Kumie – Battery Powered Fun

1.  Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
Currently, I love the buttons on the Elektron Digitakt. I’m not a gamer, but in the past couple years, I have gotten super into mechanical keyboards. The Digitakt’s keys have that same feel.They have such a satisfying click and light up quite nicely. They aren’t velocity sensitive, but I actually don’t miss that feature on the device.

Elektron Digitakt
Elektron Digitakt

2.  Do you have an _‘almost’_ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
The OP-Z is sooooooo close to being perfect for me. It’s tiny, portable, the synth engines are solid, it samples, the step components and performance effects are a blast, and the encoders are a close second for favorite knob/fader/switch. But, the sampling could be better. In a perfect world, it would have a little more memory to store samples in a bank the way the Digitakt does. Then using the OP-Z app, I could access and load them for a given project. I’d also make some tweaks to how it sends MIDI because right now lots of crazy things happen when I try to control other hardware.

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Teenage Engineering OPZ

3.  What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
The OP-Z is with me, always. Though, I did just get a Roland MC-101, so I may start carrying that around too.

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Roland MC-101 and Teenage Engineering OPZ

4.  What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I wish there was something a little more Ableton-like in the hardware world in the $500 range. Looping pedals are nice and in the moment, but not good (in my mind) for planning and arranging finished songs. And, most other samplers I have seen are a little half baked in the loop/slice/time stretch department.

5.  Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I am a gear hoarder. I hate selling things. I just put them in cold storage until something inspires me to use them again. For example, I got a Yamaha QY70 the summer of 1997. I used it for a couple years, then got really into Reason and Logic and never touched it. About a year ago, I was inspired by someone else’s Instagram post to pull the QY70 out and use it to sequence other gear. Turns out, it is the perfect companion to the Volca line.

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Yamaha QY70 and Korg Volca Drum

BUT, there is one device that I bought and hated so much that I returned a day later: The Boss DR-202 Dr. Groove. I got it around the time it was released. I had this fantasy that it would be my core groove production tool. It wasn’t. Sounds were meh, sequencer was meh, even the buttons were pretty meh.

6.  What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
I spent about 7 years barely making music even though I had Ableton Live and Reason just sitting loaded on my computer waiting to be used. I just could not get excited about sitting down with a mouse and staring at a screen for fun after staring at one for work all day. Then, the OP-Z came out and thought that maybe it was time to give hardware a try again, which led me to all sorts of other battery-powered music-making devices. It’s exciting to be able to just turn a device on and start instantly making beats and sequences. 

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OPZ with iPad app and Volca Drum

7.  If you had to start over, what would you get first?
Even though bang for your buck answer would be an iPad (so many good music apps), I’d start with hardware. Since I love grooveboxes so much, that would be my starting point. Maybe one of the recent Electribes or a Novation Circuit. Or, of course, an OP-Z.

8.  What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
Ableton Live. It is really hard for me to stay focused on a piece of software, but it is just so essential for finishing tracks.

9.  Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
It wasn’t really a surprise, but the most welcome technique I have found in recent hardware (like the Digitakt, OP-Z, and Volca Drum) is parameter locking. It opens so many creative possibilities.


Artist or Band name?
Kumie

Me.jpg
Scott Kumis

Genre?
Soundtracks for sci-fi stories that don’t exist

Where are you from?
Currently, Northern Virginia

How did you get into music?
I started taking drum and percussion lessons in the 5th grade and kept going from there.

What still drives you to make music?
It’s an itch that just needs to be scratched. One of the only places in my life where I can fully focus on something for hours without the urge to check my phone or surf the web.

How do you most often start a new track?
Drums are my original instrument. So things almost always start with a beat.

How do you know when a track is finished?
I’ll let you know when I figure that out.

Show us your current studio
It’s a bit of a mess now as it doubles as my office for telework and also a closet.

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Scott Kumis’ studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
Make as much art as you can, no matter how bad. The more you create without holding back, the better you get over time.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
You can fine me in a few places here: https://kumiemusic.com/kumie-links/

[Editor: Hey, anyone else got a good battery powered setup? Using PowerBanks? SolarPanels? HamsterWheel Generator? Leave a comment]


Tuesday Night Machines – On a Sunday

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

I have a weird fixation with the data wheels on Akai’s MPC 500 and MPC 1000. They’re not really high quality components or feel nice to the touch, but they’re essential to operating those devices efficiently and in my opinion the designers did a great job of integrating them into the software and general MPC workflow. They’re just so quick and easy to rotate and the software reacts so snappily to their motion … it’s a delight.

Akai MPC500

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

AE Modular

This always depends on the situation or musical context, but I’ve been very impressed by the AE Modular synth format and how it developed over the past two years. It’s a fully featured modular synthesizer, which is relatively small and portable and costs only a fraction of a Eurorack system. I’ve dreamed of a system like this ever since I delved into the modular synth rabbit hole ten years ago and it seems that it has finally become reality … at least for my tastes and requirements.

