Alexandr – With Meraki

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

Microbrute’s filter. First of all, I believe that this Steiner-Parker filter is one of the best I’ve put my hands on. And since the Brute was my first analog synthesizer it holds a special place in my heart. From the first sweep, I fell in love.

Arturia Microbrute

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

Hmm it’s really difficult to say that something’s perfect. I will be super super boring and give it to the Launchpad. I work in Ableton’s session view all the time and it makes things so much faster. The only thing I would like to see is a 16×16 version to be able to see my whole project at once. 

Novation Launchpad

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

I actually was at my summer house for 3 weeks last month and I decided to bring the things I use the least to get to know them. So it was the Volca FM which I haven’t really used since I got it. Although the tiny knobs are horrible, the sounds are excellent. And with that I also used my iPad a lot. The apps you can find on the iPad are simply mind-blowing and highly underrated.

The DRC synthesizer is my absolute favorite iPad app. Beautiful sounds and super easy to program.

DRC Synth iOS app

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

Easy one. All the Valhalla DSP stuff. Best effects out there. If they could make hardware versions of their plugins and stay reasonably priced they would just destroy the whole pedal/ effects market. 

Valhalla DSP Vintage Verb

I don’t really think I would want something hardware to become software. The physical connection you can have with a piece of gear is unbeatable in my opinion. 

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

Korg Minilogue

I don’t sell a lot. Even if I don’t use something it’s hard for me to go on and sell it. So from the things I’ve sold through the years, I regret none. And something I regret buying.. If I leave aside all the cheap stuff I got, I would say the Minilogue. I have a love-hate relationship with this synth. It’s great for the price, no argue with that, but it just leaves you every time wanting a bit more. It sounds “ok” but rarely great. So for anyone who’s looking to buy a poly synth, I would recommend to save and get something much better.

Korg Minilogue VCO

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

Might sound weird but it’s a dirt-cheap Casio digital piano. Having a 61 keys keyboard with full polyphony unlocked so many possibilities. I only use 2 piano sounds that sound decent, but it’s almost on every track I’ve ever released.

Casio digital piano

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

Acid Pro 3.0

Ableton Live vs FL Studio. I’ve been making music for 15 years. Actually my first DAW was one called Acid Pro 3.0. Only the 80s kids might know this one.. But my first actual DAW was FL studio. Switching to Ableton was life changing for me. For me, its workflow suits me perfectly and it was a catalyst for me to finish songs instead of just struggling with loops. 

Acid Pro 3.0

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

The 4-track cassette recorder for sure. It’s a Yamaha MT100. It’s big, I’ve repaired three times so far but I love using it. Everything is going through tape so I simply cannot live without it.

Yamaha MT100

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

Elektron Digitakt screen

I don’t deep dive to my gear. I want them to be simple and I prefer things that do only one thing really well. A nice technique I use for drums is the LFO assigned to sample slot on the Digitakt. I create a project with very few samples on it (10-16) and besides the kick I apply the LFO to the other tracks to come up with new patterns every time. That way you can make cool variations and you also audition sounds for your drum patterns. 

Elektron Digitakt

Artist or Band name?

Alexandr

Genre?

Ambient, IDM, Downtempo

Selfie?

Alexander Voulgaris

Where are you from?

Athens, Greece 

How did you get into music?

I’m drawn to all kinds of art. I take photos, I make videos, I draw, I sculpt.. Music is just another way to express my creative side. And besides that, as a kid I’ve always dreamt to become a rock star but never got into a band. So I’ve decided to have this one man – band thing going on nowadays. 

What still drives you to make music?

I don’t really know. I just can’t wait to get to my studio and start playing around and create something. It is something that relaxes me and I deeply enjoy it. 

How do you most often start a new track?

It always starts with the piano. I write some chords, a melody and start building from there.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Oh that’s so hard.. Once I finish arranging (and this is the hardest part for me) I know I’m really close to call it finished. So when I start mastering and then run it through tape I simply commit and call it a day. 

Show us your current studio

My beautiful mess

Home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

My dad, who is also an artist, always told me that you have to put “meraki” to your art. Meraki is a Greek word that means: “To do something with soul, creativity, or love.”

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

My Spotify where I release all my music: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5MPLFK5gfmmo0Tm0EiTnqP?si=cDwtSJ05QXC91wlElXzAAA

I also use Bandcamp a lot and there you can also find the Sample Packs that I create every month: https://alexandristaken.bandcamp.com/music


[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…
]


Ricard Magnusson – Wheel

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

The boring answer is the Cutoff! It’s probably my most used knob after all… If I choose to interpret the question from another angle, and discuss the overall feel of my favourite knobs, I’d say the knobs on my Novation Peak. There is a stiffness to them that makes them feel sturdy and reliable, and a rubberized texture that is really great. The Peak feels like it could survive anything! For me it’s really important to connect with a synth on an aesthetical level, an UI level. It needs to look and feel great and be inspiring. For me that’s the whole point of hardware!

