Noctopolis – Mattis Hencke

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

Jen SX2000

I’m not that emotionally attached to individual knobs and faders, but there might be a few which have been important. First, the ”Frequency” fader on my first synthesizer, the Jen SX2000, which gave me the first real player experience of an actual filtered analogue synth sound and gave birth to a lifelong fascination.

Korg MS20 Mini

Second, maybe the MS20 Mini Lowpass filter knob which brought me back to analogue synthesis after many years of playing mainly samplers and vst plugins. And finally, any of the SOMA Lyra 8:s VCO tuning knobs which made me listen to sounds in a different way and appreciate imperfection.

SOMA Lyra 8

When it comes to tactility I must say that my Bugbrand banana cables mean a great deal, though. They’re a pleasure to use. Colourful and sturdy fun!

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

The word ”almost” is important here because the perfect bit of kit doesn’t exist, I think. Gut feeling right now whispers about the Ciat-Lonbarde Cocoquantus. It never disappoints and has opened up a vast sound palette to me. Though ”perfect” is certainly not the correct word for any C-L gear. Which is the wonder of it!

Ciat-Lonbarde

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

Always: Field recorder. A pretty crap one, my old Zoom H-1 (the Rec button on that one´s been very important, too). For many years the small holiday setup was Laptop/Cubase, USB audio interface, master keyboard.

Lorre Mill Double Knot

If I ever start travelling again I guess the Cocoquantus or the Plumbutter (or my most recent addition, the Lorre Mill Double Knot) would be great to bring but I’m not sure I’d risk them.

Ciat-Lonbarde Plumbutter

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

I’m not very good at wishing for what isn’t there already. Nowadays I find it really hard wishing for hardware to be anything else. The tactile side of playing electronic instruments has grown extremely important to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t like software. There are lots of great fx and instruments which I use a lot. I love the Sketchcassette, Valhalla Supermassive and NI Kontakt, for instance.
Software into hardware… if Soniccouture suddenly turned their Geosonics library in a portable, beautiful little synthesizer I’d probably be curious about it.

Tactile synths

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

I regret selling my second synth ever which was the Roland SH1000. I sold it for very cheap around ’98 when it seemed completely obsolete (and it probably still is, but what a clumsy old beauty!). To be honest, there was some divine justice going on since I sold it to the same guy from who I bought a Yamaha CS5 even cheaper a few years before that.
I kind of regret that I sold my Tascam 388 quarter-inch tape/mixer studio too, but that may be mostly from nostalgia and considering the recent tape hype.
Through the years I’ve bought lots of gear which I’ve sold pretty quickly. I’d say most of the Volcas and a Roland Boutique JX03 were all pretty regrettable purchases. And I didn’t gel with the Eowave Quadrantid Swarm, sadly. Maybe I should have been more patient.

Hyve-Synth

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

Chronologically: my family’s upright piano, my first Porta studio (Fostex 260), the AKAI S2000 sampler, and most recently the Ciat-Lonbarde instruments. All of these have shown new and compelling paths into new territories, or territories looking more and more like the ones I vaguely started dreaming of exploring as a kid. It’s not that different now from what it was back then.

Ciat Lonbarde Deerhorn-Organ

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

Piano, DAW, a nice bass guitar and some assorted percussion. And after that I´d discover touch- and gesture-based synthesizer instruments a bit earlier 🙂 .

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

I usually sell the annoying stuff. One instrument I think will stay with me is the Lyra 8. It changed my listening a lot and I love it but to be honest, those tuning knobs really take some patience. The lower they go, the more mindfulness demanded to get the wanted notes. But having grown into that routine has made tuning of the Ciat-Lonbarde instruments a breeze, so I guess I should be grateful to that sturdy little ”white angel”, annoying as it is.
The Tocante Bistab is on the whole extremely annoying and I could definitely live without it, but it’s a fun curiousity.

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

To my surprise I´ve become a much better bass player through switching to fretless bass. Over all, everything that forces you to listen carefully, instead of having safe routes and measures laid out all the time, is good. As long as we leave the Theremin out of it, of course. And a bunch of other instruments. But – baby steps …

Fretless Squier Jazzbass

Artist or Band name?

Noctopolis and Mattis Hencke.

Genre?

For Noctopolis I guess have to say electronic. And I would hope cinematic and emotional in its better moments. MH is more semi-classic, fairytale music and pop.

Selfie?

Sort of, but not really. A musical portrait 😀 .

