Andrew Black – Loop De Loop

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

That is a tough one but I think I have to go with the filter cutoff on my Moog Sub Phatty. I immediately fell in love with sweeping that filter, it is satisfying both sonically and physically. 

Moog Sub Phatty

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

My Op-1 is pretty close to perfect. At times I wish it had more keys, but the size is part of its charm.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

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

Op1, sp404, and a pair of beyerdynamic dt 770 s. It all fits comfortably in my backpack.

Beyerdynamic dt 770

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

I have a reverb plugin called Valhalla shimmer that I really love, but I wish it was in pedal form so I could have the tactile interaction with it. I use tape and 4 track recorders often and I truly love them, but they break, need maintenance, or shit out on you during a show (it was the worst! haha) so I would love if somehow there was a software 4 track that could actually capture the sound and feel of the real thing… but all the inconsistencies and frustrations with working with physical tape are a part of what make it magical… so maybe I wouldn’t change it after all.

Tascam 4 Track

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

I tend to hold onto all the gear that I procure, good or bad. My father is a musician though and his first guitar amp, a 1964 Silvertone 1484 would have been passed down to me but was accidentally sold in a garage sale by my uncle when I was a kid, so that is probably my greatest gear regret.

Silvertone amp

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

I would say most recently the 0-Coast by Make Noise, it inspires me every time I touch it. 

Make Noise 0-coast

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

I think Ableton. I have used pro tools for years, it gets the job done and I’m fairly proficient in it, but I have been told that Ableton lends itself more to the genre that I work in and therefore may facilitate workflow/productivity. I would really love to learn ableton someday but my patience with new software is short at times to say the least haha.

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

My microkorg. It was my first synth when I was 14 so I’m attached to it for that reason. It also does have great guts and can make some awesome sounds but accessing the oscillators and making fine adjustments isn’t particularly intuitive and can be frustrating when I have a sound in my head that I’m trying to get out. 

Korg MicroKorg

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

The vinyl simulator on my Sp-404 has been a go to for me lately. At first when I played around with it I felt like the crackles and textures it added were too much, but I started using it on sounds that would be turned into tape loops and I fell in love. The combination of the 404’s crackles, the analog tape hiss, and the tape warble give the sound a perfectly cryptic esthetic.

Roland SP404

Artist or Band name?

Andrew Black

Genre?

Ambient

Selfie?

Andrew Black

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Salem, Oregon, but i’ve lived in Portland, Oregon for the last decade.

How did you get into music?

My dad is a guitar player and music lover so my introduction to music was immediate in life haha. I started taking guitar lessons from him when I was ten and it has been my passion ever since.

What still drives you to make music?

It is the best way I have found to express myself. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety all of my life and writing/making music allows me to process those unpleasant feelings most efficiently. I’ve also always just loved it. That combination keeps the drive alive and keeps me writing because it truly makes me happy.

How do you most often start a new track?

Most often the inspiration for a new track for me comes from just experimenting and playing around without any real intention or direction. When I spend some time tinkering with textures a tone or a rhythm will at some point give me an idea for a song.

How do you know when a track is finished?

It is really hard for me to know when a song is finished. I’m rarely if ever 100% sure that the song is done so I just try to trust work it until there isn’t anything obvious that’s bothering me, and then I try to trust myself that it is as good as I can make it.

Show us your current studio

Andrew Black’s studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

”Make music you would want to listen to” My friend Sonny Diperri told me that. It kinda seems obvious now, but that advice really changed how I make music. It is how I know when I’m writing honestly for myself and from the heart.

