Shipwreck Detective – Dev Bhat

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

I love the knobs on Chase Bliss pedals. They have responsive, precise dialing and feel durable.

Chase Bliss Mood

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

The Empress Effects Zoia is beautiful and versatile when it comes to sound and design. It’s a studio and performance mainstay for me. It’s nearly perfect, however the tweaking of effects is not as immediate as on a dedicated effect pedal. I’d also love to get weirder with the ins/outs, like routing an fx send to an external loop of other effects and then back in. But that’s a small trade-off for what the pedal is already capable of — which is a lot.

Empress Effects Zoia

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

I don’t spend much time making music when traveling, but I once took the OP-1 on holiday, and it was the perfect tool for creating little sketches inspired by the moment or the day. I treated it like an audio travel journal. If I’d had the Zoia at the time, I’d have also loved to bring that.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 and Empress Effects Zoia

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

I’m not very familiar with software. I used Reason for production many years ago when I was first getting into electronic music composition, and the detailed graphic interface had a lot to do with why I eventually became more interested in hardware. On the flip side, if there were a software version of the Chase Bliss Mood (or some kind of similarly playful granular/sampling effect), I’d definitely be interested in exploring it. The only software I use these days is Logic to record.

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

I don’t get attached to most gear, but I regretted selling my Moog Sub 37 a few years ago. I tried to fill the hole it left with a Matriarch, but the Matriarch could not have been more different. I recently reunited with the Sub 37, and the Matriarch is up for sale. 

Moog Sub37 and Matriarch

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

The OP-1 has played a major role in a lot of the music that I’ve released in the past couple years. Its digital tape opens up so many possibilities for texture and looping. I like to record directly to the OP-1 tape, experiment with the tape speed, and process more when I find something I like. I’ve also used my pedalboard to create most of the sounds that eventually end up on the OP-1 tape. I treat it like an independent sampler.

Teenage Engineering OP-1, Empress Effects Zoia and a Tascam Porta-03
Moog and FX Pedalboard friends

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

I don’t think I would change anything gear-wise, but I do wish I had had a better understanding of what I wanted to create. Now that I know which textures and atmospheres I want to convey, I can better figure out which instruments are best suited for that sound. Then again, I wouldn’t have figured that out any other way than through trial and error. My very first synth was an Alesis Micron, bought from a second-hand instrument shop in Santa Cruz. I don’t have that synth anymore and probably wouldn’t use it now, but I love what I learned from it. I feel that way about most gear: each piece of gear teaches me something even if I don’t end up keeping it.

[Editor: I feel exactly the same way. Sometimes I even think that buying a new piece of gear is like borrowing the musical-brain from a gear-maker. Using a great piece of gear really feels like a conversation]

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

I thought this would be a tough question until I looked over at my Octatrack Mkii. It’s a pain in the ass, and I love it. I purchased it thinking I’d use it as a super powerful looper or for chopping guitar samples to use in my band. Instead I use it as an advanced, MIDI-powered mixer that can do stereo looping and some light DJ effects. It’s a kind of hub for my jams that I can’t imagine not having. 

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

That method of using the Octatrack as a mixer comes straight from Enrique Martinez. His videos completely re-contextualized the instrument for me. Thinking about the Octatrack in terms of tangible use cases made it far less intimidating.

Elektron Octatrack

Artist or Band name?

Shipwreck Detective

Genre?

Ambient downtempo drone stuff

Selfie?

Dev Bhat aka. Shipwreck Detective

Where are you from?

San Francisco

How did you get into music?

My first instrument was the trumpet, but discovering rock, especially metal, punk, and industrial music, as a teenager was transformative. Music videos were unashamedly a big part of this. The sound blew my mind, and seeing musicians interact with their instruments and each other also changed the way I interpreted that sound. It looked a lot more fun and expressive than what I’d been doing (sitting and playing old symphonic music in the school band). So I took guitar lessons for a little while and eventually taught myself bass and drums. I just wanted to be in bands and play shows. That’s still all I want. 

What drives you to make music?

A combination of expression and exploration. I want to express the way I feel on the inside through sound and texture. I have a hard time understanding myself most of the time, and exploring sound feels the same as exploring my own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it’s warm and soothing. Other times it’s noisy and confusing. I love music because it doesn’t have to have words; there doesn’t need to be an explanation. It can just be. 

How do you most often start a new track?

