Northern Lighthouse – Travel Moods

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

From an aesthetic point of view I like the big old-looking knobs on Momo Modular’s version of Mutable Instruments Rings. I like having small sets and portable instruments but I admit small devices are sometimes difficult to use, especially live. Big knobs = big satisfaction.

Momo Modular’s Mutable Instruments Rings

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

I don´t, but for gigs I usually have a drum machine, a sampler and two keyboard synths for live improvisations. No midi sync for the clock, just a mixer. I am now exploring all the features of every instrument I have and try to end the Gear Acquisition Syndrome fuelled by Instagram and YouTube! The synth world is so different from the rock scene I entered during the MySpace era. There is too much attention on social media, gear and design than music. Myspace was used to sell merch and organise gigs, the rest was pure fun on stage. No need for 4K videos on your page showing your new shiny pedal. I bought my drum set more than 15 years ago and I basically never changed it. Instead with synths, I keep on checking modulargrid for new modules…

Northern Lighthouse gig setup

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

During my last summer holiday I brought with me some Eurorack modules in a small . It wasn’t easy to decide what to bring with me and I’m always afraid that something could break or not pass airport security. I once was stopped by an Italian officer who wanted to know more about my Arturia Keystep! One day I might buy the OP-Z because it’s as big as a TV remote controller.

4ms eurorack pod

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

One of the things I like the most about Ableton is the ability to slowly launch several clips and use separate faders on a midi controller to control the volume of each one, and that is something that I looked for for ages in samplers. The tiny Blackbox sampler by 1010 music seems to tick this box. Regarding software although they give me endless possibilities they do not inspire me enough when making music. I use my laptop a lot at work already and I do not want to stare at a screen in my free time.

Akai kidi controller

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

I regret having bought the Ableton push 1 controller. It is huge, really heavy and not standalone. I bought it in a second hand shop but I‘ve almost never used it and when I play live I don’t like using my laptop on stage. I prefer launching loops with the SP404 and playing with other synths on top of it.

Live setup based around the Roland SP404

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

Critters and Guitaris’ organelle is my favourite instrument, I use it in every jam because it has so many sounds and it is portable. It’s in every song I have recorded so far because some of the patches created by the users are incredibly versatile, warm and close to real older hardware synths. Who wouldn’t like to have a free Juno or theremin patch in their tiny synth?

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

I would still start with the Volca FM which was my first hardware synth. Cheap and portable and not scary to use at the beginning. I confess, at the beginning I didn’t even know what attack or LFO meant!

Korg Volca FM

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

Reverb. It is not annoying, it is essential in my music. I use it on almost every synth because I rarely like harsh and metallic sounds. That’s why I have a love-hate relationship with FM synthesis. Even when distorted my songs need to sound like they come from the past or from a far away land. When I create music I focus less on melody (although I find long drones a bit boring) and dedicate more time on creating a melancholic atmosphere, usually made of different layers talking to each other. Guitar pedals help me create new sounds. The downside of it it’s that 90% of these sounds cannot be reproduced again. I listen to a lot of posthardcore and post-rock and compared to those, ambient is much more ephemeral.

Digitech Polera

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

Using pink noise to quickly mix all the tracks in a song. I know professional sound engineers might disagree…

Artist or Band name?

Northern Lighthouse

Genre?

Electronic/Ambient

Northern Lighthouse

Where are you from?

Bologna, Italy. A town full of students and music, with its many squats, art cinemas, festivals and bars for alternative music it somehow made me who I am and feeded my interests in films and music. I later moved to Newcastle, UK where I started this electronic music project. I’m now based in Brussels, Belgium. This is where I started jamming with other people and moved from daw to actual instruments and even modular synths in 2019.

Erica synths Cables

How did you get into music?

I always liked percussions. When I was in kindergarten my parents gave me a drum kit for children as a present.

Northern Lighthouse and first drumkit

Years later, during high school a club near my family house went bankrupt and I managed to bring home an old Pearl drum set for free. I was into punk and metal and I started playing music with a guitarist friend of mine. After a while we founded a metalcore band called Rising Hate. There was a big hardcore scene in the early 2000s, we played around Italy for 5 years until I went abroad. It was so fun, I miss that life!

The way I approached electronic music is really different though. I remember as a kid I had an old music software called Music Maker which was my first daw. Years later, in Newcastle, a small town in northern England surrounded by beautiful cliffs and touched by the northern sea, I saw Loscil live and it blew my mind. I was without my drums  and I was so curious about this genre called Ambient that was new to me. I decided to look for a new tool to make music and I started using Ableton. The following year I moved to London looking for a job, but it was a really sad and lonely time, so music was my escape!

