1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why ?
As a « DAWless » musician, I necessarily attach great importance to the ergonomics of the hardware, to the user interface. How am I going to use this ? Is it practical ? To these considerations is added a strong fascination for the aesthetics of analog synthesizers, which I find beautiful even when they are switched off. Sometimes I just watch them ! Regardless of the function to which they are attached, the large knobs of my Moogs, which alone embody manufacturing quality and respect for the user, are the elements of my set-up where my fingers naturally want to rest.
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit ? What would you change ?
Moog Mother32 is almost perfect. And on a weirdest side, Subharmonicon. My current set-up is a mixture of « serious » machines, like the Moogs or the Korg MS20, and synths that are a little more cheap, but have very endearing sounds, Volcas or Stylophones, and also weird and wonderful instruments like the GechoLoopsynth from Phonicbloom or Diddley Bow from Syro Instruments. I’m not necessarily looking to accumulate instruments, although every gear can add something to the sound, but ideally, a string machine, a good drum machine and instruments like the Arp2600 or the VCS3 would fill me with joy…
3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc. ?
On vacation or when I’m walking in the woods, I always have synthesizers in my backpack. Most often, my Uno Synth Pro, which is an amazing analog synth, small and light, but very powerful, but also Volcas, my little Akaï sampler, and always GechoLoopsynth, which transforms the sounds of the world into enchantment. I must say that the portable aspect is a criterion of choice because I really like playing outdoors. In concert, it depends of course on the set-list, but in general the base is constituted by the Mininova, Mother32 and the MS20.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa ?
Well, only using hardware and being resistant to computers, I can’t answer this question… In fact, I tend to think that creativity is often spurred by the hardware limitations of instruments. The only limits I want to push back are those of my imagination.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying ?
I remember an old Boss 220E drum machine. The sound was horrible, but she was funny. Even if I don’t use my Electribe much anymore, and although it doesn’t suit my way of working, I hesitate to sell it.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music ?
Curiously, the main instrument used for the album « Zur Zeit der Wälder » is Korg’s Volca Keys. I still sometimes find it hard to believe… But in the end, even such a small synthesizer of this price can provide a lot of satisfaction ! Today I only use it for outdoor jamming, but I must admit that it was very important in my journey towards analog synthesis. Currently, when I compose, everything often starts from a loop played on the Moog Mother32.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first ?
I built my set-up gradually, both adapting it to my needs, but also letting myself be surprised by diverting the instruments from their favorite fields. I’m not unhappy with the way I went about it. If today I had no instrument, I think I would start with a good analog (my Mother32), some effects, and a machine like the Model :cycles from Elektron, which seems to have a very good sequencer.
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without ?
I don’t get bored much with my instruments. I admit I spent a long time around the patch panel of the MS20, quite obscure when compared to the clarity of those of the semi-modular Moogs. By dint of persevering and trying, even making mistakes, I still ended up getting used to it ! What bothers me the most are often technical considerations that unfortunately we can’t do without, everything related to mixing, recording.
In the home studio, anything unrelated to instruments most often annoys me, I want it to go fast, even if it means sometimes sacrificing sound quality no doubt (perhaps -this my punk side…) That’s why I go straight to the point, even if a technician would make leaps !
9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit ?
One day, my Stylophone’s silk-thin stylus cable broke. It had to happen eventually. So I opened it up, and I only had a patch cable on hand to repair it, so I cut off one end to solder it in place of the old one. I started playing again with a jack cable instead of the stylus. And then, I looked at my Korg SQ1 sequencer, and I had the crazy idea of connecting the « stylus » cable to the analog output of the sequencer and playing a sequence. Well it works ! The video of this discovery is somewhere on my Instagram…
Artist or Band name?
My musical tastes are very eclectic (from classical music to ambient via post punk new wave and french chanson), the music I produce can possibly find its roots in krautrock and the beginnings of electronic music (Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre). I have a strong and sensual relationship with my analog synths. As soon as I have the opportunity, I defend the idea that electronic lutherie produces instruments that have a soul, that live.
Where are you from?
I live in Limousin, a somewhat isolated rural region in the center of France. 50 years old, married and father of 4 children.
How did you get into music?
After studying piano and then bass in a music school, I created the group >fjord with Anne-Sophie Michaud at the end of the 90s. With our kind of french trip-hop, we did a few dates with great artists from the French scene such as Jean-Louis Murat, Dominique A, Yann Tiersen.
Since 2007, I sing, play keyboards, bass and guitar with my friend, the guitarist Toto Deloménie (and for some time Cécile Venot and Yohan Mayet) in our Ramirez project. In 15 years, we have evolved from an acoustic guitar duo to pop/folk/electro songs. Our latest album, « Homme Lige », is entirely instrumental and is inspired by the collection of poems by Laurent Bourdelas, who asked me to accompany him for readings of his work.
In my work with disabled people, I occasionally lead a workshop of expression and creation with electronic music as a medium, in partnership with the Limoges Conservatoire de Musique, and I am very proud to have introduced, for example, the theremine and the Kaoss Pad in this temple of «serious » music.
Another thing that is important for me. Limousin is a region where nature is everywhere. As I walk a lot in forests or in the fields near my house and I always have a few portable synths on me, I often make music which reflect on the threatened beauty of nature.
Even though my music does not necessarily have an intrinsic political message, I would like it testify at least to this fight of our time, to save what can still be saved.
What still drives you to make music ?
Music never ends. Even with a finite number of notes, even with a finite number of sounds, music has no end ! How many years can you spend hunched over the same machine, producing music every day that’s different from the day before ? I don’t think I will ever have the answer to this question.
How do you most often start a new track ?
When I work for Ramirez, I usually start from the text or a fragment of text. What I prefer then is that Toto takes care of composing the music and that I collect it to make the arrangements. In my more personal projects, I often start with a texture, a sound that inspires me, and/or a simple loop with Mother32 or the SQ1. I make it evolve, with some effects (I can’t imagine a track without delay/reverb). I can then spend a lot of time improvising a lead voice, with the MS20 or the Werkstatt, which is a perfect little Moog for that.
I then add as little as possible (see the track « Lige » in our latest album « Homme Lige ». There is only an eight-note loop played on the Werkstatt.) ….
How do you know when a track is finished?
[Cont’d from above]… And I know it’s over … when it’s time ! I willingly impose a time constraint on myself, if after a few hours I can’t get anywhere, I’ll start from scratch the next day…
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard ?
Bernard Summer, from New Order, who said something like this : « There is nothing, and suddenly it’s there, as if a voice were dictating the song to you ». Basically, letting go, not putting up barriers of good taste, genre, or style. Take everything that comes, let it rest, and then sort it out.
Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
Ramirez appears sporadically, on the other hand I have a frenetic musical activity on my Instagram account, on which I post a minute of old school electronic music daily. You can find it here : @denis_violet
[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]