Danny Kim – DSKO

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

Modal 008

Favorite knobs would have to be the Modal 008. They are metal, round with a dimple on top. Favorite fader would have to be the Juno 106. Just a couple millimeters makes the filter morph into a different sound. I’ve ridden the cutoff fader for miles. I also like the fader on Roland System 100 Model 101. Old, but sturdy and stylish.

Roland Juno 106

For Eurorack, I’d say my fav knobs are on the Rossum Evolution. They’re kind of similar to the pots on the Dave Smith PolyEvolver.

Dave Smith PolyEvolver

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

Well I guess that would depend on three criteria for me. The character of the sound, depth of synthesis, versatility, intuitiveness of the interface, build quality. I also like a bit of a challenge to learn. But not so complex that it takes forever to get to a sweet spot.

Modal 008

For me, one all-encompassing synth would be the Modal 008. It is the most refined sounding analog poly synth that I’ve played in the past 20 years. It has 15 different filter modes, tons of physical controls at your fingertips. There are no on-board effects but you can dial in some very refined and inspiring sounds without too much difficulty.

Modal 008 with 15 filter modes

Then you have a great sequencer that can trigger notes or modulate almost any parameter with the “Animator” feature. It does have a bit of a wonky menu, that sometimes freezes on a knob turn. I wish I could update the processor to eliminate some of those glitches and give it an OLED touch screen to improve the navigation but nothing’s perfect.
The designer George Hearn moved on from Modal to found a company called UDO. In late 2020, he released the Super 6 binaural synth. It’s a really cool 12 voice polyphonic synth with high resolution digital oscillators. I’m looking forward to diving deep into it this coming year.

Modal 008 Sequencer

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

MPC Live 2

I have a retro MPC Live 2 that is pretty cool because it has a sound bar, is rechargeable and you can produce full tracks on it with some diligence and patience. You can load it up with a ton of samples. It can even be upgraded with an internal SSD drive. I recently got an ASM Hydrasynth Explorer that can take batteries. I think I might bring it next time I travel.

Hydrasynth Explorer

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

I wish there was a hardware version of Absynth. It was one of the most unique sounding synths I’ve ever heard. Sadly, it was announced a few months ago that Native Instruments was going to discontinue its inclusion in their collection.

I think it would be cool to get a software version of the underrated Modor NF-1, since it is all digital and there are ten different forms of synthesis. There are a ton of physical controls but due to its complexity, there’s still a lot under the hood that you have to dive into the menu to find such as the FM operators or formant features.

Modor NF-1

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

I regret selling my big yellow Waldorf Q. I was broke in Hollywood during the actors and writers strikes of 2006. I was a freelance sound editor and had just left the studio I was working at after I had worked on a big feature film called Pathfinder for 20th Century Fox. The strike went on for a long time and eventually I had to let go of one of my first synths. I’ve since owned and sold the Waldorf Microwave XT, original Pulse rack and 2 Pole Filter Pedal.

Conversely, I haven’t been as into the Waldorf Quantum. On paper and visually it looked like most amazing synth ever. But it sounds kind of sterile to me, even with the analog filter. I have a friend who likes the Iridium for its sample playback capabilities, but I generally prefer VCO’s and non-sampled realtime sound sources. I get more of my style of sounds out of synths such as the Moog Matriarch or Cwejman S1 MK2. So I may be limiting myself from the Quantum’s best features. I’ve heard other people get cool results from it. I think I would get more out of the PPG Wave tribute from Groove Synthesis, the Third Wave.

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

Lately, I’ve been really into the Elektron Syntakt. You’ve got 8 digital and 4 analog tracks. Each track can be configured to a different “machine” that is synthesized around conventions such as bass drums, snares, hats, claps, etc. On the synth side, you’ve got an 8-bit SID type of machine, chord generator that can be quantized to different scales, then an analog two oscillator synth. Unfortunately it’s monophonic, but I hope that it gets firmware to allow the combining of tracks allow for 2 to 4 voice polyphony at some point soon. It certainly has the capability with 12 tracks.

