Kim Bjorn – The Knobfather

[Editor: I’m very pleased to present to you this interview with a very inspiring person: Kim Bjørn, the author of the wonderful gear books – Patch&Tweak, Push Turn Move and Pedal Crush]

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

The mighty On/Off Button

The on/off button. It’s the portal to creativity. Seeing those gear-lights turning on catapults me into an adventurous state of exploration. But I love all knobs so much I could tweak them all day – and my old Sequential Pro-2 had these really nice and interactive pressure-sensitive touch strips.

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

The Moog Grandmother – I’d just replace the spring reverb with a shimmer reverb or a stereo delay. Actually, I did that, but using pedals. Then there’s the Teenage Engineering OP-1. I’ve had it for 8 years now. Add velocity sensitivity and aftertouch, 4 more tracks, multiple FX slots, and better in- and output options, and it’s a winner. However, imperfect bits of kit make for limitations, which usually spark creative thinking – or annoyance if you haven’t been eating for a while.

Moog Grandmother and Teenage Engineering OP-1

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

My OP-1, a book, iPad and/or laptop – I can cover any work or music gig – and it fits in my backpack. I never commute, go on holiday or tour – and I really can’t make music when I’m on an airplane. I’m usually traveling to a music tech convention, where I then bring my Intellijel 7U travel case with a selection of modules and a couple of pedals, for demonstration and maybe performance.

Kim’s Eurorack Modular

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

Spectrasonics Omnisphere as a hardware synth would be amazing. The Sequential Prophet-X is somewhat there, and with a built-in 8-track sequencer/recorder and multitimbrality, it would be amazing. There’s also a lot of VCV-Rack modules that are far more experimental than current Eurorack modules, and would be nice to have as hardware. I’ve never really wanted any hardware in software-form, but having vintage and/or expensive synths in a software version is a really nice option if you can’t afford the real thing (what is “real” anyway?).

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

I miss my old Elektron Octatrack, but the mkII version is not enough to make me re-purchase – I’ll wait for a MkIII miracle. But like Amy Winehouse and William Shatner, I usually don’t regret anything. 

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

It really depends on how you define the concepts of producing and music. I get inspired by almost every piece of gear to at least produce a squeaky noise. Of course, there’s some that invite towards more jamming, like my TR-8S drum machine, or noodling and creating evolving soundscapes and sequences, like with the modular system. The Elektron sequencing interface has always been a favorite of mine – and even more so with the probability options. The Endorphin.es Furthrrr Generator, Squarp Hermod modular sequencer, Arturia Microfreak, Moog Grandmother, and the Chase Bliss Audio Blooper pedal, are among my top-inspiring friends at the moment though.

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

A job. That’s what I did back then. After that, I’d get a Moog One and an 8-track tape recorder. You’d never see me again.

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

Snyderphonics Manta
Snyderphonics Manta

I think I sold it – so apparently I can live without it. However, I love my Snyderphonics Manta, but can never remember which hexagons hold what. I guess it leads to what some call improvisation.

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

Teenage Engineering OP-1

I don’t know if it’s surprising, but the first time I ran notes from the OP-1’s Tombola sequencer into a reverb 100% wet to create an evolving soundscape/pad, I got so excited I went out and bought myself a Snickers bar.


Artist or Band name?
Kim Bjørn / Dreamhub

Genre?
Ambient

Selfie?
Can’t find my selfie-stick.

Where are you from?
Copenhagen, Denmark

How did you get into music?
Took piano lessons from age 7, then got an organ and a 4-track tape recorder. The rest is unclear. 

What still drives you to make music?
Curiosity. “What if..?”

How do you most often start a new track?
Dabbling around with no purpose, then grabs a line, sound or sequence. 

How do you know when a track is finished?
When there’s nothing left to take away. Or if I fall asleep while re-listening – it’s ambient after all.

Show us your current studio
I don’t really have one – but there’s some stuff on a table:

Kim Bjørn

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera”.
Translate this to the musical world, and lo and behold…

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

Pedal Crush – The wonderful book by Kim Bjørn and Scott Harper

[Editor: Kim, in his humble way, simply offered one link to his latest book Pedal Crush. But trust me, his other books Patch&Tweak and Push Turn Move are equally excellent. Go get’em here.
Kim’s ambient music can be found here on bandcamp


[Editor: Do you have one of Kim’s books? Which one and why? Leave a comment]



Liam Killen – Killer Beatz

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
OPZ knobs are so smooth- they’re the easiest things to spin- easier than any other knob that i’ve seen. It’s quite genius actually! A +  to Teenage Engineering on that design (as per usual).

