Aldo is Taken – Groovy LiveLooper

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

That’s a cool one! I really like the tone pot on my Stratocaster, it makes everything I play sound like silk.

Strat Knobs

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

I think it would be the Empress Effects ZOIA, it’s just so fun to use and so powerful. Also I like tiny stuff because I don’t have much space. I just wish it had more CPU so I could go even more crazy with it.

Empress Zoia

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

On holiday I just take my laptop to organize stuff and finish what I haven’t finished yet. And I don’t tour!

Macbook

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

Having Max MSP in a hardware format would be pretty neat. Don’t know about the other way, I’m really not into softwares!

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

Hmmm, not really a regret but I deeply miss my MPC 2000XL. It was my first piece of gear ever and I really enjoyed it. It was just a bit too old school and limiting for me, I sold it to fund other music stuff so yeah no regrets!

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

Probably the Digitakt! It’s just super fast and clear, nothing gets in the way once I’ve got an idea.

Digitakt

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

Can I say the Digitakt again? It can do so much!

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

That’s easy! I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with the TC Electronic Ditto X4. It’s the cheapest looper pedal with a proper MIDI implementation, but oh my god it’s so unreliable. It crashed on me several times and you need some weird workaround to sync it. But yeah I can’t afford any other options at the moment so I still use it all the time.

Ditto Looper X4

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

You can run audio into almost any input of the Make Noise 0-Coast, even the CV inputs! Each circuit will transform your signal into something weird, I really like it with my guitar.

Make Noise 0-Coast

Artist or Band name?

Aldo

Genre?

Not sure, mostly hip-hop I guess.

Selfie?

Where are you from?

France!

How did you get into music?

A friend of mine taught me some guitar chords when I was 13.

What still drives you to make music?

Spiritual freedom and hopefully financial freedom one day.

How do you most often start a new track?

By listening to another track. I often catch a vibe in a song and bring that vibe into my next track. I think.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I already started the next track and just want to get rid of this one!

Show us your current studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard

« Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something. » – Jake the Dog

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

Whatever is on my Youtube channel right now : https://www.youtube.com/aldoistaken

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


True Cuckoo – Flew Over the Nest

[Editor: When I sent the interview questions to Cuckoo. He replied within 3 hours! That’s some sort of record. Then he said he’d like to send the photos separately, coz he couldn’t make it out his studio at the moment….. What he then sends, is a bunch of great photos with hand-drawn annotations! Wow! … Thanks Andreas. You truely are an inspiration]

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

Moog Golden Knob

At the last Moogfest I got this particularly lovely huge golden knob as a part of the perks that Moogfest gave the guests in a goodie bag. I don’t think it’s from an actual product. Just something they made especially for Moogfest. It’s really heavy, definitely made out of solid metal. I had to modify it a little bit with some mould-able plastic to get it to fit where I wanted it. Now it lives on my original microKorg, as the preset selection knob, and the presets sound so much better now! 😀

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

Hakon Continuum Fingerboard

Tricky… I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect piece of kit. Everything is the fruit of careful consideration, and a lot of choices. Like the Continuum Fingerboard for example… it’s perfect, but it can be improved. Could you make a continuum with it’s own on-board synth editor? Absolutely not! It would ruin the whole thing. But it makes sense to think that you would like that.
The new Continuum Slim has improved though, and I want it for the improvements. Is it perfect? Yeah… maybe… It is what it is, and that’s the way I will use it.

I’m very much engaged in beta testing and writing feedback to developers a lot. So I am definitely seeing ways on improving everything. Like now for instance, I’m playing with the Moog Matriarch, and it’s beautiful! The Matriarch has got 4 oscillators, and in Paraphonic mode the 4 oscillators can be played in “polyphony”… Obviously some form of gates are letting each oscillator turn “on and off” individually corresponding to the keyboard. I wish I had CV access to those gates, so that I could sequence the oscillators more independently and freely… But that takes us back to the beginning… The Matriarch is the fruit of careful consideration and a lot of choices. It is what it is. Let’s make the most out of it!

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

The OP-Z is definitely the musical instrument that I’d be tempted on bringing with me on a holiday without any regrets. It’s light weight and doesn’t take up much space, and it’s fun. It’s just that my OP-Z units are packed to the max with one of my live sets, so there’s not much room for putting in more at this moment. I know I can make backups etc. but… to be honest, I rarely end up making music on holidays anyway. I sometimes bring some new stuff that I want to check out. But for casual and beautiful music exploration on the go I think I’d be more tempted to bring my iPad Pro and use Samplr. Samplr is beautiful for short sessions. And the iPad Pro is lovely for drawing too.
On tour I never want to bring more than I can carry myself. It’s a pain with heavy gear. So I’m trying to keep the size down. Three typical setups for me is:
Octatrack + ZOIA.
Deluge + ZOIA.
2 x OP-Z.

Samplr on the iPad

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

Ooouuushhh, I wish everything from the following 3 companies was available in hardware form.

