Andrea Cichecki – ElectrOrganic

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

Mutable Instruments Ripples

My favorite is the filter knob. I use it a lot, especially, when I’m recording live, either to create space or for creative effect. On the picture you can see the filter knob of my Mutable Instruments Ripples. Other ones I like are the function knobs, to dive into the menus of my devices. I need them in order to make everything work.

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

Blofeld synth

It always changes but, at this moment, I’m in love with the Waldorf Blofeld. I can produce full songs with it, as it has all the sounds I need in there. It’s small, so it fits easily in between my other gear. It would be great if it had more knobs to have more access at once, however, for the price, I really can’t complain at all.

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

Eurorack and buddies

That would be my Digitakt, Strymon Timeline, Big Sky, my modular synth, the ZoomTrack 8 mixer and my Beyerdynamic headphones. It’s all compact, fairly easy to set up, light weight to travel with and it all fits in one small suitcase. If it’s just a small trip, it’s usually my Digitakt as I can create a lot with that already.

Elektron Digitakt

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

I wish the Make Noise Morpaghene had a software version. The same would be the case for the Mutable Instruments Beads. Software I’d like as hardware: a Teletronix LA-2A compressor would be very welcome in my studio. I just love this compressor, especially, for my synth sounds. It’s a classic and it just works.

Mutable Instruments Beads

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

I’ve got little regret regarding gear I bought in the past. When I buy something I try it out and if I don’t use it a lot, I will sell it again to find something else. Until now, I don’t have regrets on sales either as my setup always improved for the better.

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

Soundcraft desk and Strymon FX

My Soundcraft desk. It took me a while to find out what works best for my workflow and the mixer is the main instrument, as I can route everything with each other, send signals in all directions, which makes it a lot more fun to record. I don’t need to worry anymore, think about how to connect things or route it, as it’s all set up and ready to go.

Soundcraft Desk

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

The book Patch and Tweak and piano lessons instead of the clarinet training. The book is a must if you want to work with synthesis, I learnt a lot from it and still read it regularly.

Bjooks Patch & Tweak

Piano lessons would have made my life easier in terms of composition. However, I’m slowly progressing with my compositions now and just give myself the time to learn. It’s never to late for that and every day you can learn something new.

[Editor: The author of Patch & Tweak did a interview on this very blog right here Kim Bjørn]

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

Euroack Patch Cables

My patch cables, they always lay everywhere in the house, but I cannot do without them. I recently bought a couple of nice patch cable hangers from Sector Sieben, this already helps a lot.

Even more Euroack Patch Cables!

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

Mackie Big knob

Get a monitor controller and establish two settings to listen at, one low listening level (you still can hear somebody whisper) and a higher level around 70-80dB SPL. I mostly listen on either of these two settings.

This way you train your ears and start to hear small differences when using compression, EQ or FX settings. Last but not least, the most important ‘trick’ is to A/B reference your song, level-matched, with either previous versions of your mix as well as other songs. You can easily fool your hearing by thinking louder is better and sometimes you may think you are doing a good job treating a sound, only to find out, after level matching, you did too many changes.

With level- matching you really hear what you do. Plugin Alliance has a good plugin for that (Metric AB) but you also can do this in your DAW and simply level match the different songs with each other.

Metric AB

Artist or Band name?

Andrea Cichecki

Genre?

Deep music such as ambient, big soundscapes, dub-techno and ‘immersive organic sounds’. I like to emulate nature with electronic gear.

Selfie?

Andrea Cichecki

Where are you from?

I’m originally from the Netherlands, but have been living in Germany since 2012. At first, I lived in Berlin and now in the countryside near Dresden. I moved there because of a beautiful recording studio called Castle Studios where I work as well.

How did you get into music?

When I was young, I started with the clarinet and played a lot of classical music. Around my 16th birthday, I fell in love with electronic music and started to collect vinyl and, eventually, became a DJ.

In my mid-twenties, I already wanted to learn audio engineering but, sadly, where I lived at the time, there was no audio school and no online education available. So I tried to meet people to find out how things work and learnt a lot by myself until later in my life, where I attended the Abbey Roads music production and audio engineering school.

Clarinet

What still drives you to make music?

