Shounen Yuki – Dragon Shaped Clouds

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

Strymon Nightsky

It would be the modulation controls/knobs on either a reverb or delay. Most reverbs sound really good in my opinion, but modulation can set them apart and how they implement it. Even different algorithms on the same reverb will often have different modulation characteristics. Take the Cloud algorithm on the Big Sky for example. You start to push the modulation and it goes from huge reverb to something magical.
Same goes with the mechanics knob on the Volante, it goes from great tape delay into a way back machine that sounds like it’s about to start eating your tape loop and spit it on the floor in an act of rebellion of not getting it fixed. And if the effect is super cool you get both depth and speed for modulation like on the Night Sky.

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

Korg Minilogue XD

The Korg Minilogue XD comes to mind. While it is a nice improvement over the original, it removes a full secondary ADSR envelope. If it had that second full ADSR envelope and a mod matrix with assignable parameters and sources past the few “hard wired” sources and destinations, it would be perfect.

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

Novation Circuit Rhythm

Usually a really easy to use groove box. I used the original Circuit from Novation for years and then switched just recently into the Circuit Rhythm, that I load up with ambient and video game samples. It helps me come up with the basic structure of a song that I will translate later using my more at home/not mobile equipment. I tried to use an iPad for a while, but I just open the web browser and get distracted. 

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

I can’t really think of any. I spent a good 2 hours on this question. I hate making music ‘inside the box’ as they say. I’m an IT professional by day and do not want to sit at my computer when making music. I only use Logic to do some simple post production, like compression and the like, of my music work.

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

I can answer both with this, I sold my Novation Circuit Monostation to help buy a Digitone after the prices went insane for a little while on the Monostation. I got the Digitone and hated it. The sounds of the Digitone were not all that hot for what I wanted to do. Which is odd since I love FM. Luckily the opsix came along and it had the FM I liked. I did get maybe 2 good songs out of the Digitone, before I decided to sell it.
I also did not like the way presets were saved and recalled. The Monostation however I used for making faux NES/Master System 8bit style soundtracks and loved it. It really did some cool stuff when you used it in paraphonic mode.

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

The Korg Minilogue XD for sure. It was the OG Minilogue before that but the XD really expanded what I could do quickly. Having a super easy to use sequencer to get the base melody going to play over is so inspiring. That and it is so easy to make patches on, since it has very little menu diving, unless you want to use the 3rd oscillator. You just get something good easily with it without much effort. 

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

A Minilogue XD! I could honestly have that as my only synth if I really needed that to happen.

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

MacBook

It would have to be my desktop/laptop computer. I hate working on the computer when I get home from work, but I like to do my final mastering inside a DAW. This is also the only way I have found to do any sort of decent video editing for my music based Youtube stuff. 

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

The Minilogue XD and OG Minilogue have very limited routing and modulation options, but you can get around some of that by using the sequencer. You can motion sequence almost any knob and have that running as a sequence with or without note data as a pretty neat way to evolve your sound. 


Artist or Band name? 

I have 2 projects at the moment. My ambient project is called “Dragon Shaped Clouds” and my video game style stuff is called “At The Mana Tree”. 

Genre? 

I mostly do ambient and Japanese RPG style game music

Selfie? 

Shounen Yuki

Where are you from? 

Bremerhaven, Germany but I currently reside in Mesa, Arizona.

How did you get into music? 

I think I have been into music since I was at least 10 or so. Mostly coming from game soundtracks from Japanese RPG’s, especially the Final Fantasy soundtracks from the SNES and Chrono Trigger at that time and oddly enough Enya…
But I do remember going to the World Expo in Hannover Germany in 2000 and hitting up some music shops. I found an album by Tangerine Dream called “Underwater Sunlight ” and it changed me forever. I chased the retro (at the time) but foreign (to me) sounds of that album. It was not even the sounds, it was the overall sequences and progressions. Simplistic but captivating, like a game soundtrack. By that point I started trying to figure out how to make game and electronic music myself. 

What still drives you to make music? 

As odd as it might sound, the fact that I can make something that can be enjoyed by others makes me less depressed. 

How do you most often start a new track? 

