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._/


Michael Hell – Minimalist Conjuring

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

I think this is a toss up between the fader on the Octatrack and the magnetic encoders on the OP-Z, they both feel great on their own terms so I would say both.

Octatrack Fader and OPZ encoders

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

The OP-Z is great and I think it is almost perfect. The big one is of course the hardware itself. I am currently having lots of issues with miss triggering and double triggers and it’s getting a bit annoying tbh and of course I hear people having issues with warpage of the OP-Z itself and popping encoders. On a lighter note, I would love to have the tonic drum engine (from PO-32) in the OP-Z as well, then it would be perfect.

Teenage Engineering OPZ

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

I think it might be obvious by now…. OP-Z.

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

I would love to have OrcΛ in hardware form, I just dreamt of a hardware device similar to Polyend tracker, but instead of a tracker for sequencing it’s OrcΛ.

PolyEnd Tracker

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

I miss my Moog Minitaur a lot actually, the bass that thing churns out is staggering. I also miss the MPC Live at times, it was a really nice partner with the OP-Z. But I found the workflow really boring tbh

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

OP-Z for sure. I love how you can twist and bend a sequence with it.

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

Octatrack, It’s just a stream filled with possibilities.

Elektron Octatrack

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

The SP-404 I love the thought of it, but I hate using it, but I don’t want to sell it. One day I will truly master it! and I also feel like i should enjoy Eurorack a lot more, but I’m actually on the fence about selling all my Eurorack. I’m really down with minimalism. Ohh and the keys on the Arturia Keystep are atrocious, but that little thing is so damn handy.

[Editor: I had the SP404 years ago and sold it coz I just didn’t use it enough. Then I just got the SP404sx model with sd card. It’s strangely a lot more useful. Dunno why]

Roland SP404

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

Octatrack and QY70 go really well together. The standard midi template on the Octatrack corresponds with the midi implementation of the QY70. So basically you just have to connect them via midi and then start p-locking parameters without even setting up the CC’s. Also realizing that the midi implementation on the MPC Live is actually fantastic once you connect the devices with both midi in and out. the MPC reads all the midi CC settings so you can automate everything on the machine. its pretty incredible tbh.

Octatrack with Yamaha QY70

Artist or Band name?

Grååskala or Graaskala for you non nordics Genre? IDM…. i guess… Glitch… Maybe?

Micheal Hell

Where are you from?

Märsta outside of Stockholm. Currently living in the north of Sweden with wife and family.

How did you get into music?

Played piano and violin as a kid (briefly) but really connected with music through a friend who was doing troubadour gigs at the age of 21. Learned to play guitar and sang to that. Then I went on to study music as a vocalist for two years. Played in bands and such as a vocalist. Got into the electronic hardware thing just a couple of years back, when I wanted to get back into music, but didn’t have anyone to play with… so basically I made a one man band.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s a stress relief thing, I just love disappearing into music. Plus I have a primal need for creating stuff, I guess that’s why i became an engineer by trade so that i can always be in the process of creation.

How do you most often start a new track?

Drums. Almost always drums.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Through my work I’ve learned to adapt to the phrase “good enough”. I know a track is ready when I feel like I have a structure in it or rather a story, there’s almost always imperfections in my recordings, but I chose to honor it instead of shunning it.

Show us your current studio

I’m not a collector in any sense. I have a ‘one-in-one-out’ policy and I strive towards having a streamlined workflow and most importantly FUN. So this is what I’m playing with currently.

Michael’s studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

On the subject of writer’s block Björk stated something in her Reddit AMA that really resonated with me. TL;DR don’t force your creativity.

“I think creativity always lives somewhere in everyone, but its nature is quite pranksterish and slippery and every time u grab its tail, it’s found a new corner to thrive in. Perhaps the trick is not to force it and put it up against a wall and want it to be in a particular area. But rather with a lot of kindness sniff it out and wonder where it has gone to this time around. If its in sauce recipes , writing theater plays , paper-mache improv with nephews, discovering new hiking routes or simply trying to figure out a family members sense of humour . I definetly don’t succeed in this all the time, but feel overall things have been more fertile when I trust this creatures instincts and follow it, rather than me willfully reforming it into a circus animal colouring by numbers”.

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

Well it’s not new by any sense, but it is my latest, my OP-Z only album released on Golfshoe Music. Straight stereo recordings of performances, with imperfections and all.

Thanks for having me! Stay safe and creative folks!!


Marine Drouan – Kritzkom

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

I love the even VCO main knob from Befaco’s Eurorack module. It’s beautiful, and I
like the feeling when you turn it. And I like to use it (it changes the octave) mostly if
it’s plugged on a reverb.

