Prior Use – Andreas Bak-Reimer

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

Gettin’ it on with the Roland SH-1

The power switch on the Roland SH-1. It’s an old synth, and the button has a distinct mechanical quality to it. The way it feels, the way it sounds, and the way the power LED lights up immediately – it just feels like getting it on! The SH-1 does that really swell PWM (pulse width modulation) that I enjoy immensely, and simple as it is, it invokes an atmosphere of a simpler time, with a lot of nostalgia to it.

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

My Roland Juno-106 is close to perfect for it’s purpose. Countless 80’s and 80’s emulating tracks have been born using it, and it’s built in a way that grants plenty of sweetspots, and not so many dead ends. Some people prefer non-DCOs, and have plenty to say about the 106 being a budget synth, but mine’s fresh back from service, and it makes me happy.

Roland 106

I sometimes wish it had another oscillator with an easy option for detuning, to get a wider sound from it, but there is a lot to be said about limitations to foster creativity.

… Also, I am not particularly fond of the way the resonance sounds when it’s cranked way up. It’s glassy instead of being juicy – and rarely that’s a good thing. On the other hand, I don’t have any other things that sounds like that, so it’s probably best to leave that unchanged.

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

Roland TB-03

Laptop, almost certainly. I am no where near anything dawless, and don’t have anything that I could arrange anything with, besides a computer. If I weren’t writing, but merely playing around, I would bring my Roland TB-03, or Yamaha Reface CS – built-in speakers and battery operated, they are 1. 2. go!

Yamaha Reface

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

Absynth, Brain, Modular.

Software -> Hardware: I think Native Instruments Absynth. I have had that since forever, and still use it heavily. Also, I would like to see the physical shape/color/layout of such a thing!

Absynth

Hardware -> Software: My brain. Although it feels soft at times, I consider it hardware. It certainly interfaces like 40+ years old hardware (poorly that is), it is sometimes difficult to control when hot or cold, and it’s almost never in tune. Also – patch memory is severely limited. If I could instantly recall patches, production tricks, channel-settings and export/bounce the tunes and sounds directly, like with a lot of software, then… Well, it might take out the fun at times.

Brain

To be serious: My modular setup would be nice as software – mainly for patch recall.

Eurorack modular

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

I never sold anything ever, so that doesn’t apply. And therefore I never regret selling anything either!

I once bought a portable recorder, thinking I could get a lot of good sample material that way. I only did once, but it never made it into a track I finished. I have fond memories of getting up early to catch a few big trucks on big roads going by, though… So, no regrets I guess…

Tascam Recorder

I bought an Ensoniq SQ-R module, because it features Transwave synthesis. Never used that, but it had a nice belltree sound that I used once or twice. It’s probably the thing I’ve bought that comes the most close to being a regret.

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

My trusty iPod classic 80 GB. That’s a lot of late 90’s goatrance… Listening to that is what inspired me most over the years. It had a growing line of dead pixels over the course of a year, and when the line was fully dead, the pixels started working again from the beginning of the line! A year after, the whole display was good again. That is probably my strangest experience with any electronic gadget ever.

iPod classic

If I should channel this to some sort of an inspirational tale, it would something like how the small and weak Hobbits defeated the mighty Sauron – it might appear to be failing, and an unlikely source of victory, but give it some time, and it will surprise you.

That is also why I have never sold anything. You never know.

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

A decent room for working in. Go all crazy thinking about getting the ‘right’ monitors, nice preamps, the perfect cables (ugh!)… But if your room is horrible, none of that matters. I have sunk a fair bit of time into acoustic treatment, and it has made a world of difference.

Foam

Also: time. So that’s it. Time and space – that’s all I want. At first…. Then a Mac.

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

Laptop

Mac laptop

Again, my computer. Ill timed software updates, one too few CPU cycles in stacked projects, failing disks… The woes are many, but I wouldn’t have written a bar of music without it.

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

Roland JV-2080

About 20 years after I got my Roland JV-2080, I realized it was capable of faux PWM. If I set a regular sawtooth wave on one osc, and an inverted sawtooth on the other, and modulate pitch slowly and independently, then it happens. I wish I had known that 20 years earlier, but that would probably mean I wouldn’t have bought my SH-1 (with the fab power button) – so it’s all good!


Artist or Band name?

I have mainly been producing under the moniker “Amygdala”. Goa and psychedelic trance in the old (old!) sense of the word.

Lately, I have been making some drops in the already over saturated ocean of synthwave music. I enjoy that very much, and as a child of the 80s, it takes me back to a simpler time – worries forgotten. The moniker for this activity is “Prior Use”.

Genre?