Mattis Hencke aka. Noctopolis

Where are you from?

Living in Uppsala, Sweden.

How did you get into music?

Singing, drumming on biscuit tins and making up melodies from early age. Discovering the sound of synthesizers and pop music in general at the age of about 10 was a huge revelation. I took drumming and piano lessons and performed in different orchestras and ensembles but more importantly, I always wrote songs and formed different bands with my brother and schoolmates. Making noise, trying different instruments, dreaming up concepts and bouncing hissy tape recordings between decks with my friend to create full productions became very important, we learned about multitrack recording and from there it really took off. I’ve just never stopped creating and discovering music. Artists like David Sylvian, Trent Reznor, Scott Walker and Fennesz have been huge inspiration sources, as well as numerous neoclassical, ambient and post-metal artists and bands.

What still drives you to make music?

I want to create the sounds and represent feelings and pictures that I carry inside of my head and which are beyond words. I also strive to make the music I want to hear, it´s a way of life by now. Playing and making music is ta great path to get in touch with my core, so to speak. I wouldn´t call it an escape from reality – music and art contains so much more of creative, constructive reality than a lot of other miserable pastimes and preoccupations. Music can be an outlet for emotions and a recalibration of the soul and spirit. And that’s regardless of objective quality and results, as long as it leaves the performer curious and imaginative, I think.

How do you most often start a new track?

That varies a lot. Sometimes with a bassline or a sample, more often with improvising on the piano which turns into fragments of a song. Sometimes with a sung melody. There are plugins which have inspired quite a lot of my music too. The last few years I´ve started to improvise a lot on hardware electronic instruments and nowadays the Ciat-Lonbarde setup is a good starting point for exploring. I’ve got loads of recordings and snippets on the hard drive which sooner or later find their way into more ambient tracks or actual pop songs.

How do you know when a track is finished?

A good sign that I’m on the right track is when I get the sensation ”Wow, did I really create this?”. That, combined with a certain kind of childish happiness when listening to the music in an environment which is not the studio. The most difficult part, when it comes to knowing whether a track is really good or not, is to find the balance between emotional impact and cool or newly found sounds and ideas. That, and also to know that sometimes less is more, but that more is more quite as often!

Show us your current studio

It’s about 1,5 x 2,5 meters with no window. That’s definitely both a blessing and a curse.

Noctopolis home studio
Noctopolis home studio
Noctopolis home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Spend time away from your music before finishing it. Never mix more than one track at once. Abandon songs that keep annoying you and make you frustrated, they’re probably not that good anyway. Or (quite rarely) they are, but you need more time to grow into them.

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

Recent two track ambient single:

https://noctopolis.bandcamp.com/album/a-year-ending-when-getting-back-home-single

2020 ”Space trilogy” albums:

https://noctopolis.bandcamp.com/album/malacandra-2 and

https://noctopolis.bandcamp.com/album/perelandra

…and a sentimental little something:

https://mattishencke.bandcamp.com/album/everyday-tales-bonus-tracks-version

They´re all at the major streaming platforms as well.


[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…
]


R Beny – Ambient Auteur

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

It would have to be the giant knob on the Orthogonal Devices ER-301 Sound Computer. It’s exceptionally smooth, without feeling loose or wobbly. Its size and feel are welcome, considering it’s the only way to navigate throughout the module.

Orthogonal Devices ER-301 Sound Computer

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

I’ve tried out many reverbs throughout the years, and the OTO Bam is probably my favourite. The one thing that’s keeping it from being perfect? There is no continuous control over the filters, only switchable settings. That’s not enough to keep me from loving it though.

Oto Bam

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

I can’t remember the last time I went on holiday that didn’t involve playing shows/touring. The setup always varies depending on travel. If I’m travelling within the United States, I tend to bring out my 7U eurorack case + an Analog Heat (my secret weapon during live shows) + another piece of gear that rotates out depending on what I’m working on at the moment. If I’m travelling internationally, I have a smaller eurorack case I bring out, and a few other smaller items like pedals and CV controllers.

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

Maybe Borderlands Granular on iOS. But part of what makes Borderlands so great is its touchscreen controls, so maybe it wouldn’t be as good without an iOS screen. It’s one of my favourite implementations of granular.