Befaco VCO

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

The Octatrack is for me almost perfect. A kind of similar software like the Overbridge for the other Elektron machines would be perfect. Of course a possibility to record the 8 tracks separately, but simultaneously. Add it a simple synthesizer and it would be totally perfect.

Elektron Octatrack

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

On holiday, I take a small battery powered devices because I like to be outside. It can
vary from a sampler (MicroGrany for Bastl Instruments or SPS-404) or the Teenage
Engineering PO-35, or the iPad. I almost always take a recorder (Zoom) to do field
recording.

Bastl Microgranny
Portable samplers

If I am on the train or plane I love to work on the computer, either exploring some Max for live patches I never tried or some other little software that I usually don’t use.

Zoom sampling on a boat

It is interesting how having fewer devices force us to explore other ways to do music.
When I perform I always take my Machinedrum, often the MicroKorg XL and if not
other small synths. Now that I have one, I would also take the Octatrack. I also take a
few MIDI controllers like the Novation Lauchpad and the my old Korg NanoControl,
they are small and are practical.

Zoom recorder and various input devices

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

Borderlands (the iOS app) as a hardware could be interesting to imagine, although I
have no idea how it could look. Probably this is also the reason I like this kind of app, which really use the touch screen and couldn’t have exist as a hardware. On the other side I have the feeling most of the hardware now exists as a software. I find modular synthesizers as software pretty nice, even if it never can replace it. It is perfect to try some modules, learn to use it, or if you cannot afford it.

Borderlands iOS

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

My first machine was an MC-303, but at this time I had nothing else. It was interesting to learn, but alone it was a bit limited. I was a teenager I had no access to any studio or couldn’t buy more machines. I sold it to buy a MIDI keyboard which was at the time the best for me. If I see one I get a bit of nostalgic and I sometimes regret I sold it.

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

The Electron Monomachine, it was my first proper sequencer and it made a huge
difference in my way of doing music. Having a sequencer improved so much the way
to use synths. But then it is the Machinedrum which inspired me the most and for a long time.

Elektron MonoMachine

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

I should have get the Elektron Machinedrum as soon as it got released.

Elektron Machinedrum

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

Only an old M-audio firewire sound card which is very small and has midi in/out + 2
stereo audio outputs and one stereo input, so everything you need all the time. I took
it everywhere, it worked forever, the most stable I ever had. Unfortunately it now
doesn’t work on the new OS. I still have a hard disk partition with an older system on
my mac to use it. But because of this I use it less and less… Only because of the
driver is not updated.

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

Nothing really crazy for a user of modular synthesizers. But as I am still in the discovering phase, I enjoy this little self-discoveries, and find it funny to trigger the steps of a sequencer (In my case: Pop Corn from Bastl Instruments) just by touching the cable. Of course, it is doing an electric impulse which makes it goes to the next step.


Artist or Band name?

Kritzkom

Genre?

Electronic music of many kinds from ambiant, experimental, to slow techno with a touch of house sometimes.

Selfie?

Marine Drouan

Where are you from?

Nantes in the west of France.

How did you get into music?

I started to learn play the piano which is an instrument I like a lot, but I stopped after 2 years. I wanted to play my own tunes, still it was the first keyboard experience. I guess, it was listening to techno music late in the night on the radio as teenager, that I really started to really love music and wanted to do some.

What still drives you to make music?

Life in general, but more nature than humans. I guess I need music and often I have
something in mind I want to express. What I work on is sometimes the only thing that I want to listen to. Like an infinite exploration. The nature and listening to its subtle sounds, is definitely the most inspiring to me.

How do you most often start a new track?

By experimenting with and making sounds, textures or loops most of the time, but it can really always be different. The only sure thing, I never start with a structure.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I can be hard to know. If I don’t know, I stop to working on it and let it be, so that I can listen to it with more distance a few days later, then it’s much easier. It can either be very simple and intuitive or be super hard. It can happen that I do 30 different versions and it makes it harder to choose. Sometimes it can also mean that it’s not worth it to finish this track.

Show us your current studio

It is hard to do in one only one picture, as the room i have, is long there is not so much place to take a photo. I also have a cupboard where some gear is resting quietly and safe from the dust before I feel like using them again.

Eurorack on the rack
Studio
Home studio from above

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Trust your ears.

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

My last album “Melt Map”:
https://disorientation.bandcamp.com/album/melt-map

A new track “Infinite” on the compilation Kedi 2 on Baumusik:
https://baumusik.bandcamp.com/album/kedi-2-2

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