Michael Famiglietti – Wander.Wonder

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

Automating the flying faders on the Chase Bliss Automatone is a magical way to explore overdrive and fuzz. 

Chase Bliss Automatone

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

Native Instruments Maschine MK3. NI just released a standalone version that somewhat improves upon the MK3. Hopefully the next version will have a touch screen, battery, CV in/out, & more control over what plugins/VSTs you can have onboard. 

Native Instruments Machine MK3

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

I typically take break from music when I’m away from the studio since I’m immersed in it most days. Maschine MK3, headphones, & a laptop is all I need for a portable writing setup. I also use GarageBand on my phone or iPad to get ideas out. 

iPhone and GarageBand and a pair of headphones

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

Like I mentioned earlier, Native Instruments just released a standalone version of the Maschine MK3 so they are working towards perfecting that software into hardware. I think the next version may be the one. I wish Meris would dive into VSTs/plugins. Their sounds are otherworldly but I think their pedal layout makes it tough to dial in their full potential sometimes. 

Meris Ottobit

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

I always regret selling my Meris pedals. I had them all at one point but now I only have the Hedra & Ottobit. I sold the Mercury7 to get a BigSky, Enzo for a C4 and Polymoon for a Timeline. I don’t own the BigSky, Timeline or C4 anymore so I think it may be time to revisit my old Meris friends. 

Meris Hedra

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

NI Maschine MK3

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

A laptop and a Maschine MK3. 

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

My Focusrite Saffire 56 interface. It has never worked quite right, but I’ve made it work for the last 10 years. Time to get an Apollo of some sort. 

Focusrite Saffire 56 audio interface

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

Cassette recorders are very useful. I use them as an instrument, as a “looper” or to add tape warmth/grit to recordings. The best $100 I’ve ever spent was on the old Tascam Porta02. 

Tascam Porta02

Artist or Band name?

Wander.Wonder 

Genre?

Chillhop meets Post-Rock

Selfie?

Michael Famiglietti aka. Wander.Wonder

Where are you from?

Virginia in the United States 

How did you get into music?

I bought a guitar in high school to start a band with my friends and I never stopped. 

What still drives you to make music?

I love exploring new sounds and seeing where they take me. 

How do you most often start a new track?

Typically with a sound I discover on a pedal or plugin. The algo inspires a riff or progression that I write around. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I’ve said enough but not too much.

Show us your current studio

Michael Famiglietti’s home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Write as much as possible. Whether you’re trying out some new gear or just noodling on guitar, hit record and try to create. Just explore in the moment and then you can refine your ideas later. 

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

Just released my second album. You can stream it on your preferred platform in this link. Also check out my gear noodles on YouTube or IG if that’s your thing. 

https://linktr.ee/rednaw.wonder


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]


ShoeGazeCity – Head DownTown Sound

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

My favorite knob has to be the sequence multiplier knob on my Meris OttoBit Jr. This pedal is a bit-crusher/video game/glitch/stutter machine and it has a full on 6-step sequencer built in (which can be used to sequence multiple things, but pitch is the most obvious and fun one). The sequence multiplier knob speeds up the rate of the sequence being played, so you can get pretty wild on-the-fly video game arpeggios if you manually turn the knob while sustaining a note. (You can also use an expression pedal to do this, but alas, I don’t have room on my board for one at the moment).

Ottobit Jr. by Meris

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

The DigiTech EX-7 Expression Factory pedal comes to mind. This big and heavy expression pedal looking box has a bunch of different sounds packed into it… It has overdrives/distortions, flangers/rotary modulation, a full on whammy pedal, and my favorite: the legendary space station. The idea is to let the user control all of these authentic sounds via the expression pedal (ie: controlling pitch on the whammy setting, or the swell of the space station). However, it kind of sucks that the actual feel of this expression pedal is so hard to use. It’s very “sticky” feeling and doesn’t move a lot, so you have to be very precise on how you use it. It also requires a bit of an extra “push” to turn it on, which involves stepping on the front or back of the pedal, and it always feels awkward. I give it 10/10 for the sounds it makes, but is very difficult to use in a live setting.

