Todd Barton – The Don Of Buchla

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

Large blue, skirted Rogan knobs like on my Buchla 259 Complex Waveform Generator. They fit my hand nicely, feel good and I can see the index on the skirt. For sliders, all the sliders on my Easel. I prefer sliders to knobs, because I can more easily see where they are. Clearly I use the sliders a lot, since the printing is wearing off!

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

When I travel my favorite setup of my Buchla Music Easel plus a lunchbox of eurorack modules, ususally a Makenoise Morphagene or Epoch Hordijk Benjolin to bring into the Easel’s Aux In for manipulation and processing and the Intellijel Planar 2 for spatialization.

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

see above

4. What software do you wish was hardware and viceversa?

I wish Tom Erbe’s Soundhack plugins were hardware. Ooops, wait! They are 🙂 All of his modules with Makenoise: Morphagene, Mimeophon, Echophon,Erbeverb are the ones I have.

Eurorack case

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

My Buchla 100 and Synthi AKS. Couldn’t be helped at the time.

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

Buchla 200e

Clearly my Buchla instruments, but I have also created a lot of music I love with my Hordijk and Serge systems.

Hordijk and Buchla 200

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

Though I learned about analog synthesis from a friends’ Easel back in the 1970’s, the first modular I owned was a Serge Modular Music System in 1979. It was a great entreand, I’d do it again.

Serge

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

I’m going to interpret “annoying” as “tempermental” in which case my Easel. It’s tempermental, but I love it.

[Editor: It’s a little nice to know that even a synthesis master, who clearly has a superb grasp of the Music Easel, thinks that his instruments can be ‘tempermental’]

Easel Eurorack setup

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

Feedback. I try to get every module I encounter to feedback and learn what that has to teach me, what I can discover from it.


Artist or Band name?

Todd Barton

Genre?

All

Selfie?

Sure. Well a photo of me taken by my artist daughter, Ursula Barton

Todd Barton

Where are you from?

Originally the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Moved permanently to Ashland, Oregon in my late teens. I’m now 70.

How did you get into music?

Though my parents weren’t musical they played musicin the house (radio and phonograph) and there was a piano in the house that I began exploring at age 5. From then on I was obsessed with sound . . .

What still drives you to make music?

Sonic curiosity.

How do you most often start a new track?

By following the sound, listening to where it might takeme. It feels like sonic T’ai Chi, or more specifically a T’aiChi form called Push Hands which is done with a partner and it is an exploration and exercise of moving energy. I feel like my partner is sound.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Completely intuitive . . . the sonic sculpture looks and feels complete, nothing more to add and along the way I have stripped away unnecessary gestures and layers.

Show us your current studio— Too messy to show, but here are a few isolated shots ofsome gear.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Listen, deeply.

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

Buchla Now album. In 2020 the cassette tape label Ultraviolet Light will release Buchla Now. This album will feature a compilation of new tracks recorded by some of the most exciting electronic musicians working today, and focus solely on instruments designed by Don Buchla, the legendary instrument builder, physicist, circuit designer and inventor of West Coast Synthesis. Buchla Now was curated by Todd Barton with contributions from Marcia Bassett, Suzanne Ciani, Dan Deacon, Jonathan Fitoussi, Steve Horelick, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and Hans Tammen.

Suzanne Ciani once said of Don Buchla that his “ unique mindset allowed him to be outside the popular notion of what electronic music was”. Each of these artists, in their own way, carries on this tradition of boundary-pushing music, expanding the very notion of what music can be.

https://www.ultravioletlight.blue/

[Editor: Do you have any tips, tricks or fun techniques with any of the gear mentioned in this interview? Leave a comment]


A.Trentemøller – Yes! That Trentemøller

1. What is your favourite knob/switch/fader on a piece of gear?

The knobs on my Hohner String Melody II… I just love the colours…

Hohner String Melody 2

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

I really like the sound of the drums on the Volca Beats , especially the kick drum, but I don’t like the snare . I would have loved one which was a bit more aggressive and snappy.

