Jesper Bonde – Zen In Noise

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

I would have to to say the auto-off bypass switch on my Crybaby 95q. I had a Crybaby wah before with a standard footswitch. But I found it quite frustrating to press down and seconds later realize that I hadn’t pressed hard enough and the wah was still on. I sing and play guitar at the same time, and I really need my switches to be responsive. With the 95q I just activate the footlever to start the wah and just remove the foot to disengage the effect. Its just a beautiful feature when I need to do a lot at once.

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

Paul Reed Smith SE, Mark Holcomb signature guitar

Although its a quite recent addition to my gear, it is definitely already my favourite. I’m talking about my Paul Reed Smith SE, Mark Holcomb signature guitar. It has an amazing sound and great output range. The satin neck makes it a joy to play even the most challenging riffs and I’m just madly in love with the feel of this guitar. The only thing I would change is that I didn’t get it a lot sooner.

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

If I was to go on tour I would bring my PRS guitar and my pedal board. I’ve set up my board, just the way I like it, for now.

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

Interesting question. I’m not sure I would know how to answer it thoroughly. I mean nowadays it seems everything is possible. Guitar amps are available digitally and you can add just about any switches, stomps or racks. I’m not ready to go digital yet, but I find the concept pretty interesting.

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

I regret buying a Boss AW-3 Dynamic wah. Back when I was trying to solve my issue with the wah switch, I bought the dynamic wah to help me out. But its just not the same. The feel and sound of an automated wah is far from the one you get from controlling it yourself. I’ve tried selling the Dynamic wah for a long time, but without any luck.

Boss AW-3

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

Definitely my guitars. I started out as a vocalist, but really wanted to play guitar too. My guitars are a tool to write music and sometimes I just pick one up and start playing to see what happens. I write more songs just goofing around on a guitar than actively trying to write something. I even customized two of my guitars to resemble yin and yang, because its been a core concept in our band for years. The look of the guitars inspires me to consider both sides of an idea or theme. I don’t play the Yin/Yang guitars in the band any more, but they hang side by side on my wall to remind me to keep an open mind.

Yin/Yang guitars

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

I would still start by getting a guitar. But I would probably save up more money to get a more expensive guitar. I started with a very low budget guitar and it was really counter productive to learning how to play. I would definitely tell anyone who is starting out, to go for a great quality guitar. It just makes it more comfortable and easier to work with.

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

The pedal board. Its heavy and bulky. It needs constant updates and attention, wires, cables and pedals. You just can’t help looking for ways to upgrade or change the setup, so its constant work and worry. However it just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Pedal board of Zen In Noise

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

I’ve recently been recording in my home studio and playing around with sound settings like never before. I’ve been really surprised how significant the middle tone is to great guitar sound. I’ve learned that with high gain guitar, the middle tone is best left pretty low. Its of course a matter of taste in the end, but to me it sounds great.


Artist or Band name?

Zen In Noise

Genre?

Melodic progressive rock (we call it Math Grunge :D)

Selfie?

Jesper Bonde

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Jutland, but moved to Copenhagen about ten years ago.
How did you get into music?
It was just always something I wanted to do. I’ve always been creative, drawing, writing and acting. But music had a strange allure to it. I couldn’t stay away.

What still drives you to make music?

For me its actually more the other way around. Making music is what drives me to keep going. I think I would lose my mind if I couldn’t make music.

How do you most often start a new track?

Mostly I sit down with a guitar and play around with chords and notes. When something starts sounding intriguing I keep going at it, till it sounds how I want it to. I usually have some idea of a concept or theme before I sit down, but having the guitar in hand is pretty important to me.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I have to play it with the band, several times. I’ve even had examples of tracks that weren’t completely finished in years. We would play them, but feel something wasn’t quite right. Then all of a sudden an idea would complete the track. In some instances my improvement in guitar or vocal technique, was the reason for a change in a track that would complete it.

Show us your current studio

Right now I use Magix Music Maker free. Its a pretty good program, but has limitations. At some point I want to upgrade to a more professional program. I use a Focusrite audio interface to record guitars and vocals. My microphone is a cheap solution from China. When recording you start realising its a costly affair.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Don’t limit yourself. There are no boundaries or rules for creating.

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

We’ve been on most streaming services for a while with 4 singles. We’ve been making our own videos, which can be found on www.youtube.com/zeninnoise and www.facebook.com/zeninnoise.


