A773 – Melodic Modular Maestro

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
I just love my Horstronic joystick! I’ve been trying out a few different touch/grab/turn modules and somehow didn’t gel with most. But the joystick is great. I removed the spring from it, to keep it from returning to center position, it makes much more sense to me, that it stays where it’s left. It feels really good and the gestural nature of if makes it such a joy to “play”.
To cater for the muscle memory I mostly have it patched up the same way: X controls “skipping of something” (left is no skip, right is more skip) and Y is “brightness of something” (up is bright, down is mellow, middle is neutral).

Horstronic Joystick

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
I recently got a 2nd hand MicroFreak, that I’ve fallen in love with. It has a quite simple synth engine, but the modulation matrix opens it up and makes it easy to get organic and dynamic sounds. I was a bit skeptical about the Buchla-style keyboard, but it feels great and the polyphonic aftertouch is very nice. It has a few quirks, for instance although the engine is polyphonic, everything runs through a monophonic filter, but for me it just adds to it’s charm.
There are, however, two things that annoy me. Most importantly: it always powers on on preset 1, something I hate so much that I sold modules, I otherwise liked because of them not remembering their state between powercycles. I’m hoping they’ll change that in a new firmware soon! Secondly, it’s quite a shame that it doesn’t have CV in, but I’m not sure they can fix that with a firmware update 🙂

Arturia Microfreak

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
I actually stopped bringing stuff on holiday and trips. I prefer to take time off, do nothing, maybe read a book. Currently I’m reading Schoenbergs “Theory of Harmony”, which contrary to what many people believe, is not at all about 12-tone technique, but rather sums up and marks his departure from tonal music. Last time I was on an exceptionally long and boring train trip, I brought the computer and took the opportunity to work with csound. I mostly use it to generate batches of samples with slight or drastic variations for later use in the ER-301.

Orthogonal Devices ER-301

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
The ORCΛ “sequencer” would be great to have in modular format, just a screen, connections for USB keyboard and a bunch of trigger and CV I/O. A friend of mine has made
a module for himself from a raspberry pi, that kind of is that, but it’s too much DIY for my skills and it’s also a bit rough around the edges. The only software I use on a daily basis is Reaper, I’m not sure I’d like to have that in hardware. I think software and hardware have their strengths and weaknesses, and the power of Reaper to me is the extreme flexibility, which I don’t think would carry over to hardware.

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I had a Yamaha SY77 some years back, it was an amazing synth, not really sure why I sold it.

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

I’ve become much more productive since I got into modular, maybe it is because you can’t make anything new before you pull the cables. When using software I often had a hard time finishing anything, there was always this feeling of unrealized potential in every track.
With modular there’s no way around it, just finish the patch, record it, pull the cables and then move on.

Eurorack modular and audio mixer

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
I’d get a modular and an acoustic piano!

Night time modular lights

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
I have a very brutal attitude towards annoying gear, to the point that I’d rather change my workflow, than live with something that annoys me. So I can’t really think of any piece of gear I have that annoys me.

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
I recently found that the mystic circuits vert can make sound without any input, which surprised me, since it’s basically an AD converter. I had to switch it off/on to convince myself it wasn’t due to some old input still stuck in there. When sending it random voltages it makes some wonderful, glitchy bursts, all with a bit different flavour, depending on what output you use.

Mystic Circuits Vert

Artist or Band name?

Melodic electronic music.

Please no!

Where are you from?
Copenhagen, Denmark

How did you get into music?
I taught myself to play the piano as a teenager, then eventually ended up studying jazz piano at the conservatory in The Hague. Around the same time as I started playing the piano, I got interested in electronic music, and read all books (which weren’t many) available in the public library on synthesizers, and soon after I bought my first synth, a Roland JX-8P.

What still drives you to make music?
Music in general is the most satisfying activity I have ever been involved in. And when it comes to making music, the whole process of making something out of nothing is so fulfilling. I love all the small and large decisions that it takes, to make a piece of music. I also immensely enjoy improvising, that whole interacting with the music in the moment and making split minute decisions represents something very special, something that keeps the mind alert and the music fresh.

How do you most often start a new track?
That’s deliberately very different. Sometimes I have a rhythmic idea, sometimes I have a chord progression or a modulation in mind, sometimes it’s just an experiment on the modular that develops into something.

How do you know when a track is finished?
When my teletype is full (not entirely untrue). On a serious note, I make all my music on the modular, and perform it live in one take. So it’s a process, where I patch something up, then play it, then patch some more. At some point I’ll explore what I have, try out different forms, find ways to take it down dynamically, or ways to go wild. I might find there’s a tricky part I need to practice, or feel something needs to be added, a variation in the bass or more texture, so I might work a bit more on the patch. When I can play the patch confidently and don’t feel like anything is misssing, I multitrack to reaper, and at this point I consider it finished. More often than not, I do a quick mix right after the recording, to check if the performance was ok. If not I do another take, I very rarely do any overdubs or edits.

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Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
“Don’t be afraid to imitate, the closer you get to your heroes, the closer you get to yourself”

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[Editor: Have you gone modular or have you deliberately stayed away?? Leave a comment]