How I’m feeling informs the overall tone. Then I establish an atmosphere and sense of place that the track is happening within. I build everything from a base texture like a synth drone, guitar loop, field recording, or maybe a percussive noise (I’m also a drummer, so sometimes I’ll start with beats before melodies).

How do you know a track is finished?

A track is done when it matches the atmosphere in my head and when I feel like I’ve challenged my own conventions at least a little bit. 

Show us your current studio

Shipwreck Detective Studio
Shipwreck Detective Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

The phrase “keep it simple, stupid” has become an ethos for how I make music. I appreciate art that has a minimalist, uncomplicated, or even un-finished element to it. Not to say I don’t appreciate complexity, but there’s a potent energy when something is done quick and dirty—using only what was necessary—and then left that way. It preserves the raw emotion that too much polish can destroy. 

Promote your latest thing

My most recent thing as Shipwreck Detective is a long-form streamed performance that I did for a small group called Man vs. Machine. The audio for that is at shipwreckdetective.bandcamp.com

I’ve also been making music with a new band, Grimoires, and look forward to releasing some songs with them soon.

[Editor: Dev also does a lovely instagram @ShipwreckDetective]


[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…
]


Laura Katić – Caperooza

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

My favorite knobs are the ones from my Modular Synth. Starting to build my own machines was a great achievement for me and I definitely have a special affection for the knobs of my Eurorack type modular system, which I built piece by piece from scratch in CIRCUITO SONORO LABORATORIO a workshop laboratory I started with a colleague where I investigate modular synthesis and perform sound experimentation.

DIY Eurorack modular

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

Drumbrute Impact allows me to flow creatively and take advantage of those moments of inspiration to the fullest, it is the most important thing for me. Having powerful rhythms and sounds to create the beat is time won in that process. There are no pauses to make settings or edits and that’s where I can find the perfect sound.

Arturia Drumbrute Impact

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

COMPUTER AND MINILAB MK2 Each new place I visit has its unique magic, traveling is opening my mind and I cannot miss the opportunity to be inspired by that journey, so I bring my computer with virtual synths, Arturia’s V collection is very complete.
To have control of the Daw and Synths, I also carry Arturia’s Minilabmk2, it’s small and everything fits in my backpack. As a plus I also use the cell phone to record ambient sounds and some concrete sounds I can use later as samples.

Laptop and Minilab MK2

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

I would like to have an app version for cell phones or tablets of the pocket operator, I use PO Speak and even though its a small machine I achieve sounds with a lot of character and create powerful beats.

Teenage Engineering PO Speak

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

TC HELICON VOICE PROCESOR – MINITAUR
The TC helicon Voice live touch, not so much to regret selling it, but I would buy it again. I sold it to buy the moog minitaur so it wasn’t that painful haha…

Moog Minitaur

The Tc Helicon is a vocal processor that I really enjoyed using, I used to loop my voice layer by layer and create entire songs adding effects and transforming it into an instrument more like a synthesizer, I came to create my own processes for the voice, very fun.

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

Sequencers are a “must have” for me. This year I´ve been fortunate to be sponsored by ARTURIA and one of the machines that I use the most to produce now is the Key Step Pro, i was using the Beat Step Pro before, so it was very easy and intuitive for me the change. To Control analog and digital hardware in real time is pure creation i just connect all my synthesizers and I flow, the music takes over me.

Arturia Key Step Pro

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

I studied music as a profesional career so i was used to compose my music more in an academic way through sheet music then pass it to the computer in a Daw, recording each instrument track by track until a had a whole structured song and that was it. Now i would say that having Vsts, a good computer and a controller is the easiest way to start. Make your music “in the Box”

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

Cables

CABLES!

That is a tiny part of the gear hahaha

Very annoying!!

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

There are no rules, we are rhythm, we are a constant beat by the pulse of our heart, interpreting those vibrations within us and taking them out into the real world is what has led me to make “broken beats” more amalgamated rhythms and finally to feel them as an extension of what music makes in me.

I have many ways of making rhythmic patterns, I use samples, drum machines, I use sounds, I record noises and process them, but in the end the thing is to decide what textures you want to create with all those tools and I always try to create a different atmosphere that reaches the person who is there listening.


Artist or Band name?

Laura Katić / Caperooza

Genre?

House Progressive / Indie Electronica

Selfie?

Laura Katić

Where are you from?

CALI, Colombia.

How did you get into music?

I was involved in choirs and local bands from my town, then i studied music as a career more focused on teaching.