Hors Sujet – MusicMaker & FXbuilder

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

Definitely the frequency knob on the Randy’s Revenge from Fairfield circuitry. The pedal has a ton of amazing different sounds, I feel like they chose so perfectly the right potentiometer value to cover such a wide-range amount of sounds for the ring modulator and for the tremolo. Plus, having a big knob makes it even more enjoyable to use, and for once the pointy knob also adds to the feeling of super-precise setting. I’m not that much a pointy-knob guy (just because of its look), but Fairfield circuitry nailed it on all of their pedals : their potentiometers truly have a super precise feeling when changing the settings, even by doing super small adjustments.

Fairfield Circuitry Randy

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

I’m really happy about the guitar pedalboard that I’ve build. I like going through years with different tastes, buying and selling gear to find the ones that fit the best for what I like to do. My project went from guitar only to guitar + reel-to-reel machines + tape players + circuit bent toys + keyboards, so I also had to adjust my guitar rig to go along. I can sample a lot, play with modulation pedals, I have different textures of fuzz/overdrive, two pedals that can sustain notes and creates drones…. everything fits into the custom wooden flight case that I’ve build years ago in my tiny student room (musician’s neighbors always suffer I have to say!), it’s somehow a bit crooked and it wears some traces of the past, but I can’t stop trying to improve it ! And if I had something to add it would definitely be more stutter/glitch/looping pedals (I admit I’m lurking on the Stammen[n] from Drolo for a long time now, as much as the Bloopers from Chase Bliss Audio).

Neat treat of a pedalboard

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

When I play live, I usually bring everything. That means guitars, amps, pedalboards, tape players, synths, drums sometimes, tape/toys/keys and its dedicated pedalboard. And just by reading my answer again I understand why I don’t play that much live! And for holidays, I like to bring a small Zoom sound recorder, and a walkman to capture low fidelity sounds of friends and nature. It’s a bit heavy and it some precious space, but I do the same with photography (I always bring twin-lens reflex during holidays).

Danelectro BackTalk reverse delay

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

I don’t have anything digital, I don’t work with plugins & vsts. I record on a multi-tracks DAW of course, but everything has to start as a live composition that I could be able to play solo live, so I try to get rid of the computer as much as possible when it comes to music composition.

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

I regret selling the Danelectro backtalk reverse delay years ago (the old version one), I needed money back then but I’d love to have it back now, even if the pedal is super big, and if the effect can be found on other gear… I really liked its silly look.

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

Multiple ones of course, but the main one that help me to find a new way of composing was the Tascam 414 (a 4-track tape player) when it came to entering into tape loops. I mainly use it to support now the guitar and other instrument, but when I started with it I couldn’t stop making tape loops of anything around me. I still do, but now that I have find a better use of the instrument, I can still notice how everything often starts from it.

Tascam Portastudio

And tiny mention for the ehx freeze pedal for drones. Amazingly, having one drone and multiples pedals plug right after it open so many possibilities. I love how one sustained note can be developped for hours.

Ehx Freeze

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

Learning violin or piano. I’ve decided to add piano in my compositions just couple of months ago (I bought one last year), and the possibilities that are in front of me amazes me everytime. I also bought a violin years ago, and only use it (as the piano) to experiment stuff since I’m learning how to play with them. But I can’t stop having an accoustic set in mind with prepared instruments. A kit consisting of a piano, violin, loopers and tape machines would be something I’d love to start over with.

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

Probably the whammy 4. But just because it’s too big, it take the size of 2 pedals, and I don’t use it that much except for having an octave below and for down-tuning (sounds amazingly powerful when coupled with a fuzz). I’ve opened it once to see how the pedal was working, and immediately got surprised by the expression pedal’s system. I won’t spoil it (if you have a whammy 4, do it if you’re experienced with opening stuff… I don’t wanna be responsible if you break something!) but this tiny detail also changed my decision to sell it for a smaller version, just because I loved what I saw. And also, every time when I was posting a picture of my pedalboard on a forum or social media, I instantly got that question : “Why do you put your whammy so high? Isn’t that hard to reach it?”. At a point that it started to be my own meme, and some people that followed me were openly asking it again, and again, and again as a joke. The unreachable whammy guy.