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

My most recent album is called “Slow Blood” 

https://andrewrblack.bandcamp.com


True Cuckoo – Flew Over the Nest

[Editor: When I sent the interview questions to Cuckoo. He replied within 3 hours! That’s some sort of record. Then he said he’d like to send the photos separately, coz he couldn’t make it out his studio at the moment….. What he then sends, is a bunch of great photos with hand-drawn annotations! Wow! … Thanks Andreas. You truely are an inspiration]

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

Moog Golden Knob

At the last Moogfest I got this particularly lovely huge golden knob as a part of the perks that Moogfest gave the guests in a goodie bag. I don’t think it’s from an actual product. Just something they made especially for Moogfest. It’s really heavy, definitely made out of solid metal. I had to modify it a little bit with some mould-able plastic to get it to fit where I wanted it. Now it lives on my original microKorg, as the preset selection knob, and the presets sound so much better now! 😀

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

Hakon Continuum Fingerboard

Tricky… I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect piece of kit. Everything is the fruit of careful consideration, and a lot of choices. Like the Continuum Fingerboard for example… it’s perfect, but it can be improved. Could you make a continuum with it’s own on-board synth editor? Absolutely not! It would ruin the whole thing. But it makes sense to think that you would like that.
The new Continuum Slim has improved though, and I want it for the improvements. Is it perfect? Yeah… maybe… It is what it is, and that’s the way I will use it.

I’m very much engaged in beta testing and writing feedback to developers a lot. So I am definitely seeing ways on improving everything. Like now for instance, I’m playing with the Moog Matriarch, and it’s beautiful! The Matriarch has got 4 oscillators, and in Paraphonic mode the 4 oscillators can be played in “polyphony”… Obviously some form of gates are letting each oscillator turn “on and off” individually corresponding to the keyboard. I wish I had CV access to those gates, so that I could sequence the oscillators more independently and freely… But that takes us back to the beginning… The Matriarch is the fruit of careful consideration and a lot of choices. It is what it is. Let’s make the most out of it!

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

The OP-Z is definitely the musical instrument that I’d be tempted on bringing with me on a holiday without any regrets. It’s light weight and doesn’t take up much space, and it’s fun. It’s just that my OP-Z units are packed to the max with one of my live sets, so there’s not much room for putting in more at this moment. I know I can make backups etc. but… to be honest, I rarely end up making music on holidays anyway. I sometimes bring some new stuff that I want to check out. But for casual and beautiful music exploration on the go I think I’d be more tempted to bring my iPad Pro and use Samplr. Samplr is beautiful for short sessions. And the iPad Pro is lovely for drawing too.
On tour I never want to bring more than I can carry myself. It’s a pain with heavy gear. So I’m trying to keep the size down. Three typical setups for me is:
Octatrack + ZOIA.
Deluge + ZOIA.
2 x OP-Z.

Samplr on the iPad

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

Ooouuushhh, I wish everything from the following 3 companies was available in hardware form.

  • Fab Filter’s amazing production and mastering tools like PRO-Q, PRO-MB, PRO-C and PRO-L. I would’ve been using them all the time in hardware! Perhaps especially the PRO-MB multiband compressor. Heck, they should make a hardware performance mixer with all of their plug-ins on the mixer!
  • Plogue’s amazing recreation of old chips such as the Megadrive Yamaha FM chip (my favourite). Chipsynth MD, Chipsynth PortaFM, and Chipcrusher. They have some forthcoming models that I’m psyched about too.
  • Spectrasonics, if they made Keyscape a high quality hardware keyboard instrument… that would seriously be the best stage keyboard ever.


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

I once bought the MicroKorg XL a looong long time ago. I thought it was just an update of the MicroKorg, and bought the most recent one. But I had no idea they were built on two completely different platforms. The MS 2000 vs the Radias. They sound so incredibly different. The XL has a very digital and sharp kind of sound, where as the original MicroKorg has a much warmer and vibrant sound, I’d say. But a friend of mine has been borrowing the XL for about 10 years now, so at least it’s making someone happy 😀
I later got the original MicroKorg and made 128 presets for it, and it’s sounding super nice 😀

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

Sega MegaDrive

Probably game music from the Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo era. I made mix tapes of game music especially from the Sega Megadrive. So SEGA has probably influenced me the most. Phantasy Star. The Streets of Rage series. Shinobi. The Thunderforce series etc. But looking back, I have so many favourite soundtracks on the SNES too. Especially the games produced by Square Soft. Secret of Mana, like Chrono Trigger.
When it comes to music gear, I’d say the most inspirational instrument that I have used, second only to an acoustic piano, would be the Continuum Fingerboard. I’m trying a lot of stuff, but the Continuum Fingerboard stands out in a timeless kind of way. I love it. It kinda begs you to approach music differently, in such an expressive way… I love that.