Many kinds of trance music: Goa, psychedelic, melodic, uplifiting, minimal, tech-, progressive.
Besides that, a bit of synthwave, and the odd “psy-bient” piece.

Selfie?

Andreas Brain

Where are you from?

I am from Denmark – just a tad north of Copenhagen, but most of my music has been produced in Århus. You can really tell what a big difference those 170 km makes!

How did you get into music?

My parents and brother. Music was omnipresent at home when I grew up. My parents encouraged me to take up playing violin when I was 6, and I have had some great experiences with that. When music production became reasonably available to the regular consumer with computer interest, I was hooooked! At first, it was just another thing I could do with the computer, but rather quickly it was pretty much all I ever did with it.

What still drives you to make music?

The two biggest drivers are probably the “flows” and “highs”.

Flow when I can be completely engrossed in production, enjoying the situation, and getting something done which I like and feel as an accomplishment. Time flying as I ignore my body’s attempts to drag me to the loo, trough or bed.

Highs when I hit something that (in the moment) is spectacular – a catchy tune, a sweet timbre, or a really dope fill or transition. It can still make me laugh after all these years, and the surge of energy and motivation I get from that is unparalleled.

How do you most often start a new track?

Sometimes I start with a very simple idea like a tune, a chord progression or a synthesizer patch concept. Then Drums. Then bass. That’s the most usual case, although sometimes I skip directly to the drums. Lately, I have been thinking that it’s not the best way to go, as I am finishing fewer and fewer tracks. I often end up with a pretty decent groove, but lacking the centerpiece idea that makes the track stand out. I polish the rhythmic section and transitions, until there is not space left in the spectrum (frequency and/or mental) for anything else.

So, from now on, I am trying to start off a new track with an idea, and then build drums and bass around that. We’ll see how that goes.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When a track has all the arrangement elements (intro, good stuff, breakdown, great stuff, climax, outro – or some other configuration), I bounce it and listen away from the studio. I make a lot of notes I want to change, enhance, remove, whatever. When that list feels complete, I do those changes. Hopefully I am happy with the result, because at that point I am usually fed up with the piece. I am not one for endlessly tweaking everything, and I have a tendency to detail focus early – which means I “decide” that this bit is perfect, and then unconsciously prohibit myself from editing it (too much 🙈).

I know there is some degree of contradiction in the above, but I’ll just hide behind “you can’t argue art”.

Show us your current studio

Andreas Studio
Andreas synths

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I bought a CD from Eat Static sideproject Dendron (Merv Pepler). I think he burned the disc himself and mailed it. Included in the package was a makeshift invoice with the words “always experiment” on it. I think that’s pretty good advice. It’s hard, because as time grows scarce I tend to stick to the beaten path, but even though it feels like it’s safer and more productive that way, I get less enjoyment from it.

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

As mentioned above, I dabble in synthwave. Swing by https://soundcloud.com/prioruse and tell you friends.

[Editor: if you want to check out Andreas psy-trance stuff it’s here: https://ektoplazm.com/profiles/amygdala]


Joseph Willem Ricci-Anima&Ennui

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

Fender Ramparte goes all the way up to 16!

My amp goes up not to 10, not to 11, but all the way up to the hilariously arbitrary number of 16. It’s a Fender Ramparte, and although it looks like it belongs on the stage of a hushed, smoky, late-night show at an upscale 1950’s jazz club, it—well… as Music Radar puts it—”requires anti-social volume levels to avoid intrusive hum”. Honestly, it’s a bit of a gimmicky amp which I’m not particularly proud of, but I do genuinely love that its two volume knobs are its only knobs. No tone, no drive, no reverb. Keep it simple.

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

Walrus Audio Slö reverb pedal

The Walrus Audio Slö reverb pedal is my baby. It’s whole thing is that it pitch-modulates the wet signal. I plug my acoustic guitar into it when playing live, and when subtly mixed in, it creates the subconscious sensation that everything is slightly moving, like a boat in an easy current. It’s a really musical pedal, and I like to adjust the mix while I’m playing to give the guitar an element of changing depth, but holy hell do I wish you could plug an expression pedal into it, because turning the tiny mix knob with my right foot while playing a difficult guitar part and singing requires way more concentration than is actually reasonable.

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

I’m one for bringing a guitar with me just about everywhere I go.

Guitar up a mountain

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

Well, the hardware of this software does already exist, but I don’t own one and sure, I wouldn’t mind if I did. That’d be the hardware version of the Minimoog iOS app.

Mighty Moog

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

In October I had a really remarkable week in which I broke my Martin (like, I mean smashed it), computer, phone, bike (twice) and rain jacket. I panicked and sold my classical guitar, a really nice Takamine TH90. I wish I would have just taken a couple extra days to breathe before letting it go, because the world always has a way of coming through for you when you need it to.