What still drives you to make music?

Making music is like a trip from your daily routine to an exotic destination that you choose and create. It affects my mood, it gives me energy and it makes me imagine new landscapes and allows me to meet like-minded people. This project in particular was born from the need to create soundscapes and stories with a deeply nostalgic atmosphere which also includes field recordings, videos and photography. I like curating every aspect of it.

Having lived abroad since 2010, travelling, exploring and missing my Heimat became part of my life. This mix of nostalgia and excitement affects and inspires my music a lot. I also listen to a lot of posthardcore music which I find the most cathartic music ever and I try to transfer this feeling into my songs as well. Besides electronic music, I keep on playing the drums in a post-rock band called Yakhchal. I need this dualism of sadness-happiness, delicateness-anger in my life. Unfortunately COVID put on hold every live gig and opportunity…

‘Fyrtaarn’ is Lighthouse in danish

How do you most often start a new track?

I simply improvise with my gear and if there is a sound or melody that I really like I recorded it as a loop. I then add more parts like bass, rhythms, field recordings and other drones or melodies on top of that. Everything should help recreate a specific image I have in mind. It is usually something coming from a book, documentary or film I saw. But this happens from time to time, without rush. It can take days or months. This also helps me understand what I want to keep or modify from that track because I listen to it with a “fresh” ear every time.

Microcassette

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it sounds full and when modifying it doesn’t improve the song, but actually makes it worse!

Show us your current studio

I live in a 2-room apartment, so I don’t have space for a proper studio. I have a lot of IKEA pieces of furniture where I keep my gear and I dissemble everything after every jam. I’m a tidy person, so when there are too many cables around I get nervous. 

A tidy desk of fun

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

A friend once told me that he liked the story behind my project. I think it’s important that bands and artists develop a strong and personal identity, do research and explore a specific idea or theme. Many people just copy themselves, follow trends. In this case I feel content and branding should be intertwined and support each other. People need to recognise you and your style.

The Sardinian coast

Promote your latest thing… 

My latest self-released tape is called Lantern, and it is composed of layers upon layers of loops of recorded sounds, synthesizers and guitar pedals that pay tribute to distant landscapes, sailors and lighthouse keepers. I am now working on two projects: a split album with a fellow italian drummer and synth lover and a multi-disciplinary project (music, videos, field recordings and analog photos) on an abandoned miners’ village on the Sardinian coast.

Bandcamp: https://northernlighthouse.bandcamp.com/

Northern Lighthouse Lantern cassette release

[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…
]


Per Hansen – SongsFromTinPanAlley

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

Definitely the structure-knob on the Rings-module in Sympathetic strings-mode. I just love turning it and hear the subtle changes of harmonics! And it’s bigger than any of the other modular knobs I have.

Mutable Instruments Rings-module Structure knob

I also recently got the Microcosm from Hologram and the filter knob is turning out to be a favorite too. Turning it all the way clockwise and the reverb cranked nearly all the way up results in such beautiful and musical textures.

Microcosm from Hologram Electronics

But to be totally honest, then I’m more of a fader-man. I actually think knobs tend to be tedious and not so expressive and musical as faders. Just purchased the Sweet 16 from Tesseract Modular and I love being able to control my Disting ex and especially parameters on my Norns with it. I feel more focused and in control with faders.

Tesseract Modular

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

The Deluge is the mothership of my setup. Even though it has some flaws, like its lack of a decent file structure where you have to scroll through all the synths till you find the one you need, killing the flow, I cannot live without it. In an almost dawless environment, it is essential!

Synthstrom Deluge

And of course, I cannot live without my feelings. I consider feelings my main instrument and 100% my most perfect kit. All compositions start and flourish from the state of mind I’m in and it’s important for me to embrace it and let it unfold without any dogmas and restrictions.

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

My Oscar Teller guitar and the Deluge! Used to own the OP-Z, but unfortunately had to let it go to finance other gear. The Zed has a more handy size compared to the Deluge, but the Deluge has some other aces up its sleeve, like the fact that you are able to record very long samples on it and its ability to create an endless amount of tracks.

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

I’m actually trying to spend the least time possible with software. I get impatient behind a computer screen. What I love about making music is the tactile experience. Tuning “knobs” and “faders” with a mouse doesn’t give me that 😉

Audio Damage Quanta

It could be cool, though, to have the Qaunta by Audio Damage in a hardware eurorack- or synth version, with all the matrix possibilities.

