Aqeel Phillips – A View to Aqeel

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

Monome Teletype

I’m gonna go with the Monome Teletype’s single “param” knob. It might be a weird answer, since this knob can do whatever you want it to do, but personally I almost always have it mapped to a global “probability” setting in my Teletype patches. Probability that a trigger will pass through, probability that triggers might jumble and be routed to an unexpected output, etc. I consider this a bit of a secret weapon, and discovering this was a moment when I was really feeling like I was figuring out how to work modular into my music. With this single knob, I can control the “energy” of a patch, taking it from sparse and mysterious to lively and animated with a quick flick.

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

Elektron Machinedrum

I’ll say the Elektron Machinedrum. It sounds amazing, and I feel like I barely need to edit and mix the sounds that come off of it, but it’s definitely dated. It doesn’t have all of the niceties of the newer Elektron boxes, like the Rytm mkII or Digitakt. I find it really easy to edit the wrong track, and it unfortunately doesn’t have the modern Elektron sequencer with trig conditions and microtiming. I’ve even considered sequencing it externally… But the sounds themselves are totally worth keeping it around, even with these limitations.

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

Elektron Digitakt

Historically, I’ve taken the Digitakt. It’s easy enough to throw in a backpack, and you can even record off it without an interface via Overbridge. For whatever reason though, I usually tend to be finishing projects while traveling, so it’s often just my laptop and headphones.

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

Strymon Big Sky

I don’t use a lot of software… I’ll cheat and say that sometimes I wish I had a real piano or Rhodes, as opposed to the VSTs that I use in my music. In terms of hardware, I often wish the Strymon Big Sky was a plugin that I could pull up on the computer. I really just use it as a master send effect from Ableton. 

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

ER-301

Most things I find myself regretting selling, I eventually end up buying again. It feels a little silly (and I lose some cash in the process), but sometimes it takes some time away from something to really respect its worth. I’ve sold and re-bought Make Noise Morphagene, Intellijel Metropolis, and I recently bought an ER-301 back from a friend. I did nab a really nice Yamaha electronic drum kit for an utterly insane deal a while back, and ended up passing it on to somebody else when I was living in a small apartment. Now that I’ve got the room for it, I definitely miss it.

I regret buying an Arturia Matrixbrute. Some of the keys broke somewhere along the way, and it’s so heavy and large that it’s been unruly to get it fixed and eventually sell it. I’ll get around to it, but I’m never excited about the idea of lugging it out to the car…

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

Make Noise Morphagene

Probably Morphagene, the same Morphagene that I’ve sold and re-bought haha. Nowadays, it’s genuinely my favorite module and really epitomizes eurorack to me. I never know what it’s gonna do, but I always love what it ends up spitting out, which is a huge part of the fun I have with modular. It’s like my little bandmate that comes up with something interesting and inspiring for me to craft a song with.

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

Make Noise Tape & Microsound Music Machine

In the same vein as my previous answer, I’d probably start with the Make Noise Tape & Microsound Music Machine. I’ve essentially got this in my system in my rack, purposefully placed right next to each other too. Each module in that system is something that I don’t believe quite exists in the software realm. So I feel like I could do a lot with that system and any DAW for drums, soft synths, effects, etc.

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

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

Pieces of gear that annoy me don’t tend to stick around very long. 🙂 I’ll say the Hologram Electronics Microcosm. I don’t think it’s very flexible, but what it spits out is absolute gold. It feels kind of scared of sounding “bad”, and I frequently find myself wishing I had access to the sounds “between” the settings that it offers. But at the same time, it’s my go-to for spicing up a track, and creating something unexpected. I will say, I think if I didn’t have experience with modular (meaning, having so much experience making bad sounds), I would be totally content with it. But with that experience, it often feels like a box of nice Clouds presets.

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

I mentioned the Machinedrum feeling a little primitive, but I’ve figured out a couple tricks here and there that get me where I need to go. One is that I’ve been using the “swing” to make my beats more interesting. The MD doesn’t have microtiming, but you can add swing per step (even on individual tracks), and adjust the amount of swing. I’ll often have fun with punching in a standard beat, adding swing to a couple steps, and then setting the “swing” amount to something extreme like 75%. This way, it might imply a 32nd note in some places, without adjusting the overall sequence timing to be 2x. It’s something that you could easily do with microtiming on something like the Digitakt, but it needs this fun little workaround on something older like the MD.

