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!!


Kumie – Battery Powered Fun

1.  Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
Currently, I love the buttons on the Elektron Digitakt. I’m not a gamer, but in the past couple years, I have gotten super into mechanical keyboards. The Digitakt’s keys have that same feel.They have such a satisfying click and light up quite nicely. They aren’t velocity sensitive, but I actually don’t miss that feature on the device.

Elektron Digitakt
Elektron Digitakt

2.  Do you have an _‘almost’_ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
The OP-Z is sooooooo close to being perfect for me. It’s tiny, portable, the synth engines are solid, it samples, the step components and performance effects are a blast, and the encoders are a close second for favorite knob/fader/switch. But, the sampling could be better. In a perfect world, it would have a little more memory to store samples in a bank the way the Digitakt does. Then using the OP-Z app, I could access and load them for a given project. I’d also make some tweaks to how it sends MIDI because right now lots of crazy things happen when I try to control other hardware.

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Teenage Engineering OPZ

3.  What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
The OP-Z is with me, always. Though, I did just get a Roland MC-101, so I may start carrying that around too.

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Roland MC-101 and Teenage Engineering OPZ

4.  What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I wish there was something a little more Ableton-like in the hardware world in the $500 range. Looping pedals are nice and in the moment, but not good (in my mind) for planning and arranging finished songs. And, most other samplers I have seen are a little half baked in the loop/slice/time stretch department.

5.  Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I am a gear hoarder. I hate selling things. I just put them in cold storage until something inspires me to use them again. For example, I got a Yamaha QY70 the summer of 1997. I used it for a couple years, then got really into Reason and Logic and never touched it. About a year ago, I was inspired by someone else’s Instagram post to pull the QY70 out and use it to sequence other gear. Turns out, it is the perfect companion to the Volca line.

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Yamaha QY70 and Korg Volca Drum

BUT, there is one device that I bought and hated so much that I returned a day later: The Boss DR-202 Dr. Groove. I got it around the time it was released. I had this fantasy that it would be my core groove production tool. It wasn’t. Sounds were meh, sequencer was meh, even the buttons were pretty meh.

6.  What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
I spent about 7 years barely making music even though I had Ableton Live and Reason just sitting loaded on my computer waiting to be used. I just could not get excited about sitting down with a mouse and staring at a screen for fun after staring at one for work all day. Then, the OP-Z came out and thought that maybe it was time to give hardware a try again, which led me to all sorts of other battery-powered music-making devices. It’s exciting to be able to just turn a device on and start instantly making beats and sequences. 

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OPZ with iPad app and Volca Drum

7.  If you had to start over, what would you get first?
Even though bang for your buck answer would be an iPad (so many good music apps), I’d start with hardware. Since I love grooveboxes so much, that would be my starting point. Maybe one of the recent Electribes or a Novation Circuit. Or, of course, an OP-Z.

8.  What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
Ableton Live. It is really hard for me to stay focused on a piece of software, but it is just so essential for finishing tracks.

9.  Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
It wasn’t really a surprise, but the most welcome technique I have found in recent hardware (like the Digitakt, OP-Z, and Volca Drum) is parameter locking. It opens so many creative possibilities.


Artist or Band name?
Kumie

Me.jpg
Scott Kumis

Genre?
Soundtracks for sci-fi stories that don’t exist

Where are you from?
Currently, Northern Virginia

How did you get into music?
I started taking drum and percussion lessons in the 5th grade and kept going from there.

What still drives you to make music?
It’s an itch that just needs to be scratched. One of the only places in my life where I can fully focus on something for hours without the urge to check my phone or surf the web.

How do you most often start a new track?
Drums are my original instrument. So things almost always start with a beat.

How do you know when a track is finished?
I’ll let you know when I figure that out.

Show us your current studio
It’s a bit of a mess now as it doubles as my office for telework and also a closet.

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Scott Kumis’ studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
Make as much art as you can, no matter how bad. The more you create without holding back, the better you get over time.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
You can fine me in a few places here: https://kumiemusic.com/kumie-links/

[Editor: Hey, anyone else got a good battery powered setup? Using PowerBanks? SolarPanels? HamsterWheel Generator? Leave a comment]