Chris Petra – Ambient via metal & hiphop

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

Lyra 8

As of recently, the pitch knobs on the Lyra-8. They make the unit sound like it’s gearing up to combust, and they add such chaotic energy to whatever I’m working on. They’re also kind of destructive by nature since they’re nearly impossible to get back to the correct starting pitch without stopping what you’re doing and re-tuning. I both live in fear of and respect the pitch knobs on the Lyra-8.

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

I would say the Multivox Multi Echo MX-201 is about as close to perfect as any of my gear comes. It sounds fantastic, and the whole unit is so aesthetically pleasing to look at. If I could change anything about it, I would probably make it a bit smaller and lighter, as it dominates my workspace when I have it out (which is almost always). 

Multivox Multi Echo MX-201

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

OP-1, Koma Elektronik Field Kit FX, and a Zoom H4N are my go-to for when I’m away from my studio space. It’s a bit limiting, but like so many others, I really enjoy narrowing down my options sometimes. I’m also kind of obsessed with battery-powered gear, despite rarely being in a situation where I don’t have access to an outlet. 

OP-1, Koma Elektronik Field Kit FX, and a Zoom H4N

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

I really wish that Native Instrument’s Maschine was a stand-alone unit. I love the software, but lately, I’ve been spending a lot less time in front of the computer so I find myself using it less and less. I don’t know if NI would ever consider doing it since I imagine the production cost would skyrocket, but it would really be a dream come true for me.

Native Instrument’s Maschine

It would be pretty cool if there was software capable of emulating a tape loop accurately. There’s a lot of great tape emulators out there, but I’ve never come across anything that really captures the sound of a tape loop specifically.

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

I just sold my SP-404 a few weeks ago, and I’m already kind of wishing I hadn’t. I have to keep reminding myself that I love the idea of the SP-404, but in reality, I rarely found myself reaching for it.

Tascam PortaOne

I bought a broken Tascam PortaOne last year, and I totally regret it. To this day, I still have not figured out why it’s not working properly. I overpaid for it since at the time I was confident that all it needed was a belt change and some re-soldering, but I’m totally in over my head. 

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

I would say I’ve put more miles on my Korg Minilogue than any other single piece of gear in my setup. Among many other things, I really love its onboard sequencer. It allows me to work fast and sketch out ideas without menu diving and getting too caught up in the technical stuff. The Minilogue as a whole is just so intuitive and intelligently designed, especially for its price point. 

Korg Minilogue

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

I started out with a Tascam Porta02 and a Casiotone MT-540 and looking back, I don’t think I’d do it any differently. Having such a minimalist setup really forced me to get creative to find the sound I was looking for. Starting out with an OP-1 would have been pretty cool, though that would be quite the investment for my very first piece of gear.

Tascam Porta02

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

I have an old reel to reel that I inherited from my grandfather that drives me a bit mad at times. Processing sounds through it really adds some beautiful warmth and flutter, but it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t designed for recording music. The master volume knob doubles as an input gain knob, and it doesn’t have a meter to monitor the input level. It takes me an unreasonably long time to get my levels correct when I use it, but the end result is always worth the frustration. 

Reel to reel

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

When recording tape loops, I like to leave the front-facing half of the cassette off altogether. This allows me to physically mess around with the tape a bit, adding some really interesting artifacts and pitch fluctuations to the recording. 

Cassette tape loop on a Tascam 424

Artist or Band name?

Chris Petra


Ambient / Experimental 


Chris Petra

Where are you from?

Long Island, New York

How did you get into music?

I started out playing tenor saxophone for the jazz band in grade school, then at around 13 years old I got my first electric guitar. I went on to play guitar for a Death Metal band in my late teens, then spent a number of years producing hip-hop.

What still drives you to make music?

The act of creating music has become very therapeutic for me. It’s also given me a sense of purpose that I’m not sure I would have found elsewhere. 

How do you most often start a new track?

I usually start out by working out a melody on whatever instrument I’m drawn to at the moment (most often my OP-1). I also keep a dictaphone in my car that I find myself humming ideas into from time to time. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

This might be what I struggle with the most. I’m currently working on an EP that is taking me an exceedingly long time to wrap up because I always find something I feel I need to adjust. 

Show us your current studio

Chris Petra Studio space

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Take any and every musical opportunity you can, no matter how big or small. 

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

I’m currently working on a record, but in the meantime, I have two tape loop sample packs for free download on my Bandcamp. I also update my Instagram with little tape jams pretty regularly if you’re into that sorta thing!

[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…

2 thoughts on “Chris Petra – Ambient via metal & hiphop”

  1. Hi- something’s wrong with the links on Chris Petra’s interview. They’re merged.

    Glad I discovered your site, it’s awesome

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