My music very often starts with a mood. Hence it’s never really a specific instrument that inspires it, but instead my pedals that inspire me to play a certain way on my instrument.

Reverb and rhythmic Delay always gets me going, and my EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master or Avalanche Run always deliver inviting and inspiring ambience in spades. So they have definitely initiated a lot of my compositions. Also have to give a big shout out to my Meris Enzo, which is basically 4 instruments in one pedal (mono synth, poly synth, arpeggiator and pitch-shifter). Its swelling synth pads, amazing filters and bouncy arp sequences always puts me in the mood to create.

Loop pedals also help me flesh out possible ideas on the fly quickly, or capture samples, textures and drones that later turn into full compositions. That being said, you of course need instruments to trigger the pedals, so a nice open major chord tuning on either my Telecaster or Jazzmaster always inspires me to create.

EarthQuaker Devices and Meris

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

A decent single-coil equipped guitar (probably a Telecaster… No, most definitely a Telecaster 😀 ), a great clean amp, a dreamy expansive reverb pedal, a versatile delay pedal, some sort of fun pitch-shifting textural tool and a looper.

[Editor: Sounds like a good time]

Fender Telecaster and Revv amp with Engl cabinet

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

That would probably have to be my Chase Bliss Audio Thermae. It can do the most amazing analog pitch-shifted delay sequences, but it’s not envelope triggered and there’s no visual indicator for where you are in the pitch sequence, meaning it’s extremely difficult to recreate the moments in time where you’re perfectly in sync with the sequence.

But I’ve also really learned to appreciate the randomness and “chaotic” nature of it, and I often use it to add a bit of unpredictability and “whimsy” underneath my playing. A texture I can react to. Like having an invisible improvising collaborator, that’s constantly pushing you to creative places you would never have thought of.

Thermae has really taught me that everything in life doesn’t need to be controlled and predictable. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and see where it takes you. On top of that, when you turn off the pitch sequencing, it becomes one of the best analog delays I’ve ever played, if not the best.

[Editor: …And GOLD knobs! I feel that isn’t said enough]

Chase Bliss Themae

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

If we’re talking a specific pedal, then it’s probably my cascading octave-delay trick on the Meris Polymoon. If you hold down the Tap Tempo switch on it, it momentarily turns on a half-speed effect, which technically just makes your delay time twice as long, as long as you hold down the switch. So the trick is to hold down the switch, and play a quick melody pattern before you transition to the next chord in your progression, and the second you transition to the chord, you release the switch creating a beautiful flurry of cascading octave up delays. You can hear that exact trick in action here in my Meris Polymoon demo at 06:17, if you want to.

Meris Polymoon

If we’re talking in general, then it’s the importance of the volume and tone knobs on a guitar. This is definitely a no-brainer and not surprising at all for a lot of people, but it really took me a long time to understand and appreciate them.

When you start out on guitar, you (or at least I) just want to go full blast all the time. Why would want to turn down your guitar? and why would you want to kill the lovely clear high-end of your guitar with the tone knob? If I could, I would honestly have removed the volume and tone knob on my guitars long into my guitar journey.

But over the last 4-5 years I’ve discovered how important they are for finding your place in a mix, especially if you do a lot of loop compositions, like I do. If everything is full blast and full frequency all the time, then things will begin to sound un-dynamic and lifeless really quick.

On top of that, the volume and tone knobs are so pivotal for unlocking new tonal nuances when using dirt. I really like to use a very sharp and biting square-wave fuzz, and then roll back the tone on my guitar for rounder synth-like tones. It’s basically the same concept as subtractive synthesis. You have a wave-shape, and then you remove harmonic content via the tone knob to change that wave-shape. So guitarists, start rocking those controls closest to you!

Vol and Tone knobs

Artist or Band name?

Stefan Fast – Ambient noise-maker and host of YouTube channel, The Pedal Zone.

Genre?

Ambient/Post-rock.

Selfie?

Stefan Fast from The Pedal Zone

Where are you from?

⦁ Currently I reside in Aarhus, Denmark.
⦁ Born in Randers, Denmark.

How did you get into music?

It’s a long journey, I guess. I’ve always loved music. I have fond childhood memories of me laying on my parents’ couch reading comics and listening to Bryan Adams and Michael Jackson. I really cherished those moments, and somehow the music just augmented the reading experience. But I didn’t really get into playing music before I was 17-18 years old. I picked up a guitar in high-school because some of my class-mates played, and I thought they were cool, and I wanted to be cool.

When I discovered it wasn’t enough to just have the guitar to be cool, I decided I might as well learn to play it. So I learned some Metallica, System of a Down, Kashmir and Radiohead, and had fun with that.

But it wasn’t until a local post-rock band played at our high-school that my musical path was revealed to me. I had never heard anything like it. How so much emotion could be conveyed solely through instrumental music. I had never experienced music as dynamic and touching. I bought a delay pedal the next day, a Boss DD-6, and quickly discovered that the pedal could self-oscillate, effectively transforming my guitar into a synthetic instrument of doom and chaos. I haven’t looked back since!

What still drives you to make music?

When I make/play music on my own, it’s in order to reach a state of zen and calmness. Just strumming a guitar or listening to a 20sec reverb trail decay is pure meditation for me. It’s not a means for escape, but a means to create or restore balance within myself. When I play with others, it’s in order to be inspired by them, go new sonic places I would never travel on my own and to reach a heightened sense of unity and togetherness through the music we create.

How do you most often start a new track?

Often with a texture or a mood created by a slew of pedals. Other than that, plenty of reverb, delay and slowly played guitar arpeggios will always open doors to new tunes.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I start to just drift away and let myself live inside the music, instead of thinking about EQ’ing or if tracks need to be added or taken away.

Show us your current studio

The Pedal Zone Desktop Studio
The Pedal Zone Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away – Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

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

I upload new pedal demos or tutorials almost every week on my YouTube channel The Pedal Zone. So if you’re interested in ambient/post-rock/indie-rock applications of pedals, then it would be an honor if you stopped by and checked out some of the videos here -> www.youtube.com/thepedalzone.

[Editor: The Pedal Zone is a fave channel. Definitely worth a gander and a subscribe]