Stefan Tretau – St Modular

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

Lots of Freq Knobs

First of all, I love every cutoff control. It is just such a powerful and enjoyable part of subtractive synthesis, that it will always be my first and preferred choice when looking for a knob to turn.

Elektron Octatrack

Second, the Elektron Octatrack fader is definitely one of the most powerful controls for a wide range of parameters, be it effects or sample processing. The possibilities are endless and its so easy to use.

Contour – Shuttle Express

Last, but not least, I bought a multimedia editor controller called “Contour – Shuttle Express” that allows me to create shortcuts for certain functions in the Eagle CAD program, which I use to design circuit boards. This has drastically improved my efficiency and speed when designing PCBs.

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

S-CAT Double-Trouble Dual Filtered Distortion

I recently bought the S-CAT Double-Trouble Dual Filtered Distortion and I would immediately call it a perfect device. It has two channels, one optimized for synths and one for drums, and sounds delicious. I started to used it with the Roland TR8-S and the Behringer TD-3-MO and immediately went into an acid-frenzy. Here’s a video snippet where I also used it with the little Roland T-8 Aira compact groovebox.

Fun thing! :-

Blokas Midihub

Also worth mentioning is the Blokas Midihub, an interface and standalone MIDI processor that is as flexible as a midi interface can get. With the included editor, you can configure every midi setting imaginable. The only improvement would be a larger version with at least 8 channels.
Finally, the “GIVE2“ Oscillator I designed is still my favorite and I use it in almost every single patch. The only thing I would change in a future version would be to add faders instead of knobs and VCAs for each waveform at the mix output.

GIVE2 oscillator

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

A couple of years ago I put together a small Eurorack case that would somehow eliminate my GAS for the Buchla Music Easel (I named it “Euro Easel” ;-} ). It’s a small case with quite some limitations, but it has just the right modules to create very interesting sounds…. and it worked, I haven’t bought the Easel yet 🙂 It’s my travel case that I choose to take on vacation. You can find some videos about it here.

Takin’ it Easel

If I can’t take the travel case with me, I like to use an iPad or the three Aira Compact Grooveboxes, which are definitely fun.

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

There are many multi fx vsts available, but there are just few ways to add multi fx with a hardware device that is not a pedal. I currently use the Octatrack to add effects to the main output. But I would like to have a device that looks like one of the Pioneer FX series units and has a functionality like Sugar Bytes Turnado VST, Fabfilter Effects VST or the Ozone Mastering Tools – and nothing less 😉

VCV Rack

If VCV Rack didn’t already exist, I would want to see some sort of modular software to test and review modules. Fortunately, VCV Rack is already the perfect solution for that. It has helped me to come up with new module designs that combine various module functions into one unit. In VCV Rack I tested their practical application in advance before writing schematics and making prototypes.

I can’t think of any other hardware that I would like to see as a software solution.

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

I wish I still had my Korg Electribe R and the Clavia Nord Micro Modular. They were way ahead of their time and I really enjoyed using them.

These were some of the last sounds I made with the Micro Modular, and it breaks my heart not to have it on my desk today.
There are some modules I bought that I didn’t keep for long. But the list would be too long to mention them here.

As for my designs, there are a few modules I have published that I regret creating.
Mostly because my design skills have improved and I wouldn’t design them the way they used to be published. But I won’t tell you which ones they are 🙂

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

The ST Modular Beast

Definitely my modular. Especially the last album „Ostinato Modulare“, released in 2020, is strongly inspired by modular synthesis. But also other releases have their origin in melodies and sequences I created on my modular system.

A little close on the ST Modular Beast

Also worth mentioning is the “Mopho“ from Dave Smith Instruments, which I used very often in the past. It’s such a great sounding and powerful little instrument when used with a software editor.

Little Mopho hiding there

I also often used the Korg Gadget iOS app to sketch out ideas that eventually found their way into a final track.

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

Any Groovebox (Syntakt, Roland TR8-S, or Roland MC707 or similar)

Elektron Syntakt

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

My soldering iron! I used to love soldering and enjoyed that deep yoga-like relaxation of soldering in repetition and deep concentration. But the solder fumes and flux residue, the time it takes me to solder prototypes and troubleshoot, and the fact that my body doesn’t like sitting in one position for long periods of time are increasingly annoying me.

Soldering iron

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

PCB

I would like to mention the moment when I found out how easy it is to order ready soldered PCBs. I used to solder all SMD components myself and at some point decided to use PCB assembly for prototyping. This dramatically increased the speed at which I could work on my PCB designs. That was both a surprise and a relief.

Closer to the PCB

Apart from that, almost every single unit has some “hidden” features that surprise me – like the ducking functionality with the FX tracks on the Syntakt, the control-all functionality on most Elektron units, or the way you arrange effects in scenes on the Octatrack.