TE OPZ
Teenage Engineering OPZ

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
Recently I’ve been discovering Arturia’s software synth bundle. Synths/keyboards include: DX7, Jupiter 8V, Fafisa, Prophet V and many more. KILLER and super affordable pack that I would recommend to anyone, I got it off Splice.com
I love me some synth hardware, but I just don’t have the space, budget, time and interest to deal with it and this is an amazing alternative.

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
I would bring my laptop, just because I can do most of what i’m capable of doing at home with just that- and of course my OP1 because of how portable and easy to use it is. It also makes for a great midi keyboard, instead of using the keys on my laptop. Sometimes I actually prefer a mini set up rather than all of the gear I have at home. 

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Teenage Engineering OP-1

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I’m beginning to wish that all hardware was software just because of how much easier/less expensive/more accessible it is in that format. That being said, there’s nothing quite like a modular synth, or an OP1 and I don’t think it would ever be possible to replicate it 100% using software (watch it happen this year). Honestly, I don’t have a solid answer to this question right now. I like everything as is, that being said, I feel like a combination of hardware + software is the way to go as a producer in 2020.

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I recently bought an API lunch box- but then never needed to buy pre amps to go with it. I bought it to record drums, which i’m not really doing much of anymore, because I no longer have a studio to play at. So now it’s just sitting at my friend’s place…collecting dust.
I will say that buying gear is a skill- like all of the gear that I own now, I use, where as when I first started collecting gear, I bought things that I thought were cool, but I didn’t really need. I feel like it’s just something that you have to go through- so just make sure that you take care of your gear so you can resell it when you’re done.

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
Recently i’ve been using the SP404 a lot and have been composing tunes specifically for the sound and aesthetic of the instrument; so more in the lofi genre. That being said, i’ve been exploring what other genres work and the thing is quite diverse! I recently posted a live set on my Youtube channel, for anyone who’s interested, linked right here below.

Liam Killen killin’ it

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
I’m happy with where i’m at now, not sure I would change anything to be honest! I’m glad that I started on drums because it gives me that rhythmic intuition that most people don’t have. Sometimes I do wish that I had started my Youtube channel earlier so that i’d have more of a following, but it takes time and i’m really enjoying the process anyway. I genuinely do love creating videos for you guys and so i’m going to keep doing it!

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
I bought a Pocket Operator Modular 400 months ago. The gear itself is not annoying at all…What’s annoying is assembling the thing. I’m pretty sure that the screws that came with it were not the proper ones- so I had to find these tiny little watch screws to put the thing together. Assembling it was probably the most annoying thing that i’ve ever experienced. That being said though, now that it’s all built, it looks so pretty!

Teenage Engineering PO400 and a little Rick and Morty PO35

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
When I was taking drum lessons, my teacher taught me what I think is one of the most important things that i’ve learnt in music- and that’s the long/short note method. I wouldn’t be able to explain it thoroughly over text but it has to do with syncopation of long and short notes and how there’s actual rules to what makes something groove. Basically, Quarter notes are long and so they are accented and syncopated notes followed by a rest are also long- also accented. Everything else is a short note, and there for played as a ghost note. These rules basically revolutionized the way that I think about rhythms and music in general.
In the synth/gear/modular world, these rules are nowhere to be seen, but I try to make them work in my electronic music tracks, which I think helps give me a certain edge. Maybe i’ll get into this in a Youtube video one day now that I think of it… hmmmmmmm. 


Artist or Band name?
Liam Killen

Genre?
That’s a tough question- we’ll say Electronic Music for now. 

Selfie?