I will grab a synth from my collection, some effects pedals, and a looper. Then I will come up with a signal chain based on what I feel like I want to sound like at that moment. At that point I will work on a patch on whatever synth I chose and change the parameters of the effects to get my desired sound. I will then start messing around with different scales to see what works best with the sound I made, lay down a melody or a drone on the looper and start layering sounds. 

How do you know when a track is finished? 

I guess I just go on until I feel the song starts to get repetitive or boring.

Show us your current studio

I use the living room as my studio, so I have a shot of my studio space/computer and my collection in a separate room. I will take stuff from my storage area into the living room to record videos and songs as needed. 

Gear storage
Home studio setup

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard? 

Back in high school I would use a piano at my school after hours and a minidisc recorder with an external microphone to record quite a few tracks of stuff I was working on as my parents could not afford an acoustic piano nor did we have the space. I would then delete them thinking they were garbage. One day the head of the music department noticed I was recording my work and wanted a copy because they thought it was really good. I said I never kept them because I thought they sucked and were just stupid and no one would ever want to listen to them. In shock the teacher assured me the music I was producing was not garbage and I should believe in my ability and I should really hold onto what I make even if I think it’s garbage. This has helped me actually release music past that point and I was shocked to find out people actually like it. Anyway the takeaway on that is: don’t be too overly critical about your music and don’t assume it sucks. 

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

My latest track I’m super proud of …

My youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/YukiTheSynthDragon

My IG: https://www.instagram.com/shounen.yuki/


Paul Talos – Signal Soundlabs

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

Make Noise Morphagene

Lately, it’s been the Vari-Speed knob on the Morphagene. It’s really incredible how something as simple as changing the speed and pitch of a sound can turn it into something completely unrecognizable. Things get even more interesting when you start reversing things too. You really end up discovering all kinds of sounds within sounds that you never really would have thought were there, especially when slowing samples down. Gotta love the wonderful world of microsound.

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

Moog Subsequent 37

The closest thing for me would be my Moog Subsequent 37. It just puts so much sound design power at your fingertips, you almost don’t need anything else. Between having one of my favorite filters, two different kinds of distortion, and plenty of modulation options, there’s enough in there to make a lifetime’s worth of music. It may not be as infinitely versatile as my eurorack setup, but there’s a certain immediacy about it that allows me to get what I need out of it very quickly. The only thing that could possibly make it even better is if it had voltage control over more of the parameters. I actually really regret not jumping on the CV version while they were still making those, as that would have been as close to perfect as you can get.

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

Moog Mother-32

I can’t say I do much traveling with my gear, as my setup wasn’t exactly designed with mobility in mind. But I guess if I were to bring anything, it would be my Moog Mother-32. Not only is it one of my more compact instruments, but I find its limitations to be pretty inspiring. It’s a surprisingly deep instrument and can yield some very unexpected results with a bit of clever patching. I often feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what it can do, so I suppose traveling with it would really force me to get everything I can out of it.

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

Spectrasonics Omnisphere

I really wish there was some kind of hardware version of Spectrasonics Omnisphere. It’s such a useful instrument when scoring for a film, especially for creating cinematic soundscapes. It’s one of the few VST instruments I find myself going back to time and time again. If they made a hardware version with some CV control over the parameters, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. Of course, with the size of the library being what it is, I’m sure it would be incredibly impractical to actually implement in hardware form, much less in eurorack format.

Walrus Audio Descent

On the flip side, I’d love a plugin version of my Walrus Audio Descent reverb pedal. I use the shimmer mode on that pedal quite a bit to add an almost choir-like quality to synths, and would love to have multiple software instances to use throughout a mix. Sure, there are ways of creating a similar sound using other software (the Descent is digital after all) but the pitch shifting on this pedal has a very particular, kind of unnatural sound to it. Hard to describe, but it definitely has a tone and I haven’t really come across anything else that sounds quite like it.

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

Korg MS-20 mini

I sold my Korg MS-20 mini when I first started diving into eurorack. At the time, I figured it didn’t make sense to have a semi-modular synth that didn’t speak Volt per Octave and was looking to get some cash to finance the beginnings of my modular (I believe I ended up buying a Maths with the money I made). But over time I realized just how much I missed those oscillators and filters. It’s such a unique instrument, and much like the Mother-32, it just has a very inspiring set of limitations. So last year, I actually ended up buying it again and will never repeat the mistake of selling it.

