Aqeel Phillips – A View to Aqeel

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

Monome Teletype

I’m gonna go with the Monome Teletype’s single “param” knob. It might be a weird answer, since this knob can do whatever you want it to do, but personally I almost always have it mapped to a global “probability” setting in my Teletype patches. Probability that a trigger will pass through, probability that triggers might jumble and be routed to an unexpected output, etc. I consider this a bit of a secret weapon, and discovering this was a moment when I was really feeling like I was figuring out how to work modular into my music. With this single knob, I can control the “energy” of a patch, taking it from sparse and mysterious to lively and animated with a quick flick.

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

Elektron Machinedrum

I’ll say the Elektron Machinedrum. It sounds amazing, and I feel like I barely need to edit and mix the sounds that come off of it, but it’s definitely dated. It doesn’t have all of the niceties of the newer Elektron boxes, like the Rytm mkII or Digitakt. I find it really easy to edit the wrong track, and it unfortunately doesn’t have the modern Elektron sequencer with trig conditions and microtiming. I’ve even considered sequencing it externally… But the sounds themselves are totally worth keeping it around, even with these limitations.

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

Elektron Digitakt

Historically, I’ve taken the Digitakt. It’s easy enough to throw in a backpack, and you can even record off it without an interface via Overbridge. For whatever reason though, I usually tend to be finishing projects while traveling, so it’s often just my laptop and headphones.

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

Strymon Big Sky

I don’t use a lot of software… I’ll cheat and say that sometimes I wish I had a real piano or Rhodes, as opposed to the VSTs that I use in my music. In terms of hardware, I often wish the Strymon Big Sky was a plugin that I could pull up on the computer. I really just use it as a master send effect from Ableton. 

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

ER-301

Most things I find myself regretting selling, I eventually end up buying again. It feels a little silly (and I lose some cash in the process), but sometimes it takes some time away from something to really respect its worth. I’ve sold and re-bought Make Noise Morphagene, Intellijel Metropolis, and I recently bought an ER-301 back from a friend. I did nab a really nice Yamaha electronic drum kit for an utterly insane deal a while back, and ended up passing it on to somebody else when I was living in a small apartment. Now that I’ve got the room for it, I definitely miss it.

I regret buying an Arturia Matrixbrute. Some of the keys broke somewhere along the way, and it’s so heavy and large that it’s been unruly to get it fixed and eventually sell it. I’ll get around to it, but I’m never excited about the idea of lugging it out to the car…

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

Make Noise Morphagene

Probably Morphagene, the same Morphagene that I’ve sold and re-bought haha. Nowadays, it’s genuinely my favorite module and really epitomizes eurorack to me. I never know what it’s gonna do, but I always love what it ends up spitting out, which is a huge part of the fun I have with modular. It’s like my little bandmate that comes up with something interesting and inspiring for me to craft a song with.

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

Make Noise Tape & Microsound Music Machine

In the same vein as my previous answer, I’d probably start with the Make Noise Tape & Microsound Music Machine. I’ve essentially got this in my system in my rack, purposefully placed right next to each other too. Each module in that system is something that I don’t believe quite exists in the software realm. So I feel like I could do a lot with that system and any DAW for drums, soft synths, effects, etc.

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

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

Pieces of gear that annoy me don’t tend to stick around very long. 🙂 I’ll say the Hologram Electronics Microcosm. I don’t think it’s very flexible, but what it spits out is absolute gold. It feels kind of scared of sounding “bad”, and I frequently find myself wishing I had access to the sounds “between” the settings that it offers. But at the same time, it’s my go-to for spicing up a track, and creating something unexpected. I will say, I think if I didn’t have experience with modular (meaning, having so much experience making bad sounds), I would be totally content with it. But with that experience, it often feels like a box of nice Clouds presets.

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

I mentioned the Machinedrum feeling a little primitive, but I’ve figured out a couple tricks here and there that get me where I need to go. One is that I’ve been using the “swing” to make my beats more interesting. The MD doesn’t have microtiming, but you can add swing per step (even on individual tracks), and adjust the amount of swing. I’ll often have fun with punching in a standard beat, adding swing to a couple steps, and then setting the “swing” amount to something extreme like 75%. This way, it might imply a 32nd note in some places, without adjusting the overall sequence timing to be 2x. It’s something that you could easily do with microtiming on something like the Digitakt, but it needs this fun little workaround on something older like the MD.