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

Akai MPC 500 and YouTuber’s toes

I love making music while on vacation or when commuting. The iPad has worked for me greatly as a mobile music workhorse ever since its inception and I always carry it with me and do something musical with it. Sometimes it’s too much like a computer though, meaning that it can distract me with its internet access, notifications, etc. So, especially for vacations, I like to bring other pieces of gear as well, which run on USB power bank power, which is easy nowadays, even for devices requiring a 12V supply, thanks to cheap and efficient step-up adapter cables. Last year I re-bought the aforementioned MPC 500 and created a full album with it during a three week camping vacation. For this year I’m planning to take my freshly modded TI-82 calculator with Houston Tracker 2 and maybe even a Gotharman Little Deformer 3. I have also enjoyed Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 (obviously), the Bastl Microgranny 2 and BitRanger, a Gameboy Advance Micro with LSDJ and various other bits. Somehow, I can concentrate on music best when I’m on vacation and I get the most finished tracks out of those periods of time.

TI-82 calculator with Houston Tracker 2

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

Lumen! It’s a really cool analog-style video synth for macOS with MIDI control, which I would really love to have as a standalone and affordable hardware device. Maybe I can snag a Critter & Guitari ETC at some point, which seems close.

Lumen video synth

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

I’m not into vintage synths or rare gear, so I’ve not regretted selling stuff so far, because I could always just buy it again if I wanted to. However, I’m in the heaviest music studio downsizing phase I’ve ever had right now and I might run the risk of finally regretting a thoughtless sale after all. I sometimes get this “reverse GAS”, which makes me feel unattached to all my gear, so I end up selling things left and right. After those phases though, there has always been something new to be acquired and tried out with the new funds. It’s a journey and I enjoy it.

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

Ciat Lonbarde

While it was not the “most” music I made, my recent foray into Ciat Lonbarde instruments, like the Cocoquantus, Sidrax Organ and Plumbutter, very much inspired me. Those instruments are incredibly well designed for spontaneous, electric forest ambient music live-patching sessions.

Linnstrument and inspiration

Apart from that, I also like to play an MPE synth with the Linnstrument and have the Bastl Thyme or Mooer Ocean Machine attached as audio effects. Somehow this simple setup is an instant relaxation tool for me. I could press, slide and wiggle my fingers for hours on this rubbery control surface and drown in the looping ambient delay and reverb sounds coming through my headphones.

Linstrument and Mooer Ocean Machine

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

I think I might try a larger hardware music workstation, like the MPC X and then get some cheap and small gadgets to sample.

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

Axoloti DSP DIY

I’ve kept a few of my DIY synths for way too long. They took too much space and I hardly used them anymore, yet I couldn’t let go of them. Especially the Axoloti platform is like a drug to me sometimes. It’s so easy to prototype and build synth, sampler and sequencer ideas with it, but all of the sudden you have eight of those DSP boards and a drawer full of wooden boxes which might work as enclosures, electric components and cheap USB MIDI controllers. Still, the Axoloti is one of the most empowering electronic music experiences for me. Making your own hardware instruments from scratch is incredibly satisfying, especially when it’s that easy.

Axoloti DSP board

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

Reading Ken Stone’s CGS Serge circuit diagrams made me discover the power and versatility of the 4051 analog multiplexer IC, which is a 3 bit, binary-addressed eight-way switch, perfect as a basic building block for analog sequencers. This has furthered my DIY endeavors tremendously and if everything goes as planned, it will result in my first commercially available modular synth module later this year. [Editor: Cool, I look forward to hearing and seeing what these do. Will insert link when it comes out]

Synth DIY

Tuesday Night Machines logo

Artist or Band name?

The Tuesday Night Machines

Genre?

All over the place. It’s not good to cultivate an audience for my music like this I guess, but I like jumping between genres. I’ve made chiptunes, a beat tape, harsh noise, ambient drones and I’m currently dabbling in Acid. Oh well.

Selfie?

Sure, but I’m writing this on the couch and it’s Sunday, so I look the part.

Felix on a sunday aka. Tuesday Night Machines

Where are you from?

My family moved a lot, so I’m not “from” somewhere really. I currently live in Köln, Germany for over a decade though, so it looks as if I like this city.

How did you get into music?

I had classic piano lessons and some electric keyboard lessons as a child, which I didn’t like too much back then. I’m glad that I got some basic music theory from it though. Later, I learned to play the guitar during university to play my favorite punk rock songs. Electronic music came some time after I started working then, beginning just with a copy of Ableton Live Lite, which seemed like a fun and easy way to make music. Apparently it wasn’t though, as it led me to DAWless hardware setups quickly.

What still drives you to make music?

I work in visual media, so music is basically the counterpiece to my day job. It’s a great way to relax for me, more or less away from the computer.

How do you most often start a new track?