IMG_1074.jpg
Liam Killen

Where are you from?
Montreal, Canada

How did you get into music?
I always knew I wanted to do something in music but that “something” has changed a lot throughout my life. I started very young at the age of 9 on the drums- my parents bought me a kit because I was constantly banging rhythms on tables. When I was around 15, I became pretty much obsessed with jazz drumming- wasn’t much of a sporty kid so I figured i’d focus my energy on something that I was naturally good at. I ended up going University in jazz performance on drum set- which I graduated from in 2015. I knew I couldn’t make a living off of jazz performance so I branched out during my time in university- played in a million bands, started learning new instruments and eventually got into music production, which i’ve been making a living off of for the past 5-6 years. Just recently though, like in the past 6 months, i’ve really started focusing on creating video content and not just music, and finding my voice and personality over social media, mainly my Youtube channel. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it and it will remain my focus for the foreseeable future. 

What still drives you to make music?
I’ve always been a very motivated person when it comes to music- like i’m really not hard to inspire. Honestly, recently i’ve been listening to less spotify stuff and more to people over social media, like on instagram and youtube and learning from them, which gives me plenty of motivation. I also just feel “at home” when i’m creating- it’s been a solid outlet for me since as long as I can remember, which is why i’ve worked so hard to make it my living. 

How do you most often start a new track?
Recently, i’ve been starting tracks by either programming a solid drum beat that I vibe with, or with a really inspiring sample, whether it’s one of my own or someone else’s. I used to be against using other people’s samples, but if you think about it, the biggest producers in the world do it, so why would wouldn’t I? Why limit myself?
I’ve noticed that the whole sample thing is controversial for some people. So here’s another interesting way to think of it:
My roots are in a band setting. So for me, I was a piece of the puzzle as was everyone else in the band, I was basically a hired gun a lot of the time. So let’s say you use a drum sample in one of your tracks, something that you had no hand in ACTUALLY creating, isn’t that basically the same thing as a band leader hiring a drummer to play drums on his track? That’s sort of the way that I look at it now. And lastly, if it sounds good it’s good! Also it has to be legal, lol. 

How do you know when a track is finished?
I usually like to take a couple of days away from the track when I think that it’s finished. If when I go back to it i’m able to listen through without being “taken out of it” or distracted by an element of the track, that’s when i’m happy. I try to limit myself in that respect though, because it’s easy to go in circles, especially when it comes to the mix, in which case it becomes a waste of time. Just put it out!

Show us your current studio
It’s such a mess right now! My videos look pretty clean, but then when you see behind the scenes, you see how messy it really gets. 

IMG_1075.jpg
Liam’s studio desk
IMG_1076.jpg
E-piano and E-Bass
IMG_1079.jpg
E-Drums and E-Guitars and other guitars

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
I’ve noticed that a lot of people have a hard time getting started- and 90-95% of being prolific is just sitting down at your computer/instrument, and starting. Once you come up with an idea or something that inspires you, you’re in the clear!

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
I’m constantly releasing stuff and the best way to keep track is through my social medias. I’m always posting new videos to my Youtube channel and I’m also releasing my first official EP to all listening platforms, so stay tuned for that, out April 7th, 2020. EP cover and Youtube channel linked down below. 

Liam Killen YouTube

CURIOUS final.PNG
LK Curious album cover

[Editor: Liam is obviously a Teenage Engineering fanboi, just like me. But do YOU think that collecting gear from one manufacturer is a good thing or a bad thing, for creating a personal musical style? Leave a comment below]


Frank Pedersen – EuroCrack Soundscaper

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

From eurorack modules, I really like the white knobs on Vermona and the keys on the NerdSeq is just fantastic. Both Modules have a good build quality. Also the patch cables from Instruo and Vermona I really enjoy using because they are great quality.

NerdSeq tracker sequencer in the center of the picture

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

Well yes, but mostly no 😉 I primarily use eurorack, so there is always coming and going modules in my system, but that’s a big part of the fun in eurorack, at least for me. Last year I bought around 140 -150 modules and sold maybe around 100. I cleaned out a lot and tried getting rid of the modules that didn’t fit my workflow and purpose. I’m currently down to 1750 HP which I feel is a good size for my home studio. [Editor: May I, on behalf of all the readers, say ‘Woa!’]

FourMulator from Vermona

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

Holidays?? For Modular meet-ups I used to carry a medium and a large flightcase, plus a big backpack with cables, but it turned out I damaged my back by carrying this. So for the time being i’m down to a 60 HP case from 4MS. I think I will get the Intellijel Palette soon though. It seems to have a good size for a small backpack.