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

Just my laptop, a midi keyboard, my Apogee Duet Duo and the JHS ColorBox v2 for warming up and EQ’ing softsynhs / hardwaresynths or to record bass or guitar through or re-amping . It sounds so great and it has XLR input for mic as well. Perfect!

JHS ColorBox v2

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

I wish my Hughes Retriever could be emulated as a plugin, it has such a unique sound and I love the way it opens up the stereo image.

Hughes Retriever and racked friends

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

A lot I regret buying, ha ha… lately the Yamaha Reface YC. It sounds like plastic and not in the good corny way… don’t know why I bought it.

Yamaha YC

I regret selling my Thermionic Culture Vulture, I didn’t use it enough, but sometimes I have experienced actually missing what it did. The plugin version is not sounding as good at all.

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

I don’t have one specific thing, but it could actually be my upright piano that I have in my studio. It’s where most of my songs have been made. 

Oluf Pedersen upright piano… where the magic is made

I like to NOT sit in front of a computer, but instead using my ears and I love that the sound is coming from the instrument itself , not through speakers. It’s very intimate and I feel more focused on the songwriting rather than the sound. I also use it with the felt on, and I like that intimate sound it produces. 

Upright piano with hammers on felt

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

A Mac not a PC. [Editor: Woah-ho! Easy now everyone. Let’s all be friends, ok?]

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

My wireless Mac mouse . It loses the connection to Bluetooth ALL the time , and I tried different Mac mouses, same problem! And I just got a new MacBook Pro, so it shouldn’t happen… but it does!! It drives me crazy!!

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

Playing with the reels on my Revox while recording. To give it a bit of wow / flutter here and there.

Revox B77 reel-to-reel

I actually had a controller specifically made for that one thing only.

Revox varispeed controller

Artist or Band name?

Trentemøller

Genre?

Indie / electronica

Selfie?

Anders Trentemøller 🤘

Where are you from?

Copenhagen. Denmark.

How did you get into music?

I started playing on all sorts of stuff, from pots and pans to toy pianos, from when I was 3 or 4 years old, and never stopped loving and playing music!!

What still drives you to make music?

I love the playful energy in it and the fact that I can create my own little musical world!

How do you most often start a new track?

At my upright piano.

How do you know when a track is finished?

It’s easier now, it was hard for me earlier. But I need to, still have that spontaneous vibe I had, when I started working on a song. It’s so easy to overproduce or overdo a track.

Show us your current studio

Trentemoller’s studio… knobs galore!
Trentemoller’s studio DAW setup

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

“Use your ears” and “There is no right or wrong way to do things!“

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

Trentemoller – Obverse [Editor: Go listen now! Really]

[Editor: I gotta say it! I’m stupidly glad that Mr. Trentemøller has answered these ‘9 Odd Questions for Music Gear Junkies’, on my tiny little 1 month old blog. It’s been a real pleasure to read about his gear and creative processes. If you have any of the gear he uses? Then leave a comment below]


Shawn Jimmerson – Nice Noise Blaster

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

Tasty Chips GR-1

I recently acquired a Tasty Chips GR-1 granular synthesizer for the very reasons that it is standalone, has tactile controls, and great visual feedback. I was at Perfect Circuit here in the Los Angeles area checking out a bunch of new synths and couldn’t stop playing with the GR-1. I fell in love with it. The fader that moves the playhead across the sample is extremely satisfying to use and is a current favourite.

Some others worth mentioning are:
The Gamechanger Audio Plus pedal, which has a giant piano-style sustain foot pedal. It is great for quiet ambient stuff especially because there’s no physical ‘click’ when you engage it. It just feels cool to use and the pedal is great. Very intuitive.

Game Changer Audio Plus Pedal

The main control on this old Westinghouse portable reel-to-reel is beautiful and feels great.

Westinghouse portable reel-to-reel

I’m also a big fan of the Flight of Harmony Choices joystick, which is a eurorack modular synth module. I use it all the time for sound design work.