It’s a very strong inner feeling, call it intuition that I have. I’ve done a lot of different things in my life for work already, but this feeling with music always came back, telling me that I need to make music and learn all I can about it. I try to just follow that intuition. My life has changed ever since I became a full time producer and audio engineer. It’s hard work, especially, when you need to build it up from scratch to make a living. It’s also a particular life style. You really need to want this, otherwise it doesn’t work. I gave many things up in order to do it, but also don’t regret it a minute.

How do you most often start a new track?

Mostly, I start with a sound or chord progression on a synth that inspires me. I choose the key I work in and just go with the flow. Sometimes a drum loop inspires me or a melody gives me a certain feel and then it depends. Generally, there are two ways of making music for me. Either, I create a live-set, which means that I let things flow a bit more and don’t work in a particular song structure. However, when I produce songs with something specific in mind, I’m very structured and try to follow the sections. It took me a long time to find out how to finish tracks and, working structured and in sections, was the best for me. That also goes for when I work with clients.

Most musicians have a structure in their music as well and it’s just easier to be able to work like that, to have the same language. Otherwise translating their needs can get complicated.

Ableton Template

How do you know when a track is finished?

When the deadline is there. 🙂 In general, when all elements of the song are there and work good together, than it’s time to mix. Usually, I already do a lot in pre-production stages, so that I can keep my mixes simple and effective.

Show us your current studio

Andrea’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Have a lot of quality output, educate yourself and, if possible, learn from mentors that can guide you. This is what I started to do, I try to educate myself on everything to do with music, the industry, music business in general, producing and engineering, marketing and promotion, social media.

Having an understanding of the work you need to put in makes everything a lot easier, as you can plan along and are able to communicate with the people around you better. Having mentors in your life to learn from is very important, so that you can improve yourself and are able to ask for advice.

Socials:
https://www.andreacichecki.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/AndreaCichecki/
linktr.ee/AndreaCichecki
https://www.instagram.com/andrea_cichecki
https://www.facebook.com/AndreaCicheckiMusic
https://soundcloud.com/andrea-cichecki
https://castle-studios.com/


Megan Leber – Modular Mist

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

Lots, but one of them is the “Tone” knob on the Desmodus Versio. Try turning that reeeaaally slowly 😉 Also every fader from Gaz’ modules (Big T Music LTD), they just feel so sturdy and smooth!

Rangoon and Monsoon from Big T Music LTD  eurorack module
Rangoon and Monsoon from Big T Music LTD

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

This is such a hard question! Well, a bit unexpected maybe, but I’m going for a VST here: Cycles by Slate & Ash. It’s just spot on for me, I could create an entire album using just that. The atmospheres you can get out of there, the subtle movements, the gorgeous effects, the sequencer, the granular part. It’s still so inspiring after 2 years of using it. I also love the Xone 96 by Allen & Heath, this mixer is perfect for my live performances.

Xone 96 by Allen & Heath
Xone 96 by Allen & Heath

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

If I have to bring as little as possible I’d bring my Digitone or Tasty Chips GR-1 and Octatrack. But if I’d do a tour I’d probably add something.

Tasty Chips GR-1
Tasty Chips GR-1

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

Paulstretch and definitely Cycles + Landforms from Slate & Ash. Their software is mindblowing! And vice versa: Intellijel Rainmaker.

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

No! 🙂 You can learn something from every piece of gear. If something doesn’t spark joy anymore or stops inspiring you, just let it go. For instance I recently sold my Mannequins Mangrove and Three Sisters and I think many people would have kept them because they’re so hard to obtain nowadays. But that’s no reason for me to keep stuff.

Three Sisters Module
Three Sisters Module

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

All of my granular modules (Arbhar, Morphagene, Monsoon)! And I’d say that Cycles by Slate & Ash inspired me so much, that it really got me to produce regularly again and to feel creative. It even got me looking into modular again until I couldn’t stop myself from buying the first modules. Since I started with modular I got more and more inspired, especially by the granular modules mentioned above. With these modules, combined with a nice reverb/delay, you can create otherworldly soundscapes which can really carry you away and make you lose track of time. Love that!

Make Noise Morphagene
Make Noise Morphagene

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

I don’t think I would have done anything differently, other than getting into modular earlier on. The creativity I get out of that is unbelievable. Oh and I would have put my music out there earlier too.

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

Hmm, I would say the Octatrack? No, I think I could live without that (if I have to). Unanswered!

