Aqeel Phillips – A View to Aqeel

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

Monome Teletype

I’m gonna go with the Monome Teletype’s single “param” knob. It might be a weird answer, since this knob can do whatever you want it to do, but personally I almost always have it mapped to a global “probability” setting in my Teletype patches. Probability that a trigger will pass through, probability that triggers might jumble and be routed to an unexpected output, etc. I consider this a bit of a secret weapon, and discovering this was a moment when I was really feeling like I was figuring out how to work modular into my music. With this single knob, I can control the “energy” of a patch, taking it from sparse and mysterious to lively and animated with a quick flick.

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

Elektron Machinedrum

I’ll say the Elektron Machinedrum. It sounds amazing, and I feel like I barely need to edit and mix the sounds that come off of it, but it’s definitely dated. It doesn’t have all of the niceties of the newer Elektron boxes, like the Rytm mkII or Digitakt. I find it really easy to edit the wrong track, and it unfortunately doesn’t have the modern Elektron sequencer with trig conditions and microtiming. I’ve even considered sequencing it externally… But the sounds themselves are totally worth keeping it around, even with these limitations.

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

Elektron Digitakt

Historically, I’ve taken the Digitakt. It’s easy enough to throw in a backpack, and you can even record off it without an interface via Overbridge. For whatever reason though, I usually tend to be finishing projects while traveling, so it’s often just my laptop and headphones.

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

Strymon Big Sky

I don’t use a lot of software… I’ll cheat and say that sometimes I wish I had a real piano or Rhodes, as opposed to the VSTs that I use in my music. In terms of hardware, I often wish the Strymon Big Sky was a plugin that I could pull up on the computer. I really just use it as a master send effect from Ableton. 

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

ER-301

Most things I find myself regretting selling, I eventually end up buying again. It feels a little silly (and I lose some cash in the process), but sometimes it takes some time away from something to really respect its worth. I’ve sold and re-bought Make Noise Morphagene, Intellijel Metropolis, and I recently bought an ER-301 back from a friend. I did nab a really nice Yamaha electronic drum kit for an utterly insane deal a while back, and ended up passing it on to somebody else when I was living in a small apartment. Now that I’ve got the room for it, I definitely miss it.

I regret buying an Arturia Matrixbrute. Some of the keys broke somewhere along the way, and it’s so heavy and large that it’s been unruly to get it fixed and eventually sell it. I’ll get around to it, but I’m never excited about the idea of lugging it out to the car…

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

Make Noise Morphagene

Probably Morphagene, the same Morphagene that I’ve sold and re-bought haha. Nowadays, it’s genuinely my favorite module and really epitomizes eurorack to me. I never know what it’s gonna do, but I always love what it ends up spitting out, which is a huge part of the fun I have with modular. It’s like my little bandmate that comes up with something interesting and inspiring for me to craft a song with.

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

Make Noise Tape & Microsound Music Machine

In the same vein as my previous answer, I’d probably start with the Make Noise Tape & Microsound Music Machine. I’ve essentially got this in my system in my rack, purposefully placed right next to each other too. Each module in that system is something that I don’t believe quite exists in the software realm. So I feel like I could do a lot with that system and any DAW for drums, soft synths, effects, etc.

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

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

Pieces of gear that annoy me don’t tend to stick around very long. 🙂 I’ll say the Hologram Electronics Microcosm. I don’t think it’s very flexible, but what it spits out is absolute gold. It feels kind of scared of sounding “bad”, and I frequently find myself wishing I had access to the sounds “between” the settings that it offers. But at the same time, it’s my go-to for spicing up a track, and creating something unexpected. I will say, I think if I didn’t have experience with modular (meaning, having so much experience making bad sounds), I would be totally content with it. But with that experience, it often feels like a box of nice Clouds presets.

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

I mentioned the Machinedrum feeling a little primitive, but I’ve figured out a couple tricks here and there that get me where I need to go. One is that I’ve been using the “swing” to make my beats more interesting. The MD doesn’t have microtiming, but you can add swing per step (even on individual tracks), and adjust the amount of swing. I’ll often have fun with punching in a standard beat, adding swing to a couple steps, and then setting the “swing” amount to something extreme like 75%. This way, it might imply a 32nd note in some places, without adjusting the overall sequence timing to be 2x. It’s something that you could easily do with microtiming on something like the Digitakt, but it needs this fun little workaround on something older like the MD.

Machinedrum

Artist name

Aqeel Aadam

Genre

Some kind of downtempo, cinematic ambient meshed with hip-hop style beats.

Selfie

“Hey, can you take a picture of me?” in the middle of writing this.

Aqeel Philips in the middle of writing this interview

Where are you from?

Outside of Philadelphia, PA (which is where I currently live too!)

How did you get into music?

I started by teaching myself guitar and eventually started making sample-based beats with Ableton in high school. I wanted to trend more towards “composing” than “producing”, so I caught the hardware bug once I realized it could be like commanding your own little orchestra.

What still drives you to make music?