Being confined to a set of 8 unique parameters for each synth or percussion machine did a couple things for me: first, it forced me to fully utilize each machine’s sound design capabilities. Since you can quickly settle on a sound relatively quickly with the limitations, you can focus on the writing of notes and beats. The second thing it did was the polar opposite; the limitations drove me to find external/outboard solutions such as polyphonic sound sources that could be sequenced from the Syntakt’s external MIDI machine. The first candidate was an Erica Synths 42hp Pico case. I put a Supercritical Demon Oscillator and Expander with a Pittsburgh Local Florist and a Supercritical Neutron Flux stereo filter in there. So that skiff essentially became the 8th track on my Syntakt.

Eurorack

One of the things that helped me unlock the Syntakt’s capabilities is the Arturia Keystep 37. The Keystep has a great feature which is that you can hold the function button then instantly change the MIDI channel from the keyboard. So you can jump back and forth between tracks in your sequence while you’re writing melodies and parts. You can quantize your notes as they are being played in.

Arturia Keystep Pro (pictured here) and the twin Elektron Syntakts

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

Prophet XL

With my existing knowledge and experience? Maybe a Sequential Prophet XL. It covers a lot of different sounds between the virtual analog waveforms and sample oscillators. If I was starting out, I’d probably get a Juno 106, which was actually the 3rd or 4th synth I first bought.

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

JX-8P

The Roland JX-8P. Big heavy with plywood bottom and plastic ends that have fading metallic paint. Membrane buttons as frustrating as the DX-7. But the pads out of that thing sound beautiful. I was able to get a PG-800 programmer for it, which made it much more useable. The JX-10 is basically two 8P’s and is somewhat strange to program even with a PG-800 since it has two halves. The JX-10 was used by the composer Angelo Badalamenti for the iconic theme song for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, which was later sampled by Moby for the house track “Go”. I can’t seem to bring myself to sell it, but it’s so bulky that it’s usually sitting upright until I need it for its lush pads.

Roland PG-800

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

Probably the strangest feature I’ve encountered is the countdown menu in the Modor NF-1. You have to make your selection before it finishes counting down, otherwise it exits on its own.

Modular Eurorack in Black light

Technique-wise, one of the coolest things about modular synths is the ability to chain multiple clock and rhythm modules. For instance, I might use the ALM Pamela’s Workout as an initial tempo generator into Vermona Random Rhythm to create a bunch of multiplied clock signals in different clock divisions. From there it may go into Mutable Instruments Grids or the more recent Mystic Circuits IDUM module. Then finally with the 3rd layer, I’ll patch into the actual sequencer be it WMD Metron or Shakmat’s Four Bricks Rook. My goal is to create rhythmic variations for the sequence that can be globally affected with a relatively simple knob or fader movement, which is ideal for live performances. Trying to achieve some randomness but still enough control to make it sound musical. That’s generally where I like to reside.


Artist or Band name?

It was Psinex, then Distco, Distortion Corporation, now DSKO. My actual company is named Distortion Productions from when I worked full time as a freelance sound editor on films and directed concert and music videos for various local LA electronic music producers, classical Indian musicians and the “Inside” video for Detroit’s ADULT.

Genre?

All over the place: electro, Italo disco, synth wave, techno, dub, electroclash, trip hop, ambient. I try not to think too consciously about genre when I’m writing something.

Selfie?

DSKO

Where are you from?

Was born in Palo Alto and raised in Santa Rosa, Northern California. Have lived in Las Vegas, Hollywood/LA and Seoul, Korea. Now I’m back near where I was born, in Santa Clara and San Jose.

How did you get into music?

I started out as a cellist in the high school orchestra. I took lessons from Corinne Antipa, a cellist in the local Santa Rosa Symphony.
Music-wise I was a big Front 242 and Depeche Mode fan as a kid. I actually just saw Front 242’s final performance at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco recently. It was great show and an emotional moment for them saying goodbye on stage. In college, I was a tech house and trance DJ during college in Las Vegas and in LA during the rave scene.