Flight of Harmony Choices joystick

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
The GR-1 kind of falls into this description because for all it has going for it (which is a lot!) the sample/bank/patch/performance loading and saving scheme for me was not very intuitive and is still taking me a while to get the hang of. That said, I really hate to nitpick. As someone who is friends with many small synth manufacturers, I completely understand that this thing is a product of passion created as a kickstarter project without the resources of a synth giant like Roland or Korg, so hats off to Tasty Chips for making something so great. It takes me a while to get patches and performances set up, but I can work with that because, once those are in place it is super fun to use.

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
I have a Cordoba Mini which is a nylon string travel guitar, which satisfies the musical urge when away from home.

Cordoba Mini

I also sometimes will bring one of my briefcase modular synths. I’ve converted a few old Samsonite slim briefcases into very portable synths.
If anyone is interested, I did a whole guest blog post about them for my friends at Noise Engineering here.

Noise Engineering Briefcase Eurorack Modular

This thing is thin!

A very thin briefcase modular

I also really love the T. Chordstrum, which is a DIY kit made by Johan Berglund
(https://www.instagram.com/trasselfrisyr) that uses a Teensy board. It is like a tiny Omnichord. It has Korg Mini Pops  drum samples, chord, bass and two sounds for the strum strips. It’s an absolutely fantastic device. It’s my absolute favorite airplane travel instrument.

T. Chordstrum DIY kit

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when all I had was a Yamaha cassette 4-track and a handful of instruments I recorded tons of music. Now, with the incredible technology of a studio on my laptop, I strangely don’t finish as much music. (To be fair to myself, I had a lot more free time then!)
While I absolutely love the capabilities of a modern DAW, there is something about using the computer to record music that hinders me, and I’m not even sure what it is about it. It seems like such a lame thing to say, as I know I am a lucky human being to even have the luxury of owning such equipment, but there’s something about the computer that repels me from even getting started sometimes. I don’t subscribe to the ‘Analog vs. Digital’ mindset, so it’s not that. They are both fantastic for different reasons. (War is over, if you want it!) As a sound designer and musician, I love and use both analog and digital gear.
So I guess what I would really want is something like a standalone Reaper device. A hardware box that I can just turn on and has all the inputs/outputs I need, a few faders and knobs, and a large decent screen. I’ve looked into some of the standalone digital multitrack recorders, but so far nothing has the right appeal. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at what’s available, so maybe I should look into it again.

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I regret that I traded my first ‘real’ guitar that I ever owned for a Rhodes piano around 2002. It was a 1972 green Fender Mustang with the mint racing stripe (it was actually a blue finish that turns a lovely green over time as the clear coat yellows). I got it in the mid ‘80s for $200. Nirvana hit big a few years later and after that, everybody would see me with this guitar and say, “oh, doing the Nirvana thing, eh?” which was a drag because as much as I liked them, I’d had the guitar for years before the Teen Spirit video. At the time I traded it, I didn’t have the money to get it re-fretted and I wanted a Rhodes, so away it went.
That said, I have always had incredible luck with finding musical equipment at yard sales, swap meets, and thrift stores, for which I am grateful. I have amassed quite a great collection of gear, so I really can’t complain.

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
As I mentioned earlier, My old Yamaha cassette 4-track was really inspiring and was my training ground that led to me being a professional sound designer and musician. When I first got that and a Midiverb II I was so thrilled. I made music with that set up for years. I still have over 150 cassettes (all numbered and labeled!) from that long period of my life.

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
If I could start over, I would have the same gear, but I would embrace music theory and would try harder to learn to read music. I am now, much later in life, getting into studying theory. When I was younger, I avoided music theory because I thought it would just make me sound like everybody else, plus it made that magical musical world I used to intuitively explore feel like more academia. I think there was some merit to exploring on my own, as I came up with some weird cool voicing and songs, etc., but I now feel in the long run, having that knowledge just adds to one’s musical vocabulary.
As far as reading music goes, I may be missing part of my brain because I have a real hard time with it, even though I’ve tried to get into it in earnest many times. I do think the system is pretty terrible though, with the weird staff layouts, sharps and flats, different names for the same notes, and don’t get me started on instruments you have to transpose!

