Chris Petra – Ambient via metal & hiphop

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

Lyra 8

As of recently, the pitch knobs on the Lyra-8. They make the unit sound like it’s gearing up to combust, and they add such chaotic energy to whatever I’m working on. They’re also kind of destructive by nature since they’re nearly impossible to get back to the correct starting pitch without stopping what you’re doing and re-tuning. I both live in fear of and respect the pitch knobs on the Lyra-8.

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

I would say the Multivox Multi Echo MX-201 is about as close to perfect as any of my gear comes. It sounds fantastic, and the whole unit is so aesthetically pleasing to look at. If I could change anything about it, I would probably make it a bit smaller and lighter, as it dominates my workspace when I have it out (which is almost always). 

Multivox Multi Echo MX-201

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

OP-1, Koma Elektronik Field Kit FX, and a Zoom H4N are my go-to for when I’m away from my studio space. It’s a bit limiting, but like so many others, I really enjoy narrowing down my options sometimes. I’m also kind of obsessed with battery-powered gear, despite rarely being in a situation where I don’t have access to an outlet. 

OP-1, Koma Elektronik Field Kit FX, and a Zoom H4N

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

I really wish that Native Instrument’s Maschine was a stand-alone unit. I love the software, but lately, I’ve been spending a lot less time in front of the computer so I find myself using it less and less. I don’t know if NI would ever consider doing it since I imagine the production cost would skyrocket, but it would really be a dream come true for me.

Native Instrument’s Maschine

It would be pretty cool if there was software capable of emulating a tape loop accurately. There’s a lot of great tape emulators out there, but I’ve never come across anything that really captures the sound of a tape loop specifically.

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

I just sold my SP-404 a few weeks ago, and I’m already kind of wishing I hadn’t. I have to keep reminding myself that I love the idea of the SP-404, but in reality, I rarely found myself reaching for it.

Tascam PortaOne

I bought a broken Tascam PortaOne last year, and I totally regret it. To this day, I still have not figured out why it’s not working properly. I overpaid for it since at the time I was confident that all it needed was a belt change and some re-soldering, but I’m totally in over my head. 

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

I would say I’ve put more miles on my Korg Minilogue than any other single piece of gear in my setup. Among many other things, I really love its onboard sequencer. It allows me to work fast and sketch out ideas without menu diving and getting too caught up in the technical stuff. The Minilogue as a whole is just so intuitive and intelligently designed, especially for its price point. 

Korg Minilogue

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

I started out with a Tascam Porta02 and a Casiotone MT-540 and looking back, I don’t think I’d do it any differently. Having such a minimalist setup really forced me to get creative to find the sound I was looking for. Starting out with an OP-1 would have been pretty cool, though that would be quite the investment for my very first piece of gear.

Tascam Porta02

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

I have an old reel to reel that I inherited from my grandfather that drives me a bit mad at times. Processing sounds through it really adds some beautiful warmth and flutter, but it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t designed for recording music. The master volume knob doubles as an input gain knob, and it doesn’t have a meter to monitor the input level. It takes me an unreasonably long time to get my levels correct when I use it, but the end result is always worth the frustration. 

Reel to reel

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

When recording tape loops, I like to leave the front-facing half of the cassette off altogether. This allows me to physically mess around with the tape a bit, adding some really interesting artifacts and pitch fluctuations to the recording. 

Cassette tape loop on a Tascam 424

Artist or Band name?

Chris Petra

Genre?

Ambient / Experimental 

Selfie?

Chris Petra

Where are you from?

Long Island, New York

How did you get into music?

I started out playing tenor saxophone for the jazz band in grade school, then at around 13 years old I got my first electric guitar. I went on to play guitar for a Death Metal band in my late teens, then spent a number of years producing hip-hop.

What still drives you to make music?

The act of creating music has become very therapeutic for me. It’s also given me a sense of purpose that I’m not sure I would have found elsewhere. 

How do you most often start a new track?

I usually start out by working out a melody on whatever instrument I’m drawn to at the moment (most often my OP-1). I also keep a dictaphone in my car that I find myself humming ideas into from time to time. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

This might be what I struggle with the most. I’m currently working on an EP that is taking me an exceedingly long time to wrap up because I always find something I feel I need to adjust. 

Show us your current studio

Chris Petra Studio space

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Take any and every musical opportunity you can, no matter how big or small. 

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

I’m currently working on a record, but in the meantime, I have two tape loop sample packs for free download on my Bandcamp. I also update my Instagram with little tape jams pretty regularly if you’re into that sorta thing!

https://chrispetra.bandcamp.com/music

https://www.instagram.com/chrispetra/?hl=en


Selsey – Dreamy Synthy Pop

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

The OP-1 crank. It’s just so loveable!

