1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
For years my main instrument was a Roland 303 and the frequency knob was the thing I used to tweak most. I kinda feel that on every synth my relationship with the filter knob has to be great, or I will not feel comfortable. I have given up on amazing instruments just because the responsiveness of the filter was not what I wanted.
Nowadays I’m way more into ambient, so things changed. Lately I love to play with the portamento switch on my SH-101 to create variations on patterns, it’s kinda funny what comes out of it.
I love when brands uses big knobs, I have huge hands and I need a good grip: Death By Audio is great for that, I love touching their stuff.
I love Moog knobs too, with that vintagey vibe.
I hate most of the eurorack modules knobs and sliders. It’s damn hard to perform and you need to use a level of care that is not really my thing.
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
I think my mixer is almost a perfect instrument. Its the Play Differently Model-1, and is an instrumental piece for my production and live shows. It is beautifully made, sounds amazing BUT has one thing that was a big compromise for me: no direct outs. Which means that everything I record is always a stereo track, with no possibility of editing later on. It’s kinda good, because forced me to PLAY rather than program, and as a result, I’m finishing way more material. Still sometimes I wish I wish I could mix things better after the fact. Seriously, add direct outs to that mixer and it becomes the best tone shaping tool ever.
Another piece I love to death is the Deluge: that thing can do ANYTHING, it is a brilliant concept, but the decision of not having a screen for such a complex instrument, is sometimes hard to swallow. But I really admire Synthstrom and if their stance is NO DAMN SCREENS, I embrace it. Deluge is at the moment my main brain for live performances.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
I hate bringing a lot of stuff when I travel or I’m in holiday. Used to bring many things and never use them. So lately i just bring the Teenage engineering OPZ or OP1. They both let you create full arrangements, even if they have two radically different approaches. Opz works better for electronic / techno stuff, while Op1 is more versatile for ambient pieces (imho , of course).
Lately I’m vey interested in small package synths with lot of power, especially if battery operated. Is great to be creative anywhere and anytime.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I would love to have my cassette or tape recorder perfectly emulated in software. That is something that is still really hard to get. The vibe that comes out of real tape is something you need to experience to understand.
And definitely i would love to have the SoundToys suite as hardware : I use that a lot and I think is brilliant. I can probably mix an entire album only with those plugins.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
Regret selling …here is the list LOL:
Roland 909, Digitakt, Prophet 6, two Junos 106 (yeah, for a time i had 2…) , the full OTO effects family, my mastering console with the most amazing rack units (API2500, Distressors, Fatso, Bax eq, SSL G comp….)… and so on and on. The list is long and I feel I would cry if I keep remembering…. awh!
Regret buying.. not really, but there is a guy that I bought and sold FIVE times: Elektron Octatrack. I have it at the moment, but it frustrates me so much. Is a brilliant concept and I’m so jealous of people that know how to use it. I’m selling mine right now. Gonna buy again I’m sure.
[Editor: That’s gotta be some sort of record!]
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
For years all the XOX roland vintage synth. I still own them all, except for the 909. They are simple and straight to the point, I love that in an instrument. No menu diving, no hundreds of functions. They do one thing GOOD.
Recently I think Monome Norns and Op1 gave me a great creativity boost, while way more complex than Roland, they keep an user friendly approach and they are beautifully designed.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
Well, I would buy all the Roland boxes in the 90’s when they were cheap. But probably an SH’101 would have been the right choice to learn the basic of synths. Add a 808 and you are golden 🙂
It can be overwhelming starting today : so many things you can buy for cheap. The risk is getting too may synths and never learn to use them in the right way. I have been into modular on and off, and for me that is the most dangerous world: I used to buy lot of modules and then getting lost in them , with very little work done.
[Editor: It’s kinda nice to hear. I’m totally infatuated with Eurorack stuff. But I fear that I’d never get anything done]
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
CABLES? I fkn hate cables. I spend a lot of my studio time cleaning and organizing.
Then I hate the need for a computer to record things. Sometime I wish I’d be brave enough to switch to a full on tape-style production.
All of the instruments I use need to have at least one characteristic: do not frustrate me. I only keep things that are easy to understand and give me instant gratifications. I love fiddling with stuff, before reading the manual. If I manage to get something cool, then the instrument is suitable for me.
[Editor: Do not frustrate! That sounds like a good rule]
9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
Lately I’ve been blown away by using the tape recorder on the OP1 creatively. Sometime i put the tape speed 2x, record stuff and then slow it down 1/2. You drop the pitch 2 octaves and you get into ambient territory instantly. It’s super fun and easy.
Another great trick I’m using is sequencing a 4 voice synth (like the Roland sh01a) with 4 different patterns that have different lengths. you get really interesting pieces that are always evolving.
Artist or Band name?
OORA / Federico Chiesa.
Ambient, Dub Techno.
Where are you from?
How did you get into music?
When i was a teenager, playing guitar and singing in a Nirvana tribute band.
What still drives you to make music?
I guess music is my favorite language, and the best way i can express myself. The more I learn and create, the more i feel complete. Many other things make the process worth it, not least finding some appreciation from your peers. The final dream would be to make a living only with music, and that idea keeps me focused.
How do you most often start a new track?
I try to record a new idea every day. Not all of them are good, though.
How do you know when a track is finished?
I never know. I put strict rules on the time I spend on a track and after the time is done, I embrace what i got. I like spontaneity and avoid trying to post produce perfection.
[Editor: That is a really interesting approach to finishing stuff and getting music DONE]
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard? Less is more. As basic as it might seem i feel that the real evolution for any creative is embracing limitations ad create art with the least amount of clutter possible. Try to say one thing clearly and use the best tool to do that in the simplest way.
Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
My latest album is called “The Subharmonicon EP”. Made only with the Moog Subharmonicon and pedal effects, is a study on simplicity: how, in a time of turmoil, the clarity of a minimal approach can convey the message of beauty.
[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…]