My first homemade flight cases. The small one was used for a Mother32 and a few modules

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

Orca from Hundredrabbits. It can run on Monome Norns, but the display is small and it’s not eurorack. I would really like a dedicated hardware module with a large screen for that. I don’t wish for any modules to become software.

Orca from Hundredrabbits

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

Yeah a lot of things.. Roland TR8s was surprisingly awesome, and I regret selling it. (Did you know that you can multitrack record the channels on the TR8’s directly to your DAW with usb. It’s quite awesome, most synth boxes just pop up as a Stereo Master). Hermod and Pyramid from Squarp, OTO BAM, Orthogonal Devices ER-301. And of course all my 12 Amiga’s I had through time. I really wish I still had them all. Regrets from buying, sure, lots. There will always be many regrets when buying eurorack modules no matter how well you research modules. Period!

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

It’s kinda of weird, but I was fascinated by RF noise since I where a kid. For space sound textures I like the CW-upper sideband and CW-lower sideband the most. Running it thought various filters never disappoints me. Lately I’ve been “resynthesizing“ it through Panharmonium, and it can create some crazy wicked sounds, as well as nice random melodies.

Panharmonium from Rossum (picture taken the day I got it)

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

From standalone synths I would most likely buy Syntrx from Erica Synth and Tracker from Polyend. On eurorack modules I would start with what I know is good for me. NerdSeq, Trident, Panharmonium, and various standard modules. I have a long list in my head 🙂

Trident from Rossum

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

Besides the obvious; my computer. Then it is the Clouds and Rings. I currently don’t have either, but I have a Rings on the way again 🙂

Samsung 49” 32:9

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

I guess it is what I mentioned before. Any RF noise from an AM radio and the Panharmonium or just some nice filters. Wasp and Belgrad are great for this.


Artist or Band name?

Franksemi

Genre?

Interstellar soundscapes & ambient

Selfie?

Uffff.. but ok

Franksemi

Where are you from?

Denmark, Northern Jutland, Countryside. Raised by my Grandparents.

How did you get into music?

My uncle was teaching me how to play guitar every Sunday afternoon from when I was around 6 years old. But I lost interest in that after a while and somehow I also managed to break the guitar in half.. I don’t remember how and why, but I most certainly remember making up a cover story, so that my Grandparents would not get angry at me 😀 I can’t believe they fell for the story. I put the guitar back together as good as I could and placed it between some heavy wooden boxes so that it looked like the boxes had fallen and broken it… haha 🙂 Then I moved on to bass, and then tried drums for a bit. I also got tired from that pretty fast. Then when I was 13, the Amiga popped up and I was hooked on Protracker for some years. Later I got access to a 303 and borrowed a 606 for a while. Then it was mostly software for many years and next a 15 year break from making any music. Three years ago I split up with my x-girlfriend after many years together, and I needed to do something creative again, so I started building my first Eurorack flight case. And from there I started with Eurorack which was something I wanted to do for years.

My third homemade modular flight case

What still drives you to make music?

I don’t know if what I make is considered music, at least not in a traditional way. I would just categorize it as making space soundscapes & textures for my own personal meditative pleasure, and that is really what drives me. That and making something creative, which I have always done one way or another. I always imagine myself how I would enjoy these sounds while leaving this solarsystem in a spaceship. Plainly put; sounds for space travel. But I also think of it as kind of alien communication that I am still trying to learn. Sometimes I would call it ‘Sound Design’ but that’s probably a stretch 🙂

How do you most often start a new track?

I just start a new patch and see what happens.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I never finished a ‘real track’, at least not for many years. I often just make patches and let it run for a couple of nights, sometimes a week or more. I like falling asleep to that, instead of just putting on some random DI stream etc. Most of time I don’t even bother to record it, cuz it is too much of a hassle and I often have problems with getting the levels right etc. But sometimes I put a small video clip on Instagram, but not so much anymore.

Show us your current studio.

Franksemi’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

When I was in Art academy in Kolding 25 years ago, I had a teacher that told me that the best art is always something you made 20 years ago. That was funny back then, cuz I asked if he meant, that I made art like a 5 year old. But no, seriously, depending on how you will interpret it, I think this can apply to music as well. I will let you think upon that for yourself.. 🙂

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

You are very welcome to follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/franksemi/

[Editor: Eurorack modules: Too much or Never Enough? Leave a comment below. ]