Cranking the OP-1

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

For me, it’s the OP-1. It’s a minimalist’s dream because it can do everything – drums, melody, bass, all the layers – in such an intuitive way. I’d make it fully MIDI compatible so I could integrate it into my Ableton workflow somehow; I’d make the keys touch sensitive; I’d give it 2.5 octaves instead of 1.5; and I’d give it a sustain pedal. Dream machine.

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

On a trip, I try to keep it light:

  • Nuraphones
  • OP-Z
  • OP-1
  • SP-404 (sometimes / for longer trips)
Travel music kit

To play a show, it’s more complicated! I add to that:

  • Yamaha Reface DX
  • TC- Helicon Perform VK
  • Shure Super 55
  • Zoom H6 as a mixer
Live music setup

I don’t have a commute, but if I did, I’d consider just bringing my OP-Z.

Teenage Engineering OPZ

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

Arpeggios are my favorite musical tool. I really wish you could get the superfine arpeggio controls you have in Ableton on a hardware synth. And as a non-drummer, I would love to find a software drum loop maker as intuitive to me as the OP-1’s finger mode.

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

I bought the Midi Fighter Twister in the hopes of using it to make layered live loops with my iPad the way @KelbyKryshak does, which is totally awesome🤘. I soon realized that I don’t like using apps in my workflow – I think it somehow takes me out of the moment. I’m hanging onto it because I haven’t ruled out making a custom setup for it in Ableton, but that might prove to be more of a challenge than I’m willing to take on. Also, I have the Push 2, so I’m not yet sure what function or value the twister would add to that setup.

Midi Fighter Twister and Olympus camera

I’m kind of an aspiring minimalist, so it’s very possible that at some point soon I’ll say goodbye to it.

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

The obvious answer is my OP-1 – it gave me an explosion of creativity around learning basic music production techniques with drums and basslines and everything. However! My Reface DX has been my constant companion and workhorse in songwriting. First of all, it’s a joy to play.  The touch sensitive keys feel great, with smooth action. And as I am working through the hardest parts of identifying and defining melodies and chord progressions,  it is the perfect companion for me because its keyboard is small and manageable, while being big enough to play bass notes and chords at once. And the voices are so evocative and inspiring.

Selsey’s songwriting setup: Reface DX, OP-1, typewriter, and sake

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

It’s between the OP-1 and the Reface DX. The OP-1 for its all-in-oneness, and the DX for its beautiful sounds, relative portability, and space-pianoness.

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

My SP-404. The sticky buttons kill me (the phat pads I want are on backorder!), and sampling loops into it is such a pain. I love it to death, but at some point I wouldn’t rule out upgrading to a more robust modern sampler like the Octatrack.

Rolabnd SP404SX

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

The sequencer on the Casio-PT 30 is amazing. You can program it with a melody, and then push one of two “One Key Play” buttons to activate the notes one by one. So when you play it, it’s like you’re playing a solo, but it’s almost impossible to fuck up. You can see me do this in my cover of White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes, around the 1 minute mark: https://www.instagram.com/tv/Bs3KEAyH3k8/. I wish so hard that the OP-1 could do this.

Casio-PT 30 and OP-1

Artist or Band name?

Selsey

Genre?

Bedroom Synthpop

Selfie?

Selsey herself

Where are you from?

Northern California, but I currently live in Hong Kong.

How did you get into music?

Folk singer songwriters in high school got me inspired to pick up a guitar – Iron and Wine, Feist, Regina Spektor, Bright Eyes, Ray Lamontagne, that type of artist. I also learned classical and a bit of jazz piano in high school. Recently, I got really into making dawless synthpop after falling in love with the OP-1 at the MoMA Design Store in New York. I started making videos for Instagram and, well, here I am!

What drives you to make music?

  1. I relish the challenge of learning songwriting and producing music. Sometimes it’s torture but the payoff is addictive.
  2. The community on Instagram has been really warm and kind. People have created a place you really like to hang around.
  3. I just love singing and making music, so I can’t help but want to do it.

How do you most often start a new track?

I am only now learning how to use Ableton (my first DAW), so I’ll talk about my songwriting process instead. I sit down with my Reface DX, my typewriter or a notebook, and my phone to record snippets. I play chords randomly and vocalize until I hear something I like. Record it. Wash, rinse, repeat. Along the way, I try to get a sense of which snippets are more verselike or more chorus-like. Eventually I will have enough snippets to form a song. Then, I write the words, which is the hardest part.

[Editor: Yeah, lyrics are alwyas a huge pain]

How do you know when a track is finished?

When the words don’t make me cringe too hard; when every section feels like it’s part of the whole; and when the transitions between parts are not too awkward.

Show us your current studio

Selsey Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

You’ll suck at first. Keep going.

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

I have a few things in the works. But for now, head to my Instagram to see some of the stuff I’ve done!

https://www.instagram.com/selsey._/


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