Mikael Tobias – ResonanTechno

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

After much deliberation, I’m gonna go with the volume knob on my 80’s Japanese Fender Precision Bass. Something about the textured metal just feels so solid and badass.

MIJ Fender P Bass Volume knob

Honourable mention goes to the knobs on the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor for their sheer monstrosity, which I get to use when I work at @SixBitDeep.

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

Every piece of kit is perfect just the way it is =D

VervilleAudio MDC-1

Ok, actually I’ll shout out my homies at @VervilleAudio for their MDC-1 which is a hand-made 2-channel Variable Mu tube compressor on steroids plus 2 preamp channels. I have a Beta version which sounds incredible, but I’ve been in close contact with them discussing some minor improvements (mostly just the interface) and I think the next version will be close to perfect! These guys are developing some amazing gear in Montreal.

VervilleAudio MDC-1

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

The last tour I did was a solo one around Europe and the UK. I was taking planes, trains and busses everywhere, so I needed a really compact setup. Laptop, small RME FF400 interface and Novation Launch Control XL controller (+ some vinyl and extra clothes) in a backpack and my lap steel guitar and a few pedals in a soft gig bag (actually a rifle case!)

Gibson Lapsteel in a rifle case
Rifle softcase

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

Hardware sequencer Faderfox SC4

I don’t find myself wishing this very often. A lot of the software I love is already great emulations of hardware, and generally when I’m using hardware it’s because I want to have my hands on something other than the mouse. Having rare and expensive hardware reverbs and compressors easily available in the form of plugins is a godsend! And conversely, there are so many software sequencers, but I always seem to get more interesting results when I use a hardware sequencer. So I guess the short answer is no 🙂

Hardware sequencer Akai MPC1000
Hardware sequencer Arturia Beatstep Pro

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

When I moved to Copenhagen from Montreal I had to sell a ton of stuff, and while sometimes it’s nice to do a purge and move on, I sure do miss the amps I had. There was a Traynor YBA-1 head with this awesome old Peavey cabinet that was painted white and that I put a vintage 15” Jensen speaker in. And the love of my life was a Music Man 210HD One Thirty. One of the guys from Arcade Fire once asked if they could buy it from me and I said no. 

Traynor YBA-1 with Peavey cabinet

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

Sennheiser MD211
Electro Voice RE15

Probably getting a new microphone. Whenever I pick up a new mic, I immediately want to hear how it sounds on different sources, and putting myself into that engineer mindset always makes me feel super creative. A new instrument has a similar effect. When I got my Korg Mono/Poly I did a pretty deep dive and got really inspired with the sounds it can make. That thing is all over my new album.

Korg Mono/Poly

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

That’s a tough one because I started with a guitar (a cheap copy of a Gibson Les Paul) then an amp, then a wah pedal, and I don’t think I’d change that course of events. But in the early 2000’s I had a friend who sold all his keyboards. He had a Rhodes MKI, a Roland JX-3P and a Korg MS-10. I bought the Rhodes and 2 of my friends each bought one of the synths… all for dirt cheap. I wish I had taken the MS-10 instead of the Rhodes (I can’t play piano for shit) but synths were such a mystery to me then. My homie still has it though so at least it’s in the family.

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

Getting on the case

CASES! Rack case, road cases, instrument cases etc…It’s such a juggling act to set up a studio that’s ergonomic and makes good use of available space. I feel like I’m on a never-ending quest to find the best compromises between a great setup that’s easy and inspiring to work in, and portability (if I need to take some gear on location or on tour, etc…). And all the seldom-used cases take up so much space, but, like what do I do when I need to take my synth somewhere once every 2 years?!?!

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

It’s not actually about the gear, it’s all about what you do with it.


Artist or Band name?

Mikael Tobias

Genre?

Ambient / Post-Rock / Neo-Classical / Experimental Techno

Selfie?

Mikael Tobias

Where are you from? 

Toronto/Montréal Canada

How did you get into music?

My parents put me in guitar lessons for a year when I was 10, then I essentially taught myself the rest.

What still drives you to make music?

Some kind of burning inner demon, I mean a compulsion to create, to experiment, to push boundaries. Music has given me so many of the most visceral and emotional experiences of my life and I’m very interested in all the ways sound can affect us, both physically and emotionally. So there is a constant quest that I can’t imagine ever coming to completion.

How do you most often start a new track?

Generally with some kind of “play.” If I can lose myself and not worry about how productive I’m being or what I’m doing this “for” that is when I feel like I’m accessing real creativity. So being in the moments and just playing is often how my tracks begin. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

Some kind of combination of utter mental exhaustion, and 1 or 2 re-scheduled self-imposed deadlines.

Show us your current studio

A leopard skin chair is essential…. for those vibes
FX and Pedals
Stacks and Racks
Guitars and Synths living together in harmony

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

If you’re getting stuck, grab an instrument that you don’t know how to play. It breaks you out of the confines of muscle memory and patterns you’ve developed and it opens up creative doors that you probably didn’t know were closed.

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

My new album APERTURE:

https://mikaeltobias.bandcamp.com/album/aperture


Couleurves – Mathieu Lalonde

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

Make Noise Morphagene varispeed knob

Morphagene’s varispeed knob! I’ve got a lot of great feeling knobs, but this one is the only one that has this nice colour window. I used this module a lot lately and I never got bored of that intimate light show. It’s immediate, fun and incredibly inspiring.

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

A square of Eurorack

My first modular setup is as close to perfection as I got with a piece of gear. It went through a few phases, but it’s stayed as it was when it got in that wooden case for years. It’s very limited compared to my Palette setup, but it’s what makes it perfect. It’s an incredibly fun mono synth with a ton of tricks up its sleeves. 

