TJ Dumser – Six Missing

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

Jazzmaster volume knob

Yes, absolutely, without a doubt, the volume knob on my Jazzmaster. Coming from a band background and learning how to blend with other musicians and when to step out front, I was always using my volume knob. Mostly to clean up my tone and then to send it into overdrive. I play expressively and dynamically, never with a compressor pedal so I am always going for the volume knob. I can control swells and it’s become such second nature to my playing that my pinky just sort of rests there all the time.

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

My room is pretty dialed in right now. Since my day job of being a sound designer and mix engineer for advertising, film, and TV keeps me mostly in the studio, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into making the room my instrument. I have my modular rack, my pedalboard, my synths all patched and routed so I can send and receive audio from any of those places – I have total freedom to create. But I would change the amount of space I have, haha, I always want more.

The Six Missing hub

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

Since the start of the pandemic we haven’t traveled anywhere. And before that I wasn’t touring all that much since my live setup got pretty large, in fact, the setup got to the point where I wasn’t able to take the subway any longer – I need a cab or to drive to the gig. Which for people that have never lived in NYC, that’s a huge dealbreaker as you’ll often spend the money you made from your set on cabs. So the biggest thing for me when I go on holiday is my headphones. I try to create music every day so when I take a vacation, I am truly off-the-grid. But now that I’m in Austin which is far from my home in NYC, I have begun planning a travel/mobile rig – it’s Ableton based and I think the Arturia Keystep looks like the best investment in a tiny keyboard as I could integrate it into my modular rack as well as controlling VSTs. I fall prey to the “I want to have all my options be options” mentality, so traveling light will be a fun challenge I look forward to. I’ll have to check back in with you and keep you posted on how I net out!

Compact setup: MacBook, UAD soundcard and guitar

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

An interesting question indeed. I had seen someone else you interview mention that a lot of software is hardware emulations or based on some piece of hardware, which I agree with. I don’t get picky, though I do think that having Big Sky algorithms in plug-in format would be super cool. Although, I’m sure you’d need a separate computer to run all that DSP, which then circles back to having a box, so I suppose they thought about that and why they stayed away from it. I mostly feel like there’s a companion piece of hardware or software for anything you can dream of these days, and like I said, I don’t discriminate – while, yes, an original Minimoog Model D probably sounds better than a VSTs version, I don’t have the $10k for the real thing and dang if presets aren’t awesome to recall.

Moog Matriarch and Eurorack

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

I’ve been fortunate enough to never really have buyers remorse because 30-day return policies are awesome. But I will say that I purchased the ROLI Seaboard recently with hopes and dreams of it completely transforming how I compose with strings and MPE devices and it was just…awkward. Perhaps I didn’t give it enough time to grow on me. The squishy part was fun for a bit, though I can see it attracting cat hair like crazy. I have only ever sold gear I know I was never going to use again. I tend to hang on to things because I’m a sound designer and having random old pieces of gear are inspiring and you never know when you’re going to need it.

Pedalboard goodies

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

Surprisingly, diving into modular gear was the most inspiring and overwhelming. And now that I’ve picked up Norns and Grid, I’m feeling that same sense of “how do I control you!” which I really think makes you enter into that beginner’s mind and where the magic happens. It’s for this reason (and I’ll get roasted for this, I’m sure) that I absolutely never read a manual. I love clicking about/turning knobs/making horrible mistakes when I first get a piece of gear. I think not knowing what you’re doing is when your true talent shines through. You just kind of use The Force to figure it out and stumble your way through. But to stop getting preachy and answer your question, modular. My newest EP on Inner Ocean Records happened in about three weeks after I got all my rack set up, it was just insanely inspiring to have semi-generative sounds morphing and allowing me space to write other lines over it with other instruments.

Norns and Grids

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

If I had to start over I would still start with just a single piece of gear and learn it completely inside and out before buying the next piece of gear. I admit to falling victim to gear acquisition a while back but I always had this sense of wanting to know how to use the gear I had before stepping up. Granted, I have a ton of pedals these days, but it took me a good three years to get to this point.

Pedals galore

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

Haha, this question is great. The most annoying piece of gear I have (though I still love it) is my DD-20, the old big block delay. When the thing boots up it defaults to being on. There’s probably a way to change that but I never looked it up and when it kicks on with the board the first algo is my custom 16-second delay. So if there’s a bit of hum from the unplugged ¼” cable or I flub a note I won’t hear it for another 16-seconds, way after I’ve forgotten and then I’ll chase line hum or a looper pedal somewhere in the chain for five minutes, until I realize it’s just the delay kicking around every 16-seconds. I have Nels Cline to personally thank for making me lust after 16-second delays.

