Prole Volt – Contrl mAh

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

Pittsburgh Modular

I love big quality knobs, due to my clunky fingers. I enjoy Pittsburgh Modular’s knobs, they turn smoothly and feel secured so well. The knob on the Morphagene’s Vari-Speed control is housed off-center, so when you turn it in the dark, you can feel it dip down and away. That’s superb.

Make Noise Morphagene

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

What would you change? I love old tape machines. Reel to reels, cassette players, microcassettes… but they all seize up or break so easily. They are very fragile, and when played with too much, they turn into duds. With big reel to reels, these are heavy lemons laying around. I have a couple that just “look really pretty” at the moment and need costly repair. I wish there were more knowledgeable repair people in my area.

Reel to reel

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

Before the pandemic I was doing a lot of traveling for work and staying in hotel rooms across the state. I started bringing a micro cassette player to do field recordings, a handful of pedals like a Chase Bliss Mood, a Hall Of Fame 2 reverb and a Ditto looper, to make drones. I was really into lonely hotel room serenades for myself. Sometimes I would bring a Bastl Kastle and an Arturia Microlab midi controller to play on a laptop. Finally, you can’t go wrong with apps like MiRack, Quanta, Synthone and Ripplemaker on an iPad.

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

Audio Damage Quanta iOS granular sampler app

If Quanta, a software app by Audio Damage, were a hardware synth, I’d purchase that. I used to want test equipment in software form, but I just saw a Hainbach advertisement that solved that problem with the new Fundamental program by sonicLAB. I have yet to download, because I know I will need to plan to lose a week straight of my life.

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

I do not regret much. Most of the duds that I bought, have been thrift store purchases for very little risk. if I buy a child’s keyboard and it doesn’t end up working, it’s a few dollars. I simply paid for the adrenaline of the find. It’s like playing the lottery. I don’t regret selling anything, because I like to tell myself that the person that bought gear from me is going to make wonderful music with it and be inspired by it, and that makes me feel very good inside. I do miss my my guitar gear from 20 years ago though. I sold it all to move across the country.

Toy Keyboards

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

I’m a gear junkie, I like to nerd out to new programs and hardware, so what inspires me the most is the discovery phase of a new vehicle for sound. I do like to just switch on a VCO and sit with the unadulterated pure sine for a minute or two, and just soak it up. Pgh Modular’s Primary Oscillator is a common go-to for breaking the silence.

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

A second job to afford more gear! Haha, jokes aside – I wish I had gotten into synthesizers earlier. I have been a guitar and bass player since I was 13, and before that a clarinetist. I have always loved electronic music, but I hadn’t bought synth gear for a couple decades. To this day, I’m not sure why, but I would have loved to have jammed on some Korgs in the 90s.

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

Vintage test equipment, by far. Gigantic, heavy, smelly old things. they’re a pain in the ass, and they put other gear at risk. I would never give them up, however, and they inspire me to want to get more pieces.

Eico Test Equipment

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

With modular synthesis, it’s endless fun learning how to manipulate signals, it never gets old. I learned that there’s always a new and different way to use them. Using an envelope pulse as a sound source, using a VCO to rapidly CV a switch, or side chaining a side chain. A world of discovery always awaits!

Eurorack synth with fx pedals

Artist or Band name?

Prole Volt

Genre?

“Experimental Acoustic Electronic” is probably the most accurate.

Prole Volt

Where are you from?

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

How did you get into music?

I sang along to Motown hits on the radio as a child, and I ended up in the church choir. My mother thought a clarinet might satisfy my instrumental thirst. Thanks mom, wink wink.

What still drives you to make music?

It relieves the tension of the world burning. Most nights I cannot sleep unless I patch up a tune. It’s therapy for me. It’s the only time that I can focus entirely on something else beside thinking about pain and suffering and injustice. I know that sounds cliché, but for me it feels very true and real. It’s a raw escape.

How do you most often start a new track?

I get an urge, I’m angry or sad about something in life and I make a beeline for the gear. I hit a few piano keys or just start plugging patch cables in and fooling around. Sometimes I hear a sound I like and I sample it and work around a sample.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Is it ever? Sometimes I think it’s done and then I hear another part in my head, and return to it. I have one of those brains that can hear all the parts of a song simultaneously. Sometimes I’ll listen back to a recorded track and my mind will play a part that isn’t there.

Show us your current studio

Prole Volt Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

To never make music for the purpose of “gaining a following.” If people like your music, then they will come and listen. Make music that you actually love and makes you feel good.

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

I’d like to give a shoutout to all my wonderful musical comrades from @internationaloscillators – building musical community and raising up fellow independent artists is very important to me. I have a collaboration LP called “Half Speed Heathache,” with the very talented artist from Copenhagen @SongsFromTinAlley

http://prolevolt.bandcamp.com/album/half-speed-heartache.