There’s a few things that I’d change still. I had this case built and I asked for a deep bottom section. I didn’t know what I’d put in it at the time, so it’s deep enough to accomodate any module. I think the deepest one in there is the Disting. It’s way deeper than it needs to be which makes it bigger and heavier than I’d like. I also temporarily swapped my uVCAII for a ModDemix. It was a mistake and the uVCAII will come back in its right place. Don’t mess with a perfectly good setup.

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

Elektron Digitone and eurorack

I haven’t toured yet, but I settled on a live setup this past summer. I went and recorded a live version of douzaine with that setup and I found it to be very fun. The Digitone takes care of the sequencing and of the key sounds, while the modular adds another analog voice on top. My guitar is being fed in the Morphagene for some live looping/mangling. 

I also don’t take gear on holidays. Either that vacation time is used to record stuff or it’s used for some time off. I either bring everything or I bring nothing. No half-measures!

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

Tascam Porta-02ii

I don’t own an iOS device, but I’ve been very interested in both Gauss Field Looper and Flip. I’ve been looking for a cheap and immediate way to record ideas. A sketch book of some sorts. I’d love for some kind of device which would run these apps, but with a better physical I/O integration. I’d get rid of the touch screen as well, I don’t like those on music things. The OP1 fits in that sketchbook territory, but I did get to try it and I found out that it’s not exactly my cup of tea.

I’d also like to have a clean and efficient way to record tape loops. I sometimes want to use them on a track, but I switch plans as it takes a bit of time to get right. I’d use a digital version if it did the exact same thing. Messy and dusty places don’t go well with magnetic tape.

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

Yes! Many actually. I cheaped out on my first and only mic stand. I bought a very small kick drum one as I only wanted to record my amp. At its lowest, it sits too high to record an amp that’s on the ground. I have to prop the amp on something to make it work. It’s also too small to record acoustic guitars, I need to get a chair for it and it puts me in a weird position. I borrowed one from my brother (thanks Nicolas!) and I haven’t used this one in a while. I sometimes use my Zoom H4n to record amps as it’s easier than using this mic stand.

Life’s too short for a short mic stand

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

Definitely the Korg Monologue. It’s heavily featured on two releases of mine and it’s been used on many demos as well. I’m still doing the Monologue + looper jams, the last one being my 37th one. I love it very much and I hope it’ll stay with me for ever.

Korg Monologue

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

I’d get a decent looper pedal. I used a garbage one for so long and it ruined many early recordings I did. They’re great to experiment with if you’re on a budget but I tried to save a few jams and it’s just too messy. I had the chance to use many great loopers from Electro-Harmonix (22500, 45000, 95000) over the years and I realize now that one of those would have made everything so much smoother.

EHX 22500

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

Tascam

Tascam Porta02 MKII. The power cord I have is a foot long, the headphone knob is scratchy and it hurts my ears when it moves, it uses RCA cables for the output, etc. There’s so many things I don’t like about it, but it’s still the only running tape machine I have. Tape loops became pretty much necessary for my workflow and I can’t see this one going away soon.

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


I recently shared the secret fuzz I found hidden in my Optomix. Running the audio signal through the strike input (or through the CTRL input for a different flavour) crunches the signal in a weird and pleasing way. Messing with the knobs alters the tone as well. It has a nice bit-crush/gated fuzz type of sound. It’s surprising for a module that’s known for its smooth and organic character.


Artist or Band name?

Couleurves

Genre?

Ambient/New age

Selfie?

Couleurves

Where are you from?

Curently living in Montréal, Québec! I’m originally from the surrounding countryside.

How did you get into music?

I played guitar when I was around 14 years old, but I quit as my brother got way better than I did and I felt discouraged. I didn’t practice so that didn’t help.

Records like Plantasia and Oxygene piqued my interest in late high school. I got hooked on that whole thing when I bought a Volca Keys in college. I got into the music that people like Jogging House and R Beny did back then and jumped straight from the Volca to my first modular setup.

What still drives you to make music?

Finding new sounds and trying new things. I dug deep in Sounds of the Dawn‘s YouTube channel over the last year and now I’m really excited to try a new direction. The mixer is the newest addition to the setup and it makes everything fun and easier to handle.

Right now, I’m excited to work with more acoustic instruments. I’m trying to distance myself from sequences to keep it organic and free-flowing.

How do you most often start a new track?

It starts with a riff or with a single loop. It usually flows pretty easily after the first part is layed down. If the rest doesn’t follow, it’s just not meant to be.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I don’t know! I stop working on a track when I can’t add anything else to it or if it feels done. I almost never rework half-finished things. It’s very spontaneous!

Show us your current studio

Couleurves ome studio
Couleurves home studio recorder
Couleurves home studio floor and pedal board
Couleurves studio desk
Couleurves guitars
Couleurves mixer


Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I’ve been told to just show up. You can’t do something good if you don’t do anything. Just being there, without any idea of what to do, is a great start. 

“I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”
― Dale Cooper

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

I self-released fils and douzaine over the last few months. They’re available on Bandcamp, on my YouTube channel as well as on a few streaming sites. I also recorded a live session featuring tracks from douzaine which can be watched on my YouTube channel! 

I’m currently working on a new album which, I hope, should be out next year. https://couleurves.bandcamp.com/

I’ll be posting a few behind-the-scenes on Instagram until then! https://www.instagram.com/couleurves


[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…
]


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).

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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. 

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Liam’s studio desk
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E-piano and E-Bass
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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

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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]