Takamine TH90

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

Lately, my newest toy, a Korg Minilogue XD has been opening up a whole new world for me. I don’t know how to play anything on the keys except for the intro to “Roses” by Outkast, so it’s been an amazing exercise to sit down and write with no focus on melody, chords or structure, and instead get my head deep into exclusively texture, color, tone, and movement. And it’s been interesting to discover that, after years of writing songs only on guitar, a piece can feel complete without any of the former qualities, as long as it meaningfully explores the latter ones.

Korg Minilogue XD

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

One good microphone. I recorded most of my band’s album on one of those cheap Audio Technica mics. There’s a lot that I would do differently if starting over, but at the very least I wish I knew that as soon as that precious frequency spectrum enters that black hole of a microphone, much of it is never coming back.

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

Martin 00-15

My Martin 00-15. Although I had already been playing guitar for almost fifteen years before getting it, it was my first ever really nice guitar. It’s warm, responsive, has subtle, nuanced overtones and overall is just a joy to play. But, what I didn’t expect when I got it, is that it shows me how much better I could play. On a shitty guitar, the difference in sound between playing something well and playing something poorly isn’t really that big. But on this one, a perfectly played chord or passage—with just the right fretting pressure and position, just the right picking contact point between fingernail and fingertip, just the right balance in emphasis of the bass, middle and treble lines, just the right transition between chords while the resonance from the last one lingers in the body for a moment… you get the idea—sounds and feels SO good that, while it has taught me to become a more sensitive player, it has also made it abundantly clear how much subtlety there is to the instrument, and how far there is to go.

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

If you have a guitar, buy a gig bag and go for a bike ride. At some point during the ride, fall off your bike directly onto your back so your guitar catches your fall and smashes under your weight. Then find a luthier or repair person to fix it, and voila: your guitar will sound even better.

Korg and Walrus and Song cassette tape

Jk. Def don’t do that. Maybe a more useful tip: I always wanted to play the sounds of nature on my analog instruments. This little set up gets pretty close to that. I take a cassette with the sound of running water, birds chirping, or wind in the trees, and merge the signal together with the signal of my guitar or synth. Then I run the merged signal into my Walrus Slö reverb pedal on auto-swell and with 100% wet mix. Since the auto-swell reverb tail is triggered by change of amplitude, it acts as a gate for the soft, ambient nature sounds. But when you play your instrument, it triggers the auto-swell, letting through the merged signal of the instrument plus the sound of running water.


Artist or Band name?

Anima & Ennui. Maybe future music will be under a different name… maybe not.

Genre?

The released music is folk mixed with various other influences. Future music is yet to be categorized.

Selfie?

Joseph Willem Ricci

Where are you from?

Arlington, Massachusetts, USA

How did you get into music?

I was listening to Arnold Schoenberg in the womb. That’s to say through my parents 🙂

What still drives you to make music?

I feel like it would be almost criminal to not bring into the world the music that is in my head. Just as I don’t belong to myself, my music doesn’t belong to me—it belongs to the world.

How do you most often start a new track?

Songs seem to start when I’m not trying to do anything in particular. Non-doing. Fiddling around. Then when a certain fiddle or theme or accident suddenly catches my attention, suddenly feels like the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard, that’s when it starts.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it feels right. That’s it.

Show us your current studio

Joseph Willem Ricci’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Mistakes don’t exist.

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

2020 album is online. Anima & Ennui – An & En. For a taste of a different, more recent direction though:

https://soundcloud.com/anima_x_ennui/ywayvdre4xkz/s-nMLQ4Uk5jGl


[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…
]


Jonas Bjerre – Very A-Mew-Sing

[Editor: It’s with great pleasure that I present this interview. In case you didn’t know, Jonas is the lead singer in Mew; a very influential danish alternative rock band. A bonafide rock-star and a music gear junkie to boot]

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

The frequency knob on my Analogue Systems RS-240 Bode Type Frequency Shifter is pretty tasty. It’s huge! And I love turning it slowly to find the sweet spot I want to create a sort of strangely widened stereo image from a mono signal.

Analogue Systems RS-240 Bode Type Frequency Shifter

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

A few years back I bought a slightly expanded Make Noise Black and Gold Shared System, which I love dearly. I use it almost every day. I have a lot of other modules as well, but could probably get by with just the Black and Gold system – except I absolutely needed to be able to send clock from my DAW, which is why I opted for adding the Polyend Poly as one of my first additional purchases. I appreciate that Make Noise wants it to be separate from computers, and I think it would be strange if they made a midi to cv module, but that was the one thing that I absolutely needed.

Jonas’ Make Noise Black and Gold Shared System with lots of buddies

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

Usually just my notebook, my laptop, and a little usb keyboard. But I rarely work on music during vacations. I tend to take pictures instead.