Machinedrum

Artist name

Aqeel Aadam

Genre

Some kind of downtempo, cinematic ambient meshed with hip-hop style beats.

Selfie

“Hey, can you take a picture of me?” in the middle of writing this.

Aqeel Philips in the middle of writing this interview

Where are you from?

Outside of Philadelphia, PA (which is where I currently live too!)

How did you get into music?

I started by teaching myself guitar and eventually started making sample-based beats with Ableton in high school. I wanted to trend more towards “composing” than “producing”, so I caught the hardware bug once I realized it could be like commanding your own little orchestra.

What still drives you to make music?

From a musical perspective, I don’t think I can honestly claim that it’s therapeutic or anything like that, but creating something is an activity that I genuinely very deeply enjoy (I suppose this is some form of therapy…). I like creating the music that I want to hear and feel like the world might enjoy. There’s also a sense of pride in creating something that feels very gratifying.

From another perspective, there’s a vast world of instruments that offers a great sense of exploration to me. There’s always a new stone to uncover, a new path to try out, some combination of things that you might never have considered before. Kurt Vonnegut said “we are put on earth to fart around,” and I can say for certain that hardware and modular synthesizers can provide you with a great deal of farting around.

How do you most often start a new track?

Ambience, atmosphere, texture – some kind of ambient wash that becomes the sonic bed for the track. I like to set up a generative bed with something like Morphagene or a granular module, which gives me the “kindling” to find inspiration from and write with. I’ll listen to these beds and hear accidental snippets of chords or melodies – this gives me inspiration to refine those random ideas into something more formalized. Also, I find it very hard to add in texture after the fact, so I like to start with it to keep myself sane.

How do you know when a track is finished?

In line with the previous answer – when I’m working on a track, I’ll hear “whispers” of things to add, little ideas that pop into my head that become a melody, bassline, chord progression, rhythmic element, etc. Once those stop revealing themselves, I take it as my cue to hit record.

Show us your current studio?

Home studio desk
Home studio with eurorack
Moog Matriach

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Probably to “invest in happiness”. Suffering from GAS and chasing gear is one thing, but if there’s something you can tell will help you feel creative and make your life more fun and easier, get it. Looking around my studio though, maybe I’ve invested in happiness too much 🙂 But at the end of the day, the only reason I hold onto something is because it makes me happy to use it.

Aqeel’er Studio [Editor: Ok. I’ll stop now]
Fx Pedals and 4-track tape
Ed O’Brian Strat [Editor: just about the perfect guitar]

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

I just put out a new collaborative EP with my friend Fossilize Me on Mystery Circles! 2 songs each from FM and myself, and one mash-up track. It can be purchased on a 7” vinyl here and is available for streaming under each of our names.


[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…
]


Close your Eyes – Wide Open

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

Feedback knob on my Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo. I like balancing on the edge of a wild totally uncontrollable feedback. Or even crossing this edge sometimes 🙂

Strymon El Capistan

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

Red Panda Particle 2.  For me it’s a perfect granular delay pedal. It can go from gentle reversed echoes to the wall of glitch and chaos in sound. And it’s stereo! It is important, as I use to process synths, drum machines or even groups of tracks through it.

Red Panda Particle

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

I’ll go with Digitakt and Hokema Electro Kalimba. Digitakt is an in-a-box workstation which allows sketching, playing jams on my own or with fellow musicians, and almost to do a finished track, while this kalimba is just tiny magic.

Elektron Digitakt and Hokema Electro Kalimba

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

It’s a tricky question, because all of my favorite plugins already have hardware prototypes. At the same time, I’m not a big fan of software to wish anything hardware turned into soft.
Nonetheless, recently I discovered amazing plugins by Puremagnetik. Although they obviously have some hardware inspiration, the plugins are truly unique and have strong personality in sound and usability. So yes, I wish I could have these in hardware.

Puremagnetik Plugins

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

The only thing I got rid of without any doubt was an AKAI MPK249. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing midi controller which is perfect for its purposes, it just doesn’t work for me personally, cause I’m not really a controller-kind person. In this case I clearly realised that I cannot rely on computers in creating music. With this MPK249 in setup, I had an almighty controller and a laptop with awesome software, but I couldn’t come up with any idea for weeks.  Being honest, I actually don’t regret buying it, because it helped me finally to understand that midi-controllers are not my thing, speaking on composing workflows.
Talking about selling, I didn’t sell that much to regret something.