My latest album, “Spoilers: We All Live, We All Die,” is available now on Bandcamp. An entirely modular synth and vocal storytelling experience of drone ambience and noise for your deathbed. 
https://prolevolt.bandcamp.com/album/spoilers-we-all-live-we-all-die

Martha Bahr – Panic Girl

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

That’s a hard question to answer as every instrument is a composition of different knobs, faders and switches, which are only valuable through their interaction between each other. But if I had to choose one it would be the cutoff knob or fader. I tend to like very mellow sounds especially for inspiration.

ARP2600

My favourite cutoff of all times is the one on my ARP2600, especially with the resonance on maximum. I have never heard a more beautiful and eerie sound.

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

Panic Girl Eurorack modular

That would be my modular system. It grows and changes with me as I grow and change as an artist, and it’s the perfect instrument for those “happy little accidents”, for experiments, for getting to that next level sound design wise.
What I would change about it? Maybe it would be great to make them less heavy all in all, especially if you want to travel with it. 

Eurorack and flower

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

As much as fits in my suitcase. I usually take a skiff with me, my OP-1, an iPad and my laptop, just to have some options when in a good flow.

Eurorack skiff as LP cover with an OP-1 and SM57

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

I’d like to have the René by Make Noise as a Plugin, I love that module. It brings that bit of extra spice to my tracks, that I really like. And the Malgorithm, it’s my go to bitcrusher sound that I can’t get enough of so far. 
As for the other way around I would love to have the Fabfilter plugins as a module, especially the Limiter. It gives you the volume you need without colouring the sound too much, I use it on every track I make as well as their EQ. 

Make Noise Rene

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

Not yet. I surely bought some gear, especially some modules that didn’t fit my workflow after all. But that’s part of the game with modular synthesizers in my opinion, you try, sell, buy, reconfigure and grow with your system (or the other way around?) like you grow musically and as a person throughout life.

Eurorack and a bit of ARP2600

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

I’d say Logic and my modular system. There is so much to explore in each, so many possibilities to learn new things and so much room for „happy accidents.“ 

I spent a lot of time learning Logic as a rookie, I wanted to know it inside out so I can “play” it like an instrument. And there are several things especially in the beginning you have to figure out before you can produce music without having to think too much, like moving the anchor point in your audio regions or how to get an audio file with a different bpm to fit your track or how to set up the Environment for different purposes and so on. While figuring all that out, I came up with one idea after the other of what I wanted to try and explore musically. Back then I spent every free minute with Logic, it was extremely exciting to unlock all those levels of music creation one by one, it’s actually quite similar like getting addicted to a video game.

And modular instruments are just crazy with all their possibilities, it’s an endless source of inspiration to me for about ten years now. I’ve tried out so many modules by now, I couldn’t count them all. I also got some of them sent to me to write articles about for the german print magazine Sound & Recording, like the Yarns module by Mutable Instruments for example. And now I can’t live without it anymore. They are all very unique and special in their own way, it’s exciting and often eye-opening to make music with them.

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

I think I’m pretty ok with how things went and what equipment I got throughout the years. I started out on a PC, learned Logic, Cubase, ProTools, Fruity Loops and Reason at the SAE Institute back then and finally got a Virus TI as my first synth.

The most important thing to me is to learn how for examples DAWs work in general or how synths work in general, so I can translate that knowledge quickly to any other related gear rather than learning just one DAW or one synthesizer in and out and not knowing how to use similar gear from other companies.

That can be pretty helpful especially if your working as an audio engineer or composer and need to work with different tools from time to time.

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

That would be the computer per se I suppose. Especially moving to a new computer can be quite unnerving or when your current one gets too slow for all the tasks you want to do. 

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

That would be modules with which you can do generative patches, that was a real eye-opener for me. The René module by Make Noise with it’s cartesian sequencer was my first experimental module and I still use it in every patch I make. Being able to set the notes of a scale, but randomizing the order in which those notes are being played can make for some very interesting variations in a patch.


Artist or Band name?

Panic Girl 

Genre?

Electronica, Downtempo, Experimental 

Selfie?

Martha Bahr aka. Panic Girl

Where are you from?

I’m currently living in Munich, Germany.

How did you get into music?

I discovered my passion for music very early on when I was a child. I was utterly fascinated with this invisible medium that still seemed to surround me though I couldn’t touch or see it. I already knew back then that I wanted to spend my life with music, in whatever way possible. 