Mostly with a certain sound or melody. Depending on the workflow of the device I’m playing with, I sometimes even just create one single long audio track for that one sound and then layer drums and other instruments on top afterwards.
How do you know when a track is finished?

When I get past the 3 minute mark.

Show us your current studio

The current state of my studio downsizing craze:

Cupboard studio

.. and how it was before, neatly constructed inside an inconspicuous IKEA PAX wardrobe:

Cupboard studio full of knobs

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

That limitation thing which everyone mentions. Limitations are great for music.

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

Thicket Whispers, a Ciat Lonbarde album:

https://nightmachines.bandcamp.com/album/thicket-whispers

Thicket Whispers, a Ciat Lonbarde album by Tuesday Night Machines

[Editor: You seen any of TuesdayNightMachines youtube tutorials? Leave a comment]


[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…
]


Tom Whitwell – Mr MusicThingModular

[Editor: I gotta preface this interview with the fact that I’m very pleased that Mr. Whitwell has agreed to be interviewed. His blog, MusicThing, was a wonderful resource and a great inspiration to me back in the heady days of the late ’00’s… and one of the original reasons I wanted to start a blog for nerding music gear. So without further ado…]

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

So many: the start button on a Technics 1200, the Intensity knob on a Princeton Reverb, the rotary mode switches on a Makenoise QMMG, the aluminium mod wheel on a Nord G2.

Princeton amp and Telecaster with a deadly tremolo

Of things I’ve designed myself, I’m still proud of the random/lock knob on a Turing Machine, the way it steers between randomness and repetition. And the Station knob on a Music Thing Radio Music is always pleasing, you never know quite what you’re going to get. 

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

A Wurlitzer 200A. I’d known about them forever – that sound on Supertramp and Beck and Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’ and so many other records. I first met one for real in a second hand shop in New York. I stared at it, then finally asked the woman in the shop if I could try it. They came over and turned it on, I played a chord and that incredible sound came out, the feel of the wooden keys, the two speakers, it’s like a hug. I bought one a few years later from a guy in London and have gradually upgraded it with a new amp board from RetroLinear, replacement legs and pedal. It’s the only vintage thing I own – about the same age as me. It would be improved if I was a better piano player.

Wurlitzer 200A with friends at the beach

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

My favourite place to research and design circuits is on a laptop in a beach bar, watching my family playing, completely relaxed with no pressure, a cold beer, and the ability to spend hours trying to work something out. Those ideas often lead nowhere, but turn into things years later.

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

The Moog Model D app is great. I’d love a hardware version of that. I’ve just built a version of the external input section for my modular, because it’s such a cool effect. 

Eurorack modular and patch cables

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

When I was about 14 I bought a Korg MS10 for £75, then sold it to a friend for £50. [Editor: Ouch!]

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

Eagle is the software I use to design circuit boards. You start by drawing the schematic and end up routing all the traces on the circuit board. There’s a long learning curve, but it now feels like a superpower. I can have an idea like “what if I had the Minimoog drive circuit in a 4hp euro module?” and have the thing my hand a few weeks later.

Big knobs and Motu UltraLite mk4 soundcard

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

A laptop or an iPad and some headphones. 

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

I have a love/hate relationship with coding. At the moment I’m enjoying the Monome Norns (I have the DIY Fates version). It’s clever and powerful, but also it’s coding, so a bit annoying.

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

Always feedback everything. Whether it’s feeding back the reverb sends into themselves in Ableton, or self-switching feedback loops using the Turing Machine Vactrol Mix Expander, it’s always always interesting & unexpected.

Nagra 4.2 with books

Artist or Band name?

Tom Whitwell / Music Thing Modular 

Genre?

Solder 

Where are you from?

South East London 

How did you get into music electronics?

I’d always been interested in music gear. In 2005-8 I wrote a blog called Music Thing, which was a celebration of gear for the sake of gear. In 2009 I got an arduino kit and started making guitar pedals, then in 2011 I bought a small Eurorack system and started making modules for myself. 

What still drives you to make music electronics?

I keep having ideas for things that I want. 

How do you most often start a new circuit?

I normally start with a sketch, sometimes a part of a circuit, or a panel. It’s a very round-and-round process, so there will be sketches, bits of circuits in Eagle, maybe bits of circuit on a breadboard, articles or papers to read. 

How do you know when a ‘thing’ is finished?

When there’s nothing else to remove. [Editor: Sounds like a Dieter Rams fan]

Go on… show us your current studio!

A window in a studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

If in doubt, leave it out.

Promote your thing…. Throw us a link

[Editor: Mr. Whitwell has a severe case of British modesty and won’t self-promote. So I’ll be cheeky and do it for him. Find his eurorack modules here musicthing.co.uk.]

[Editor: There are affiliate links to the relevant gear throughout the articles. It helps to support this blog. In fact, should you be needing some patch cables or guitar strings. Then clicking on one of the above links and buying any product that you prefer, will help the blog… doesn’t even have to be the ones in the link. Thx]