What still drives you to make music?

Self transformation

How do you most often start a new track?

I work as a music teacher and a freelance music producer, also have a project called
CAPEROOZA in which I produce all the music, so I start tracks very often.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I feel i can dance and enjoy it without thinking of any technical issues. With the music i make for others when they feel happy about the result.

Show us your current studio

Laura Katić home studio
Laura Katić home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Never stop making the music you love, the music that comes from your soul.

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

https://open.spotify.com/track/0npGMjDVMoUYFneiPi0n3K?si=AuFf_EBpRba8n4WMs3OR0Q


[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…
]


Scott Brackett – Digital Retroist

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

Yamaha QY100

I actually really love the keys for the QY-100/QY-70. They are cute little rubber calculator buttons that work keyboard keys and data entry. They’re not velocity sensitive, they’re probably too bouncy for most, but for me there’s something very pleasant about both their form factor, and the sensation of playing on them. I think the LCD reminds me of old “Tiger” hand held games, and the buttons remind me of old casio calculators, and the QY itself kind of reminds me of a gameboy, so the whole package together really helps me get in touch with a playful, less serious side of my musical self. Also, I have pretty small hands, so the size of the keys allows me to play parts that I would never attempt on a full size keyboard which can lead to some really interesting voicings.

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

All of it! Every instrument is “almost” perfect. Part of the fun of making art through technology is the game of asking “what would make this even better?” Of course, at some point you have to sit down and make something, so it’s usually wise to wipe that question from one’s mind and treat any limitations as a creative challenge.

Diagram of synth characteristic stats

Sometimes I draw a diagram to help me figure out how I feel, here’s one that’s kind of like a character creation stats screen from a video game:

OP-Z has really cool sequencer effects, but is very light on editing utilities and the actual buttons to trigger notes are not super pleasant to use. MODX is very pleasant to play physically/tactilely, but the midi sequencer is more of a midi recorder with very light quantization and velocity editing, plus some minor non-destructive variation via the “play FX.” The MPC Live of course is amazing as a MIDI writing tool and has tons of editing capabilities, but the UI takes me some time to get my head around, and the sequencer randomizations are destructive edits so any given randomized pattern still sounds exactly the same, which is not the way that I prefer to use probability in my music.

My favorite sequencer is probably still the one on the Yamaha MOXF (a.k.a. the baby Motif that came out before the MODX), but the one thing I wish they had kept from the QY100 user interface was the “undo” shortcut. On the QY-100 (and QY-70, I think) you can hold “shift” and press the “job” button and it will undo whatever you just did, which is really nice. However, on the MOXF you have to actually go into the “job” menu and click at least one more button to undo the last action (two more button presses if the “undo” menu isn’t already showing!).

Synths and doggie

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

Usually op-1, Nintendo Switch or my 2DS. I love the op-z but sometimes it’s buttons are a little frustrating when I don’t have the device on a table top and I have yet to gel with the hand-held thumb-pressing grip I’ve seen some people use. The op-1 is usually what I’ll pick for a flight, since it’s a delight to play and the battery life is good enough to handle even the weirdest of connecting flight tom-foolery. The 4 track tape workflow of the op-1 is great for off-the-cuff creation which helps me stay in tune with my surroundings so I can draw on my environment for inspiration. With the nintendo switch I can use it to play games, or I can compose using Korg Gadget (an incredibly capable mini-studio), but the hand-held nature of the device means it’s a little more friendly to situations where I may not have a lap, or I’ll be getting up and down a lot. If I really need to go small I bring the Nintendo 2DS which has decent battery life, is super small, and I can run the Korg DSN-10, DSN-12 or MD-01 software.

Teenage Engineering OPZ and Empress Effects Reverb

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

I wish the original Native Instruments Massive plugin was a stand-alone piece of hardware. I LOVE it’s sounds and incredible routing flexibility, but don’t love having to run a standard operating system, sound card, video card, etc. just to get to it.

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

I did regret selling my Volca Keys, but I have since re-bought it already 🙂

I am generally not too precious about holding onto my gear, I sort of treat the second-hand market like a synth library. With each synth I buy and eventually resell sometimes I make money, but more usually I lose about 10-15% of what I paid for it. I consider that loss essentially my membership fee for being a synthesizerist.

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

Old-school “Yamaha-style” sequencers. My first and greatest love in this regard was and still is the MOXF. The MOXF itself is like a budget version of the Motif, but the variations of that core sequencer engine are also present in the QY series and a few other preceding machines.