What still drives you to make music?

I’ve always wanted to see electronic musicians and the synthesizer community properly represented from a cultural and artistic standpoint. I’ve been going to shows for many years, but from 2016, I started putting on my own live synth shows in the SF Bay Area, primarily in downtown San Jose in association with the First Friday monthly street fairs organized by Cherri and Brian from Gallery Anno Domini. I built good relationships with synth companies such as Sequential, Make Noise, Folktek as well as some very talented performers from across the country such as Richard Devine, Patrick O’ Brien, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Lightbath while promoting equally talented locals such as r beny and Haptic Synapses.

My interests tend to pull me towards their origins and pioneers. It was a sort of pilgrimage traveling to the Detroit Movement Festival in 2006 and 2008 and hearing Octave One, Scan 7, Model 500, and many others there. I also had a chance to go to the 2012 Moogfest when it was still in Asheville, North Carolina. It was great to see the Voyagers on the Moog factory line along with the showroom. Those trips were a big inspiration to me as a promoter and artist. I feel like I’ve carried those experiences with me in spirit in all the events that I have held.

How do you most often start a new track?

I used to make a new track every month. Lately, it’s become either a new modular patch video on my Youtube or Instagram. I would definitely like to get back to writing full tracks and albums.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Usually when I can listen to a track repeatedly without getting tired of hearing it. I’d imagine that’s how a sculptor feels by the time they decide when to stop chipping away at the stone. I suppose the difference being that you can’t add back what you remove to a stone. With a track, it’s certainly possible to overembellish it with too many elements.

Show us your current studio

Neon Dragon
A desktop of synths
Studio Rack
Studio Buddies

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

It’s a fairly common piece of advice, but particularly important for someone as easily distracted as I am. Finish your project and don’t try to make it too perfect. Allow for mistakes and imperfections. The pursuit of perfection can lead to becoming discouraged and eventually abandoning something that might actually be much better than you might think. Like many artists, I tend to be very hard on myself.

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

I’ll be performing at SynthPlex in LA/Burbank on the evening of October 29th, 2022. It’s been three years since the last event so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve got a laser show planned to go with my live synth set.

I’m also putting out the follow-up to the 2019 synth and arts print-only journal called Open Source. It’s taken the better part of 3 years to put it together. One of the most difficult projects I’ve ever worked on because of the ever-increasing scope of it.
It started from around 80 pages and now up to around 130 with original articles, artwork and interviews from artists I admire from around the world such as Robert Henke and Nonotak. By the time the project is finally completed, I think it will be worth the effort. I’m aiming to get it done in time to show at Superbooth next May in Berlin.


[Editor: There are affiliate links to the relevant gear throughout the articles. It helps to support this blog. In fact, should you be needing some patch cables or guitar strings. Then clicking on one of the above links and buying any product that you prefer, will help the blog… doesn’t even have to be the ones in the link. Thx]


Kir Åge Jæger – Persian Electro Orchestra

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

The ROLI Seaboard (midi-controller) has an X/Y-Pad which is very powerful because it connects with the software “Strobe2” that has a so-called “Euclid” processor. It’s way easier to show on a screen, but imagine that when you drag the “target” symbol with your finger on the ROLI, the small dot (orange arrow on picture) follows the target. You can program HOW the small dot should follow the target with different parameters like slew, damp and rate in order to create some pretty original soundscapes. So far I have only used it for film scoring.

Roli Seaboard with Strobe2

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

This is probably not very original, but just like clichés exist because they are usually true, the PUSH 2 (from Ableton LIVE) works very well for both music production and live performance. What would I change? The fact that Ableton LIVE does not include quartertones as a standard.