Novation Peak

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

Elektron Model Cycles

There are two pieces of gear that I have recently owned that I liked a lot, but had some shortcomings. First off – The Elektron Model Cycles. Fun, cheap, and almost everything you do on it sounds good. But I really would have liked individual outs on all tracks and the ability to play it like a 6 voice poly. The other thing is the JU-06A, which also is a fantastic piece of kit that just sounds awesome. But why only 4 voices… Bugged me a lot!

Roland JU-06A

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

Since my computer is the only thing I can’t do without when producing, I’d have to start off by saying my Macbook Pro. Just bought the 2020 13” which is a perfect size for me. My Keystep usually tags along as well, it has great feel in the keys and a good size. Add my Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro headphones and I’m all set! All I actually really need, holiday or not!

Macbook Pro and Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

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

There is a piece of software I always dreamed of having in hardware form: The Sonic Charge Microtonic drum synth. I use it all the time and in all my productions. I really like hardware drum machines, and would really enjoy getting hands-on with the Microtonic in a fully analog hardware form. I would really like a software version of the Boss Tera Echo pedal. Maybe there is one that I haven’t found? I mainly use software effects to be able to tempo sync easily, automate parameters etc, and the Tera Echo is the only thing I haven’t really found a software equivalent of.

Boss Tera Echo TE-2

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

This is a hard one… I have a complicated relation to hardware (even wrote an editorial about it: https://producerhive.com/editorial/confessions-of-a-compulsive-gear-flipper/). I constantly buy and sell stuff. Basically, I regret buying almost everything. I kind of regret selling the Sequential Circuits Pro One I used to own in my 20’s (by the start of the millennium). I owned early on, when I was just getting into synthesizers. I have realized that I didn’t appreciate it enough when I had it… Would love to turn back time an own it again, a beautiful and fun machine! The only synth by Dave Smith that hasn’t failed me… I had a Prophet rev 2 that I had to replace the main controller board on, even though I bought it brand new. Had a Tetra recently with a dead sub oscillator and bad LCD-display. Also owned a Prophet 08 Desktop with encoders that had a life of their own…

Guts of a Prophet rev 2

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

I’d have to say Omnisphere. I keep coming back to it. It has a preset library that never ends, and great modulation options. It always leads me to exciting places I didn’t know existed. When it comes to hardware it’s probably my Novation Peak. It has a perfect balance between complexity and easy tweakability.

Novation Peak and Arturia Keystep

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

Nothing. Well, not really, but I would try to not get too hung up on getting the “right stuff”. Give me a Mac laptop and I’m good to go. I started out with nothing but my computer, not even a midi keyboard. I just entered notes in the Piano roll (in Cakewalk, at the time).

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

I’m trying really hard to live by the code “Don’t get stuff you can’t do without”. But I guess it’s my computer. Can’t do without it when it comes to music making. It’s also many times a source of frustration. I have a new computer now, but the one before it was a real pain. I accidentally poured a cup of coffee (my biggest addiction) over the keyboard, which made it act really irrational. Had it like that for like 6 months before I gave up and got myself a new computer! Computers have historically been a big source of annoyance for me, mostly due to failed hard drives. Nowadays I have a rigorous backup solution, so nothing gets lost.

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

Maybe not that surprising, but at the moment I’m really into random waveform LFO’s, that are key synced. I really like making sequences where each note played gets a random modulation of some parameter. On the Peak you can modulate just about everything which is great fun!


Artist or Band name?

Wheel

Genre?

Electronic music, mostly quite chill. A reviewer once called it Chill-glitch, which kind of sums it up quite well!

Selfie?

Ricard Magnusson aka. Wheel

Where are you from?

Sweden

How did you get into music?

Started playing a nylon string guitar, inspired by my grandfather who played classical guitar. My dad and brother also played a little, so there were always guitars around. Moved on to playing with a progressive death metal band in the mid-nineties. Kind of slowly digressed to synth driven, electronic music from there… How did that happen?

What still drives you to make music?

I need to have a creative outlet that is not about demands or goals, just about being creative and reaching a flow state.

How do you most often start a new track?

I’d say with a pad sound. Most of the time it doesn’t stay in the production, but I’ve always been a sucker for pads, and I use them to set the mood of the production and get some basic chord progressions going.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I can listen to a track and not instantly come up with things I would like to change, it’s probably close to finished. If I feel the same after not listening to it for a day or two, it’s probably done!

Show us your current studio

It’s constantly changing, and I change up my gear all the time. But the pic shows the current state!

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Wow, there are lots of advice floating around and I’m guilty of a few myself… But the one thing I try to remember is to not overthink my productions. Let go of the fear and just release stuff!

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

Sure thing! Make sure to check out my editorials at producerhive.com, where I write about the connection between the mind and music production/creativity. You find it all here: https://producerhive.com/author/ricardm/

The latest single I released is found here:

https://open.spotify.com/album/17HQRNPSGUIJRMS4W3yuFa?si=u_SeC-tbQVqGwza_b9J4sg


[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…
]