Joel Negus – Synthing Classics

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

Cutoff on the Moog Sub25. Nothing like the ladder filter!

Moog Subsequent 25

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

The Vermona DRM-1 mkiii is amazing, but maaaan I wish the trigger inputs were on the front panel!

Vermona DRM-1 mkiii and Lyra-8

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

OP1 basically lives in my backpack if it’s not out in the studio. I’ll often develop ideas on it that end up staying on a track.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

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

Couldn’t come up with a direct answer to this question 😂 so decided to answer it by saying that the Arturia Polybrute beautifully blends software / hardware as a complete instrument.

A Strymon Zuma trying to hide an Arturia Polybrute

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

I used to own a Korg SV-1 until my dad passed his 1977 Rhodes down to me. I always enjoyed playing the sv-1 and realize I shouldn’t have sold it whenever I see one.

On the Rhodes again… I cain’t wait to get on the Rhodes again!

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

The Moog Subharmonicon!!! More ideas have started on that thing than any other instrument for me (except maybe the piano).

Moog Subharmonicon and friends

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

If I had known just how magical tape echo was, I probably would’ve wanted it sooner… but it probably wouldn’t have been first 😂

Echo Fix EF-X2

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

The helping hand for soldering!!!

A helping hand for soldering

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

I recently learned about the tails mode on the Earthquakes Avalanche Run – haven’t used it yet, but I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about that before I bought it!

An avalanche of eurorack! Run!!!

Artist or Band name?

Joel Negus

Genre?

Various, often in classical / jazz / electro-acoustic worlds

Selfie?

Joel Negus

Where are you from?

Born and raised in Chicago IL, but I’ve been in Cleveland OH for 15 years.

How did you get into music?

Both of my parents are professional musicians. Growing up, I was a boy soprano 🤵 and my dad had me sing on a number of commercials on the jingle scene. Eventually I fell hard into the punk rock scene, which turned to metal – I was a part of starting the band Born of Osiris. Changed directions in high school and focused on classical / jazz upright bass.

What still drives you to make music?

Creativity cannot be severed from relationships. The very act of making itself is collaborative – this connection to others is a constant source of inspiration.

How do you most often start a new track?

Playing an instrument and a spark hits. Recently though, trying to think more in silence before jumping in – starting more in my head. Always looking for different ways to compose!

Korg MS-20

How do you know when a track is finished?

I rarely “feel” that it’s finished, but I suppose it’s when I’m at the height of my excitement over it. I’ve found it best to wrap it up somewhat quickly when I’m really excited about how things are sounding.

Show us your current studio

A solemn of guitars
Bass-synth, bass-ukulele, contra-bass

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

We can’t just think about what we’re making, but the social context in which we’re making.

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

I just released a score I did for a modern dance company in town called Inlet Dance Theater. The piece was called Red Tape and was a total joy to collaborate on. Cheers!

https://joelnegus.bandcamp.com/album/red-tape-original-score


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]


Idra – Modular Via Trumpet

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

Novation Summit Noise and Frequency

One of my favorite knobs is without a doubt the Summit cutoff combined with the
noise knob that always adds a lot of depth to the sound.
Other knobs that I find very interesting are the branches and mutation on the Qu-Bit
Bloom, which makes any patch generative and potentially infinite. Sometimes when I’m in the studio (which is also my home) and I’m doing something other than producing music I create a random patch and totally open both knobs, it’s fun.

Branches and Mutation on the Qu-Bit

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

I’m not a pianist even though I studied it a bit during my studies in classical music at
the Conservatory. I think that among all the instruments I own, my grandfather’s piano is my perfect one. Both for an affective value and for the harmonic completeness, it has always been the instrument that allows me to create more, I just sit there and throw down some ideas and then go down to the studio and develop them on my modular system.

Piano

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

Modular (although it’s starting to become huge, in fact I think I will shrink it with a Palette case from Intellijel) headphones and zoom recorder for holidays. But when I have to play live I don’t care too much about comfort and I carry everything and more, including the Summit (my back doesn’t thank me).

Intellijel Palette

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

All Felt instruments plugins on eurorack format would be great, as well as a hardwere version of Ableton, would probably make live performances much more interesting

Felt VSTs and Ableton

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

I’m not a person who sells a lot, but I recently sold my digitakt two days before its new update – that’s all I’ll say.
Joking aside I must say that in the eurorack world there is a lot of buying and selling and you can never lose anything or have too many regrets for having sold something.

Smokin’ hot Elektron Digitakt

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

As I said before certainly the piano is always my starting point for composition, but in the end my main tool today is the modular system, which constantly offers a
continuous sound research avenues and new ways to create sounds from scratch, even using a few modules and always trying to study them in depth. The great thing is that it can be an instrument in continuous evolution and change and the perfect medium to express ourselves even with our personal changes.

Idra’s Eurorack

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

I think I would do the exact same path again that led me to be who I am today. I don’t
know if everyone knows this, but I start my music journey as a classical trumpet player.
Classical music and its study has definitely helped me both in technical knowledge but especially in maximum attention to listening. A sensitivity to sounds and sonorities, I would say. So if I had to start again, I would start with the trumpet again.

Trumpet

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

Endless cables

Cables… nicely organized

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

One of the tricks I use the most is after watching a video of Ricky Tinez based on
understanding how to manipulate LFO phase points and make them free and random in independent points of time.
I highly recommend it, especially to create movement and use LFOs in new ways.
Another “trick” that I often use is to stop listening to an album that is almost finished
for a while before putting the finishing touches on it.


Artist or Band name?

IDRA

Genre?

Ambient

Selfie?

Idra

Where are you from?

Milan, Italy

How did you get into music?

I started playing trumpet when I was nine years old, graduating in classical trumpet.
For a few years I got into jazz and world music, but it was electronic music that I fell in love with and where I found my own spot in the world.

What still drives you to make music?

The sense of freedom and the need to communicate something first to myself and
then to others, is a refuge and a medicine that keeps me alive and allows me to
express myself in the most creative way I can know

How do you most often start a new track?

Whenever I feel the need to enclose and let out my feelings and sensations. I often
have very profitable moments of production, but I also often need silence, I do not
follow a precise path, every time I turn on the machines in the studio and I feel that
something beautiful comes out, it can become a track or simply my soundtrack of the
day.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it makes me smile and gives me a clear picture in my mind, I would say the
moment I think of a title the track is over.

Show us your current studio

Idra Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Don’t be afraid to listen to advice and always be open to change. But the best will always be: keep things simple.

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

seilrecords.bandcamp.com/album/lone-voyagers-lovers-and-lands

(I always take the opportunity to thank Boris aka. Jogginghouse – for this release)