DigiTech EX-7 Expression Factory pedal

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

I play guitar and keyboards in an instrumental progressive-rock band called Tortoise Forest. We all have fairly large pedal boards and try to implement weird electronic sounds into our music whenever possible. So my usual gear that I bring to shows consists of 1 or 2 guitars (90’s Yamaha SGV-300 and/or Squier Super-Sonic), a loaded pedal board (Pedaltrain Novo 24), my amp (a Quilter Tone Block 201 head and a 1×12 cab that I converted from an old broken Fender Stage Master), my keyboard (Nord Electro 3 73SW) and synth (Korg Prologue 8) and sometimes a powered speaker for the keys/synth (JBL EON615).

I’ve gotten pretty good at setting all of this up in a timely manner, although the keys/synths are still pretty new for me in the band. I still play about 70% of the time on guitar and about 30% I switch to pianos, organs, electric pianos or synth leads & pads. I have thought about down-sizing the board and what-not, but I use all of these tools at live shows and I really enjoy improvising with new sounds each night, even if it means cramming extra stuff into my tiny sedan! 

Tortoise Forest live pedalboard setup
Quilter Tone Block 201 head with a 1×12 cab Fender Stage Master
Nord Electro 3-73SW and Korg Prologue 8

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

Right away, I gotta say that I wish Serum was available as an actual synth and not just a plug-in. Serum is an extremely versatile synth plug-in that has a very intuitive user interface, even if you’re not a big synth person. I have used a lot of synth VSTs and other plug-ins and I wish a lot of them were available as hardware units, but I love Serum so much and use it to write/improv/record many projects. I went with the Korg Prologue for my live hardware synth because it still does a lot of things well (mono leads, pads, arp stuff, etc.) But to have Serum in an actual hardware synth would be a dream. I understand why it’s not really feasible to do this, as you can add so many voices and so many high-end effects with Serum, but maybe someday…

For hardware available as software, I’m just gonna be that guy and wish that my entire pedal board was available as one easy-to-use plug-in. There are certain products available to record your board into your DAW without an amp or any kind of cab emulation… But it would be rad if in the future, every new pedal you purchase came with a serial-code or something for a free plug-in version. Then you could design a board in your DAW and have it there for recording with actual effects that you’re used to using, instead of having to design reverbs with unfamiliar plug-ins.

Serum VST plugin

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

Well, I have to admit that when I first bought my Meris Enzo (synth pedal), I ended up selling it. I just had a hard time using it live and dialing in levels. Then after about a week of not having it, I missed it SO much and ordered another one. It is one of the most flexible pedals capable of so much other than just gorgeous “real” synth sounds. I especially missed it for it’s dry mode, which lets you use a plethora of effects including pitch shifting, portamento, modulation (with rotary vibes), filters, ring mod, delay.. It is the coolest!).

Meris Enzo

I don’t regret buying too many items, however I do own TWO 1983 Yamaha SBG-200 electric guitars, and I totally don’t need TWO of them. My friend had one when we were younger and I remember it being awesome, so I bought one on Reverb (and it was as awesome as I remember). Then I saw another one pop up, the same exact guitar in the same finish, and I bought that one… My thought process was that these are becoming rare and I want to have a backup, but now I have an extra guitar taking up valuable space in my tiny basement studio and I never play it. Also, it’s for sale if anyone is interested ;).

Yamaha SBG-200

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

Hmm… A few pedals definitely come to mind. Any delay or reverb pedal with super long decay times are always inspirational. I got my Strymon TimeLine when I was just out of high-school back in 2010. That thing opened up a whole new world for me. It has infinite decay times with a bunch of different sounding delays, modulation, and a built-in looper… Ahh that looper is SO good. I know there are more options for loopers on the market now (I want a Blooper)… But the TimeLine looper can do similar things as the Line 6 DL-4 and being introduced to this when I was younger let me explore different sonic soundscapes that I didn’t know were possible to create.

Strymon Timeline

I also have to give it up to Meris again, the Hedra is one of the craziest pedals I have ever used. I bought it the day it was released (because Meris is great at revealing mysterious new pedals) and it’s one of my favorites on my board today. I’m a huge fan of pitch delay and this thing has THREE separate pitch delays that you can dial in at different rhythmic patterns. It can also pitch glide as slow or fast as you want it to, giving every option you would want in the world of pitch shifting.