Arturia Minibrute 2S

As far as buyer’s remorse on a piece of gear, I bought an Arturia Minibrute 2S when they first came out and had some regrets on that one. The synth voice itself is phenomenal, and the ability to integrate it with eurorack really enhanced the functionality of my existing modular system. But I never got into a good flow with the sequencer. As someone with a background in music theory, I found it really difficult to visualize musical intervals due to its lack of a traditional keyboard. So I eventually ended up selling it and getting the keyboard version instead. Been loving it ever since.

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

Signal SoundLabs Eurorack

Lately, my eurorack rig has been the most consistent source of inspiration. I made some upgrades to it recently, and after about three years of buying and selling modules, I finally feel like I have most of the puzzle pieces in place. Modular synthesis definitely has an element of unpredictability, feels like these modules have a will of their own sometimes and I’m just along for the ride.
It really is a happy accident machine. The downside is it can be a bit difficult to tame, especially when working on music that is synced to visuals. But lately I’ve managed to find a workflow that has been very effective for film music. The key was to start recording everything I did on the modular and then spending some time editing to pick out all the best parts. The editing can be time consuming, but I find myself getting faster and faster with patching so it all evens out. Overall, I just find it more inspiring to capture a bunch of audio from the modular and then work by subtraction rather than addition.

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

If I had to start again, I’d probably get the most powerful computer I could afford, along with a copy of Cubase, a Universal Audio Apollo Twin, and some kind of semi-modular synth like the Minibrute 2. A basic rig like this would cover pretty much all the essentials, while combining a tactile hardware workflow with plenty of digital flexibility.

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

Mutable Instruments Clouds

Hard to say, but I guess I kind of have a love/hate relationship with my Mutable Instruments Clouds module. I rely on it pretty heavily when it comes to making any kind of ambient drone patch, but I find it rather annoying having to remember what all the controls do in its various different modes. Having installed the Parasite firmware really didn’t help with that either. That said, I came across an iOS app called Modes that acts as a nice cheat sheet for some multi-function modules, so I’m definitely not pulling my hair out as much as before. As much as I have a few gripes with Clouds, it really brings a lot to the table and has become pretty much irreplaceable in my rack.

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

Chase Bliss MOOD

I’ve recently been getting more and more into processing audio from Cubase using effects pedals. Plug-ins can be great, particularly for utility functions like EQ, but nowadays there are so many unique pedals out there, it feels like a shame not to use them to process in-the-box sounds as well. I’ve been doing this a lot with my Chase Bliss MOOD pedal in particular, which lets me grab a short slice of audio from the DAW and transform it in all kinds of quirky and interesting ways. Lately, whenever I get stuck on a track, I’ll start feeding random audio into MOOD (unused takes from the modular work particularly well) just to see what happens. It’s a great way to get myself out of a creative rut.


Artist or Band name?

Paul Talos

Genre?

Cinematic Electronica. I’ve never been sure how to categorize my music exactly, so eventually I just made something up. I think it sums things up pretty nicely.

Selfie?

Paul Talos

Where are you from?

Born in Germany, grew up in Boston, MA. Currently living in Philadelphia, PA.

How did you get into music?

I started playing electric guitar around the age of ten and started experimenting with home recording on a laptop when I was a teenager. After high school, I spent some time at Berklee College of Music studying guitar and discovered a love of synthesis and all things electronic music shortly after that.

What still drives you to make music?

Music’s become my job over the last few years, so a paycheck is definitely one thing that drives me. But more importantly, I constantly find myself inspired by just listening to other people’s music and trying to deconstruct what I’m hearing. I’ve come across some very interesting synthesis and production techniques just by trying (and usually failing) to emulate something I heard somewhere else.

How do you most often start a new track?

As a film composer, the answer to that question really varies from project to project. Production timelines and deadlines can be vastly different from one film to the next, so sometimes it might be starting a new track every day, other times I’ll write two or three a week. I do try to spend some time every day just to make some kind of noise though, usually on the modular. I find that synthesis is a skill that really needs to be maintained, otherwise it just gets harder the longer you are away from it. So regardless of what I’m working on, I try to squeeze in some synth time at least once a day, so I don’t get too rusty.

How do you know when a track is finished?