Digitech Whammy

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

Nothing too fancy, but recently the unsynchronized loops on the Ditto X4 got me super excited, because I love looping a small phrase on two separated tracks at the same time and stopping the recording with a super slight delay. That way, the two samples will slightly drift from each other and create a whole new rhythm. I’ve always loved doing that with tapes, but trying it as well on a pedal was something new, since I didn’t have a multi-tracks looper. I edited and posted a video on my youtube channel called “Asynchronous loops” where I explain how I play with this technique.


Artist or Band name?

Hors Sujet

Genre?

Instrumental ambient/drone

Selfie?

That’s the only picture that I don’t take unfortunately.

Hors Sujet

Where are you from?

Toulouse, France.

How did you get into music?

My parents obviously have put me on a good path. My father, grand father and great grandfather were drummers, and as a kid I once saw some picture of my mom & dad playing bass and drums with friends, that got me thinking “What would it feel to be in a musical band”. There are some picture of me behind a drumset at age 1, and my grand-father gave me his drum set when I was around 12. I only had one band in my youth, a grindcore band (I was behind the drums), then I’ve decided to start Hors Sujet around 2005.

What still drives you to make music?

I realize that everytime I wanna compose something, I wanna say something or scream it out loud, but I don’t feel able to do so. Mostly inner questions about love, solitude, injustice, anger and desire. So maybe not finding answers to those questions, but trying to liberate a bit of the energy that drives those questions to understand them more.

How do you most often start a new track?

I usually start with unexpected ideas. Some images, a feeling, an emotion, a trip, a book, a voice, anything that can produce in my brain some changes, some new air to breath. I love that feeling of having ideas out of nowhere, and having a carnival brain that never stops help. Wether it happens when I’m on my bike, in the bathroom, in my bed right before to go to bed, I try to write down everything, or record my voice singing a melody, a story…just not to forget them. I’m not that much of a rehearsal person who practice hours before finding something that I like or that could work. Most of the time when it comes, I’m away from any musical gear. Ideas are a real magical moment for me when it happens, when you stop walking just because something caught your attention inside, and when you’re in a hurry to go back home just to try to put in music what you have been thinking about. That’s usually how I start to compose. After laying down a couple of things that sound like what I had in mind, it can be pretty fast to develop afterward.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Things are obviously different when I record for professional contracts or for myself as Hors Sujet. I try to repeat to myself “Better is the worst enemy of good” most of the time when mixing a track. Because I always want to add an extra arrangement, to record something that will make a difference. As the common saying goes : the only rule is that there are no rules. Wether it can work for you in 4 months or in 4 days, then do what’s good for you.
I’ve worked once on an album for a year and this is something I try to avoid as much as possible. Every time that I start a new release I decide a deadline (so also a deadline for each track as well, to have a small agenda for myself), that way I can choose listening days in advance, so during the recording process I can let a track rest for a couple of days, then listen to it again and make a todo list of things that I have to correct/re-arrange/delete/record again, and I repeat the operation multiples times, until the todo list gets smaller and smaller.

Show us your current studio

Hors Sujet Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I don’t know if it’s related to creation, but I’ve met a sound engineer and a composer a couple of years ago that I’m now close friends with, who both work in a local recording studio, and shared with me their point of view on the music industry after years of work. Finding the proper “use” of your art. That moment when you decide to make a living out of music can be decisive, specially because all of the conditions which can sometimes result from it (way of life, intermittent work, financial issues, depression…), and they totally helped me to focus on the fact that it’s a job like any other job.

There’s a magical liberty of creating music and building a lifetime artwork, but it requiers hard work, dedication, constant efforts, humility, inspiration and sometimes perfectionism.

Talking about this condition helps a lot, in my case being in a one-man project taught me a lot of things and I’m thankful that I’ve also met great minds to help me go forward on my musical journey.

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

My latest album : “Avec la distance”

I post most of my music as Hors Sujet, and the handcrafted effect that I build as TATAKI. So you’ll find my music, my musical video clips, things that I build, demos of circuit-bent gear, and some other videos that I make when I feel like it (road trip, thoughts) here: https://www.youtube.com/user/horssujet21

My bandcamp to support me: https://horssujet.bandcamp.com/

[Editor: Do you have any of the gear in this article? Why not share your favorite trick for it? Leave a comment]


The Front Room Fuzz Lounge – Lizard Of Distortion

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

The volume knob, as it makes things LOUDER!!!

LOUDER!!!

