Kristin Hsiao – Show & Tell

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

The switch on my telecaster. Although it only has a 3-position blade, that’s enough for me to do a lot of expressions.

Telecaster

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

I’d say the ZOIA is the most versatile pedal I’ve ever seen. It has a steep learning curve at the beginning though. But I found it opened up so many possibilities for me to design sound effects every time I learned a new trick. I never thought I’d be able to create my own patches so freely.
I wish it had an auto-save function. Because I touch the wrong buttons or knobs by accident once in a while. And the not-yet-saved patch I’ve almost done, just goes blank right away… (oh no!)

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

On holiday I used to bring my acoustic guitar. But I realized that I generally like to immerse myself in nature and rarely play the guitar when I turn on holiday mode. So I don’t do it anymore. Because that’s not fair to my guitar.

Faith FSHG Hi-Gloss Saturn

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

In terms of songwriting, I love using DAWless setup more than software. But when it comes to the production phase, iZotope Ozone 9 is the must-use software every time I do mastering. It rebalances all the sounds that I’ve recorded and gives me the whole picture of my music. So, it would be great if iZotope Ozone 9, became an actual device.

On the other side, I love the control panel on the Strymon Volante, it’s pretty straightforward. But I’m also curious if it turned from hardware into software, how crazy would it be with automation?

Strymon Volante

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

Well, I won’t say it’s a regret. It’s more like a nostalgic feeling. Back in the day, I had participated in lots of live shows mostly with this guitar. It used to be with me for quite a long time.
The reason I sold it is that I wanted to find a characteristic sound that is closer to my personality traits.

Ibanez J custom RG8470

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

I’ll go with Logic Pro X for this question. As there are many stock plug-ins and loops that allow me to play around, it inspires me to generate ideas from them. In addition, I’m able to efficiently organize my thoughts in Logic Pro first. Then practically implement these ideas on my gear. So that I won’t spend extra time cleaning up the mess.

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

I would still choose an acoustic guitar if I had to start over. It’s the handiest instrument to me no matter if I’m writing a song or just having fun with friends.

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

That’s a tough one. Every device has its own traits. As for the annoying parts of devices, I’d tend to consider it as an opportunity of forcing myself to come up with new ideas rather than annoyance.

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

(Not sure if this is surprising.) One day, I was jamming with only the MicroFreak and the ZOIA. Here’s the thing. Although the MicroFreak allows me to play polyphonically, I can’t really play E1 and G5 on the keyboard simultaneously. So I tried to figure this out and then came up with a solution. The tips are written in my Jamming Diary. This can be seen on my YouTube channel – Jamming Diary #44.


Artist or Band name?

葵斯汀

Genre?

Hmmm… Experimental? Psychedelic? Ambient? A bit of chill?

Selfie?

Kristin Hsiao

Where are you from?

Taiwan

How did you get into music?

My sister taught me some guitar chords when I was a junior high student.

What still drives you to make music?

Music is my outlet for expressing inner feelings. So I’ll keep making music as long as I’m not dead inside.

How do you most often start a new track?

Just grab my guitar and randomly play some stuff. Once I find an interesting riff, I’ll record it into a looper or Logic Pro X as a pattern and loop it. Then create my own beat/loops on top of that. Or drag different loops into the project to hear if they’re suitable for the original pattern. Repeat these actions, again and again, until I’m cool with the result.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Honestly, every “finished” track is a regret whenever I listen to the playback. The only way to not fall into this trap is to keep moving on.

Show us your current studio

Desktop with lots of fun FX and synths

It’s not a luxurious space, but I have everything I need. All of my releases were made in this small bedroom studio. The sparrow may be small but it has all the vital organs.
I’m quite satisfied with it.
I also have a small room for instruments and pigs!

Sofa with lots of fun instruments and pigs!

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” — Leonardo Da Vinci

Not just in music, I hope I’m able to keep everything as simple as possible in life.

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kristinhsiao/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/KristinHsiao
Website: https://kristinhsiao.com


Nathan – Accelerator Jengold

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

In terms of aesthetics and tactility, it has to be the main rotary knob on the ZOIA by Empress Effects. The way it subtly clicks is super satisfying, and the chunky chrome design stands out compared to other pedal knobs. In terms of functionality I’ll go with the D-C-V (Dry-Chorus-Vibrato) knob on the Walrus Audio Julianna.