Also, a modular system is an endless source of “happy little accidents,” as Bob Ross would say. There are so many different techniques to use CV. Every time I patch, I’m surprised how musical challenges can be solved with modular control voltages. I remember being overwhelmed by the possibilities offered by a single function generator. Depending on the patching technique you can use it as an oscillator, a filter, a distortion and an envelope with sustain stage.

Not what you think of when you see a module like this, is it?

A single module can be a world in itself, spreading its CV tentacles into an endless modular universe full of surprises.


Artist or Band name?

Stefan Tretau / ST Modular / ST Records

Genre?

From Ambient to Techno

Selfie?

Stefan Tretau

Where are you from?

Oberhausen, Germany

How did you get into music?

Well, it’s not the piano and guitar lessons I used to get, but it was actually a friend’s Roland MC- 303 that I was lucky enough to use in 1999. That was my rabbit hole that I never got out of.
Shortly after that we bought a Roland MC-307, a Future Retro 777, a TB-303, a Micro Modular and a Jomox Xbase 09 and we started playing acid live acts as Complexx303“ in the early 2000s. Some time later it was just a small step to jump into the Eurorack universe. I bought my first Eurorack modules in 2016.

Stefan’s first eurorack case

ST Modular also started with a little push from a friend. He showed me how to build a Schmitt- Trigger oscillator, and I couldn’t believe how easy it was to recreate it on a breadboard. That was the second rabbit hole that somehow replaced the synthesizer-hole for some time. So instead of making music, I breadboarded, read books, created magic smoke, and eventually designed a desktop synthesizer, effects pedals, and a first Eurorack module, a passive mult.

Live synth setup

However, before I got into Eurorack designs, I focused on pedal and synthesizer designs. In the video linked here, you can see how I create all sorts of noises with these DIY boxes. You can also see a first logo design there, which is the predecessor of the current ST Modular logo.

Now that I had a foot in the door I could not resist to deal further with concepts and circuit diagrams and spent whole weekends researching on the internet and watching youtube tutorials.

First synth design called Dillen in 2015

When the first working Eurorack module was built (Triple Tom), I didn’t actually intend to offer modules or boards to other builders. It was then the builders themselves who kept asking for boards and finally got me to make a first attempt to offer PCBs in cooperation with pushermanproductions.com in 2018.
And ST Modular was born.

What still drives you to make music?

That moment you surprise yourself.

How do you most often start a new track?

A kick and a bassline or a sound/melody that fascinates me.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I used to be very fast at producing and it wasn’t uncommon to finish a track in one day. I once participated in a remix contest for a label called “Karmarouge” and produced and submitted my remix within a single day. Surprisingly, my track was chosen to appear on the final vinyl release.

So, I’m not a perfectionist I guess and I don’t spend hours working on a snare sound.
If the track conveys a certain vibe, I can’t remove anything superfluous from the mix and nothing else extremely bothers me, it’s done!

ST modular System

As for the ST modular designs, each new prototype has to go through several weeks of extensive testing in my case. I design modules primarily for my personal use. If I don’t like the experience of playing with it, it doesn’t get released. I have a whole case full of finished prototypes that I have never published. They work technically fine, but they somehow didn’t turn out the way I had imagined.

Show us your current studio

Attic home studio
To the left of the Attic home studio
Center of the home stuio
Left side with the modular beast

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Just sit down and start!

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

ST Records – Latest Release „Ostinato Modulare“
https://www.st-rec.de/

ST Modular – Euphoria (DIY Semi-Modular Synthesizer)
https://www.st-modular.com/euphoria/

ST Modular – Eurorack DIY
https://www.st-modular.com/

Follow me on Instagram
@stefan_st_modular

[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]


Hissquiet – Blissed Moods

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

Chase Bliss Mood

I’m always fascinated by the range of knobs that there are, but I think my favorite knobs are the ones on the Chase Bliss stuff, I currently have the Mood. They are just so smooth with the ideal amount of tension. They just feel sturdy a well made, like I’ll fade into an effect perfectly every time.

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

Bastl midi looper

I think probably my latest bit of kit, the Bastl midi looper, does almost exactly what I wanted it for, which is to more organically make sequences with midi and overdub CC parameters. It perfectly pairs with my hydrasynth which doesn’t have a sequencer, but I wish it recorded the polyphonic aftertouch of the hydrasynth pads on the initial record. Idk maybe it does and I just haven’t spent enough time tweaking the settings, but that would be really really nice. But other than that it’s brilliant.

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

Elektron Digitakt and iPad

I think my favorite things to bring, are my digitakt and/or my ipad. With a myvolts power cable, a portable charger and some samples, I could really make a whole album on the digitakt. Ipad also is very powerful and has so many music apps that I use in my recordings all the time. Some of my favorites are Spacecraft, Tardigrain and Fugue Machine.