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

Went down the eurorack-rabbit-hole and had to let go of my OP-1. I miss it every day, but they’re too expensive compared to what they can do!

I also sold my two polysynths – Digitone and Novation Peak. Miss them dearly every day. Maybe I have to buy a new secondhand Peak in the near future.

I usually don’t regret buying anything. Cause every purchase is a new adventure for me.

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

Definitely the Rings module. Whenever I send a sequence to it, it turns out to be a keeper.

I also get very inspired when looping random objects and instruments using the Cheat Codes script on my Norns.

Norns and Grid

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

A Grand piano in my own giant palace. Joke. It’s just a dreamers mind speaking, living with four kids in a relative small apartment.

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

My mini Mac!

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

Marantz PMD 222

Thanks to @perbarfot I discovered how cool it is to run an instrument through the Marantz PMD 222, while giving the loop tape a good scratching massage. Love the wow and flutter effect it gives. Also tried it on my Revox B77 using the tension arm with very good results.

ReVox B77

Artist or Band name?

Songs From Tin Pan Ally

Genre?

Ambient

Selfie?

Per Hansen

Where are you from?

Denmark, Copenhagen

How did you get into music?

When I was 15, I got a worn-out classical guitar from my grandmother and my first step was to learn every GNR song from a tabs book! Must have sounded pretty bad because I didn’t know how to tune a guitar 😉

But I really loved it and after learning the basics a friend of mine and I started a band and from there I began writing my own songs.

What still drives you to make music?

I’m always striving for music of chance. That’s my drive. Love the way a simple melody or a sound of any kind of music instrument can turn into something totally mind-blowing! And you end up asking yourself… Did I really do this?

How do you most often start a new track?

I often start a new track while patching my modular stuff and turning knobs. It can be a sound, a melody or just a drone-kind-of-sound that express a feeling or a mood. That’s the foundation. From there, I just try to add different layers to that foundation.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I press stop rec 😉

I listen to it many times the following days and if it still blows my mind, it’s a keeper.

Show us your current studio

Per Hansen’s Home Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Don’t think too much. Just play and make a lot of mistakes!

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

I’ve just released ‘tænkeRUM’ on bandcamp and not long before that ‘Time’, which is also available on any streaming platform. In a couple of months, my first physical release is a reality. I’m planning on releasing it on cassette. At the moment, I’m calling it ‘autumn lullabies’

https://songsfromtinpanalley.bandcamp.com/album/t-nkerum

https://songsfromtinpanalley.bandcamp.com/album/time


[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…
]


CPH Mush – Head full of Synths

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

I could make this about feel or what it does to a certain sound, but I’ll answer it through another perspective. The knob that has meant most to me is the keyframe knob on mutable instruments frames module. This is going to be a long explanation, so please skip if you don’t like tech philosophical ramblings…

[Editor: Bring it!]

Keyframe knob on Mutable Instruments frames module

So what about that keyframe knob… In short, the idea is that you save settings to a chosen point of a knob and any position in between two saved states is outputting an interpolated value. But let me give you a long background of why I find this so revolutionary… I remember a late night in Stockholm (actually at a bachelor party for Daniel Araya of Araya Instruments ( https://araya.se/ )) where Jon of THC ( https://thehumancomparator.net/ ) started discussing alternative synth interfaces with me. I had made a semi-name for myself on different forums and through some explorations of alternative interfaces ( https://cdm.link/2010/11/alternative-musical-expression-a-diy-pressure-sensitive-multi-ribbon-controller/ ), so I guess that’s the reason he approached me.
We talked for 45 minutes about the most minimal interface that could still expressive and fun to play. I don’t know if that discussion lead up to anything fruitfull for Jon or if it was lost in the alcohol fumes on a late summer-night. But it managed to keep me awake all night thinking about a box with a couple of buttons and one knob. 

The concept I couldn’t stop thinking about was to wrap a kind of standard analog synth in a set of voltage controlled parameters with digital control and randomise sounds on a button click. The randomised sound could then be saved to the current position of the knob. After adding a few sounds to different positions of the knobs rotation – turning the knob would then interpolate all parameters in between the saved positions.

Of course it had some other stuff to it in the discussed design, but the idea at its core, as described, is quite simple and was born out of my love of the patch mutator / randomiser in the Nord Modular G2, with kind of a twist of the morph groups on the same instrument. I got into eurorack clone building about the same time and found the keyframe knob in the frames module to be a fantastic, while limited, implementation of the same idea (though without randomisation). 