Elektron Octatrack
Elektron Octatrack

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

My D.O.MIXX (5-channel mixer module by Blood Cells Audio) has 1 aux send. I just recently found out you can switch between pre/post aux per channel, so if you choose pre aux you can cue your channel with headphones. I’ve now routed that aux send to my Xone 96 mixer (on send D) so I can cue every channel of my modular on there and this is huge to me for my live improvs!

D.O.MIXX (5-channel mixer module by Blood Cells Audio)
D.O.MIXX

Artist or Band name?

Megan Leber

Genre?

Techno and ambient/electronic (if I have to put a label on it).

Selfie?

I rarely take selfies! 

Where are you from?

Rotterdam, Netherlands. 

How did you get into music?

I remember I was always drawn to instruments from a very young age. When I was 10 my teacher put a piano (and later a guitar) in the classroom and I was instantly hooked. He taught me some stuff about chords and intervals and let me play after school. Later my parents let me buy my own keyboard from my savings and after that I got my first electric guitar. Never took any lessons, I always played by ear.
When I was 16/17 I got into electronic music production, when I put Reason on my laptop and a whole new world opened up! Soon after that Ableton followed and I got more and more obsessed. Got a few MIDI controllers and my first synth: a Yamaha AN1x. A year of studying Electronic Music Production, a few drum computers, synths and modules later: here I am!

What still drives you to make music?

I just HAVE to, it’s this thing I can’t stop doing. It’s what I love to do most and which will never bore me. As soon as I open my eyes I’m thinking about making music. When it comes to making music I’m a sponge. I always want to know and try more. My mind can be quite chaotic sometimes, but when I’m making music I’m at ease. It gives me this weird (the positive weird) feeling I can’t really explain, like all these endorphins are floating around inside of me. Endless possibilities!

How do you most often start a new track?

It sometimes starts with an idea or feeling in my head, something I want to try out, “what would happen if I do this?”. Sometimes I create a soundscape first, other times I start with a sequence on the Atlantis. What’s important to me is that I can completely lose myself in the sound design and slowly build a “mood”. But I also start without any idea/expectation and just jam.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Intuition. It’s just a feeling of being satisfied with the result. And to be honest there are always things that could have been changed after a track is “finished”. I also have to admit I’m bad at finishing tracks! I’m more of a creator and that’s what makes me happy. As soon as I have to stop creating and start mixing etc, I get bored or distracted and want to make new things… haha. 

Show us your current studio

It’s constantly changing! Here’s one of my most recent pictures, just before I hooked everything up again (cables cables cables):

Megan Lebers every changing setup
Megan Lebers every changing setup

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Can I also put my own advice here? 😀 Do exactly what you want to do and not what you think others might expect from you. Don’t follow any ‘hype’ because you think you’ll get noticed. Stay true to yourself! 

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

Check out Mystery Circles’ BandCamp on the 5th of June for a nice surprise! 😉 https://mysterycircles.bandcamp.com

[Editor: Megan’s IG can also be found here: https://www.instagram.com/meganleber]


Yukes – White Ghost beyond the Great Firewall

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

Yamaha MT44 cassette tape recorder
Yamaha MT44 cassette tape recorder

If I’m being honest, the “feather touch technology” buttons on my Yamaha MT44 4-track cassette machine are just… something else entirely.

Back in the 80’s when buttons n’ switches were more mechanical and clicky, a lot of different “options” were lost to the more common ones. What we have here is a thin ribbon beneath a plastic cover with no click. Sounds bad right?

But when you press the button, it causes whatever mechanical function you triggered in the machine to violently come to life somewhere deep within the machine, causing an almost distant haptic shake, despite the button feeling almost unresponsive.

There’s a creative satisfaction to the physical start of a cassette session, of course, but my monkey brain finds some deep satisfaction in how the button feels.

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

Bamboo Xiao and reel-to-reel recorder
Bamboo Xiao and reel-to-reel recorder

My bamboo Xiao, in key of F. We really figured this stuff out 38,000 years ago, didn’t we?

I needed to buy a new xiao when I arrived in Chengdu a few months ago, and got one at a shop that sounded the nicest. I realized it sounded so nice because I bought one in the key of F, not G, so it’s lower with a substantially deeper, woodier sound.

