1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
I love the joystick on the Elektron Analog Keys (Freudian interpretation anyone?). It’s made of plastic but has the right feel in terms of resistance. And controlling different parameters with the tip of your finger is simply so much fun. And while we’re on the Analog Keys, the sound selection wheel isn’t too bad either. Sure, it is also plastic and a bit wobbly, but it’s big, and most importantly, it gives audible click-feedback when turned. Satisfying.
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
That would be any instrument/module/effect before I buy them. Actually owning and creating music is often a struggle, even though it can be an enjoyable struggle. But some pieces of gear make the struggle easier. I’m talking about gear I can co-create with to produce an environment of happy accidents. Lately I’ve been moving away from precise and controlled sequencers like those in Elektron machines, and towards a more intuitive approach with modular and Monome equipment. And I’m in love with Grid as a sequencer. But, actually, the first one that comes to mind when I think “perfect” is Chase Bliss Thermae. Pair it with anything and it will be an “almost perfect bit of kit”. It’s a magic little box (well, it’s actually an analog pitch shift delay with just the right ratio of control vs surprise). As long as you let it be in control, giving it enough room to express itself freely, the result will often be mind blowing.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
I’ve changed up my equipment a lot lately, so if I’d go now (well, when the pandemic is over) it’ll probably be Monome Norns with Grid and maybe a tiny modular system. But last time I brought an instrument on vacation was when I took the Analog Keys on a bus trip to a friend in Norway. Let’s just say I won’t do that again (bringing the Keys on vacation that is, Norway is the best).
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
Soft > hard: I have a 2hp Pluck that emulates a string instrument, which I use a lot. But I don’t know of a module that emulates a piano. Sometimes I can make the Mannequins Mangrove sound a bit like one (well…), but how cool wouldn’t it be if Felt Instruments released their pluggin Lekko in eurorack format?!
Hard > soft: I love the way tape color sounds (mostly), but actually working with tape can be annoying. The recorders are old and sometimes malfunctioning, the tape loops break, and hiss can be too loud or too harsh. I’ve tried a number of pretty good tape emulation plugins out there, but it’s not the same as real tape. And maybe will never be?
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
Half a year ago I sold a modified Marantz CP430 (it had a double speed switch). At that time I was tired of tape, and of recorders breaking down. I had bought three Marantz recorders within a pretty short time, but ended up selling two of them. I regret I didn’t sell the unmodified one instead.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
A couple of months ago I got the Monome Grid. Using it with Ansible running Kria is probably the closest I’ve come to “effortless” sequencing (well, learning Kria was a bit of a hassle). I love how it allows me to discover happy accidents within a framework of control.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
I started my synth journey with the Analog Keys. I had it for more than two years without any other pedal or additional synth. And I found that to be liberating. Now as I’ve gathered more and more gear I do feel more stress, and maybe a bit of shame, that I’m not using each piece at it’s full potential. So I’m happy I began my journey as I did.
But I could also see myself staring over with Norns, Grid and a tiny eurorack system based around Crow and a couple of Mannequins modules.
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
It could be a number of different answers. I don’t use the Analog Keys so much anymore since getting into modular. It’s a big synth with a small screen. And it doesn’t inspire me very much at the moment. But it can do almost anything. It even has 4 configurable CV outputs for gates, pitches, lfos, envelopes, and even a CV sequencer. And sometimes it’s just feels nice to play on actual keys.
9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of gear?
It’s been mentioned before, but I’d have to say live-processing anything into a tape loop on my Marantz CP430. It makes almost any sound 100% better, objectively speaking. I’m normally running the sound from my case through the recorder and then back into the case again for delay/reverb processing. I imagine some of the harsher aspects of tape will disappear that way, but I could be mistaken.
Bonus technique: using randomised arpeggios and conditional trigs on the Analog Keys to create unpredictability, and thus turning it into a happy accident machine.
Artist or Band name?
Per Barfot. Might change in the future. Per is my middle name. And Barfot is the name of a Norwegian king (1073-1103). My grandfather studied genealogy and discovered that Magnus Barfot is our common ancestor, supposedly. He is described as the “last viking of the Norwegian kings”. “Barfot” means “barefoot”, a name he (probably) got because he at one point had to flee from Swedish soldiers without shoes on.
[Editor: What a great story! Keep that name]
Melodic lo-fi ambient.
Where are you from?
How did you get into music?
Played guitar as a teenager. Recorded two singer/songwriter albums in my twenties. Discovered experimental synth music maybe five years ago (mostly via Hainbach’s YouTube channel I think).
What still drives you to make music?
Few things touch me as deeply as music does. It’s a crack in the fabric of reality. I want to be a part of that.
How do you most often start a new track?
I turn on the modular system. Press on a number of buttons on Grid without too much thought. Listen. Adjust. Often I record long pieces so I have the opportunity to come back later and continue working with the best parts.
How do you know when a track is finished?
I’m never finished. I started recording a lo-fi indie synth pop EP a year ago. It’s been 90% complete since last fall. But now the songs don’t correspond to where I am at musically, because I’ve moved on. But I also don’t want to let it go because I’ve spent too much time and effort making it. Will it ever be finished? No idea.
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
Don’t be afraid to copy from who ever inspires you, and make it your own.
Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
I guess, just keep updated on instagram.com/perbarfot, and hopefully some day I’ll confront my insecurities and actually release my EP 🙂
[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…]