The simple synthesizer was never built (I may still revisit the concept in the future as I still find it brilliant), but the idea of the keyframe knob has kept on hunting me. In the last couple of years my own eurorack construction is made by modules I design from scratch using kicad – and as anyone with a huge eurorack I have a certain jealousy on the Buchla 200e series. The patch saving is so neat and fun and the internal databus is simple and clever. I will however never spend that kind of money on an instrument…
…and the implementations on it still leaves something to be wanted. So, where does that leave me?! What I have done myself is to replicate the code and the micro controller-based setup of the MI frames into my own modules with a central external control and 8 DAC channels and 8 VCAs on each module. I save settings on each module through a press of a button on the central control module via a databus and I send a voltage out on a CV-bus to each module of the current position. In that way I can control presets and interpolate between them in a theoretical infinite Modular system with one knob.

Right now I have 4 different module designs based around this architecture, but whenever I have time and ideas I’ll design some new ones… (Sorry, I won’t show any pictures or release any code or schematics as I can see a future commercial potential in this system) So how does it make me feel?! Well, the pleasure of sweeping and finding sweet spots in the interpolation is great, it opens up totally surprising movement to sounds. And as the frames, this parameter is voltage controlled, which means that simple sequencing of it creates the weirdest stuff ever… To finish up this infinite explanation…
…the reason I picked the Knob on the frames, is that it keeps reminding me of the most clever innovative concept i personally have been implementing and using in a musical instrument. My story tries to put light on the wonderful synthesis of different concepts, born from different designers and how it can be used create something new. 

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

Korg Stage Echo SE-300

The Korg Stage Echo SE-300. It looks like a more serious brother of the Roland RE-301. The preamps has a great sound when overdriven, the tape delays has a really nice sound on self-oscillation and the spring reverb has a nice quality to it. I can put the spring reverb on just the delays if I want, but I can’t put it into the internal feedback of the delay – so if I want the delays to drown out more and more for every repetition I need to patch it up in creative ways. Having that possibility with a switch would make it perfect (I can feel a modding session coming up). 

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

MacBook Pro, Arturia Keystep and Zoom h2n (well, at least this summer vacation, I usually bring the Teenage Engineering OP1 as it is smaller).

OP-1

It was really nice – I went around recording weird sounds and used the new quick sampler in logic to create instruments from it. (This piece of software is brilliant, simple auto-looping and automatic tuning of the sample). It was a great way of expanding my personal sound library as well as learning the new stuff in the latest version of Logic.

Quicksampler in Logic

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

I would love logic’s new quick sampler in a small hardware keyboard with a decent microphone running on batteries. If I hear a nice ringing sound of a garbage can, I could just sample it, automatically set looping points and tuning. And get something musical to play instantly. Like a OP1 but more usable…

Kaivo VSTi

I would also love to have Madonna Labs Kaivo with physical controls and a 3 octave keybed (it would replace the Nord Modular G2 as my “sofa synth”).

Nord Modular G2

The other way around I would love the MAM RS3 resonator as a plugin, whatever I put through that machine comes out sounding sooo great, the overdrive in that circuit is really musically inspiring.

MAM RS3

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

I have been through a phase of re-buying everything I’ve sold that I’ve missed. I’m on my third Monomachine, my third Machinedrum, my second Sherman filterbank, my second Xbase09 etc… So I don’t miss anything anymore, but I have and had stuff that I regret buying…

The Jomox Xbase09 for instance. I really love the sound of Jomox, but that interface and the choice of hardware, omg, I really hate using it. But for some reason I bought one again after selling it… The only thing worse is probably the Spectralis groovebox (also a great sounding machine). I traded my Machinedrum and Monomachine for it and got lots of gray hair plus resentment towards yet another synth-designer. Thank God I managed to trade it half a year later for a Machinedrum UW and a vintage small stone pedal (the Machinedrum left again… …but a few years ago I picked up another one at a price I couldn’t resist… )

Elektron Monomachine

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

My Nord Modular G2 – I traded a shit-ton of synths for it. The idea I had was to focus almost solely on just one synth. I made patches everyday, learned lots about modular synthesis and produced music in my most prolific flow ever. ( an example of a track from that time where almost every sound is from the G2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOen47S0jco )

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

An acoustic piano (after wanting one for 25 years I finally got my self one of those fancy new ones where you also can play it digitally with headphones, and it has really been inspiring to play for an hour each day – I get more musical ideas written down than ever before in my life – and I actually feel that I get an improved musical sense every day)

Piano

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

Probably my DAW – Apple Logic. I find that DAWs are really old school in their setup – using piano-roll and analog mixing paradigms. I usually build stuff in a very Modular way using aux-channels, feedback and complex routing between effect plugins and the fact that these combinations can’t be saved as ‘racks’ to be inserted into other projects is really turning me off… I keep doing so much screen-patching over and over and I can’t manage to make templates that fits every way I want to go… But it is still the center of all music I make.