Boss DD-20

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

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

I got to be one of a very small handful of beta testers on the Hologram Microcosm, so I had the pedal well before the public did and I have never had the opportunity to speak directly to the minds that designed and created the pedals I played, so I learned tons of fun insider tricks with it. But my most favorite trick on it, is taking a live effect and capturing it into the looper and then sending that loop back through the live effects pre-effect and processing that loop a second time but through a different live effect. So fun.

[Editor: The Microcosm is gonna be a classic!]


Artist or Band name?

My name is TJ Dumser but I perform as Six Missing.

Genre?

Ambient, Electronic… Meditation Music sounds grabby, so does Furniture Music or Music for Plants. Music that allows you to do other things and zone out to it.

Selfie?

TJ Dumser aka. Six Missing

This isn’t a selfie, but I spent money on this session with this talented photographer Shervin Lainez and so I usually like to get some mileage out of it 😛 

Where are you from?

I’m from NY, but have been spending the past year (lol, let’s be real, quarantine) in Austin, TX. 

How did you get into music?

I have always loved music and performing, I used to do it even as a baby in diapers, shouting nonsense into a microphone and directing orchestras through the kitchen. But it really hit when I saw Back to the Future and caught my first glimpse at Marty’s red Gibson 335. After that, I uncovered milk crates of records in my grandma’s attic and heard Stairway to Heaven and had my mind blown as a 11 year old. After that, I needed to have a guitar. So I was able to convince my parents that I was interested enough for them to get me one and had been playing since I was 12.

What still drives you to make music?

Music has always been a way for me to retreat from other stresses. Given the state of the world and the general level of collective anxiety, music has given me a way to take care of myself. It’s a way that I can contribute something positive. It ends up making me genuinely feel better having taken some time to play. My hopes are that I’m able to give just even the smallest bit of relief to people who hear my music, maybe it gives them that chance to take a breath or to help them meditate or go to sleep – which I realize isn’t every musicians dream “for folks to fall asleep to my music” but hey – if that helps someone, then I’m happy.

How do you most often start a new track?

It has morphed. When I was mainly composing ambient guitar loops or guitar based tracks, I would just turn on the gear and let the DD-20 sit in 16-sec delay mode and start piling layers into it, slam that into the Ditto x 2 and knock it into half speed and that became my bed. But these days I’m spending more time with eurorack modular gear and synths like the Monome Norns. I can usually get a nice atmosphere created by sending some audio to my modular gear and manipulating over there, capture some ideas and then start adding a bass line with the Moog Matriarch. Though I’m new to it, Norns is massively inspiring and I love the idea of having a tiny digital bandmate taking care of melodies and rhythms for me.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I’m sure the answer is very different for the musicians you’ve interviewed, but for me my answer changes all the time. I have a set of tracks that comprise an LP, about 11 tracks, just sitting collecting dust because I “still feel like they need something” and then I have EPs that I sit and complete in a weekend. Honestly, it’s that different for me. I suppose there’s just a knowing you feel about the track, like, did I serve this? If so, I move on. Also, if I get bored with or anything I try to add to a track starts sounding like garbage or I spend far too long working on a line…that’s how I know. If the track tells me it’s complete. It’ll push away all the superfluous junk.

[Editor: That’s a different way of doing things, it sounds almost like your songs have their own desires and needs. I guess a more empathetic approach to composition by considering the needs and wants of a piece, independently from your own wishes as a composer]

Show us your current studio

Six Missing home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Show up each day and do something. Whether that’s reading about someone who set out to achieve a goal or career and is doing it. Or just noodling with the guitar. Or perhaps even just turning on the synth, just to let it warm up. You don’t have to expect a masterpiece, but the fact that you’ve done something with the day means that you’ve placed your intention on it and odds are you’re going to get surprised every once in a while.

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

Thanks for asking! I have my debut EP coming out on Inner Ocean Records called “Patricia” on February 12th.

It’ll be available via Inner Ocean’s site as well as mine – or you can stay tuned to my Instagram (www.instagram.com/sixmissing) for more!


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]


Northern Lighthouse – Travel Moods

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

From an aesthetic point of view I like the big old-looking knobs on Momo Modular’s version of Mutable Instruments Rings. I like having small sets and portable instruments but I admit small devices are sometimes difficult to use, especially live. Big knobs = big satisfaction.