Panic Girl in a dream of wires

I sang in the school choir for several years, learned how to play the piano and the guitar and was playing in bands when I was a teenager. That’s when I got more and more interested with the equipment that we used like the mixing desk, the effects we applied to our instruments or DI Boxes for example. I just wanted to know how they worked. When a good friend of mine told me about the SAE Institute I knew instantly that this is what I wanted to do. I quit my studies at the university and finally started the Audio Engineering Program at the SAE Munich.

What still drives you to make music?

I just can’t do without it, it has been such a vital part of my being since early childhood. I still have tons of ideas I want to try out and there is always so much exciting equipment out there to explore. And there are also inspiring collaborations with for example Anatol Locker. We make experimental music as Lucid Grain, where we create music with our modular synthesizers that none of us could compose on it’s own. It’s like melting two musical minds into new fresh musical pieces. Inspiration is everywhere I suppose, you just have to learn to see it.

How do you most often start a new track?

I need a sound that inspires me to make a full song out of it. That sound can be literally everything, be it a noise from the coffee machine or birds singing, sounds from my modular system, my ARP2600 or my OP-1 for example. I often seem to navigate towards mellow and dreamy sounds and pads, noisy background sounds like from a vinyl player or field recordings. That initial sound then determines where I go from there, if the track needs drums or if it will be a more experimental one, if I feel like singing to it or if some more field recordings would fit well. 

Arp2600

How do you know when a track is finished?

The composition part of music making is usually done pretty quickly. It’s the mixing that takes up most of my time. I check it on several loudspeakers and headphones and have to adjust it several times, until it sounds equally good on everyone of them. I also find it very useful to not listen to the track for at least one or two weeks, so you actually have forgotten how it sounds. If you then re-listen and still like it, then I guess you’re good to go.

Show us your current studio

Eurorack and Arp2600
Roland Juno-60 and a Casio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

One of the sentences that stuck in my head for years is that you shouldn’t listen too emotionally when you’re working on a track, especially during the mixing stage. That’s something I still can’t fully control, sometimes I just need to crank up the volume, dance around and go back to work after that. You need a clear and calm mind for mixing to make those technical decisions, to make a mix work. I could for example drown everything in reverbs and delays, I just love how they sound. But it’s definitely not good for your mix, it gets muddy very fast. So I need to hold back and work on the mix from an mixing engineers perspective to get the most out of it.

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

I’m very proud of my latest album “Cake On Jupiter” that I released with Modularfield last year:

https://panic-girl.bandcamp.com/album/cake-on-jupiter

[Editor: Beina a musician now a days means taking on many different roles. Which you can see that people such as Ms. Bahr is very adapt at. Do you struggle with the various roles required to be a productive musician these days? And which roles are the most challenging? Leave a comment below.]


Aldo is Taken – Groovy LiveLooper

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

That’s a cool one! I really like the tone pot on my Stratocaster, it makes everything I play sound like silk.

Strat Knobs

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

I think it would be the Empress Effects ZOIA, it’s just so fun to use and so powerful. Also I like tiny stuff because I don’t have much space. I just wish it had more CPU so I could go even more crazy with it.

Empress Zoia

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

On holiday I just take my laptop to organize stuff and finish what I haven’t finished yet. And I don’t tour!

Macbook

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

Having Max MSP in a hardware format would be pretty neat. Don’t know about the other way, I’m really not into softwares!

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

Hmmm, not really a regret but I deeply miss my MPC 2000XL. It was my first piece of gear ever and I really enjoyed it. It was just a bit too old school and limiting for me, I sold it to fund other music stuff so yeah no regrets!

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

Probably the Digitakt! It’s just super fast and clear, nothing gets in the way once I’ve got an idea.

Digitakt

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

Can I say the Digitakt again? It can do so much!

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

That’s easy! I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with the TC Electronic Ditto X4. It’s the cheapest looper pedal with a proper MIDI implementation, but oh my god it’s so unreliable. It crashed on me several times and you need some weird workaround to sync it. But yeah I can’t afford any other options at the moment so I still use it all the time.

Ditto Looper X4

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

You can run audio into almost any input of the Make Noise 0-Coast, even the CV inputs! Each circuit will transform your signal into something weird, I really like it with my guitar.

Make Noise 0-Coast

Artist or Band name?

Aldo

Genre?

Not sure, mostly hip-hop I guess.

Selfie?

Where are you from?

France!

How did you get into music?

A friend of mine taught me some guitar chords when I was 13.

What still drives you to make music?

Spiritual freedom and hopefully financial freedom one day.

How do you most often start a new track?

By listening to another track. I often catch a vibe in a song and bring that vibe into my next track. I think.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I already started the next track and just want to get rid of this one!

Show us your current studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard

« Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something. » – Jake the Dog

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

Whatever is on my Youtube channel right now : https://www.youtube.com/aldoistaken

[Editor: Do you have any of the gear in this article? Then why not share a tip or trick? Leave a comment below]