Machinedrum

Artist name

Aqeel Aadam

Genre

Some kind of downtempo, cinematic ambient meshed with hip-hop style beats.

Selfie

“Hey, can you take a picture of me?” in the middle of writing this.

Aqeel Philips in the middle of writing this interview

Where are you from?

Outside of Philadelphia, PA (which is where I currently live too!)

How did you get into music?

I started by teaching myself guitar and eventually started making sample-based beats with Ableton in high school. I wanted to trend more towards “composing” than “producing”, so I caught the hardware bug once I realized it could be like commanding your own little orchestra.

What still drives you to make music?

From a musical perspective, I don’t think I can honestly claim that it’s therapeutic or anything like that, but creating something is an activity that I genuinely very deeply enjoy (I suppose this is some form of therapy…). I like creating the music that I want to hear and feel like the world might enjoy. There’s also a sense of pride in creating something that feels very gratifying.

From another perspective, there’s a vast world of instruments that offers a great sense of exploration to me. There’s always a new stone to uncover, a new path to try out, some combination of things that you might never have considered before. Kurt Vonnegut said “we are put on earth to fart around,” and I can say for certain that hardware and modular synthesizers can provide you with a great deal of farting around.

How do you most often start a new track?

Ambience, atmosphere, texture – some kind of ambient wash that becomes the sonic bed for the track. I like to set up a generative bed with something like Morphagene or a granular module, which gives me the “kindling” to find inspiration from and write with. I’ll listen to these beds and hear accidental snippets of chords or melodies – this gives me inspiration to refine those random ideas into something more formalized. Also, I find it very hard to add in texture after the fact, so I like to start with it to keep myself sane.

How do you know when a track is finished?

In line with the previous answer – when I’m working on a track, I’ll hear “whispers” of things to add, little ideas that pop into my head that become a melody, bassline, chord progression, rhythmic element, etc. Once those stop revealing themselves, I take it as my cue to hit record.

Show us your current studio?

Home studio desk
Home studio with eurorack
Moog Matriach

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Probably to “invest in happiness”. Suffering from GAS and chasing gear is one thing, but if there’s something you can tell will help you feel creative and make your life more fun and easier, get it. Looking around my studio though, maybe I’ve invested in happiness too much 🙂 But at the end of the day, the only reason I hold onto something is because it makes me happy to use it.

Aqeel’er Studio [Editor: Ok. I’ll stop now]
Fx Pedals and 4-track tape
Ed O’Brian Strat [Editor: just about the perfect guitar]

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

I just put out a new collaborative EP with my friend Fossilize Me on Mystery Circles! 2 songs each from FM and myself, and one mash-up track. It can be purchased on a 7” vinyl here and is available for streaming under each of our names.


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]


Frederico Chiesa – Ooramusic

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

Roland TB-303

For years my main instrument was a Roland 303 and the frequency knob was the thing I used to tweak most. I kinda feel that on every synth my relationship with the filter knob has to be great, or I will not feel comfortable. I have given up on amazing instruments just because the responsiveness of the filter was not what I wanted.
Nowadays I’m way more into ambient, so things changed. Lately I love to play with the portamento switch on my SH-101 to create variations on patterns, it’s kinda funny what comes out of it.

SH101 Portamento

I love when brands uses big knobs, I have huge hands and I need a good grip: Death By Audio is great for that, I love touching their stuff.

Death By Audio Rooms

I love Moog knobs too, with that vintagey vibe.

Moog Subharmonicon

I hate most of the eurorack modules knobs and sliders. It’s damn hard to perform and you need to use a level of care that is not really my thing.

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

I think my mixer is almost a perfect instrument. Its the Play Differently Model-1, and is an instrumental piece for my production and live shows. It is beautifully made, sounds amazing BUT has one thing that was a big compromise for me: no direct outs. Which means that everything I record is always a stereo track, with no possibility of editing later on. It’s kinda good, because forced me to PLAY rather than program, and as a result, I’m finishing way more material. Still sometimes I wish I wish I could mix things better after the fact. Seriously, add direct outs to that mixer and it becomes the best tone shaping tool ever.