From a musical perspective, I don’t think I can honestly claim that it’s therapeutic or anything like that, but creating something is an activity that I genuinely very deeply enjoy (I suppose this is some form of therapy…). I like creating the music that I want to hear and feel like the world might enjoy. There’s also a sense of pride in creating something that feels very gratifying.

From another perspective, there’s a vast world of instruments that offers a great sense of exploration to me. There’s always a new stone to uncover, a new path to try out, some combination of things that you might never have considered before. Kurt Vonnegut said “we are put on earth to fart around,” and I can say for certain that hardware and modular synthesizers can provide you with a great deal of farting around.

How do you most often start a new track?

Ambience, atmosphere, texture – some kind of ambient wash that becomes the sonic bed for the track. I like to set up a generative bed with something like Morphagene or a granular module, which gives me the “kindling” to find inspiration from and write with. I’ll listen to these beds and hear accidental snippets of chords or melodies – this gives me inspiration to refine those random ideas into something more formalized. Also, I find it very hard to add in texture after the fact, so I like to start with it to keep myself sane.

How do you know when a track is finished?

In line with the previous answer – when I’m working on a track, I’ll hear “whispers” of things to add, little ideas that pop into my head that become a melody, bassline, chord progression, rhythmic element, etc. Once those stop revealing themselves, I take it as my cue to hit record.

Show us your current studio?

Home studio desk
Home studio with eurorack
Moog Matriach

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Probably to “invest in happiness”. Suffering from GAS and chasing gear is one thing, but if there’s something you can tell will help you feel creative and make your life more fun and easier, get it. Looking around my studio though, maybe I’ve invested in happiness too much 🙂 But at the end of the day, the only reason I hold onto something is because it makes me happy to use it.

Aqeel’er Studio [Editor: Ok. I’ll stop now]
Fx Pedals and 4-track tape
Ed O’Brian Strat [Editor: just about the perfect guitar]

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

I just put out a new collaborative EP with my friend Fossilize Me on Mystery Circles! 2 songs each from FM and myself, and one mash-up track. It can be purchased on a 7” vinyl here and is available for streaming under each of our names.


[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…
]


TubeDigga – Maestro of the MPC

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

Akai S950 Data Wheel

I can’t isolate just one unfortunately!
Boring answer: I just bought an Akai S950 and really like the feel of the main data wheel. The knob itself is quite aesthetically boring but the mechanical click feel of it is great and responsive.

Akai S950 12bit rack sampler

Slightly less boring answer 1: I also really like the XY stick on the Intellijel Planar 2.
Slightly less boring answer 2: The main main frequency knob on the XAOC Devices Belgrad Multimode filter, superb quality!

Belgrad module by  Xaoc Devices

Slightly less boring answer 3: the main pitch knob on the Strymon Magneto is also excellent.
Slightly less boring answer 4: Most of the Erica Synths module knobs.

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

For ease of use, feature set and general overall desire to use, the MPC (previously the X and currently One in my case).
I’d change a fair few things, some examples would be latched pads/looped samples (like the Roland SP404/505 etc have, so you can have an infinitely sustaining loop. I discovered a way to override this in the MPC by tricking it into not receiving a NOTE OFF message which is the issue. I’d also have a much deeper modulation matrix. Disk streaming, ability to install an SSD (MPC One), more CV outputs.

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

I don’t do any of those things to warrant taking a machine with me! But if I toured, my MPC One plus a midi controller or an MPCx would be the logical choice. Or two MPC Ones, a midi controller and a DJ mixer.

Akai MPC One… with a nice metal data wheel and some custom decals

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

No software equivalent of anything, but a hardware equivalent of Renoise would be amazing (if it had the exact feature set and capabilities, with 16 pads of course).

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

I regret selling my MPC 2500SE for sure, I’ve also had a few Yamaha SU700’s and have always thought I should have kept one, but it’s one of those machines that can be amazing and fun, but can be irritating to use on occasion. It also looks brilliant, and unique.
No regrets buying really, not that I can think of right now. Maybe a larger Eurorack case but that would be irresponsible 🙂

Strymon Magneto

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

Once again the MPCs I’ve owned over the years, (2500se, 1000, 5000, X, One, Live).

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

An MPCx or if you mean go back in time, an MPC3000 / 4000 / 60

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

Roland MC707

The Roland MC707, I never intended to buy one, but initially bought it just to try and it’s been a complete revelation. It’s so good in many areas (the synth engine, the Scatter effect, the clips/matrix/scenes etc), but the sampling, file handling, some program parameters (like how the pads in a drum program behave in contrast to an MPC) and various other areas need much improvement. I’d really miss it if i sold it though.
Also my Ensoniq ASR-X. I very nearly sold it recently as it takes ages to load and save samples. I have the Turbo version which means it has SCSI so I need to buy a compatible SCSI drive or emulator ideally, to see if it speeds things up considerably. Also, half the pads are failing (a well known issue) and the encoders can be slightly glitchy. But it just sounds so good and is really quick, plus the effects are great. Lastly, it just looks superb in my opinion. A lovely, underrated vintage piece of gear.