It would be really interesting to have the Ciat-Lonbarde Cocoquantus in software. Sometimes it’s so beautifully unpredictable, but I wouldn’t be lying if I sometimes wanted some kind of predictability in certain situations. I really like tape and cassette emulator VSTs for much of the same reason. There is some kind of magic with unpredictable devices, but sometimes that requires getting through the issues (“where is that noise coming from?!”).

Ciat-Lonbarde Cocoquantus

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

Anything I’ve ever regretted selling, I bought back again. Mutable Instruments Elements would be an example of that. Bastl Microgranny another. For the most part, as long as something wouldn’t be hard to acquire again, I don’t have an issue moving on. I don’t like to keep things around that I’m not using or intend to use actively.

I can’t say I really regret buying anything either. If it turns out I’m not gelling with something, I don’t feel regret. It’s easy enough to move onto the next thing.

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

Mutable Instruments Clouds. What can I say? I love effects. I love granular. Clouds has been a staple in my setup on every release I’ve put out. It just has a certain magic to it, a certain character. Like how tape or old samplers have a certain character. Whatever sound source I run through its many different modes, I still feel inspired.

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

Honestly, I don’t think I’d change a thing. My first hardware electronic instrument was a Korg Volca Keys (the MicroKorg I bought and didn’t understand a couple of years earlier doesn’t count), and it was the perfect instrument to test the waters of synthesis and hardware electronic gear. I didn’t know if I would gel with synths, and coming from the guitar world, I knew I would better understand something with a physical interface, rather than something in software.

It was a great first synth and its interface was simple enough to help teach me the basics of subtractive synthesis, all without breaking the bank.

[Editor: This is sage advice. Knowing what you need to progress, when you don’t yet know so much, is often clouded by what you want]

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

Cassette Tape Varispeed Knob

I guess if anything, some of my cassette recorders. Sometimes there are noises and hums and issues that are seemingly impossible to diagnose. But I can’t imagine not having any of them. Each of them has their own importance and place in my studio.

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

Using tape loops as an effect, rather than just for looping. With 3-head tape recorders, they often have a setting to monitor the tape as it’s being recorded to, allowing you to have the playback head and record head active at the same time. If you use an endless looping cassette, the tape will just keep going through the machine; through the record head, to the playback head (and to your ears), and getting erased again as it heads back to the record head to repeat the cycle. If you use a cassette that has been played a lot, or has been beat up, you can get some awesome character. This allows you to get that character for whatever you decide to run through the tape machine, instead of being limited to the length of the cassette loop.

Marantz 3- Head Tape Machine

This is probably common knowledge, but I also haven’t seen many people using the endless cassette loops in this way either.


Artist or Band name?

r beny

Genre?

Ambient electronics

Selfie?

R Beny

Where are you from?

San Jose, California

How did you get into music?

I grew up playing guitar and had family members that were musicians.

What still drives you to make music?

The need to express myself and connect to people in a way that I find difficult with words.

How do you most often start a new track?

First, I will try to find a sound I like by making a new patch on a synth, or running something through a sampler or effects. Once I reach that point, I will try to come up with a melody or at least a part of the track to start building around. From there, it’s like doing a puzzle, adding and subtracting other sounds and arranging them until the track match the mood I was trying convey, or if it makes me feel something. There are many parts to this process.

Conversely, sometimes I will start from the point of having a melodic idea or track part before having any sounds in mind and try to find the sounds that fit.

How do you know when a track is finished?

It’s hard to explain. It’s similar to feeling full after eating a meal, but in your brain and heart rather than your stomach. It’s all based on intuition for me…for better or for worse.

[Editor: It is nice to know that the completion of a track or song can come with a sense of fulfilment. So often the process is plagued by frustration or boredom. So this is a nice, positive way to measure the end]

Show us your current studio

Studio Table
Studio Table 2
Tasty Electronics GR-1

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

It’s okay to not feel creative and to take breaks. Keep working on it, but don’t overwork yourself.

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

The label, Dauw just reissued my first 4 albums on vinyl for the first time. Packaged as a 4xLP collection called Seafoam & Dust, each album is also available individually. Beautifully remastered by Ian Hawgood. This has been a project over a year in the making and I’m incredibly proud of how it came together. It can be found at rbeny.bandcamp.com or dauw.bandcamp.com

I also have a new self-released album called Natural Fiction, out now on digital and cassette: rbeny.bandcamp.com/album/natural-fiction

[Editor: Do you have any of R Beny’s gear? Or just enjoy making slow ambient music? Then why not share a tip or trick? Leave a comment below]


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…
]