Yamaha moXF6

The midi sequencer has 3 modes: 1 for live-tracking midi record-style, a second a step-edit mode that uses staff lines and music notation, and an event list editor that just has a textual list of every midi event in chronological order. I’ve never been great at reading music, but I don’t find the typical midi piano roll particularly exciting for some reason. So these alternate visualizations are really nice to me.

The 16 track version of this sequencer that is in the MOXF lets you do stuff like put a 3 measure long loop next to a 17 measure loop in the same pattern (up to 256 measures!). You can also record parameter changes and whatnot for some really fun experimentation that I’ve only ever been able to duplicate with Ableton.

These sequencers do a crazy blending of pattern based groove box type functionality with a sort of classical/pop vernacular. It ends up creating a tool that is highly effective if you put in the time to learn all it’s features, but ultimately very stylistically unopinionated.

The MOXF boots up in 7 seconds, and then I’m writing songs and depending on whether I feel like tracking into a recorder, or programming in some stuff on the step editor it’s all ready to go in a stable and dependable package.

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

Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing!

I am very much informed by exploration of whatever raw material is in front of me, but when I first got interested in bedroom recording, I started with crummy consumer arranger keyboards, a 4-track tape machine, and fruity loops. I think the challenge of trying to make music I liked with those raw pieces helped develop a mindset that there is a corner of every piece of equipment that will be the exact right thing for some song. It’s more important to use whatever you have and put in time with it, ultimately and I think my path led me to that conclusion pretty early on. It is always worthwhile to focus on your own technique in order to shore up what your instrument can’t do for you. Electronic music is definitely a conversation with manufacturers, a collaboration with their design team… but it’s important to remember that you are ultimately responsible for making good music.

When I was learning the trumpet as a young goober, I didn’t ever stop and think “This thing should have a fourth valve, then I’d really be killing this cover of the jurassic park theme song.” I just thought: “Man, I need to practice and get better at this instrument.” Then I’d go play megaman X instead. But the point is, I didn’t blame the company that made the trumpet for it.

That’s not to say that manufacturers shouldn’t be held responsible for ripping people off, or phoning in their designs, but I think as creators we have to take responsibility for our part too.

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

By far it is the personal computer. I get so frustrated wrestling with sound drivers and forced OS updates, but it is impossible to publish material in the digital age without some form of computer (or mobile/tablet device).

I tend to work best if I’m composing a little at a time, maybe 20-30 minutes a day with a longer session once or twice a week. So in order to avoid wasting a lot of time waiting for a computer to boot up and disconnecting/reconnecting USB devices, I typically choose a single device that boots up quickly. Working with dedicated devices like the MPC Live, or keyboard workstations like the MOXF/MODX are my happy place.

But at some point, I have to figure out how to get that material into a publishable format. Sometimes, like with the MPC Live, I’ll export the tracks as stems to mix on my computer. Or if I did some writing on the MODX, I’ll stream all the separate tracks into Ableton to mix and master. Other times I’ll do the arranging and mixing on the device like with the OP-Z or the MOXF and then just record a stereo mix onto my computer for mastering, naming and uploading the files to bandcamp or DistroKid.

The point is that at some juncture, my material has to cross through that membrane, and I find the more work I do on the pre-computer side of that divide, the more I enjoy myself. That said, I often prefer the end result of the projects that are closer to 50/50. Maybe it’s a bit more tedious in the later stages, but if I do my mixing in the computer it often sounds better, and I can do it faster. At least at my current skill level with dedicated hardware.

Something I’ve been working on lately to combat this aversion to the personal computer as an art tool is to really invest a ton of time into a piece of software that excites me: Sunvox. It’s a tracker/modular synth that’s free and open-source for PC/Mac/Linux. TBD on if that helps me make good art, but I am enjoying working with the computer more!

Computer generated glitch art in place of photo of a computer

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

Actually, it’s one of yours Martin. I saw a video on Youtube that you posted about how to use blank samples and assign them to layers that can be randomly triggered for an MPC Live keyboard program and it blew my mind. The end result was that you added a note trigger probability to an instrument that didn’t have that functionality. You found a way to work with what was already there and get the functionality you needed and I thought it was brilliant. I actually prefer the end result of that more than the randomness that they eventually added in a firmware update!