Dry-Chorus-Vibrato knob on the Walrus Audio Julianna

It controls the stereo spread of the effect and the mix of chorus and vibrato. The Julianna is an ‘always on’ pedal for me – the modulation sounds great and D-C-V knob helps to always find that sweet spot. I typically use the Julianna to make lofi guitar tones using the random LFO setting and a slow vibrato.

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

I’ll have to go with the ZOIA again for this question! It’s one of my favourite pieces of gear and I use it in pretty much all of my music. It’s both dauntingly complex and surprisingly intuitive. It’s mind-blowing how much Empress Effects managed to cram into this small box! I’ve been using it for a couple of years now, but I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do. I use it in all sorts of ways, such as a semi-generative synthesizer, looper, midi controller and of course as a multi-FX unit.

ZOIA by Empress Effects

My only complaint is that because it does so much it’s difficult to know where best to put it in the signal chain. One possible solution would be a set of additional inputs/outputs for an FX loop, and the ability to assign modules either before or after the FX loop. A couple of additional assignable knobs would also make parameter control more immediate.

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

I’m a fan of the Elektron Model:Samples for making music on the go. It’s super portable and I like the directness of the ‘function per knob’ design. It’s perfect for quickly sketching out ideas whilst travelling.

Elektron Model:Samples

Other devices offer more features, like the OP-Z, but I have a soft spot for the Elektron workflow. I don’t use it in my main setup due to the lack of direct sampling, but it’s a fun device to kill some time with.

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

I predominantly use a ‘DAWless’ setup, so I don’t have much experience with software. I only really use my DAW (Studio One 5 to be exact) to record/master and try to do everything else using hardware. Tactility is an integral part of making music for me, I like the physical connection to whatever I’m writing. I don’t have the same drive to write music when I’m working on a laptop. I also find a limited palette of sounds to be quite inspiring, so the inherent limitations of hardware gear can paradoxically be liberating.

Nathan’s pedalboard of tactility

That said, I would love a virtual version of my pedalboard so I could try out different setups without having to tear the whole thing apart!

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

I recently sold my Walrus Audio Slö reverb pedal and replaced it with a Meris Mercury7. Although I really like the expansive stereo sound of the Mercury7, I definitely prefer the modulation on the Slö. It has a unique dreamy quality which is perfect for lo-fi reverbs and woozy textures. I would rebuy it in a heartbeat if they ever made a stereo version with a random LFO mode

Sovtek Big Muff

My biggest gear regret is not looking after my Sovtek Big Muff. Unfortunately it’s been battered from years of gigging and no longer has the original knobs or switch. It’s just too temperamental to use regularly in my setup now.

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

Roland JU-06A

I’ve been really inspired by the Roland JU-06A synth over the past year, it’s the synth I come back to most often. I love the range of sounds, the simplicity of patch design and its compact size. Roland did a great job replicating that classic Juno sound in a small and affordable package. I also get a lot of inspiration from my humble Boss RC202 loop station. I love working with loops and layers, and the RC202 offers a good balance of features and usability. All of my tracks begin as loops, and I wouldn’t know where to start without my RC202.

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

This is a bit of a cop out, but if I had to start over I would probably start with some guitar and piano lessons! I’m completely self-taught, so I sometimes feel a little limited by my technical skills. To answer the question more directly, if I was starting over with electronic music production I would probably begin with an Arturia Microfreak.

Arturia Microfreak

Due to the wide range of features and relatively low price, it’s a great introduction to hardware synthesis. The keybed isn’t for everyone, but the range of synth engines, the intuitive modulation matrix and the analogue filter make it incredibly good value. If it had built-in FX it would be the total package. Although I don’t use mine much anymore, I still consider it to be a modern classic.

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

As much as I love my Elektron Digitakt, it can be a real pain to use sometimes! There are a lot of functions which are not immediately apparent, and it takes time to learn how to use it properly.

Elektron Digitakt

I actually prefer the usability of its little brother, the Model:Samples, but the additional features of the Digitakt make it substantially more powerful. It’s basically the brain of my setup, even though I probably don’t use it to its full potential. Elektron have done a great job with software updates over the years and have added a number of clever features, like the secondary LFO.