APC Key25 (the midi controller that stuck around)

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

Definitely my piano. If you’d do me the favour to call it “gear” 🙂

Piano money shot

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

No surprises — a piano! 🙂

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

Definitely any computer. Now I set myself a goal to reduce the computer part in my music production and live sets. However, I’m far from this right now, the computer still does lots of work. I don’t like endless possibilities which computers give, preferring a simple gear which is capable of very limited things — but does it perfectly.

MacBook

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

Turning a three-headed cassette recorder into a tape echo by creating a feedback loop on a mixer. I do it with my Marantz PMD 222, it sounds lovely.

Marantz PMD222

Artist or Band name?

closeyoureyes

Genre?

electronic

Selfie?

Close Your Eyes wide open

Where are you from?

Saint Petersburg, Russia

How did you get into music?

Melodica, Ukulele and Xylophone

I was obsessed with the idea of playing guitar in high school, so I tried to self educate. I played several bands, something like indie/funk/rock, we all know this good old story. Then I realized that composing music with the band doesn’t work for me personally, and no matter how awesome the band is. So I quitted all bands and started to search how I can do music on my own. This led me to electronic music — as a field where I can compose and perform alone. Nonetheless I still love acoustic instruments, therefore I use a lot of them in my production. Like ukulele, melodica, kalimba, flute, toy pianos, obviously not to mention guitar and piano. So the outcome is an electronic music filled with tricky processed acoustic instruments.

Pedals and Toy Pianos

What still drives you to make music?

A conviction that for me it’s the very best way to communicate with the world and to release feelings and ideas that I carry inside.

How do you most often start a new track?

I start with a piano or polyphonic synth mostly. The very first thing is the sound. Usually, I need to prepare my  piano with felt because a quiet sound with a lot of rustle going on is what I really like, and also do some experiments with mics positioning. At the same time I may apply some effects like delay or granular stuff because these effects  drastically change the way I will play the piano. When the sound is ready, the next step is to come up with a nice chord progression or/and melody. At this stage I try to catch the idea of the whole track with all its changes and turning points, and then use other instruments to amplify the emotions which are already included in the piano part.

Behringer DeepMind 12

How do you know when a track is finished?

I listen to it a lot. Mostly while walking in the streets, I listen and ask if I want to add something or get rid of it. When everything’s fine, it’s finished.

Show us your current studio

Close Your Eyes Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

There were two actually.
1) Listen to your most inner voice. You have a lot of inner voices, but there’s one that always was there since your early childhood. Find it and listen to it.
2) Start to compose with the opposite of what you used to associate with yourself. You will add all this to your common features later, but the start should be far far away from your familiar territory.

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

Well it’s been a while since I released new music, but something new  is coming really soon, so I’ll leave these links in case you want to stay in touch:
instagram.com/closeyoureyesmusic
(here I share most recent news, studio sketches and some daily music related routine)
youtube.com/closeyoureyesmusic
(here I share live sets, both electronic or acoustic, gear demos, tutorials and all this YouTube stuff 🙂
And if you want to support what I do, you are always welcome to my bandcamp
closeyoureyes.bandcamp.com


[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…
]


Anna-Karin Berglund – Deeply Diving Droner

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

New Korg MS-20

All of the knobs, faders, switches and wires of my Korg MS-20. I got the remake (couldn’t find a decent vintage one) just recently and it is my absolute favorite gear to play around with a the moment. The MS-20 paired with the modern classic Strymon Big Sky, set to 50 sec decay, and I’m home. Not a real answer to this question, but close enough.

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

I imagine that my Elektron Digitakt is almost perfect, if I hade the patience to actually really understand it, cause I think it is a really cool machine and that it can do so much more than what I use it for. I am quarantining with it, so I’m hoping it will turn out to be time well spent in the end.

Elektron Digitakt

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

This is probably a boring answer for this interview, but I usually just bring my laptop and a pair of good headphones and start rummaging around in Logic to get something going. I always have a lot of unfinished projects that I can piece together and make a new one of, it’s kind of like working with a collage. Pitch a few things here, add some reverb or weird effects there, and usually that’s enough to make a drone to get started from.

MacBook and Headphones

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

I have the complete Waves plugin for Logic and I use it extensively when mixing and for processing sounds, both field recordings and hardware recordings. It would have been cool to have some of those effects as hardware too, for performing live and the tactile feel of turning the knobs as I record.