[Editor: I’m glad you found my youtube useful. I gotta admit though, that I believe that I got that trick from either MPCHead or TubeDigga’s channels… and embarrassingly I forgot which one]


Artist/Band name:

Scott Brackett/thebrackett

Genre

Ambient-ish, pop synthy, lo-fi hip-hop …wave?

Selfie

Scott Brackett

Where are you from

Northern California originally, but have been in Austin Texas for about 15 years.

How did you get into music?

When I was in maybe 4th grade I joined the brass band at my public school. I originally wanted to play saxophone because of Lisa Simpson, but I panicked when they asked me and I picked trumpet, so that’s what I ended up with. I pretty quickly started trying to pickout 16-bit JRPG soundtracks by ear which led me to also playing keyboard and piano. I still played horns but also got into guitar and drums in my teen years. Eventually I settled into the “utility player” role because I could kind of pick up whatever and at least hold down a simple part, but my staples were usually cornet/trumpet, hand percussion and keyboards.

What drives you to make music still?

Playing music helps me to be with loved ones who are no longer here, dream up worlds that I’ve never been to, and connect with the kindest part of the universe I’ve ever met, in a way that I cannot find anywhere else.

I’ve got kind of a long story to explain what I mean:

My decision to stick with trumpet as a lad allowed me to take advantage of the great horn boom of the early aughts. Seems like you couldn’t swing a singer-songwriter without hitting an essential trumpet line for a folk-rock song, at that time. That serendipitous backdrop and my pleasant demeanor landed me in a touring band called “Okkervil River” in 2005. Their horn player dropped out a few weeks before a tour opening up for a band called “The Decemberists” and so I dropped out of college to go see if I could hack it playing in a “real” band.

I toured hard in several bands for the next 8 years and got to learn from some amazing musicians along the way. One of them, Travis Nelsen (who passed away a few weeks ago) taught me a lot about rhythm, stage presence and remembering to have fun with music.

Trav would do this thing where he would throw a stick way up in the air and then instead of catching it, he would pull another one out of his pocket right before coming back in on a nice sludgy ringo-style tom fill. Just when you thought: “there’s no way he’s going to catch it,” he would pull out the other stick and come back into the song with a smile on his face.

Travis was also notorious for his hard-hitting style. Some of his magic was not to do with how hard he hit the drums, but with how he played with timing. When he wanted a fill to really stand out, or a snare to really land hard, he’d let it drag a little bit later than you’d think would be musical, but that would mean the other instruments were already decaying on that beat, and so there would be this little space for the drum part to just come out pop you right in the face.

Off stage there wasn’t a tour where he didn’t look around at some point and make sure we all acknowledged how lucky we were to be playing music every night. On stage he would always go out of his way to try and get me to smile at some point in the show.

That’s a long way to answer your question, but the point is this:

My musical habits are little fractal grains of my personal experiences, seeded by the influences of the wonderful people that I have known and loved in my life. During creative acts, you get to spend time with all the moments that led up to that point.

Yes, I love to share my music and I hope other people like the end product, but making it and/or performing it allows me to access something that I simply can’t get from any other activity.

Best creative advice you’ve ever heard?

In the studio:
Limitations are key to creativity. If you are stuck or feel uninspired, remove some options.

On the stage:
Be yourself. I know it seems trite. But hear me out… if you struggle on stage, that struggle will resonate with certain folks. If you are effortless on stage, that will also resonate with certain folks. Just spend time being the most “you” that you can be.

Show us your current studio

Scott Brackett Studio and Doggie

Promote your latest thing… Go on throw us a linnk

A thing I didn’t make

First, can I plug a thing I didn’t make? Go find out about your next favorite musician using this site featuring a crowdsourced list of Black artists from lots of genres: https://www.blackbandcamp.info/ Comment end 

Here are the last two EP’s I did.

An Ambient album made using a multi-tracked Microbrute as the only sound source:

https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/scottbrackett/popsicle

Here are the last two EP’s I did:
An Ambient album made using a multi-tracked Microbrute as the only sound source:
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/scottbrackett/popsicle

An ambient album using a multi-tracked Korg Volca Key as the only sound source:
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/scottbrackett/newtonian

Here’s my last full-length album
A lo-fi groovy synthwav-ey full-length. I used the OP-Z for all but a few overdubs:
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/scottbrackett/pocket-dimension

Also, check out my Youtube channel if you want…
https://www.youtube.com/thebrackett

[Editor: Do you have any of the gear in this article? Then why not share a tip or trick? Leave a comment below]