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
My iPhone. I use it to record videos and for posting stuff to social media. I use a Roland Go:Mixer Pro to get the audio into it, and randomly the sound will have all these clicks in it, or be super garbled. It’s not the mixer. I’ve found that if I quit all apps, reboot the phone, plug in the mixer, THEN open video app it generally won’t do it.
It’s not lost on me that smart phones are absolutely amazing technology and in the ‘80s these things would have seemed amazing, impossible and alien. It is truly incredible to be alive at a time when you can walk around with a wireless pocket computer with access to all your friends and a global database. But it is funny how frustrating modern technology can be at times!

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
Back around 2001 my home ‘studio’ was pretty humble. I was using minidiscs quite a lot (which I still sort of love, as a format). I discovered with just my Sony MBS-JD920 minidisc deck that not only could you edit tracks, but you could seamlessly loop tracks, and you could program track lists that would play them all without gaps. It was like a primitive DAW! An example of what this enabled would be: recording some drums with my portable minidisc unit with the stereo mic (which had a great compression to it), chopping it up in the deck into the various parts of the song (verse, chorus, etc. ) and then programing the structure (repeating ‘tracks’ as needed), then running the entire full drum track out to the 4-track (to build the rest of the song from there). I also did this with long jams; I would edit them down into more concise songs just using the deck. It was like building a ship in a bottle, but it worked!

[Editor: Cool use of a minidisc. I wonder if the Sony MBS-JD920 has a shuffle mode too?…Glitch generator]


Artist or Band name?
Von Doog

Genre?
All that will have me 🙂

Selfie?

Clark Nova

Where are you from?
I grew up in Michigan and I have lived in California since 1996.

How did you get into music?
I have always loved music and sound. My dad brought home a tape recorder and a 3-pack of blank cassettes from K-Mart and gave it to me when I was five years old. It was the first thing I owned that wasn’t a kid’s toy. I revered it and recorded everything with it.
I got my first guitar when I was eight years old. It was a Kay electric guitar my dad bought for $15 from a classified ad. I plugged it into my stereo. By the time I was 15 I was in a band playing bars in Detroit and Ypsilanti.

What still drives you to make music?
I play music every single day just for personal sanity and enjoyment. For me, music is one of the things that makes life worth living. It’s meditative, too. Sometimes while I’m just playing I’ll start remembering dreams from the night before. I imagine this has something to do with the state I get in while playing is in the similar brainwave range as dreaming, but that’s just a guess. If I were stranded on a deserted island, I’d be making instruments out of coconut shells and anything else I could find just for my own well being.

How do you most often start a new track?
For me, musical ideas usually show up on their own and boss me around. I think of them like children. If you have a kid, you just want to help them be the best version of themselves, not make a mini version of you and project too much onto them. I let songs tell me what they want, even if that means following the muse off a cliff.

How do you know when a track is finished?
I wouldn’t know, I never finish them! Seriously though, when I can listen to the whole track in the car and nothing jumps out at me as needing attention, it’s good to go.

Show us your current studio

The Pyraphonic Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
Thank you for asking me to participate, Martin. At the time of answering these questions, the Corona virus pandemic is happening, so it is a very strange time. I’ve seen people questioning the importance of artistic endeavors while something so heavy is going on, but it is often art and entertainment that can lift us up, and get us through, so my advice is to keep creating.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
My Instagram accounts are where I’m currently most active and will link out to any other stuff I have going on:

Main IG account (Pyraphonic):
https://www.instagram.com/pyraphonic

Music account (Von Doog):
https://www.instagram.com/von_doog/

[Editor: Well said Shawn, with regards to the corona pandemic. It would be interesting to hear how other creatives (:you the reader) responds to the “art isn’t important during times like these” argument? Leave a comment]