1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?
I love the knobs on Chase Bliss pedals. They have responsive, precise dialing and feel durable.
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
The Empress Effects Zoia is beautiful and versatile when it comes to sound and design. It’s a studio and performance mainstay for me. It’s nearly perfect, however the tweaking of effects is not as immediate as on a dedicated effect pedal. I’d also love to get weirder with the ins/outs, like routing an fx send to an external loop of other effects and then back in. But that’s a small trade-off for what the pedal is already capable of — which is a lot.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?
I don’t spend much time making music when traveling, but I once took the OP-1 on holiday, and it was the perfect tool for creating little sketches inspired by the moment or the day. I treated it like an audio travel journal. If I’d had the Zoia at the time, I’d have also loved to bring that.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I’m not very familiar with software. I used Reason for production many years ago when I was first getting into electronic music composition, and the detailed graphic interface had a lot to do with why I eventually became more interested in hardware. On the flip side, if there were a software version of the Chase Bliss Mood (or some kind of similarly playful granular/sampling effect), I’d definitely be interested in exploring it. The only software I use these days is Logic to record.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I don’t get attached to most gear, but I regretted selling my Moog Sub 37 a few years ago. I tried to fill the hole it left with a Matriarch, but the Matriarch could not have been more different. I recently reunited with the Sub 37, and the Matriarch is up for sale.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
The OP-1 has played a major role in a lot of the music that I’ve released in the past couple years. Its digital tape opens up so many possibilities for texture and looping. I like to record directly to the OP-1 tape, experiment with the tape speed, and process more when I find something I like. I’ve also used my pedalboard to create most of the sounds that eventually end up on the OP-1 tape. I treat it like an independent sampler.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
I don’t think I would change anything gear-wise, but I do wish I had had a better understanding of what I wanted to create. Now that I know which textures and atmospheres I want to convey, I can better figure out which instruments are best suited for that sound. Then again, I wouldn’t have figured that out any other way than through trial and error. My very first synth was an Alesis Micron, bought from a second-hand instrument shop in Santa Cruz. I don’t have that synth anymore and probably wouldn’t use it now, but I love what I learned from it. I feel that way about most gear: each piece of gear teaches me something even if I don’t end up keeping it.
[Editor: I feel exactly the same way. Sometimes I even think that buying a new piece of gear is like borrowing the musical-brain from a gear-maker. Using a great piece of gear really feels like a conversation]
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
I thought this would be a tough question until I looked over at my Octatrack Mkii. It’s a pain in the ass, and I love it. I purchased it thinking I’d use it as a super powerful looper or for chopping guitar samples to use in my band. Instead I use it as an advanced, MIDI-powered mixer that can do stereo looping and some light DJ effects. It’s a kind of hub for my jams that I can’t imagine not having.
9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
That method of using the Octatrack as a mixer comes straight from Enrique Martinez. His videos completely re-contextualized the instrument for me. Thinking about the Octatrack in terms of tangible use cases made it far less intimidating.
Artist or Band name?
Ambient downtempo drone stuff
Where are you from?
How did you get into music?
My first instrument was the trumpet, but discovering rock, especially metal, punk, and industrial music, as a teenager was transformative. Music videos were unashamedly a big part of this. The sound blew my mind, and seeing musicians interact with their instruments and each other also changed the way I interpreted that sound. It looked a lot more fun and expressive than what I’d been doing (sitting and playing old symphonic music in the school band). So I took guitar lessons for a little while and eventually taught myself bass and drums. I just wanted to be in bands and play shows. That’s still all I want.
What drives you to make music?
A combination of expression and exploration. I want to express the way I feel on the inside through sound and texture. I have a hard time understanding myself most of the time, and exploring sound feels the same as exploring my own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it’s warm and soothing. Other times it’s noisy and confusing. I love music because it doesn’t have to have words; there doesn’t need to be an explanation. It can just be.
How do you most often start a new track?
How I’m feeling informs the overall tone. Then I establish an atmosphere and sense of place that the track is happening within. I build everything from a base texture like a synth drone, guitar loop, field recording, or maybe a percussive noise (I’m also a drummer, so sometimes I’ll start with beats before melodies).
How do you know a track is finished?
A track is done when it matches the atmosphere in my head and when I feel like I’ve challenged my own conventions at least a little bit.
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
The phrase “keep it simple, stupid” has become an ethos for how I make music. I appreciate art that has a minimalist, uncomplicated, or even un-finished element to it. Not to say I don’t appreciate complexity, but there’s a potent energy when something is done quick and dirty—using only what was necessary—and then left that way. It preserves the raw emotion that too much polish can destroy.
Promote your latest thing
My most recent thing as Shipwreck Detective is a long-form streamed performance that I did for a small group called Man vs. Machine. The audio for that is at shipwreckdetective.bandcamp.com
I’ve also been making music with a new band, Grimoires, and look forward to releasing some songs with them soon.
[Editor: Dev also does a lovely instagram @ShipwreckDetective]
[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…]