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

Oh, I don’t know. They both got their own thing going on. I can’t think of anything.

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

There are some modules in my modular system that I don’t use very often. Maybe because they don’t feel as intuitive as I would like them to. I mainly don’t like modules with sub menus and whatnot, as it tends to disrupt my creative flow. But I have no regrets, I will get into using them when the time is right, or I will sell them. 
Quite a few years ago I bought a Paca, to run Kyma X, and I have still only touched the surface of that. It’s a bit like Max, but it runs on its own hardware. I really got into it at one point, and it’s an exciting system, you can do boundless things with it, but I am a little unhappy that it still only runs on soundcards with firewire (and a few oldish usb ones). And it’s not just about the connection, and getting an adapter, it really has to be specific soundcards. They really need to upgrade that soon, to usb-c, or I don’t think I’m going to be using it again, as I no longer have a firewire based soundcard, and it seems kind of foolish to have to buy one.
I regret that Mew sold our Juno-6 many years ago.
[Editor: Ouch!]

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

Honung & Møller Grand Piano

My very sweet parents gifted me a Tascam Portastudio 424 (mk1) 4-track casette recorder when I was about 14 (thanks mom and dad!). The fact that I could make overdubs opened up a whole universe to me, and we recorded the first demos for Mew on it. Of course this seems like ancient history today, with DAWs. Over time it’s probably been my Fender Jaguar and my Hornung & Möller piano. These days I am using my modular synths for almost every project, as well as my cello.

Yamaha CS-50, Prophet VS and Rhodes MkII

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

At present day, probably a laptop, soundcard, DAW, and mics. To me, the studio is the most important instrument. But then of course you’d need something to make sounds, and I don’t really like the feeling of using software synths. So I would get a nice analogue polyphonic synth, and a guitar. And a piano. And some drums. I’d definitely get into modular synths much sooner than I did.

Jonas’ instruments

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

Most problems I experience are with the software part of my DAW, corrupted preferences files, etc. Can’t do much recording without it, but sometimes I wish I had some simpler way of recording. In the last 5 years I’ve been using my Oberheim Matrix-1000 a lot, and that unit has caused me some headaches occasionally. I don’t really mind though. I don’t mind that things take time, and effort. To me, that’s part of the process of finding the happy accidents, and appreciating the results.

Marshall JCM2000 and Telefunken U47 vocal mic

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

Making feedback loops through reverbs and delays. You can design whole worlds of sonic texture, mixing an output back into an input. The Make Noise Erbe-Verb has this brilliant thing where the volume of the main output is translated into a control voltage, which you can patch and use to control the decay, so that it never completely distorts. Put a sound through it, and let it just reverberate for hours, cv-ing all the variables, it goes through an odyssey of sonic changes.


Artist or Band name?

Mew, Tachys, and Apparatjik

Genre

Oh man. 

Selfie?

Jonas Bjerre

Where are you from?

I’m from Copenhagen, Denmark.

How did you get into music?

I think I got into creativity as a whole, not necessarily music at first. I think, when I first watched Yellow Submarine with my dad as a kid, that’s when I first thought “oh of course, you can go wherever your imagination takes you”. So today I’m really into music and animation. It was the friendships with people at my school that formed the band, not so much wanting to be in a band necessarily.

What still drives you to make music?

More than anything, curiousity. And then of course this underlying need to create things, I am not sure where it comes from. I don’t want to believe it’s all escapism, but it’s probably all escapism.

How do you most often start a new track?

It really depends. I try to rid myself of methods. I just go with what happens. I always get the best results when I work without having a specific goal as to what the piece is going to be used for. Once I get too goal-oriented, it becomes less of a pleasure, and I think my best work comes from a process that I can take some kind of pleasure in. But I suppose a lot of the time, I start at the piano, or patching up something unexpected with my modular.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Sometimes it’s difficult. The really big ideas usually come about in an instant, and then I (or we) spend months trying to finish it in a way that doesn’t go against the flow of the initial idea. And towards the end, it’s often hard to let go and say it’s done.

Show us your current studio

Jonas’ home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Let the song be what it wants to be, don’t force it. I think Michael Beinhorn told me that.

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

I did the soundtrack for a documentary series about Scandinavian Star, a cruise ship which caught fire in 1990 and killed 160 people. The music is pretty dark, for obvious reasons. I did most of it using my modular system, cello, and violin. It is out as a soundtrack album.
Currently I’m working on first Tachys music, my new project with Tobias Wilner of Blue Foundation, I’m really excited about that project!

[Editor: Scandinavian Star Soundtrack on Spotify]

[Editor: Also check out Mew]


[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…
]