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

My old Arbiter fuzz face from 1966/67. That pedal sounds incredible, but it’s a little bit temperamental when it gets too warm, the work around is to put it in the freezer for 20 minutes to cool the old NKT275 transistors back down and it roars like a lion after that. 

Freezing Fuzz Face Arbiter

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

I actually prefer to be away from any kind of music making when on holiday, I see it as time to reset and recharge my batteries and also allow for a bit of mental clarity.

[Editor: That is also a refreshing way to think]

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

I wish there was a hardware version of Valhalla Shimmer in a pedal format, as it sounds beyond huge!!!! I’d love a Fuzz style VST that sounds close to a genuine old Fuzz Face, sadly I can’t imagine anything filling those boots.

Valhalla Shimmer

[Editor: I love ValhallaDSP plugins too. I find that I use the Particle Reverb algorithm on the ZOOM MS70cdr in the same way as Shimmer. Note: They don’t sound the same, just that I use them for similar musical purposes. There is also a shimmer reverb in the zoom]

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

If  I’m honest I’d say the Elektron Digitakt, not because it was a bad piece of gear, I just couldn’t get my head round it, despite trying, I think my simple brain likes simpler UI or more linear workflow, win some, lose some… ha ha.

Elektron Digitakt

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

I think having access to a DAW at home has probably been the most inspirational piece of gear. You can have all the ideas in the world, but if you’ve no way to capture them, they are soon lost or sadly forgotten….

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

Knowing what I know now, it would probably be a DAW, midi keyboard and headphones/monitors and then get creating.

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

As previously mentioned, I’d say it was my old fully loaded NKT275 Arbiter fuzz face, when conditions are good, it makes the guitar sing like a violin, when the conditions are wrong, its spluttery farts-ville… ha ha.

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

For me  the penny dropped when I discovered  automation in Cubase, total game changer (might not sound too ‘out there’ but I’m a simple guitarist ha ha). It massively helped me to control the dynamics of my tracks and also is a great tool for destroying sound when gradually applied to distortion and bit crusher VST’s too.


Artist or Band name?

John McRitchie

Genre?

Blues/Rock/Doom/Electro/lo-fi

Selfie?

John McRitchie aka. The Front Room Fuzz Lounge

Where are you from?

Scotland.

How did you get into music?

My Grandfather taught me to play bagpipes when I was 13, from there I progressed to electric guitar and synths. I soon realised what I had learned on the bagpipes could be applied to other instruments and also, having to play as part of a marching band developed a strong sense of timing in my playing, as my grounding was in odd time signatures vs. 4/4 of most rock/dance music.

What still drives you to make music?

Both the pure enjoyment of hearing the fruits of my labour and the challenge to keep coming up with something new. I have some close friends who are a sound board for me and it’s always good to get their input too.

How do you most often start a new track?

It’s all very mood dependent, often I’ll start a track with drums/beats just to set a temp then delete them and leave only the instrumental. Sometimes it will be a bit more abstract where I may use some pre-recorded sounds that I slowed down to form more of a soundscape.

How do you know when a track is finished?

For me, the whole premise of writing a track is to tell a story without using words, like every story it should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Often when writing a track it doesn’t always come together in such a linear fashion, you may write a riff or chord structure that,whilst sounding fantastic, might not be appropriate for opening the track with etc (handy tip,record it anyways and save for the future).

The part I find most cathartic is the arrangement process after I have recorded everything into the DAW. By applying the ‘like a story’ method, this is where you can really start to shape your track and ‘trim the fat’ in a sense, I see little value in machine gunning the track with some wild guitar solo if it doesn’t require it or some equally self indulgent “look at me” type of playing, its all about balance.

I tend to do a lot of my work late at night, as I feel that’s when I am most creative and because of this, I always will sleep on a track and revisit with a fresh pair of ears a day or so later, this allows me to be more critical with what stays, what goes and what maybe just needs tweaked to sit better in a mix.

I’ll end this question with a quote that from Takaakira Goto —  ‘Music is communicating the incommunicable’.

[Editor: ‘Like a story’ – I like that]

Show us your current studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

My good mate David, from the band Slomatics, advised me to ‘make music for you first’. I took this to heart and have done so since then, if people like what I do, then that’s an added bonus. But as an artist, getting ideas out of your head and developed into actual musical pieces is incredibly rewarding.

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

Instagram The Front Room Fuzz Lounge

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