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!!


Mylar Melodies – Talks With Hands

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

UA Apollo

My UA Apollo interface’s on/off switch – it’s a big silver lever that goes CLACK in an extremely loud and satisfying way. Apparently it’s actually the same on/off switch they use on their LA2A’s, so that switch has royal heritage.

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

I think everyone thinks it’s very easy to improve on gear, or that a manufacturer was daft not to include some simple feature when in fact it’s anything but simple (or cheap) to add just any old feature. Or that that feature is the thing stopping you from making good music. But as for perfect gear – I guess the Juno 60. It’s very simple, it has nothing superfluous, and it always sounds absolutely amazing. If I would change it, I would take presets off (because it’s so direct you don’t really need them – and of course, yes that’s a Juno 6) – and if I added anything, well I DID add the Juno 66 mod to mine, the best thing being, that it turns a precise DCO machine into a aphexy wooze-machine.
The perfect effect is the LA2A. It has two knobs, it’s set and forget, and it never fails, or sounds over the top.

Roland Juno 66

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

My iPhone, running Xynthesizr, pretty much just sequencing one blissy dual VCO with 98% echo patch, that I never modify beyond a few basic parameters. That’s all you need. I actually literally played a set at Moogfest on just my iPhone with this – directly connected to the PA through the headphone jack – I just improvised on Xynthesizr for 45 minutes with a couple of other elements for colour. I worked out the kinks about a day before. I can’t believe I got away with that, but I hope it makes a point. In fairness I had spent over a year solid jamming with that app on trains, planes and automobiles. I am always far more impressed with and weirdly, envious of (for their restraint and focus) musicians that have almost no gear, than ones that have everything. I make videos about gear, so it can’t help but pile up.

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

I wish Xynthesizr was hardware. I wish the Reason PX7 rack extension was hardware. I wish the Casio FZ1 filter was software.

Reason PX7 rack extension

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

I regret selling my second-ever synth, the only synth I’ve ever maxed out every single memory location on with my patches – a Korg MS2000.
I regretted buying the Novation Nova, which was my first synth. It was way, way, way too complicated for me and I had no idea where to start. I directly swapped it for the MS2000. And while I think the person I did the trade with thought they got the better deal, I definitely did. That was the synth that taught me synthesis. I rinsed that MS2000.
I definitely bought or traded stuff for a Cheetah MD16 drum machine at one point which I remember thinking “what the absolute hell am I doing with this grey door stop”. In fairness I probably didn’t know what I was doing and it was fine, but I’m still not convinced.

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

Ableton Live. That’s also all you need, but it’s all too easy to fall into jaded patterns of use and habits with it, which you need to be aware of or you’ll end up spending thousands of pounds on a eurorack habit in a desperate bid to rekindle the feeling of “beginners mind” once again.
But mainly, what has inspired the most music is time. Having the luxury of time in which to make music is harder and harder as life goes on and responsibilities grow, and especially the idea of being a full time musician is incredibly difficult to maintain and I’m amazed people do it at all. It’s interesting to consider that many musicians can only become successful through either being utterly utterly dirt poor, or rich to start with – being the only way one could afford the time to become successful. Is there a middle ground?

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

A Digitakt. That’s also all you need.
[Editor: And a nice doggie for company]

Digitakt and doggie

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

Adobe Premiere. It’s a bug-infested rats nest, it’s stupidly basic with audio… but I need it. If it ever truly falls over, Davinci Resolve is waiting in the wings, and is free.

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

The incredible genre-defining boundary-expanding main spooky string riff in LFO’s “LFO”, clearly the sound that inspired the track (because you wouldn’t just magically find that sound would suddenly fit what you were doing, you fit a track around IT) is a straight preset (melody and all) from the cheap as chips Kawai K1. That’s right, one of the best moments from one of the best British dance tunes of all time is a preset. Presets are not “for the weak”. Making a good tune is hard enough as it is. Having FINISHED a tune BECAUSE you used presets is far cooler than having hundreds of half finished tracks where you synthesized every hihat from scratch.
Guitar bands don’t build new instruments for every song – there’s a balance to be struck. You can separate the processes of sound design and song writing – it’s something I’m mindful I need to do more. Either way I accept inspiration wherever I find it.

[Editor: ‘Accept inspirations wherever you find it’ – that is a nicely turned phrase and great advice]


Artist or Band name?

Mylar Melodies

Genre?

Electro/techno. I’m inspired whenever I think about Aphex, LFO, Boards of Canada, James Stinson, and Kraftwerk. So hopefully I float around in their worlds musically… A bit.

Selfie?

Mr. Mylar Melodies

Where are you from?

An hours drive from where Mark Bell was from.

How did you get into music?

A perfect storm of having older brothers to who played me Orbital and RDJ, one of whom had an MC-303 (Yes, MC) which he let me fiddle around with, having access to a stack of Future Music issues in a time before the internet, and being bequeathed several grand from my late great uncle at the age of 16(!) years old.