I don’t have any electric gear I consider perfect. I’m a big optimist and love all the gear I have, but there’s always something frustrating, missing, or something lacking that causes desire. Not enough inputs. Too much menu diving. Too complex. Not complex enough.

But the Xiao? Thousands of years of technological advancement and this baby’s not going anywhere.

The only improvement I could ask for is a pickup mic that’s easier to install and doesn’t require a button battery. Those things are so unpredictable.

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

Roland SP404a
Roland SP404a

Gotta go with a classic. My SP404a’s been going with me everywhere. Lightweight, not too big, runs off AA’s, and swappable storage means I can switch between a dozen projects within seconds. If I’m playing a live set, I’m already committed to bringing a zither around that’s 1m, or 1.6m. the rest of my gear is gigantic and heavy; but with this lil’ guy I could feasibly run an internal mic in, throw on some simple reverb, and have as many backing tracks as I want, all with performance effects… Even without making beats on the go, this thing is a workhorse. 
It’s a shame the new one is so hard to get.

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

Software to Hardware: I adore Output – Portal. Its interface, it’s complexity, everything about this plugin suits me and the sort of ambience I share with my audience here. If I could get this into a little box with an XLR input, oh man. Feels like game over. I’ve genuinely considered buying a micro-PC with a 7in’ touch screen, programming an auto-launch and building it myself.

Gamechanger Audio Plus Pedal with Guzheng
Gamechanger Audio Plus Pedal with Guzheng

Hardware to software: To me there’s nothing more immediately satisfying than how Gamechanger Audio has mastered minimal granular synthesis with the Plus Pedal. I’d love to find some function within a DAW that let me capture the last few moments of audio and mess around with the grain, in such an instantaneous way.

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

Guzheng and pedal board live setup
Live setup and pedal board

I’m not ashamed to admit that my music gear affixation was preceded by nearly 10 years of struggling to know what was right for me. When I was experimenting with a custom electric ukulele in college, I wanted something to make ambience with. I don’t know how on earth I settled on the Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar. That’s… like a $300, very specific pedal which they say ‘is an instrument in its own right.’ A sort of synth pedal. I was fascinated by the concept of generating sympathetic drones based on what note i played. In retrospect what I actually wanted was shimmer and freeze. 
I never got the hang of it. I still try.
I also had a Line6 DL4 back in the day. I really never got a sound out of it that I liked, but I spent way too much of what little money I had back then, to get it. 
Forgive the photo; it’s the only pic I have of both pedals together on my makeshift pedalboard.  

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

Novation Circuit and little buddy keyboard
Novation Circuit and little buddy keyboard

The sheer number of micro beats I’ve made on the original Novation Circuit I just got is perplexing. Right now my social media strategy in China is based on quantity, so as much as I want to craft bigger and better songs, posting something new every day is more important for growth. And this thing just churns out ideas and concepts.

I can sit with it far away from my desk, run it off batteries, and even use its internal speaker, and get a little beat together in less than 5 minutes.

Omnisphere may have been what opened me up to the most tangible productivity and hours put in, but as for sheer number of songs, nothing comes close to what the circuit could do for me.

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

Given the nature of being an expat, this is a far more tangible and realistic question than normal. I try not to get too attached to my gear because realistically I may need to leave it all behind someday. But I don’t let that stop me from acquiring (mostly second hand) gear that doesn’t fit inside a suitcase. Don’t let international politics ruin your interests. 

Elektron Digitone and Marshall Speaker
Elektron Digitone

If I sold it all and started fresh somewhere else, I’d probably start with a Microcosm as my main effect processor, and stick to ambient music for a while. After that, I’d probably start fresh with Elektron, starting with a Digitone. My friend loaned me this beast for the weekend and I’m in love. Then a 404mkII as a hardware unit, and finally pick a keyboard. Novation Summit if I could afford it. Otherwise maybe a Komplete keyboard, A49 I reckon. But honestly I’d be fine with just a Digitone and Microcosm. As long as I can find a dope instrument shop nearby.

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

White Native Instruments Maschine
Native Instruments Maschine

Native Instruments Maschine. Putting 9 hours into tutorials on LinkedIn Learning (of all places) was unarguably the biggest leap forward in my music production skills, but it set me up in a music production environment which is sort of toxic in how un-intuitively it works with other software. No hotkeys, terrible mouse navigation… it’s like I’ve been cursed.

