Urspring – Durch Veraltet Technik

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

The panning dials on the Yamaha MT-120S cassette recorder are just yummy.

I like the pan dials on my Yamaha MT-120 four track cassette recorder. Not as much for what they do, but how they feel and how they enable me to actually play the stereo field simultaneously with 4 fingers. If they were designed as knobs you could only control 2 at a time, in an easy way. But they are designed as dials almost like the 4 encoders on the OP-Z and therefore you can control all four at the same time with one finger at each dial.

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

Elektron Digitakt and Digitone

We are always in endless search for a perfect bit of kit, aren’t we? Haha! Well I don’t think there will ever be a perfect kit – especially not a perfect kit for all times. For me an inspirational kit changes over time. 10 years ago it would have been Ableton Live and a Push. Or simply just an acoustic guitar.

These days I’m tripping over the Digitakt/Digitone combo after watching a Patreon video by Jogging House. I think these two in combination simply allows me to translate melody and sonic texture ideas very easily to tracks that I can then record straight to my 2-track Revox B77.

The Digitakt/Digitone also lets me sit down and make music without sitting in front of a laptop screen. I have a non-music related daytime job where I’m in front of a screen all the time. And music making with hardware has almost become a kind of meditative activity away from the screen. Where the perfect combo is the Digitakt/Digitone … At least it is for me.

I also really dig the Ciat Lonbarde Cocoquantus and Deerhorn in combo with the Digitone.

Ciat Lonbarde Cocoquantus and Deerhorn

There are instruments that when you master them, they almost become an extension of yourself. They let the feelings you are expressing flow without friction. Like the piano or the acoustic guitar.

Then there is gear the keeps surprising you. Like a good band mate. It’s gear that you always have an interesting conversation with. The Cocoquantus is like that.

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

These days I’m bringing the Digitakt/Digitone combo. But sometimes just the OP-1. It’s sometimes really hard for me to get into the creative flow and mood when only having small islands of time, like 20 minutes, between family time. But now I’m better at telling myself “you’re not suppose to make an album now. You’re just having fun!” That inner voice is my friend.
So I often bring my OP-1 to the summer house.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

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

I almost never use compressors in my composing these days, but I like the Vulf Compressor VST for it’s distinct lo-fi squeezed Madlib sound. I could definitely see a use for this as a hardware pedal in my setup. But then again I might just throw a Boss SP-303 into my setup. The Vulf Compressor is heavily inspired by the ’Vinyl Sim’ effect on the SP-303, which is a radically weird compression algorithm.
These days I’m mostly into a DAWless approach, so I don’t have any hardware that I wished was software.

Vulf Compressor

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

I’m really not that much of a gear flipper. I try to have a minimal setup with only a limited set of handpicked pieces. I tend to stick with a piece of gear for way too long before letting it go. I still have a Push 1 laying around, haha. However I see this changing quickly because somehow the amount of gear on my desk has multiplied lately!
Anyways, I don’t really regret buying or selling anything, but one thing I regret NOT buying was a secondhand Juno 6 about ten years ago. The price was around 400-500 euros at that time, and at the last minute I decided that I didn’t have the space for it. Well, now the prices have rocketed out of the atmosphere, and I’m still looking at Junos. Poor me.

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

No doubt it would be the 4 track cassette recorder. When I was around 13 my dad had a 4 track Fostex, that lived in my room. Back then in the nineties I made hip-hop parodies, sad core indie and I recorded my grunge band with that piece of gear.

When listening back today I must admit that most of the music was kind of crap. But I still remember the excitement and feeling of loosing myself 100% in music making for tens of hours and the feeling of listening back and thinking “this track rocks”.
Fast forward 30 years and I was still using a Fostex 4 track (another device though) as a core device in an electronic duo Klingerhult with Martin – yes the editor of this blog.

[Editor: Hello everyone 🙂 … if you’re curios about us? Then check out Klingerhult here]

Yamaha 4-track cassette recorder MT120

I’m also still using the 4 track cassette recorder now as a simple mixer, with tape loops, for pitch and reverse effects, resampling and for crunchy overdrive.
I just like the texture and sound of tape recorders.

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

An Op-1. Then I would sit down for tens of hours and just go with the flow.

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

At the moment it’s mildly annoying to tune the Ciat Lonbarde Deerhorn to a chromatic scale. It’s like Petter Blasser (who invented it) intentionally made it almost impossible, like a big “screw you” statement. But when it is in tune it is so liberating and relaxing to play the notes with the hands on top of an ambient bed. And here’s the thing: Tuning has become a way of clearing my mind, like an inlet for getting into the zone.
But the Deerhorn is not the easiest beast to tame.

Ciat Lonbarde Deerhorn

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

I like the sound of flaws and almost broken things. Whenever I use a bit of gear that supports that, I think I’m more inspired and make more music. For example, when using tape loops or just using tape machines I often find myself deliberately exaggerate the flutter and wobble effect by holding a finger on the tape reels or shaking the dictaphone or walkman. In that way it’s possible to control the pitch flaws almost like playing an instrument. The tape machines are probably not that
happy about it. But it’s fun!


Artist or Band name?

Urspring

Genre?

Ambient I guess

Selfie?

Rasmus Rune Larsen aka. Urspring

Where are you from?

I grew up in the endless suburbs of Odense in Denmark, but currently I’m living in Copenhagen.

How did you get into music?

My parents were music teachers at elementary school and I grew up with guitars, amplifiers and synths in my home. Then I watched MTV and wanted to be like Nirvana, Beck, Beastie Boys and all the rest. It all got rolling from there…

What still drives you to make music?

Music is the art form that, by far, resonates the most with me. I make music simply because I need to. In particular making ambient music is to me an effective way of expressing abstraction.

How do you most often start a new track?

Most often I start by fumbling with a naive and cheesy melody loop and then build upon that from there. But there’s no clear recipe. I could also be a dusty pad loop or a drone done with the Lyra. I can also be really inspired by a track that has a part, a texture or sound that I like. I often wonder how they made it and suddenly I’m switching on my gear, and going exploring.

The Lyra is a really good track starter.

Revox B77 Reel to reel and Lyra-8

How do you know when a track is finished?

It’s finished when you keep adding new things and it’s making it all worse 🙂
Well, I’m not sure it’s that simple. Most often it’s a kind of feeling that is hard to explain. It’s when you somehow suddenly can see that the track has got its own personality and you can see it as a part of the family.

Show us your current studio

Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of a separate room for my music studio. My studio space is a multi functional, shared family space in my apartment: It’s a home workplace, a walk in closet, a pathway to my daughters room and a hang out
place. So there’s not much room to go crazy with blinking lights, knobs, faders and keys.

Urspring coming out of the closet

Nonetheless I’m quite happy with this little studio space in the corner.
One thing I have done is hack an IKEA storage system (BESTÅ) so it’s almost
a hidden music studio. Open the storage doors, let the ambient spirit out and rock on! (but very softly and quietly)

Spring tank
Great British Spring Reverb
Pianette

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

“Make sure you are having fun!” Quote by Jogging House on his Patreon blog. If you are into making ambient music I can highly recommend supporting Boris and joining this fantastic community over at his Discord server. It’s a really supporting and friendly place.

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

I’m still working on an actual release. But until then you can follow Urspring at:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/urspring_/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwiEV85XM7cEElzmEOdfmtg


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]