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]

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]