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

I developed my own ‘granular time-stretching’ technique with the MPCx. You can control the start point of a sample with velocity. Dedicated sample start manipulation and automation was one of the biggest omissions from the MPC which the Elektron Octatrack could do since it was released in 2010, this technique brings the MPC feature set for experimentation up to par, but surpasses the OT because of the MPCs sound quality (something I felt always lacked with the OT). https://youtu.be/CE4ZaEExNdc

Ensoniq ASR-X – I

And again, the Ensoniq ASR-X – I discovered, or rather stumbled across a glitch when I was trying to create a synth tone, looping just a few frames of a sample. If you pitch the sample up as high as possible it can lead to some bizarre, circuit bent type effects and mixes and occasionally blends several samples together. Very cool and surreal trick.


Artist name:

Tubedigga.

Genre?

Jungle/Drum and Bass / Hip Hop / Electronica / Drone / Experimental

Selfie?

Mr. TubeDigga

Where are you from?

London UK.

How did you get into music?

Parents record collection, older sister bringing home early Electro records (Cybotron, Man Parrish, Tyrone Brunson etc)

What still drives you to make music?

I have an addiction to learning new bits of gear and making them do things the manual doesn’t mention, and I love designing sounds and discovering new textures/moods/tones/

How do you most often start a new track?

Maybe once a week/fortnight if it’s a full track, every day if it’s a basic loop/idea.

How do you know when a track is finished?

That’s somewhat subjective but I suppose when it sounds good, feels good, does the right things at the right time, and when it feels like it might go wrong or be ruined if I add more or too much.

Show us your current studio:

I keep those things private, sorry 🙂

[Editor: But here’s a photo of TubeDigga’s studio monitor]

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Creative advice would be to try and take a step back from being too serious (electronic music and being a techie/geek can get like that sometimes). A great engineering tip from a well known jungle producer was ‘cut more, add less’ when it comes to EQ and mixing. I often ignore that advice though 🙂

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

Rinse FM Mix with Double O (Rupture)https://soundcloud.com/rinsefm/rupture120820

My private online lessons: www.tubedigga.com/lessons

If you would like to show appreciation for any help I’ve provided you, please consider donating an amount of your choice:

PayPal: http://paypal.me/tubedigga

YouTube: http://youtube.com/tubedigga
My Website: http://www.tubedigga.com


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


Dragonfly Bry – MikroMixin’ it Big

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

I love the various knobs in my 500 rack for mixing and tracking stuff, I really love the 4 knobs on the OP-1.

500 Rack

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

I think the MPC Live is a great blend of portability and a pro-grade DAW. I do wish it had portamento for the samples. Now i use the OP-Z for that bendy stuff and track it in.

Akai MPC Live, Linnstrument and iPad with Griffin Dock

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

I used to take the OP-1 everywhere, but now I pack even lighter. I always have my iPhone X and its loaded with lots of music apps. My favorite when on the go though is the T.E. PO-33. I take small earbuds and an old iPhone with the headphone jack for sampling on the go. I cooked up a few keepers in grocery lines etc..gas stations even lol

iPhone and TE KO33

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

I still think the MPC can be like Ableton Live with a few more updates. Live is a really good and flexible DAW so that’s my target. I like emulations, but we don’t need all hardware to be cloned to software. Those knobs are way less fun.

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

I got the SP-808 when it came out (way back when) but I needed a good drum machine for hip-hop and it was not a good fit at all…I ended up sending it back and I got the MPC2000. That was a game changer for sure.

Akai MPC2000 in it’s natural habitat

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

OP-1 and OP-Z are at the top of my list

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

Now, I’d get a macbook, MPC Live, and the SSL Six. Add in a decent mic and pre and its a whole studio.

SSL Six

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

The computer for sure. I hate being a repair tech but it makes mixing and finishing records soooo easy.

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

My DOD envelope filter is used for reggae basslines a lot. When I heard that, I turned down the knobs to 0 and WOW!!! It’s like an 808 bass guitar.

DOD Envelope Filter Pedal

Artist or Band name?

Dragonfly Bry at Mikromix Studio DMV

Genre?

Yes lol…..well mostly rnb and rap, but plenty of other stuff. I did a few electro albums that are still spinning out there, reggae too.

Selfie

Dragonfly Bry

Where are you from?

Maryland – The DC Metropolitan Area

How did you get into music?

Piano lessons in elementary, then drums and clarinet, then turntables (DJ-ing) and finally bass – all of that was before leaving high school. I later got my BS degree in Music Engineering Technology.

What still drives you to make music?

Creating music has been in my soul since I was a kid and never really left. Its like why I still breathe air, cuz I gotta 🙂

How do you most often start a new track?

Usually drums or melody but I also dig for samples using pretty much any source. I try to change it up often so I do not keep making the same songs over and over lol.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Usually I listen with fresh ears the next day and that is very revealing.

Show us your current studio.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

When you are in the flow, stay there because it doesn’t always come so easily. Also, less is more. Those two help me still to this day.

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

Lately I have been shooting more videos for my music production course at Mikromix.com
I also have a Teenage Engineering 808 pack and an MPC Expansion pack for sale.


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