Momo Modular’s Mutable Instruments Rings

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

I don´t, but for gigs I usually have a drum machine, a sampler and two keyboard synths for live improvisations. No midi sync for the clock, just a mixer. I am now exploring all the features of every instrument I have and try to end the Gear Acquisition Syndrome fuelled by Instagram and YouTube! The synth world is so different from the rock scene I entered during the MySpace era. There is too much attention on social media, gear and design than music. Myspace was used to sell merch and organise gigs, the rest was pure fun on stage. No need for 4K videos on your page showing your new shiny pedal. I bought my drum set more than 15 years ago and I basically never changed it. Instead with synths, I keep on checking modulargrid for new modules…

Northern Lighthouse gig setup

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

During my last summer holiday I brought with me some Eurorack modules in a small . It wasn’t easy to decide what to bring with me and I’m always afraid that something could break or not pass airport security. I once was stopped by an Italian officer who wanted to know more about my Arturia Keystep! One day I might buy the OP-Z because it’s as big as a TV remote controller.

4ms eurorack pod

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

One of the things I like the most about Ableton is the ability to slowly launch several clips and use separate faders on a midi controller to control the volume of each one, and that is something that I looked for for ages in samplers. The tiny Blackbox sampler by 1010 music seems to tick this box. Regarding software although they give me endless possibilities they do not inspire me enough when making music. I use my laptop a lot at work already and I do not want to stare at a screen in my free time.

Akai kidi controller

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

I regret having bought the Ableton push 1 controller. It is huge, really heavy and not standalone. I bought it in a second hand shop but I‘ve almost never used it and when I play live I don’t like using my laptop on stage. I prefer launching loops with the SP404 and playing with other synths on top of it.

Live setup based around the Roland SP404

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

Critters and Guitaris’ organelle is my favourite instrument, I use it in every jam because it has so many sounds and it is portable. It’s in every song I have recorded so far because some of the patches created by the users are incredibly versatile, warm and close to real older hardware synths. Who wouldn’t like to have a free Juno or theremin patch in their tiny synth?

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

I would still start with the Volca FM which was my first hardware synth. Cheap and portable and not scary to use at the beginning. I confess, at the beginning I didn’t even know what attack or LFO meant!

Korg Volca FM

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

Reverb. It is not annoying, it is essential in my music. I use it on almost every synth because I rarely like harsh and metallic sounds. That’s why I have a love-hate relationship with FM synthesis. Even when distorted my songs need to sound like they come from the past or from a far away land. When I create music I focus less on melody (although I find long drones a bit boring) and dedicate more time on creating a melancholic atmosphere, usually made of different layers talking to each other. Guitar pedals help me create new sounds. The downside of it it’s that 90% of these sounds cannot be reproduced again. I listen to a lot of posthardcore and post-rock and compared to those, ambient is much more ephemeral.

Digitech Polera

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

Using pink noise to quickly mix all the tracks in a song. I know professional sound engineers might disagree…

Artist or Band name?

Northern Lighthouse

Genre?

Electronic/Ambient

Northern Lighthouse

Where are you from?

Bologna, Italy. A town full of students and music, with its many squats, art cinemas, festivals and bars for alternative music it somehow made me who I am and feeded my interests in films and music. I later moved to Newcastle, UK where I started this electronic music project. I’m now based in Brussels, Belgium. This is where I started jamming with other people and moved from daw to actual instruments and even modular synths in 2019.

Erica synths Cables

How did you get into music?

I always liked percussions. When I was in kindergarten my parents gave me a drum kit for children as a present.

Northern Lighthouse and first drumkit

Years later, during high school a club near my family house went bankrupt and I managed to bring home an old Pearl drum set for free. I was into punk and metal and I started playing music with a guitarist friend of mine. After a while we founded a metalcore band called Rising Hate. There was a big hardcore scene in the early 2000s, we played around Italy for 5 years until I went abroad. It was so fun, I miss that life!

The way I approached electronic music is really different though. I remember as a kid I had an old music software called Music Maker which was my first daw. Years later, in Newcastle, a small town in northern England surrounded by beautiful cliffs and touched by the northern sea, I saw Loscil live and it blew my mind. I was without my drums  and I was so curious about this genre called Ambient that was new to me. I decided to look for a new tool to make music and I started using Ableton. The following year I moved to London looking for a job, but it was a really sad and lonely time, so music was my escape!

What still drives you to make music?

Making music is like a trip from your daily routine to an exotic destination that you choose and create. It affects my mood, it gives me energy and it makes me imagine new landscapes and allows me to meet like-minded people. This project in particular was born from the need to create soundscapes and stories with a deeply nostalgic atmosphere which also includes field recordings, videos and photography. I like curating every aspect of it.

Having lived abroad since 2010, travelling, exploring and missing my Heimat became part of my life. This mix of nostalgia and excitement affects and inspires my music a lot. I also listen to a lot of posthardcore music which I find the most cathartic music ever and I try to transfer this feeling into my songs as well. Besides electronic music, I keep on playing the drums in a post-rock band called Yakhchal. I need this dualism of sadness-happiness, delicateness-anger in my life. Unfortunately COVID put on hold every live gig and opportunity…

‘Fyrtaarn’ is Lighthouse in danish

How do you most often start a new track?

