Caspar Hesselager – Synthful Jebus

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

Mighty Macbeth Vernier knobs

Great question. This matters. 100% the Vernier-dials on my Macbeth Elements. Posh answer, I know, but they’re just so smooth and satisfying to turn!

MacBeth Elements

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

Probably my Sequential OB-6. It’s so damn good. In a perfect world it’d be 8 or 16 voices. But it’s amazing, and especially if you add the GeoSynths Low Frequency expander (which I definitely will) it’s pretty much all the poly-synth you (I) need. The Make Noise Shared System is close to perfect in a way too. I would make the Erbe Verb have a stereo input, if I could change one thing. Best reverb ever.

Sequential OB-6

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

I’ve brought my OP-1 and/or Digitakt on several trips and tours, but I usually never get around to using them much. Right now with this whole Corona-situation I’ve assembled a little spot at home with a DFAM, Vermona RetroVerb and a modest 104hp of Eurorack to pass the time and come up with sounds to use later on.

TE OP-1

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

I wish there was a Soundtoys multi-fx hardware unit of some sort! Like their Effects Rack plugin. That would be fun, especially for live use. I use Soundtoys constantly (like everyone else?).
The other way around is more tricky, I almost feel like we already have everything? Oh, I know, an iPad Make Noise Shared System would be interesting for jamming in the sofa.

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

I regret selling my Prophet 08. I replaced it with the Rev2 because it has some advantages live. But I have to say, the 08 just sounded better. I will be getting a used desktop version at some point again, I think. I usually hold on to things though, since I just know I’ll come back to most things, even if I don’t use them for a while. I don’t really have any buying regrets. Maybe some modules here and there, but hey, that’s part of the journey!

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

Yamaha upright piano

Definitely the good ol’ piano. But I find the Make Noise Shared System (and modular in general) incredibly inspiring too.

Make Noise Shared System

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

Starting out today with synths on a relatively modest budget, and wanting to get into (semi) modular,  I would probably get a 0-coast, Mother 32, or Grandmother. For starting in general, get a laptop and Ableton or Logic. All you need, basically.

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

My computer, by a mile. I kind of hate it, and Logic too (which I the only DAW I use). Don’t get me started on why! And a shout out to my MFB Tanzbär. I use it quite a bit and adore the sound, but man, that interface is something else. Drives you crazy. Good luck getting parameter locks to work, EVER!

MFB Tanzbär

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

More a general piece of advice or tip maybe, but I encourage everyone to get into pedals and hardware effects. It just changes how you approach making sounds, and takes you away from the screen. As much as I love plugins, there’s just no substitution for the hands-on tweaking and interaction on the fly that you get from pedals. And it teaches you to commit to your sounds, because there are no infinite recall and undos. I have this chain that I use very often where every synth I have goes through a small stereo looper, three Eventide pedals + one Strymon, and into a Culture Vulture stereo distortion before hitting the computer. The opportunities with something like that are infinite.


Artist or Band name?

Caspar Hesselager. My Heart the Brave. Palace Winter.

Genre?

Epic widescreen alternative everything.

Selfie

Caspar Hesselager. A man of many knobs!

Where are you from?

Copenhagen.

What still drives you to make music?

Simply discovering new sounds. Infinite options, surprises, and ways to go, even with the same few Legos.

How do you most often start a new track?

Often with a tempo that feels right for that day. After that drum machine and acoustic piano combo, usually. With modular, sort of the same, I have a tempo and a vibe from the beginning that I try to pursue, and then the machine will surprise me along the way.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it sounds KILLER! 😀 At some point it just becomes this little universe that stands on its on feet, and then you leave it there. I can take a week or 2 months though, to get to that place, that’s the tricky part. But I’d say in general, I don’t have a hard time finishing tracks.

Show us your current studio

Caspar’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Hmm, trying to search through all the bad advice I’ve endured to get to some good, hold on. I heard Knud Romer [Editor: Danish author] say recently when asked, how do you write a great book, that “you edit a bad one”. To me that translates to keep writing and recording until it’s good. Stay at it, eventually you will come up with something cool.

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

6 Synthesizer Performances Album:
https://open.spotify.com/album/4YaG8wKDZap9Ge3HF5Snel?si=g0ooOyFCTHGHgq_p4M-5jg

YouTube synth videos:
https://www.youtube.com/c/casparhesselager

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


Julia Bondar – Fearless One-Taker

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

Endorphin.es Furthrrrr Generator Mood index knob

If you’ve ever heard the metallic scream from Endorphin.es Furthrrrr Generator Mood index knob, it will not be difficult to recognize that I am a fan of it and even more during live performances.
MOOD INDEX knob allows thru-zero job by modulator or FG modulating the carrier that plays the lead melody and unite both sounds in one. Especially I love using it with the additional Furthrrrrr wavefolder and that particular metallic sound is achieved with the Strong Zero VCO core. I do use Mood index knob gently during my studio recordings, but I do not shy to put it on maximum at peak hour on my live performances. People tend to love more crazy, dynamic, untamed and raw sounds at the concerts. This trick became my signature sound at some point.