Ableton Push 2

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

My setup is quite simple, actually. Even when I play with my orchestra, I can carry everything myself. My laptop, soundcard (Behringer UMC404HD), microphone (sE2200A||C), and headphones (Sennheiser HD 280 Pro) usually do the trick. A small midi-controller is useful too (AKAI MPK Mini). I once brought this with me to Beijing to visit my friend and we ended up inviting a vocalist from Tinder to jam with us.

Travel setup

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

I would love to have the VsT-plugin “Manipulator” by Infected Mushroom as hardware. Manipulator is always in my effect rack when I perform live on my santoor.

Uuh.. Speaking of… A midi-signal santoor would give my music production wings!

Infected Mushroom Manipulator VST

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

Hmm… I really regret buying any “Waves”-VsT plugins. They tried so hard to prevent people from cracking their software that it ended up being a headache to use legally. I decided to boycut them some years ago. 

Waves

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

Well… If software is gear I think “Nexus” from “REFX” inspired me the most. It is a so-called ROM synthesizer. The sounds are so delicate (yet expensive) and the software is very intuitive. I even heard that they programmed the sounds in order for you to combine them.

REFX Nexus

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

I started in “Music Maker” for Playstation (1998), then I changed to FL Studio (2003) and eventually Ableton LIVE in 2013. I definitely would’ve skipped FL Studio and gone directly to Ableton LIVE.

FL Studio

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

Hehe… That would be my cheap-ass in-ear monitor system that I bought for my orchestra musicians so that I can talk to them during a live show and they can listen to their own performance on a backing track. The sound is absolutely awful, but they’ve accepted it so far. 

Wireless In Ear Monitoring

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

That would definitely be the world of Persian tonal systems through my santoor. They have 7 tonal systems in Iran. We only have one in the western hemisphere. Working with electronic music (and thereby frequencies) has made it easier for me to understand these systems.

Santoor

Artist or Band name?

Persian Electro Orchestra

Genre?

Hmm… Well… Downtempo/Techno/World/Organic/Persian

Selfie?

Kir

Where are you from?

Copenhagen, Denmark

How did you get into music?

No one in my family plays an instrument. The interest was kind of there from the beginning. I started borrowing cd’s at the library at the age of 10.

Free CD’s from the library

What still drives you to make music?

Music – and everything that surrounds music – is the reason I am alive.

How do you most often start a new track?

With a fat polyrhythmic beat!

How do you know when a track is finished?

None of my tracks are ever finished. I always make new mixes and arrangements for live performance, hehe.

Show us your current studio

Kir’s home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Finish your shit and get it out there – even though it is not “perfect”. It will only make you thirsty for more when you get your first “real” feedback.

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

There is a bunch of songs being released soon, but meanwhile check out “Losing My Impatience”:
https://song.link/dk/i/1488153140


[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…
]


Søren Lemmike – Russian Corvette

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

The freq fader on the VCF section of my SH-101. Riding the cutoff frequency on that synth is just such nice squelchy acid techno sound that’s been used on many classic records. It was also the first analog synth I got and the one I learned basic synthesis on. Most synths have a big old knob for cutoff control these days, but I like that the SH-101 is all faders.

[Editor: Yeah, I like how faders are easier to read visually too]

Roland SH101

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

The Elektron Digitakt is great, but I would like to see a bandpass filter, an extra LFO and maybe some more sequencer playback options like reverse and random etc. Maybe we will get it a firmware update some day.

Elektron Digitakt

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

On holiday I would bring a Model:Samples – still waiting for that battery handle so I can make beats while I sip drinks in the swimming pool, haha.

Elektron Model:Samples

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

It would be cool to have Madrona Labs Aalto as a hardware synth, preferably Eurorack-compatible. The sound and design of Aalto is inspired by a Buchla synthesizer, so it could actually make sense in hardware form. It’s just a lovely sounding synth and the patchable UI is great fun. Seems like most hardware has been ported to software already whether it be, pre-amps, tape machines, fx units or guitar amps – a lot them sound great.