I simply improvise with my gear and if there is a sound or melody that I really like I recorded it as a loop. I then add more parts like bass, rhythms, field recordings and other drones or melodies on top of that. Everything should help recreate a specific image I have in mind. It is usually something coming from a book, documentary or film I saw. But this happens from time to time, without rush. It can take days or months. This also helps me understand what I want to keep or modify from that track because I listen to it with a “fresh” ear every time.

Microcassette

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it sounds full and when modifying it doesn’t improve the song, but actually makes it worse!

Show us your current studio

I live in a 2-room apartment, so I don’t have space for a proper studio. I have a lot of IKEA pieces of furniture where I keep my gear and I dissemble everything after every jam. I’m a tidy person, so when there are too many cables around I get nervous. 

A tidy desk of fun

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

A friend once told me that he liked the story behind my project. I think it’s important that bands and artists develop a strong and personal identity, do research and explore a specific idea or theme. Many people just copy themselves, follow trends. In this case I feel content and branding should be intertwined and support each other. People need to recognise you and your style.

The Sardinian coast

Promote your latest thing… 

My latest self-released tape is called Lantern, and it is composed of layers upon layers of loops of recorded sounds, synthesizers and guitar pedals that pay tribute to distant landscapes, sailors and lighthouse keepers. I am now working on two projects: a split album with a fellow italian drummer and synth lover and a multi-disciplinary project (music, videos, field recordings and analog photos) on an abandoned miners’ village on the Sardinian coast.

Bandcamp: https://northernlighthouse.bandcamp.com/

Northern Lighthouse Lantern cassette release

[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]


Gemini Horror – Hot Ambient Mess

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

DIY varispeed knob on a walkman cassette

This is my favorite knob, there is something about making something yourself and peeking behind the curtain that is so magical.

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

TC Electronic Flashback

I always go back to this delay, it’s simple and effective and has room to evolve with the toneprint stuff, although I haven’t messed with that yet. I wish the looper had more options, but I think the “X4” one has wayyy more looper options.

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

iPad with Mood iOS Model D app and cassette tape

Vacation? Holiday? What are those lol? When we’re able to travel again, I’ll probably do something simple like an ipad and a cassette recorder. There’s a lot of untapped power in the ipad world that needs to be explored.

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

I guess I wish ableton had more specific controllers, like an operator specific physical controller. I know push offers some control but it would be cool to have all the settings at your fingertips. Honestly though we’ve entered the age where software is like 95% there in my opinion, VST’s and modelers are good enough for me 🙂

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

Korg Volca Modular

I regret buying the volca modular, if you don’t have any modular this is a cool synth to see if you’re interested and there’s some great sounds in this box, but overall I never clicked with it. I would have rather gotten another volca fm or maybe a module.

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

Telecaster guitar

Hands down the guitar, acoustic or electric. It’s the instrument I learned music on and it will always be my number one!

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

I would do it just how I started, a guitar, a DAW, a mic or 2. I think a DAW should be the centerpiece of every musician’s setup along with their “main” instrument.

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

Nothing really annoys me that much honestly. I don’t really like mixing/mastering and that is always a big road block between me and releasing music. I should just hire someone to do that stuff but I don’t have the funds to justify it.

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

Ableton Live MaxForLive Randomizer

My FAVORITE thing right now is a maxforlive randomizer. I use it on everything, hardware, software, effects, arps, everything. I found myself in a rut and I was creating similar stuff too often but the randomizer has opened the floodgates on what is possible with gear. I think generally we underestimate the power that things have. Like the randomizer on a microkorg will give you a lifetime supply of sounds and effects that will consistently surprise you.


Artist or Band name?

Gemini Horror

Genre?

Currently ambient but really I’d say a hot mess

Selfie?

Gemini Horror

Where are you from?

Florida

How did you get into music?

I took classical guitar lessons in middle and high school along with piano, music theory, and orchestra.

What still drives you to make music?

I’m not sure right now, I think it’s something I have to do to maintain myself and it’s my creative outlet. Without it I think I might die from boredom.

How do you most often start a new track?

There is no one way. Sometimes it’s something I can’t stop playing on guitar and other times it’s an instagram post I liked.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Hahah, tracks are never finished, but they have to leave you at some point.

Show us your current studio

Gemini Horror studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Just do it

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

Nothing really to promote right now, but check me out on spotify and instagram 🙂

https://www.instagram.com/gemini.horror/


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]