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

Spacecraft app

I wish the Spacecraft app was a pedal or a feature of some groovebox. It’s this granular synth that you can record anything into and make beautifully textured ambient or noise soundscapes. You can get a wide range of sounds out of it. I seriously oftentimes don’t even bother with hi-fi samples and just use the ipad mic, because it just adds extra texture.

VCV rack

This one is kinda silly, but I wish VCV rack was hardware, like, it is hardware right? But the part of it that I want to bring into hardware is the low cost (haha) and also the ability to save patches and arrangements. Which I guess is the point of a modular synth, but still. I haven’t gone down the hardware modular synth rabbit hole yet, but I’ve been using VCV Rack as a way to learn exactly what I want from a system some day.

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

I regret selling my Digitone. It was a really great groovebox synth. I made a whole album on it, Sublunar Reverie, so I decided it was time to sell it and try something else out. Selling stuff is how I justify getting something new and making sure I actually really want the new thing. It went towards the Hydrasynth which I definitely don’t regret buying, but I just wish I had them both haha.

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

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

Hologram Microcosm for sure. I almost don’t want to bring it out when I’m working on something because I’ll spend hours tweaking the modes wondering if the next tweak might be even better than the last, but it all just sounds really great! I have a bit of a thing for granular gear can you tell?

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

I think learning a dynamic instrument like the clarinet was super important to the way I do music, even if I rarely bring it out now. Some folks have said that I have a sort of classical music dynamic going on with the kind of music I make and I probably agree with that. Second though, I’d probably get into synths rather than a guitar, maybe a groovebox like the Digitone or Digitakt if something like that had come out then.

Clarinet

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

Any piece of gear with cat hair on it, haha, no but for real though any connectivity stuff, cables, midi, bluetooth. I think I spend 1/3 my time reserved for making music just making sure things are connected correctly. My studio is not only used for music, but I do my freelance graphic design work there as well, so I can’t really have it all out and connected. In an ideal world things would just work ya know!? 

Cables of all colors

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

The random button on the Hydrasynth is wonderful. It will create a patch for you or you can tell it to scramble up a patch that you already have based on percentages. Sometimes the patches are too wild and I have a blast reeling them into something more palatable to use, but you can end up creating something that you wouldn’t have easily come up with any other way.

ASM Hydrasynth

Artist or Band name?

hissquiet

Genre?

Hmm… maybe ambient music that isn’t really background music? More dark ambient, drone or sometimes I like to get noisy and cinematic.

Selfie?

Ash Farrand aka. Hissquiet

Where are you from?

I grew up and live on the East Coast of the States currently, but I’ve been all over the States. The East Coast feels like home though.

How did you get into music?

I did the whole orchestra/marching band thing when I was younger, but more recently (5ish years ago) I got into music, because I found folks like Hainbach, Anne Annie, and Amulets back in the day when they were doing more “no talking” hardware jams and quickly got a DAW and a midi keyboard and the rest is history.

What still drives you to make music?

Music is my therapy, it allows me to express myself. I really enjoy getting lost in a moment while I’m improvising sound and everything else in the world kind of goes to the wayside for a few minutes. I do it for me first and if others happen to like it that’s a definite bonus.

How do you most often start a new track?

I can start with a sound that’s interesting to me which can kind of evolve into a certain mood all on its own or sometimes I already have a mood that I want to try to capture with a sound. From there I think about how adding effects or layers could elevate or evolve or contrast with what that mood. That’s usually how a track emerges; it’s very emotion-based.

How do you know when a track is finished?

There are 2 criteria for this. When it sounds perfect and there’s nothing I want to change about it or if it’s nearly perfect and I’m simply done working on it. Some might call that laziness, but I can be a bit of a perfectionist on some things so sometimes it’s just best to let go, nobody will notice.

Show us your current studio

Hissquiet studio
Hissquiet studio 2
Hissquiet studio 3

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I had a rad guitar teacher that really introduced me to the idea that everything can be music. I remember he started riffing off of a fan that was making a rhythmic sound and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of music.

Slot Drum

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

I’ve got some tapes available of my latest album Solastalgia with Mystery Circles: https://hissquiet.bandcamp.com/album/solastalgia

All the links are here on my website: https://hissquiet.com/


Megan Leber – Modular Mist

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

Lots, but one of them is the “Tone” knob on the Desmodus Versio. Try turning that reeeaaally slowly 😉 Also every fader from Gaz’ modules (Big T Music LTD), they just feel so sturdy and smooth!

Rangoon and Monsoon from Big T Music LTD  eurorack module
Rangoon and Monsoon from Big T Music LTD

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

This is such a hard question! Well, a bit unexpected maybe, but I’m going for a VST here: Cycles by Slate & Ash. It’s just spot on for me, I could create an entire album using just that. The atmospheres you can get out of there, the subtle movements, the gorgeous effects, the sequencer, the granular part. It’s still so inspiring after 2 years of using it. I also love the Xone 96 by Allen & Heath, this mixer is perfect for my live performances.