If you’ve ever tried to work with Maschine as a VST within Ableton or Logic you’d know what I mean. It’s great on its own, but my god, it’ll choke anything but the strongest computers.

I’ve tried working without it. Tried learning the drum rack on Ableton, session view… but nothing is as fast and intuitive to me.

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

Using the SP404 sampler as a synth
Using the SP404 sampler as a synth

I made a video recently about using a sampler as a synthesizer, using only its internal multi-effects. It was a simple idea that I had, which really blew up into an incredibly complex and wonderful challenge in makeshift synthesis.

I designed the technique as a means of exploring and internalizing what effects truly sound like (what does a bit crash do to a sine wave?) but now realize it’s a great way to really understand what effects can do. I’d encourage anyone with a fancy pedal or getting into magnetic tape recording to try dropping basic waveshapes through it and listening to what comes out.


Artist or Band name?

Yukes玉刻

Genre?

Ambient / Chinawave

Selfie?

Yukes aka. Justin Scholar
Yukes

Where are you from?

New York, New York, currently based in Chengdu, China.

How did you get into music?

Trained in jazz & classic trombone throughout school. I tried music so many times as a kid and never really enjoyed it until I tried ukulele, which led me to mandolin, mountain dulcimer, banjo, then all sorts of folk instruments. While studying abroad I fell in love with the Chinese Zither (Guzheng) and came back several years later to make a career out of playing traditional Chinese instruments in Shanghai. It’s started working out quite well recently.

What still drives you to make music?

I found something that works for me. I discovered a niche with wide public appeal, which is proving to be very lucrative and creatively liberating. Breathing new life into traditional instruments has given me a lifetime of new territory to explore, and my relatively new fixation on gear adds the geeky satisfaction as well. Cassette tapes are scratching the lofi / esoteric itch, and all the brand sponsorships (Eventide, Focusrite, Novation, NI) are offering some real sense of authenticity.

How do you most often start a new track?

I leave my acoustic instruments strewn about the studio. I’ll pick it up, fingerpick til I find a strange new chord, strike up a simple rhythm on a sampled CR-78, and try to record it simply. From there it’ll likely become a demo; if not, I’ll record a video of my fingers while I play, then save it for later. My muscle memory is terrible.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When the call of everything else I’m working on grows too loud to ignore, I anxiously polish up whatever I’m working on, wherever it’s at, and ship it out.

It’s… really not ideal, but it’s better than perfectionism and never finishing.

Show us your studio?

Yukes Studio. Novation Circuit. Sp404a. Yamaha 4-track. Launchpad. MicroKorg. Eventide H9.
Yukes Studio

My girlfriend and I have been artists-in-residence for nearly a year now, so we’ve been sort of living out of a few flight cases. Our studio’s nothing to write home about, but the environment outside is unreasonably beautiful. 

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Always be ready to entertain.

It was a practical piece of advice, given to me by a seasoned acoustic musician who was dabbling in electronics. The basic nature of the idea is that you need to be able to make music anytime, with anything, if only your voice, or with any instrument you’re handed.

One time I was the guest of honor for a government project in Wuxi, China, the governer walked in and asked me to play something from my home country. I didn’t have any instrument on me, so I immediately started singing “I Wish My Baby Was Born” by Tim Eriksen. I would’ve liked some accompaniment, but it was what I had on me, and what was in my head at the time.

But the lesson goes deeper than that. Learn to learn, don’t learn to master. Be ready to try any instrument that’s put in front of you. As a left-handed musician, I’ve come to terms with the fact that no one will ever hand me a left-handed guitar at a party and ask for a song. So I’ve learned upside down.

John Lennon said, “I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.” Whatever situation you’re given in life, be the artist and make the best out of it.

You’re never gonna cure your GAS. You’re never going to have every piece of gear you desire, and even if you could, you couldn’t reach it all from one place. And you won’t always have a big enough table. More than half my gear is sitting in a basement in a terribly locked-down Shanghai, I don’t know when I’ll get it back. But I’m making great use of what I have.

So whatever your lot in life is, make the most out of it.  

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

After years and years, I’ll finally release my single this month. Search up Yukes玉刻 on Spotify and follow meet_yukes on Instagram for a look into life as a musician in China. Good stuff, lots of chillout, ambience and fun stuff.