Another piece I love to death is the Deluge: that thing can do ANYTHING, it is a brilliant concept, but the decision of not having a screen for such a complex instrument, is sometimes hard to swallow. But I really admire Synthstrom and if their stance is NO DAMN SCREENS, I embrace it. Deluge is at the moment my main brain for live performances.

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

I hate bringing a lot of stuff when I travel or I’m in holiday. Used to bring many things and never use them. So lately i just bring the Teenage engineering OPZ or OP1. They both let you create full arrangements, even if they have two radically different approaches. Opz works better for electronic / techno stuff, while Op1 is more versatile for ambient pieces (imho , of course).
Lately I’m vey interested in small package synths with lot of power, especially if battery operated. Is great to be creative anywhere and anytime.

Op-1 and Opz

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

I would love to have my cassette or tape recorder perfectly emulated in software. That is something that is still really hard to get. The vibe that comes out of real tape is something you need to experience to understand.

Revox Reel to reel

And definitely i would love to have the SoundToys suite as hardware : I use that a lot and I think is brilliant. I can probably mix an entire album only with those plugins.

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

Regret selling …here is the list LOL:
Roland 909, Digitakt, Prophet 6, two Junos 106 (yeah, for a time i had 2…) , the full OTO effects family, my mastering console with the most amazing rack units (API2500, Distressors, Fatso, Bax eq, SSL G comp….)… and so on and on. The list is long and I feel I would cry if I keep remembering…. awh!
Regret buying.. not really, but there is a guy that I bought and sold FIVE times: Elektron Octatrack. I have it at the moment, but it frustrates me so much. Is a brilliant concept and I’m so jealous of people that know how to use it. I’m selling mine right now. Gonna buy again I’m sure.

[Editor: That’s gotta be some sort of record!]

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

For years all the XOX roland vintage synth. I still own them all, except for the 909. They are simple and straight to the point, I love that in an instrument. No menu diving, no hundreds of functions. They do one thing GOOD.
Recently I think Monome Norns and Op1 gave me a great creativity boost, while way more complex than Roland, they keep an user friendly approach and they are beautifully designed.

Grid, Arc and Norns

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

Well, I would buy all the Roland boxes in the 90’s when they were cheap. But probably an SH’101 would have been the right choice to learn the basic of synths. Add a 808 and you are golden 🙂

Roland Ms101

It can be overwhelming starting today : so many things you can buy for cheap. The risk is getting too may synths and never learn to use them in the right way. I have been into modular on and off, and for me that is the most dangerous world: I used to buy lot of modules and then getting lost in them , with very little work done.

[Editor: It’s kinda nice to hear. I’m totally infatuated with Eurorack stuff. But I fear that I’d never get anything done]

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

CABLES? I fkn hate cables. I spend a lot of my studio time cleaning and organizing.
Then I hate the need for a computer to record things. Sometime I wish I’d be brave enough to switch to a full on tape-style production.
All of the instruments I use need to have at least one characteristic: do not frustrate me. I only keep things that are easy to understand and give me instant gratifications. I love fiddling with stuff, before reading the manual. If I manage to get something cool, then the instrument is suitable for me.

[Editor: Do not frustrate! That sounds like a good rule]

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

Lately I’ve been blown away by using the tape recorder on the OP1 creatively. Sometime i put the tape speed 2x, record stuff and then slow it down 1/2. You drop the pitch 2 octaves and you get into ambient territory instantly. It’s super fun and easy.
Another great trick I’m using is sequencing a 4 voice synth (like the Roland sh01a) with 4 different patterns that have different lengths. you get really interesting pieces that are always evolving.


Artist or Band name?

OORA / Federico Chiesa.

Genre?

Ambient, Dub Techno.

Selfie?

Frederico Chesia

Where are you from?

Italy.

How did you get into music?

When i was a teenager, playing guitar and singing in a Nirvana tribute band.

What still drives you to make music?