As you might image I frittered most of that money away on stupid pointless things, but I did spend a massive chunk of it on my first ever music gear and a proper stereo, and I never looked back. That was probably the best imaginable upshot of him leaving me the money, despite me wasting most of it – it’s funny that the right gift at the right time can change someone’s life.

You can see how privileged I was to get that push, and the money, and to be young enough to have the time especially – I lived in the countryside, so there were no friends to see (without a lift) or places to go. It’s good to remind yourself that having access to tools and a relaxed environment and the luxury of time, where you can experiment with them – and to have taste makers like your brothers – is essential to make people who can explore creative pursuits, and I’m lucky I had it.

Ralf and Florian [Editor: Of Kraftwerk fame] were well off, how else would they afford a Minimoog, a Synthi and the time to play it?! Of course now the tools are far cheaper, and the software is free (time is still a luxury). The internet could be like an older brother, but there’s just too much noise. How do you discover your “thing” anymore? I’m encouraged to see that people do discover things like Eurorack, and that’s a route into electronic music for them.

Roland MC303 and Eurorack

What still drives you to make music?

The knowledge that if I sit down and fiddle around, something good will most likely come of it. And about thinking about those people I mentioned before, sat in their personal Kling Klangs, playing around with tools just like the ones I have, and coming up with timeless music. That always makes me want to try as well.

How do you most often start a new track?

Making music is a bit like sculpture, or seeing a dog in a cloud. I NEVER pre-imagine what I’m going to make. I just start turning dials and pushing buttons until something cool pops out and a little light goes on my head, and then I get an idea of what that blob could be further shaped into, and then I zone it in on that, and then other complimentary things suggest themselves.
At the end of it, you end up with a semi coherent thing and wonder… how did this even start out?
Usually, also the first idea is wack, but the second or third thing you make from all the sounds and sequences of the first is far better. The main thing is to just sit down and play, irrespective of whether you feel inspired (that will happen by playing), and not to be concerned whether you will make anything “good” or not (that is – partially – out of your control).

[Editor: Kinda like how it’s useful to separate sound design from composition, I guess it’s equally useful to separate the process of creation from judgement of good vs. bad... Or maybe ‘separate’ is too strict a word? Perhaps ‘compartmentalize’?]

How do you know when a track is finished?

I 100% do not know this, and I fiddle away at things endlessly. So much so, that I’ve been engineering systems, so that I have no choice, but to accept my first or second real-time pass at something as “it”. If I later decide it really is crap, I’ll just have to make something else. Quantity makes quality.

Show us your current studio

Mylar Melodies Studio

This is half plugged in right now, as I’m trying to find a way to have the stupidest amount of gear in the smallest space.
I feel obliged to say there isn’t (so far, for me) a relationship between having loads of gear and making loads of music. Just like having fifty guitars doesn’t make you a brilliant guitarist. I am not in any way proud of having loads of stuff in principle (NB: Although I love all these things, I’ve slowly gathered it all this over decades, it most definitely did not arrive overnight), and most of the things I own are individually pretty cheap bits of gear. I love these individual bits, both for what they are/do (their market value doesn’t correlate to their coolness to me in all cases) and for their place in musical history, I definitely have the curse of being a collector.

Yamaha DX7

Case in point, I own a DX7 – a proper brown old first edition DX7, and I think it’s utterly amazing for both the historical influence and as a synth. It’s such a futuristic beast, yet fuzzy and nostalgic all the same time. FM synths are extraordinary to me and much more like alchemy than subtractive ones.

But the thing I am actually proud of in that studio picture is that in the last three months I have been working to make it all completely accessible and immediate on (3!) patchbays, so I can actually make full use of it, both for impromptu live jams and recording multi-tracks to computer, and variations thereof. About f*king time. Get yourself enough patchbays to have all the I/O of your studio fully plumbed in.

Otherwise you’ll never use it! I didn’t, and I’ve started applying the “build a system” mentality which I’ve learned through Eurorack, to my wider studio. A well organised patchbay system is essential.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

A recent one:
“Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.”

I believe strongly that quality is a byproduct of quantity. Just make the music and try not to care if it’s good – in fact revel in making something terrible, if that will help you not give up, just don’t abandon it. Finish it and then see what you learned from it. And if you need an evil, but effective way to force yourself to finish something – bet a friend a significant amount of money (£100+, or more if you’re doing well) you’ll make an agreed deadline. Always worked for me.

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

Here’s a video I made about how to recreate a Buchla Music Easel in only 62HP of Eurorack modules. I’m making a whole series of these little mini “Suggested Systems”. Go on and subscribe to the channel if you like nerdy chats about synths and gear? Go on. Go on now:

https://youtu.be/B40AizE6i2g

Also I have a podcast talking to electronic musicians and gear makers, including chats with Scanner, Tom Furse from the Horrors and the wonderful Adrian Utley so far.

http://www.whywebleep.com

Am I allowed three?! Here’s that Moogfest I did on an iPhone:
https://youtu.be/7xhWLtRQ6Aw

[Editor: I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Mylar’s videos and his podcast WhyWeBleep is especially good. Have you stumbled across his videos yet? He’s made so many, which ones standout for you? Leave a comment below]