Xone 96 by Allen & Heath
Xone 96 by Allen & Heath

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

If I have to bring as little as possible I’d bring my Digitone or Tasty Chips GR-1 and Octatrack. But if I’d do a tour I’d probably add something.

Tasty Chips GR-1
Tasty Chips GR-1

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

Paulstretch and definitely Cycles + Landforms from Slate & Ash. Their software is mindblowing! And vice versa: Intellijel Rainmaker.

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

No! 🙂 You can learn something from every piece of gear. If something doesn’t spark joy anymore or stops inspiring you, just let it go. For instance I recently sold my Mannequins Mangrove and Three Sisters and I think many people would have kept them because they’re so hard to obtain nowadays. But that’s no reason for me to keep stuff.

Three Sisters Module
Three Sisters Module

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

All of my granular modules (Arbhar, Morphagene, Monsoon)! And I’d say that Cycles by Slate & Ash inspired me so much, that it really got me to produce regularly again and to feel creative. It even got me looking into modular again until I couldn’t stop myself from buying the first modules. Since I started with modular I got more and more inspired, especially by the granular modules mentioned above. With these modules, combined with a nice reverb/delay, you can create otherworldly soundscapes which can really carry you away and make you lose track of time. Love that!

Make Noise Morphagene
Make Noise Morphagene

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

I don’t think I would have done anything differently, other than getting into modular earlier on. The creativity I get out of that is unbelievable. Oh and I would have put my music out there earlier too.

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

Hmm, I would say the Octatrack? No, I think I could live without that (if I have to). Unanswered!

Elektron Octatrack
Elektron Octatrack

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

My D.O.MIXX (5-channel mixer module by Blood Cells Audio) has 1 aux send. I just recently found out you can switch between pre/post aux per channel, so if you choose pre aux you can cue your channel with headphones. I’ve now routed that aux send to my Xone 96 mixer (on send D) so I can cue every channel of my modular on there and this is huge to me for my live improvs!

D.O.MIXX (5-channel mixer module by Blood Cells Audio)
D.O.MIXX

Artist or Band name?

Megan Leber

Genre?

Techno and ambient/electronic (if I have to put a label on it).

Selfie?

I rarely take selfies! 

Where are you from?

Rotterdam, Netherlands. 

How did you get into music?

I remember I was always drawn to instruments from a very young age. When I was 10 my teacher put a piano (and later a guitar) in the classroom and I was instantly hooked. He taught me some stuff about chords and intervals and let me play after school. Later my parents let me buy my own keyboard from my savings and after that I got my first electric guitar. Never took any lessons, I always played by ear.
When I was 16/17 I got into electronic music production, when I put Reason on my laptop and a whole new world opened up! Soon after that Ableton followed and I got more and more obsessed. Got a few MIDI controllers and my first synth: a Yamaha AN1x. A year of studying Electronic Music Production, a few drum computers, synths and modules later: here I am!

What still drives you to make music?

I just HAVE to, it’s this thing I can’t stop doing. It’s what I love to do most and which will never bore me. As soon as I open my eyes I’m thinking about making music. When it comes to making music I’m a sponge. I always want to know and try more. My mind can be quite chaotic sometimes, but when I’m making music I’m at ease. It gives me this weird (the positive weird) feeling I can’t really explain, like all these endorphins are floating around inside of me. Endless possibilities!

How do you most often start a new track?

It sometimes starts with an idea or feeling in my head, something I want to try out, “what would happen if I do this?”. Sometimes I create a soundscape first, other times I start with a sequence on the Atlantis. What’s important to me is that I can completely lose myself in the sound design and slowly build a “mood”. But I also start without any idea/expectation and just jam.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Intuition. It’s just a feeling of being satisfied with the result. And to be honest there are always things that could have been changed after a track is “finished”. I also have to admit I’m bad at finishing tracks! I’m more of a creator and that’s what makes me happy. As soon as I have to stop creating and start mixing etc, I get bored or distracted and want to make new things… haha. 

Show us your current studio

It’s constantly changing! Here’s one of my most recent pictures, just before I hooked everything up again (cables cables cables):

Megan Lebers every changing setup
Megan Lebers every changing setup

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Can I also put my own advice here? 😀 Do exactly what you want to do and not what you think others might expect from you. Don’t follow any ‘hype’ because you think you’ll get noticed. Stay true to yourself! 

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

Check out Mystery Circles’ BandCamp on the 5th of June for a nice surprise! 😉 https://mysterycircles.bandcamp.com

[Editor: Megan’s IG can also be found here: https://www.instagram.com/meganleber]