I guess music is my favorite language, and the best way i can express myself. The more I learn and create, the more i feel complete. Many other things make the process worth it, not least finding some appreciation from your peers. The final dream would be to make a living only with music, and that idea keeps me focused.

How do you most often start a new track?

I try to record a new idea every day. Not all of them are good, though.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I never know. I put strict rules on the time I spend on a track and after the time is done, I embrace what i got. I like spontaneity and avoid trying to post produce perfection.

[Editor: That is a really interesting approach to finishing stuff and getting music DONE]

Show us your current studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard? Less is more. As basic as it might seem i feel that the real evolution for any creative is embracing limitations ad create art with the least amount of clutter possible. Try to say one thing clearly and use the best tool to do that in the simplest way.

OoraMusic Studio

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

My latest album is called “The Subharmonicon EP”. Made only with the Moog Subharmonicon and pedal effects, is a study on simplicity: how, in a time of turmoil, the clarity of a minimal approach can convey the message of beauty.

https://oora.bandcamp.com/album/the-subharmonicon-ep


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw a comment below…
]


Matt Lowery – Cinematique Tones

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

Easy- the filter cutoff knob on my Moog Subsequent 25. It’s huge, feels great, and what is does sonically is even better.

Moog Subsequent 25 Filter Knob

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

The Vermona PerFOURMer is 99% perfect. I do sometimes wish I could store presets, but I understand why they kept everything completely manual. It’s inspiring to explore and dial in new sounds, but it would also be fantastic to be able to quickly find my way back to a sound I’ve already incorporated in a song (say, if I’m doing pickups in studio

Vermona PerFOURmer

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

My most fun, expressive mobile music tool is the norns. It can almost fit in your back pocket, but its scope is pretty limitless.

Monome Norns

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

I’d sell a kidney to get Sean Costello’s Valhalla Vintage Verb into pedal form. I’d love to see some of Tom Majeski of Cooper FX’s code (particularly the Generation Loss) make its way to plugin land.

Cooper FX Generatioin Loss

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

Oof. This one hurts. When I was 17, I found an old keyboard looking thing in a closet at the local church my family attended. I messed around with it and dismissed it as some kind of work out garbage, and gave it to a friend. It was a Juno 60. That one pains me to this day.

[Editor: Damn!]

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

There are about 100 answers to this question, and the most honest answer I can give is “go check out my instagram”, because that’s where I document my adventures with inspiring gear. Lately, the most inspiring thing I’ve played is the Instruo Arbhar, which is this incredible musical granular processor. It’s really wonderful.

Instruo Arbhar

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

Wouldn’t change a thing! So the official answer is a Squier Stratocaster.

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

My tape decks. There’s always something to clean, maintain, or fix. But working with magnetic tape is something I don’t ever want to give up. The process itself helps me generate better ideas.

Tape Decks

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

Recently I found out I could trigger the gate on my Vongon Paragraphs pedal with midi note data, which lets me set up these super tight rhythmic filter opening sequences. Super cool.

Vongon Paragraphs

Artist or Band name?

Matt Lowery

Genre?

Ambient/Electronic

Selfie?

Where are you from?

Oklahoma City, OK, USA.

How did you get into music?

I picked up guitar when I was 12, and have been at it ever since!

What still drives you to make music?

Music and art are the ways that I process the world. I have to be making something meaningful all the time. When I stop making things, I start having trouble in every area of my life.

How do you most often start a new track?

I try to spend time with music every day. So I’ll usually stumble upon a sound, a vibe, or a progression by accident, and that will be the seed for a track. Sometimes it works out, often it doesn’t. That’s the fun!

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I enjoy it as much as I enjoy other people’s music, I try to just walk away. There’s always more you can do, so it’s more that I put it down, rather than saying it’s done.

Show us your current studio

That would require me to clean my current studio 😀

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Here’s the best advice I’ve ever read, period:

https://sivers.org/balance

[Editor: Spectacularly good advice! If you feel it applies to you? TLDR: Find a balance between income and art by separating the two]

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

You can hear my latest LP “Voyager” as well as my newest single “Nearer Now” at my Bandcamp page (mattlowery.bandcamp.com), as well as on all major streaming platforms.


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw a comment below…
]