  • Fab Filter’s amazing production and mastering tools like PRO-Q, PRO-MB, PRO-C and PRO-L. I would’ve been using them all the time in hardware! Perhaps especially the PRO-MB multiband compressor. Heck, they should make a hardware performance mixer with all of their plug-ins on the mixer!
  • Plogue’s amazing recreation of old chips such as the Megadrive Yamaha FM chip (my favourite). Chipsynth MD, Chipsynth PortaFM, and Chipcrusher. They have some forthcoming models that I’m psyched about too.
  • Spectrasonics, if they made Keyscape a high quality hardware keyboard instrument… that would seriously be the best stage keyboard ever.


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

I once bought the MicroKorg XL a looong long time ago. I thought it was just an update of the MicroKorg, and bought the most recent one. But I had no idea they were built on two completely different platforms. The MS 2000 vs the Radias. They sound so incredibly different. The XL has a very digital and sharp kind of sound, where as the original MicroKorg has a much warmer and vibrant sound, I’d say. But a friend of mine has been borrowing the XL for about 10 years now, so at least it’s making someone happy 😀
I later got the original MicroKorg and made 128 presets for it, and it’s sounding super nice 😀

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

Sega MegaDrive

Probably game music from the Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo era. I made mix tapes of game music especially from the Sega Megadrive. So SEGA has probably influenced me the most. Phantasy Star. The Streets of Rage series. Shinobi. The Thunderforce series etc. But looking back, I have so many favourite soundtracks on the SNES too. Especially the games produced by Square Soft. Secret of Mana, like Chrono Trigger.
When it comes to music gear, I’d say the most inspirational instrument that I have used, second only to an acoustic piano, would be the Continuum Fingerboard. I’m trying a lot of stuff, but the Continuum Fingerboard stands out in a timeless kind of way. I love it. It kinda begs you to approach music differently, in such an expressive way… I love that.

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

Piano lessons.

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

That’d probably be my computer.

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

At this point, it takes a lot to surprise me. But I like it when small teams are making some really ambitious piece of gear, and challenge the industry. Then they keep pushing it with really high quality software updates over the years. Like the Deluge came out with live looping, nearly infinite note precision, any length pattern you like etc. Novation pushing virtually all of their products to the limits over time, perhaps most noticeable the Peak that recently got custom wavetables. But the most surprising element on any synth that I know, must be the Chopper game on the OP-1.


Artist or Band name?

True Cuckoo

Genre?

Not Pop

Selfie

Where are you from?

Brought up in Sweden, but moved to Norway in 2005, where I still live.

How did you get into music?

I always loved music. Probably since I could sing a tone. We had an electrical organ with rhythms when I was a kid, and I loved fiddling around with it. From very early on I loved to just make my own melodies. And when videogames came along, I used to pick the melodies from the games, and try playing them on our piano at home, that we got when I was 12. Been singing a lot, at school, in choirs. But my many hours by the piano, my interest in classical composition in my teenage years all had something to do with it. Perhaps the single most important thing was playing in my first band with Jenny Hval over 10 years ago now. That was awesome. We were playing festivals, small paces, big ones. I loved it. After that I knew that this was something that I had to bring back into my life. So I started Cuckoo after that. Jenny even sings on one of my songs from my first album.

Cuckoo 12 at the organ

What still drives you to make music?

I just love to create. Music is different than all other art forms for me. I live inside of music in a different way, than I was living inside of visual arts and animation (that was my profession for most of my grown up life). Music can be totally free of topics, but still be immensely meaningful. Also… sometimes I’d like to think that what drives me is my hunger for listening to new music… Music that I want to hear, but is yet to be discovered. So instead of looking for music, I create it myself.

How do you most often start a new track?

It’s different every time. It depends on the tools that I’m using. But it’s probably mostly either by sequencing on a machine, and making rhythmical, but still tonal patterns… Or by the piano.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it communicates, it’s good enough.

Show us your current studio

Currently the world is sort of on hold, and I’ve been working a lot form home just to be able to quickly step in when family needs me on short notice. So this is my little table at home.

Cuckoo’s home desk

And this is my main studio. It’s a mess.

Cuckoo Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

When I studying animation at the art university, my animation guest teacher at the time, Piotr Dumala, could tell that I was kinda struggling, and guided me delicately through the creative processes. I remember especially one day when I was struggling to get on with the story that I was developing. He said, in his strong polish accent, “What do you want to see… on the screen?”. So simple. To just eradicate every distraction and take it down the the essentials… Ok, so we’ve just experienced “this”… where do we go from there? What do you want to see, or hear next? I sometimes repeat those words in my head, still today, even if this was 20 years ago or so.

Piotr Dumala by Cuckoo

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

I went to New Zealand and Australia and played some gigs with Synthstrom Audible’s Deluge. Towards the mid end of the tour, countries started banning events and locked down due to an ongoing pandemic, so I had to end the tour early. I had some great moments! It was a great tour! Here’s a one-take whole set of me in Brisbane.

[Editor: It’s a pleasure to read about Andreas’ studio and process. I hope you guys found it as fascinating as i did. The man is super chill and yet very productive, just that in itself is an inspiration. If you’ve not seen any of his youtube content. Then go there now. It’s great]


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]