Meris Hedra

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

I mentioned it earlier, but again I have to say the Strymon TimeLine. It still sounds great compared to everything out there today, and I have been using the looper for so long that it’s become so natural to use compared to other loopers. BUT the foot switches are very worn out from a decade of use, (plus it’s annoying to have to click two switches at once to bank up/down). I have sold some gear recently so that I can afford to order a midi controller to control all of my midi pedals. This will allow me to access more presets on each pedal, explore new sonic territories, AND hopefully make it so I don’t have to ever use the footswitches on the TimeLine again (will be using the midi controller as a looper-controller as well). I’m very excited.

Strymon Timeline having a whale of a time

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

Using multiple loopers at once. I have performed solo sets where I will use two looper pedals that are not at all midi-synced or anything, and stacking them is surprisingly good sounding. What I do is loop/record a short melody into the first looper in my signal chain. Then, after auditioning different chord progressions and/or basslines to put under this melody, I will loop/record the new chord progression WITH the first looper also playing the melody INTO the second looper in my chain. I’m sure that some people reading this are like “why don’t you just use a single looper than can already do this?”, which is totally valid. Because that exists. Umm, they are more expensive and I like using cheaper loopers that I already have. Plus this setup usually takes up less space than larger loopers (had the Boss RC-300 and sold it for being so huge). Some of my favorite loopers I use for this are the Line 6 DL4, Hotone Wally, Boss RC-3, Strymon Timeline, and the new Dunlop Clone Looper. Side note: having a looper such as the DL4, Timeline or the Clone Looper with a “play once” function makes it easier to “sync” each stacked loop.

Multiple loopers: Timeline, Line6 DL4, MXR clone, Hotone Wally, Boss Loop Station

Artist or Band name?

Tortoise Forest

Genre?

Instrumental Progressive-Rock

Selfie?

Max Davies aka. ShoeGazeCity

Where are you from?

Buffalo, NY

How did you get into music?

I started taking piano lessons when I was 5, then switched to drums and guitar when I was 13 and played in a bunch of bands. Being able to record myself on different instruments at a young age helped me to grow as a musician (thanks old school Tascam 8 Track :).

What still drives you to make music?

A bunch of things. Friends who post clips on Instagram of new pedal/instrument sounds are always super inspiring and make me want to explore new ideas in my studio. Writing new stuff with the band is always fun because it gives us the opportunity to take time to create something extremely technical/progressive/mathy in a private setting and then allows us to record this and play it live for our friends and fans to hear. Such a good feeling to have people enjoy what you’re creating.

How do you most often start a new track?

It depends on which project I’m working on. Tortoise Forest typically starts with one single melody, chord progression or “riff”. We try to explore every single possibility of different ways of playing that riff, whether it be backwards, faster, slower, in a random time signature, drowned in weird pedal effects, whatever. This makes writing songs in the progressive genre very satisfying. 

I will also record myself on drums, guitar, bass, keys, and vocals from time to time and make solo ambient/math/post/prog rock stuff. Sometimes if I want to just record “something” I will lay down an improvised/on-the-spot drum part without knowing what I want on top of it. Then I grab a guitar and throw whatever comes to mind on it, then record the appropriate bass lines, keys and sometimes vocals. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t even come close, but it still lets me practice improvising and I think it’s important to create new music every single day.

How do you know when a track is finished?

You don’t! I mean, there have been songs where we just didn’t have any more parts to add on and we deemed it as being finished. On the other hand, we still have songs that have been in the writing phase for a while that feel like they need more of… “something”. I guess regardless of the traditional “verse/chorus/bridge” writing styles, if our songs have a beginning, a middle chunk and an ending that sounds like an ending, we are generally pretty happy. 

Show us your current studio

ShoeGazeCity Studio
ShoeGazeCity Pedals and Guitars
ShoeGazeCity DAW setup with Ableton Live

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Everyone has a different standard for what is considered good music. You can create whatever you want, just create something.

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

I post pedal sounds and loops on my Instagram almost daily → @shoegazecity

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