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

Piano lessons.

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

That’d probably be my computer.

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

At this point, it takes a lot to surprise me. But I like it when small teams are making some really ambitious piece of gear, and challenge the industry. Then they keep pushing it with really high quality software updates over the years. Like the Deluge came out with live looping, nearly infinite note precision, any length pattern you like etc. Novation pushing virtually all of their products to the limits over time, perhaps most noticeable the Peak that recently got custom wavetables. But the most surprising element on any synth that I know, must be the Chopper game on the OP-1.


Artist or Band name?

True Cuckoo

Genre?

Not Pop

Selfie

Where are you from?

Brought up in Sweden, but moved to Norway in 2005, where I still live.

How did you get into music?

I always loved music. Probably since I could sing a tone. We had an electrical organ with rhythms when I was a kid, and I loved fiddling around with it. From very early on I loved to just make my own melodies. And when videogames came along, I used to pick the melodies from the games, and try playing them on our piano at home, that we got when I was 12. Been singing a lot, at school, in choirs. But my many hours by the piano, my interest in classical composition in my teenage years all had something to do with it. Perhaps the single most important thing was playing in my first band with Jenny Hval over 10 years ago now. That was awesome. We were playing festivals, small paces, big ones. I loved it. After that I knew that this was something that I had to bring back into my life. So I started Cuckoo after that. Jenny even sings on one of my songs from my first album.

Cuckoo 12 at the organ

What still drives you to make music?

I just love to create. Music is different than all other art forms for me. I live inside of music in a different way, than I was living inside of visual arts and animation (that was my profession for most of my grown up life). Music can be totally free of topics, but still be immensely meaningful. Also… sometimes I’d like to think that what drives me is my hunger for listening to new music… Music that I want to hear, but is yet to be discovered. So instead of looking for music, I create it myself.

How do you most often start a new track?

It’s different every time. It depends on the tools that I’m using. But it’s probably mostly either by sequencing on a machine, and making rhythmical, but still tonal patterns… Or by the piano.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it communicates, it’s good enough.

Show us your current studio

Currently the world is sort of on hold, and I’ve been working a lot form home just to be able to quickly step in when family needs me on short notice. So this is my little table at home.

Cuckoo’s home desk

And this is my main studio. It’s a mess.

Cuckoo Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

When I studying animation at the art university, my animation guest teacher at the time, Piotr Dumala, could tell that I was kinda struggling, and guided me delicately through the creative processes. I remember especially one day when I was struggling to get on with the story that I was developing. He said, in his strong polish accent, “What do you want to see… on the screen?”. So simple. To just eradicate every distraction and take it down the the essentials… Ok, so we’ve just experienced “this”… where do we go from there? What do you want to see, or hear next? I sometimes repeat those words in my head, still today, even if this was 20 years ago or so.

Piotr Dumala by Cuckoo

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

I went to New Zealand and Australia and played some gigs with Synthstrom Audible’s Deluge. Towards the mid end of the tour, countries started banning events and locked down due to an ongoing pandemic, so I had to end the tour early. I had some great moments! It was a great tour! Here’s a one-take whole set of me in Brisbane.

[Editor: It’s a pleasure to read about Andreas’ studio and process. I hope you guys found it as fascinating as i did. The man is super chill and yet very productive, just that in itself is an inspiration. If you’ve not seen any of his youtube content. Then go there now. It’s great]