Madrona Labs Aalto

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

I regret selling my Fostex 280 4-track cassette recorder. I still have a bunch of old tapes in the basement with recordings of songs and demos that would be fun to have a listen to today. I regularly check the market for used ones, but seems like they’re either too expensive or too hard to get a hold of these days. The demand seems to be high so maybe it’s time Fostex, Yamaha or Tascam start up production again?

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

For any genre I would say the electric guitar. Specifically for electronic music I would say a computer with Ableton Live. I switched from Logic to Ableton back in 2003 and from getting ideas down to a final track, I think this setup has led me to produce the most music. I do think it’s healthy to shake things up now and then and try new ways of working. I recently setup a couple of small hardware only workspaces in the corners of my room just to get my eyes away from the computer screen and see what happens. One is based around a modular setup and the other one is based around some drum machines and analog monosynths.

Hardware setup with monosynths and drum machines
Modular setup
Modular setup from a swish angle

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

A computer or maybe a sampler. When I upgraded from the multitrack cassette recorder I bought this Roland VS-1680 harddisk recorder, which I used for a long time. It was ok, but quite clunky and difficult to edit recordings. Looking back I should have just have skipped it and gone with a computer and good soundcard, but computer/software and soundcard solutions were kind a of new thing then and not that stable back then.

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

I have this Roland GI-10 guitar to midi interface which has terrible tracking. You listen back to the recorded midi file of your performance and it has all these random ghost notes that you didn’t even play on the guitar. It’s quite annoying to have to sit and clean up the file afterwards, but it’s also just fun playing synths and triggering samplers from guitar. You just have to kind of embrace the chaos or play really clean with it.

Roland GI-10

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

Generally I am fascinated by distortion and how it can either subtly or radically change the timbre or transients of a sound. Instead of making synth sounds with standard saw/square-waves I like waveshaping a basic sinewave and see what comes out. Instead of grabbing a compressor to treat the transients on drums I might try distorting them instead.  Not really a musical tip, but I was pleasantly surprised that you can twist the voice mode knob while powering on to play a video game on a Korg Minilogue. Easter eggs are cool.

[Editor: WUUUUT?!!!]

Korg Minilogue startup game

Artist or Band name?

Russian Corvette.

Genre?

I try to avoid sticking to genres.

Selfie?

Søren Lemmike aka. Russian Corvette

Where are you from?

Copenhagen, Denmark

How did you get into music?

My dad had a classical guitar hanging on the wall in the house I grew up in. I just picked it up one day and tried to figure out how to play it by playing along to records I liked. I think I was about thirteen years old. The year after I got an electric guitar and a 4-track cassette recorded and started recording my own sounds.

What still drives you to make music?

I just find it exciting, entertaining and fun. I get really restless if I cant make music on a regular basis in some way or form. It’s like stepping into an unknown fantasy world. Especially working with electronic music, there is so still so much new ground to cover and new stuff to learn, it never gets boring.

How do you most often start a new track?

Usually it will be a sound that grabs my attention and that inspires me to build a track up around it. The initial sound or idea can come from anywhere really, but usually it will come from a synth, guitar, field recording or sounds in nature. If it’s a techno/electro track it will usually start with a beat made on a drum machine or Ableton.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I try to trust my intuition to tell me when a track is finished.

If I feel like it’s not getting better when working on it or if I get bored with it, it’s usually a good time to let it sit and come back to it later – lot’s of times it will sound finished after letting it rest a while.

Setting up predefined rules, such as max number of tracks, only live recordings, no overdubs etc. or a deadline can be helpful too.

Show us your current studio

Home studio desk

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Not sure if it was meant as creative advice, but as Da Vinci said, art is never finished, only abandoned.

I think what he is saying is to don’t expect everything you do to be a masterpiece and remember to enjoy the process of creating, as least that’s how I interpret it.

Some other good ones: think outside the box, challenge your ideals and try to do things the wrong way once in a while.

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

Here’s an ambient thing I did with the Neutron synth while I was beta-testing Aaltoverb

[Editor: Do you have any tips, tricks or fun techniques with any of the gear mentioned in this interview? 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…
]