Little DAW, but lotta reading 🙂

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

Most of what I do in my studio today is based around combinations of effects and creative routing. A few simple units running parallel or in series with some feedback can create the most imaginative soundscapes… For me this started when I bought a Boss SL20 slicer pedal 10 years ago – it was kind of a one-trick-pony and not that interesting… …until.. I put it after a reverb. It created all this pulsating harmonic rhythms from even simple piano playing ( I have an example of the first track I made with it and the reverb: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MZpNx41Ugc ). This kind of combination has kind of been my sound since and a thing I keep coming back too, sliced reverbs in different forms… I eventually sold the pedal and replaced it with (3x) Boss VF-1 which also contains that slicer effect.

Lotta synth, but a little guitar too

Artist or Band name?

FEJLD / The Mush Orchestra / Copenhagen Noise Lab

Genre?

Usually ambient or other electronica not centered around rhythms

Selfie?

Cph Mush himself

Where are you from?

I am an exile swede living in Denmark since 2010. 

How did you get into music?

My father was a musician, that helped my early gear acquisition phase, but I think that I got into music making cause I was inspired by some older kids. I was shown a tb-303, a tr-909, a tr-808 and lots of other techno machines by these kids in 1993. They made sounds I had never heard before and I got obsessed. A few months later, just after my 13th birthday I went to the local music store and bought my first synth – a Korg MS10. That was the start of my identity and the sound of the 303 became the soundtrack of my teenage years. 

What still drives you to make music?

I am not really a musician or a producer. But I believe that the need to create is an essential part of my being. I used to write music to have a diary in a sense, to help me remember my life. Nowadays I don’t need it in that way anymore – but I need to create, whether it is designing circuits, building furniture or composing music, I can’t breathe without it. I do however feel no strong need though to share the stuff I do. Sitting in the studio, patching up a rhythmic drone on a Modular and playing some improvised piano hook on top is as least as rewarding to me as making a finished piece of music. I enjoy the creative process. The place where the mind is focused and absorbed by a creative task is the main place to be for me. 

[Editor: Amen to that]

How do you most often start a new track?

I usually sit down with a machine or a module trying to learn how to use it better (I have way too many instruments). Usually I find something interesting that I feel the need to record. And once I have recorded it, I’m kind of in a flow and I start recording improvisations on other instruments over it. …I never learn to use the stuff in better ways as I kind of gets lost into the flow of music production…

How do you know when a track is finished?

This is an interesting question. Mainly because it highlights how little recorded music has evolved as a concept during the century it’s been around… Let me explain…

My work is as a chief of a technical development department. If we release some software we can be sure it won’t be the final version, we expand functionality, we fix stuff and keep working on it after it has been released. Music is now a digitally distributed product, just like the software mentioned, but it is supposedly done/perfect once it has hit Spotify/Bandcamp/SoundCloud/whatever. Films suffer a bit on under the same failure to adapt – but with platforms like Netflix/HBO/etc. we are beginning to witness some change. It would be lovely to see more experiments that highlights the great part about this digital distribution system for music…

So, how do I know when I’m finished? When I make tracks I try to finish them up before I need to go to bed, so I can start from scratch next time I get inspired, if I don’t finish it before bed I will probably never finish it. (With my piano however I keep writing and rewriting the score sheets for weeks – I haven’t recorded anything written with it yet though)

[Editor: Perhaps music has unnecessarily, become an artform like scuplture or architecture. Where the final product is static and unchanging. This could easily change with generative or ‘interpreted score’ based music and digital distribution via programmable interfaces. Perhaps a bit like Brian Eno does with his music apps? Where we basically see the role of composer and listener become more and more blended together]

Show us your current studio

Cph Mush synths
Cph Mush studio from above
Cph Mush Mega Modular
Cph Mush spaghetti
The CPH Mush Synth Cave

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Be creative with whatever you have around. Great art is created from great ideas, not from having the latest gear. The perfect tool is not important. (I know… Kind of weird thing to promote on a gear-centric blog)

[Editor: Yes its weird, but also thought provoking!]

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

I don’t share much of what I do nowadays, but checkout my Instagram ( https://www.instagram.com/cphmush/ ) and don’t be a stranger if you want to have a philosophical discussion about the future of musical instrument interfaces. 😉


[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…
]