Chris Calvert – Enjoy Scenery

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

Rossum Panharmonium

If we’re talking sensorial tactility, then nothing beats the firm yet liquid luxury of turning any of the knobs on the Rossum Panharmonium (or any Rossum module, for that matter). I don’t think any other manufacturer uses them, but it seems like they really get how important the tactile nature of Eurorack is. 

As for the actual function, the Panharmoium’s ‘Voices’ knob can take you from a close approximation of the input source to an ethereal choir just by reducing the number of oscillators. Less impressive on synth sounds, but plug my Dictaphone in there with some fingerpicked guitar and you’ve got an ambient track right there. almost feels like cheating.

T-Rackonizer

A close second would be any of the knobs on the T-Rackonizer. From “is this thing on?!” to “woah!!!” in about two degrees of turn. Even though I’ve read the fucking manual, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but it sounds amazing. 

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

Sounds weird, but maybe my SQ-1. I’ve had a few sequencers, but none have allowed me to play around so intuitively, and none have resulted in more surprising sounds than that little black, metal brick. I say ‘sounds’ rather than melodies because I often use one channel for pitching the Loquelic Iteritas and one for Rings, run the two channels polyrhythmically and then you get these moments where the two pitches clash to create the grinding, clanging tones. HOWEVER, the fact that Korg uses a different sync standard to everyone else means I always have to mess around with clock dividers and I’d definitely make the battery life better and the battery access less like an ode to Russian military hardware.

[Editor: Ha! Yeah that battery access drove me batty as well]

Korg SQ-1

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

Before COVID, I was traveling from Copenhagen to Stockholm by train every week to see my girlfriend, and so when Intellijel’s Palette Case came out, I felt the planets aligning. Five hours in a comfy seat with mains power and beautiful Swedish countryside flying past your window – is there a better place to get lost in making sound? The nest of patch cables always garnered interesting looks from fellow passengers, though! My plan is to revive the palette this summer with a battery and record some stuff out in the wilderness. 

Intellijel’s Palette Case with buddies

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

This is a tough one, but apart from things like wishing that Spitfire’s Cinematic Piano was a real piano in my actual apartment, I’d have to say some of the Inspired by Nature Max for Live devices like Bouncy Notes. I know there are similar things in hardware, but the graphical visualization feels very accessible and intuitive. I think it’s nice to ‘see’ how generative things work so it doesn’t just feel like a black box with pleasing random shit coming out of it. Conversely, I’d love if there was good Marbles-like plugin for my DAW. VCV Rack has a lot of ports of other MI modules, but not Marbles. I’ve lost count of the number of times Marbles has formed the foundation of a track. 

[Editor: I’ve been informed that Marbles has been added to VCVrack. Thx TimCox … It’s just called Random Sampler]

Mutable Instruments Marbles

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

What I love about Eurorack is that there’s such a great second-hand market, so regrettable purchases can be recycled in no time. Recently, I’ve been regretting selling my Chronoblob 2. I got rid of it when I went over to a hybrid Euroack/DAW setup and figured plugins would handle all my delay needs, but I underestimated the creative, compositional power of a delay. I used to put a fairly mundane beat or melody into the Chronoblob, turn that delay time knob, and suddenly you were transported into a ping-ponging, syncopated kaleidoscope.

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

I know it’s a boring answer, but it has to be the modular. For me it’s the ultimate creative instrument because it’s never just one thing – it evolves. Not just through buying new modules but also the ones you think you know really well. There’s always some way you’ve never thought of using something. I also love that it’s ideally suited to randomness and experimentation. I always feel like I’m guiding this thing rather than playing it – or sometimes it’s even guiding me. You feel like you’re discovering rather than composing. 

Eurorack modular… so many knobs!

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

My journey from first synth (Korg Minlogue) to first Eurorack module was about six months, so I’d probably just cut straight to the modular. However, if I could ‘start again’ but keep everything I already have, then I’d love to try the ‘guitar and bunch of interesting pedals’ route. I’m actually on the lookout for a guitar or lap steel to put through the modular, so I guess it’s kinda happening. 

Studio stuff

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

Clocks. Since I went partly back ‘in the box’, the most frustrating time I’ve had is syncing things up. I’ve got all my midi set up through the Poly 2, but I always end up with some Morphagene loop I’ve mangled, or some distorted thing that seems to have no beginning or end that I want to put some sample strings on in Logic, but then I can spend hours trying to get it to behave. 

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

I’m not sure if it’s surprising, but maybe using Rings as a resonator to process audio rather than a voice on its own. The problem is that plucking Rings makes such a seductive sound, it’s easy to forget what Emilie Gillet’s original intention was. I like to put a really nasty VCO through it, like the Loquelic or Manis Iteritas, and then play the pitch of that and Rings like I mentioned before. You discover sounds that you couldn’t conceive of without just playing around.  

Rings and Manis Iteritas

Artist or Band name?

Scenery

Genre?

Ambient? Soundtracks from imagined movies? Elevator music for extremely tall buildings? 

Selfie?

Chris Calvert

Where are you from?

Born in England, lived in Copenhagen for 14 years, and currently in Stockholm.

How did you get into music?

Played all sorts of instruments for five minutes at school, then discovered the bass and played that in school bands. Then guitar in a few bands in London. Then nothing but bedroom strumming for years until I figured something was missing and bought that Korg Minilogue. 

What still drives you to make music?

Music so immediate and powerful. Everything else in life feels so tangled and overthought – nothing’s just what it is anymore. Music isn’t like that. You hear it and you feel something. And the great thing about making it is that you get to experience it as you’re creating it and you can use the feelings it elicits to fuel the music. I have a terrible attention span for everything else, but with music I can go deep and long without needing to come up for air. 

How do you most often start a new track?

I like to start with something random, often just to have some kind of melody to drive a VCO for the purposes of sound design. Then I just try to follow that – maybe it’s nothing but maybe it’s something, and even if it is, it’s never the thing I thought it would be. 

I often just record track after track of some kind of texture or melody in Logic, trying not to be too precious. Then I’ll go back another day and listen again and if something feels good, I’ll try and add something to it that steers it in a particular direction. I remember reading once about how jade sculptors would just look at a solid block of jade and decide what they would carve based on the swirls and patterns they saw inside it. I try and think like that. The music is already in there, I just need to be open to it and carve away. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

At the end of any work session, I bounce down a mix and upload it to SoundCloud. Then I live with it for a bit on walks and make mental notes about the bits that I feel are off or that I stumble over, and then I go back and change them. I know it’s done when nothing breaks the ‘spell’ of the track when I listen. 

Show us your current studio

Chris Calverts Studio
Chris Calverts Studio with plants and daylight

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Something my girlfriend said when she was getting into her ceramic work. She was talking about how she often fell into the trap of getting obsessed with the end product: what was it for? Was it good enough? Was is it finished? She would snap herself out of it by focusing on how much she enjoyed just having her fingers in the clay. So, whenever I get obsessed with results, I just remember that sometimes I just need to get my fingers in the clay.  

DIY resonator. Fingers right down there in the clay.

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

Just released my second album:

Confabulations by Scenery


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Martin

Is a composer of ambient lofi beats with soundscapes on top, also sometimes a writer of alt-folk songs with a unique lyrical shock.

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