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]

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


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.