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

The Expression Ramper by Old Blood Noise Endeavours is a deceptively versatile pedal, which offers a unique approach to expression control. There are so many ways to use this tiny pedal to drastically change how other pedals work.

Expression Ramper by Old Blood Noise Endeavours

My favourite trick is to use the Expression Ramper to control the pitch parameter on the Red Panda Particle v2. Whilst in reverse mode it creates a fantastic reverse pitch-shift effect which cascades with the delay repeats.


Artist or Band name?

Accelerator Jengold.

Genre?

A mix of lofi, synthwave, dreampop and shoegaze.

Selfie?

Nathan

Where are you from?

North Wales, UK.

How did you get into music?

Music has always been an important part of my life; I’m thankful that my parents and brother introduced me to artists like The Cure, Radiohead, Tom Waits, Massive Attack, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Brian Eno. I took up bass when I was a teenager and played in a few post-rock and post-metal bands whilst in University. I later moved into electronic music production using software like Reason, and then got into hardware gear with an Arturia Microbrute (which I sadly no longer own).

What still drives you to make music?

I’ve always enjoyed being creative and having a musical outlet helps me to cope with stress and anxiety. I like having a way to express how I feel, even if I don’t always understand my own thoughts and feelings – which probably explains why most of my music has a downbeat or melancholy vibe. Producing something tangible from my creativity, like a finished song or EP, is a big driver for me.
I think this is linked to my preference for tactile music production; using software feels too ephemeral to me. I love conceptual music and take inspiration from a wide range of books, films and other media when writing. Short-form jams on Instagram are my primary output, so I’m super inspired by other artists with a similar approach like Andrew Black, Joshua Dowell and Simon Von Walbrook. I’m really proud to have had my music featured on microbiology posts by Chloe Savard and Penny Fenton, and I would love to produce more music for other media.

How do you most often start a new track?

I typically start with sound design, either creating a unique guitar sound using various FX or developing a new synth patch. I’ll then loop a simple melody and experiment with different layers until it feels right. Sometimes I focus on the melody, other times I focus more on the overall vibe, it just depends on the individual track. Percussion usually comes last so I can choose samples and rhythms to fit the music. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

Most of my music is based around looping and building layers of melody, so an important skill is knowing when to stop. When I can remove a layer and the track sounds better, it’s probably finished! If I get stuck on a track I’ll take a break for a few days and then come back to it with a fresh perspective. My least favourite part of making music is mastering, so I’ve developed a couple of mastering templates in my DAW to help speed up the process and remove some layers of indecision. For official releases on Spotify (etc.) I rely on my good friend Chris Walker, who always does a great job fixing up my masters.

Show us your current studio

Synths, samplers and loopers

My setup is in a tiny office/walk-in wardrobe in my house, but it has pretty much everything I need. I’m planning to add an analogue synth at some point (like a Pro-1 or Minilogue) and a Colour Palette electronic kalimba by Lottie Canto.

Studio desk

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I’m going to echo what Dev Bhat (Shipwreck Detective) said in his interview for this blog: “keep it simple, stupid!” This really resonates with my own approach to writing music. There’s a skill to communicating an emotion, theme or concept in an honest and direct manner without resorting to cliché. I like to embrace simplicity and try to express myself with a limited number of components.
An important part of being creative is trusting your instincts and not focusing too much on what does or doesn’t work in theory – theory should be used to help us translate and communicate our ideas rather than to provide a rigid framework for them.

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

I regularly post jams on Instagram (@accelerator.jengold), so that’s the best place to keep up to date with what I’m doing. My music is also available on most streaming platforms, just search for Accelerator Jengold. My latest EP, Pyre, came out last year and is full of weirdo synthwave tunes, go check it out! I’m currently working on a new EP and some upcoming collaborations. Thanks!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/accelerator.jengold/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0KrYUaPA2BsqVMiDCVmywM?si=ZJdIN-wDS4-J0UdkHjEWsA

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/acceleratorjengold


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)

[Editor: You can get some Impulse Responses from this Great British Spring reverb right click and download here. If you do use’em let us know in the comments😉]

Great British Spring Reverb
Spring tank
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