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

It was a long way of trials and errors to build my live system I have now (left on the picture below), which I feel like it is ‘almost’ perfect.

The only thing I would change is the size of some particular modules. The features they give for my set up are not that significant and I still love and need them but the size and weight make me want to get rid of some particular modules. I also try to avoid thru-hole built DIY modules and they add a lot in the final weight of the case. I think with modern DSP powers manufacturers have to rethink the formats of previous editions to make them more ergonomic and at the same time reduce the use and waste of components needed to produce new gear.

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

It might sound offbeat, but I would not bring any set up on holidays for a number of reasons.

First, if it is not a laptop, it will add a few more kilos to your luggage and will make you dependent on belongings. When I travel, I prefer to have a minimum of things with me to move around and discover new places. It is also related to my main job as I am dealing with modular gear on a daily basis, which I am happy about. In those rare vacations moments, I want to disconnect from the electronic world.

Another reason, I have a hard time focusing unless I am in my studio. Maybe it will change one day. But if I would have, lets say a month of vacation, then I would bring with me my 6kg live system… which I still plan to reduce to at least 0.5kg less weight. I could still make sketches, rehearse and advance the live program and train on better transitions and will still be able to give occasional live concerts.

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

It is impossible for me to answer this question, as I never ever used any software for producing my music. I mean of course we all use DAWs for multitrack recording and with plugins for mixing/mastering, but every track of mine you have heard was recorded live in one take. I love real interaction with the instrument.
I know many musicians want to have more modular gear available in VCV rack, as it brings more opportunities at less expense. The fact of interaction with real instrument and aesthetic pleasure is immense. Moreover, the musician can reproduce his/her work on stage with real raw sound, instead of playing your own track as a DJ.  

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

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.

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

Endorphin.es Shuttle system and Roland system 1M.

The Shuttle System was the first, it’s where I started my journey. As it has all the  double blocks and lots of controls, I found out a way to make a two-voice patch.
I’ve used one part for the bass and another for the lead. I added a drum kit from iPad’s Patterning and voilà – I had everything I needed to make a proper minimal composition. With this approach, I recorded my whole album Blck Noir.
Later, Andreas, my boyfriend brought me a Roland System-1M and I did not like it at the beginning, as it was not easy for me to get used to new a interface. It always takes a long time to integrate new gear into my music. Once I took a risk and brought the System-1M to a performance and it worked out super well in a club. It is a dedicated bass voice, so it can do its job, while I can advance the Shuttle System patch.
Since then these two pieces have become the skeleton for my music.

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

A better studio layout.
A comfortable setting is what every artist has to have to be productive.

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

Strymon Magneto

Magneto from Strymon. It is too big for my travel case, but it creates this perfect, moody rumble, that I just can’t get rid of.

9. What is the most surprising tip/trick/techniques that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?? 

Eurorack is all about surprises, but you have to be a real gear junkie to find the easter eggs.
Manufacturers usually hide many nice utility features in the modules and the more you work with it, the more you discover. We did a hidden noise generator in our Godspeed+ module and even described that feature on the first page of the manual, but still received many support emails, why sometimes there a noise coming out.

My new live performance patch involves many of my own pre-recorded sampled loops, layered along with drums, all synchronized by CV. It is probably a few per track, so around 15-20 samples per program to be triggered at the proper moment. I have decided to automatically change them according to CV retrieved from velocity of the note that triggers the sample start. That immediately brought the problem, as samples triggered immediately and only afterwards, did they change under CV. Some research and an update of Erica Sample Drum introduced trigger delay. Just a random 20ms delay immediately solved the issue.
This was a big revelation for me to discover this. I could not even imagine it was possible and I spent a week researching and programming it to make it automatically played with the change of each pattern.


Artist or Band name?

Julia Bondar.

Genre?

Techno, Electro, EBM.

Selfie?

Where are you from?

Ukrainian-born, based in Barcelona.

How did you get into making music?

Desire to make creative friends.

What still drives you to make music?

Feedback.

How do you most often start at new track?

By finding a nice groove between bass and drums.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it starts to be annoying. [Editor: Ha!]

Show us your current studio

Julia’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Learn by doing © David Lynch.

Promote your latest thing… go ahead, throw us a link

EP “I Want Forbidden”

For more, go to: http://www.juliabondar.com


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]