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

I am pretty strict when buying gear and I always do some pretty extensive research before buying something. This means that I buy few things and sell even fewer and also rarely regret anything. I did buy the aforementioned Digitakt on a whim last summer and it is not until these quarantine days, that I’ve picked it up and feel like it may be a great buy, if I get to know it more.

[Editor: I had the same thing with the Digitakt. It felt like a really great and deep machine. But I seldom got around to using it… Until I stuck a rechargeable battery in it. Now I use it all the time on the couch. My laziness knows no bounds!]

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

I was going for a second tour in China with a folk pop band that I was playing with ages ago. In that band I played a Nord Electro 2. The first time we went to China I brought the 73 keys Nord with me and instantly regretted it, since we were traveling by train across the country for four weeks and together with my luggage, this was a logistical nightmare. When we went back the next year I bought a Nord Rack 2X and the smallest MIDI-keyboard I could find, just to not get stuck on train platforms and elevators in rush hour commute with a monster keyboard flight case. Little did I know then that this Nord Rack was the love of my life, when I got into experimental art music and ambient a few years later. Most of my first release under my own name, a digital EP and my debut album is made with this little red machine. Combined with a shimmer reverb, slow attack, long release and filter sweeps – this is the perfect ambient gear!

Nord Rack 2X

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

I don’t know if would change anything really. All I know is, that I feel like I am late in the game and that I should have started earlier. It would have been cool to be a modular genius though, but kind of hard to start with i guess.

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

The Moog Mother 32 has a super annoying and tedious learning curve and it is an intricate labyrinth, when it comes to navigating the sequencer, but when I take the time and have patience there’s some really cool stuff coming out of it.

Moog Mother 32

9. What is the most surprising tip/trick/techniques that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

Nothing that comes to mind. Mostly trying to get tips and tricks from everywhere else, scavenging the back allies of different forums and keeping the gems.


Artist or Band name?

AKB

Genre?

Ambient

Selfie?

Where are you from?

Gävle, Sweden.

How did you get into music?

I started out playing the clarinet at 6 years old in various marching bands and symphonic quartets. I remember wanting to quit during my teen years, cause this was definitely not the coolest way to spend evenings, weekends and summers of course. But when high school came along, I applied for the music program and ended up studying jazz. I met a lot of great people during that time and played in a few bands, one of which I spent a decade touring the world with. It is not until the last five or six years that I have been producing my own stuff and getting really into all things synthesizer.

What still drives you to make music?

Even though I started playing music a such a young age and have in periods made my living out of playing and going on tour, I never thought of it as a need or a drive to keep going and playing. It was always the context that was important; being on stage, going on tour, seeing new cities, going on an adventure. And when the time was up with the band I played with, I realized I’d miss it too much and was forced, more or less, to make music of my own to be able to keep going. It’s the adrenaline of doing something new, pushing the boundaries for what I think I am capable of doing and then working hard to complete it. Whether it is to conquer a new machine, a new plug-in or composing a track. It’s become part of my identity and I think I wouldn’t know who I am if I stopped at this point.

How do you most often start a new track?

I usually start around ten different Logic projects and start to either aimlessly search my software synths or equally aimlessly making noises on my gear, recording bits and pieces with no pre-existing thoughts. After a while I usually either reach a deadline for some project I’ve agreed to, a remix that needs to be finished or something else and then I start to piece all of these different Logic projects together. It’s a lengthy process and it’s not really ideal, but I feel like if I set out to make something ”real” from the get go, I usually tend to end up in a creative limbo.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When the deadline is up and it needs to be done. Otherwise it won’t be.

Show us your current studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

To not work in a linear way when making a track. It’s better to just start somewhere and explore from there, don’t try and write a song from start to finish, make it random. And also don’t be afraid to get theoretical when making music, especially electronic music. There is a lot to be found in classical theories for composing which can be inspirational, and also surprisingly fun.

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

My debut album Marianergraven was released on February 28th and it was a huge milestone for me to be able to release it as an actual physical album, on vinyl. Immersive, melodic, oceanic ambient inspired by the Pacific abyss and its unexplored secrets!

Get it here:

AKB-marianergraven-lp-limited-coloured-edition-incl-7

or on bandcamp here:

https://lamourrecords.bandcamp.com/album/marianergraven

And follow me on instagram here:

https://www.instagram.com/akberglund/


[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…
]