It really never is, but once the deadline hits it’s usually good enough. Honestly, if I didn’t have deadlines of some sort, I’m not sure I would ever finish anything. 

Show us your current studio

Signal SoundLabs studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

This one kind of relates to one of the other questions about finishing tracks. I took this music production class in college, and the professor said something one day that really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something along the lines of this: A mix is never done, you just stop working on it eventually. To hear that from a professional in the industry was incredibly reassuring at the time. I think it’s something that applies not only to a mix, but to music making in general. Nothing is ever truly finished and that’s okay.

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

Back in July, I released my score for a short thriller film called ‘Just Like You.’ The score is available on all streaming platforms. Links below.

Just Like You (Spotify)

https://music.apple.com/us/album/just-like-you-original-score-ep/1521324795

https://paultalos.bandcamp.com/releases


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]


Martha Bahr – Panic Girl

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

That’s a hard question to answer as every instrument is a composition of different knobs, faders and switches, which are only valuable through their interaction between each other. But if I had to choose one it would be the cutoff knob or fader. I tend to like very mellow sounds especially for inspiration.

ARP2600

My favourite cutoff of all times is the one on my ARP2600, especially with the resonance on maximum. I have never heard a more beautiful and eerie sound.

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

Panic Girl Eurorack modular

That would be my modular system. It grows and changes with me as I grow and change as an artist, and it’s the perfect instrument for those “happy little accidents”, for experiments, for getting to that next level sound design wise.
What I would change about it? Maybe it would be great to make them less heavy all in all, especially if you want to travel with it. 

Eurorack and flower

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

As much as fits in my suitcase. I usually take a skiff with me, my OP-1, an iPad and my laptop, just to have some options when in a good flow.

Eurorack skiff as LP cover with an OP-1 and SM57

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

I’d like to have the René by Make Noise as a Plugin, I love that module. It brings that bit of extra spice to my tracks, that I really like. And the Malgorithm, it’s my go to bitcrusher sound that I can’t get enough of so far. 
As for the other way around I would love to have the Fabfilter plugins as a module, especially the Limiter. It gives you the volume you need without colouring the sound too much, I use it on every track I make as well as their EQ. 

Make Noise Rene

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

Not yet. I surely bought some gear, especially some modules that didn’t fit my workflow after all. But that’s part of the game with modular synthesizers in my opinion, you try, sell, buy, reconfigure and grow with your system (or the other way around?) like you grow musically and as a person throughout life.

Eurorack and a bit of ARP2600

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

I’d say Logic and my modular system. There is so much to explore in each, so many possibilities to learn new things and so much room for „happy accidents.“ 

I spent a lot of time learning Logic as a rookie, I wanted to know it inside out so I can “play” it like an instrument. And there are several things especially in the beginning you have to figure out before you can produce music without having to think too much, like moving the anchor point in your audio regions or how to get an audio file with a different bpm to fit your track or how to set up the Environment for different purposes and so on. While figuring all that out, I came up with one idea after the other of what I wanted to try and explore musically. Back then I spent every free minute with Logic, it was extremely exciting to unlock all those levels of music creation one by one, it’s actually quite similar like getting addicted to a video game.

And modular instruments are just crazy with all their possibilities, it’s an endless source of inspiration to me for about ten years now. I’ve tried out so many modules by now, I couldn’t count them all. I also got some of them sent to me to write articles about for the german print magazine Sound & Recording, like the Yarns module by Mutable Instruments for example. And now I can’t live without it anymore. They are all very unique and special in their own way, it’s exciting and often eye-opening to make music with them.

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

I think I’m pretty ok with how things went and what equipment I got throughout the years. I started out on a PC, learned Logic, Cubase, ProTools, Fruity Loops and Reason at the SAE Institute back then and finally got a Virus TI as my first synth.

The most important thing to me is to learn how for examples DAWs work in general or how synths work in general, so I can translate that knowledge quickly to any other related gear rather than learning just one DAW or one synthesizer in and out and not knowing how to use similar gear from other companies.

That can be pretty helpful especially if your working as an audio engineer or composer and need to work with different tools from time to time.

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

That would be the computer per se I suppose. Especially moving to a new computer can be quite unnerving or when your current one gets too slow for all the tasks you want to do. 

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

That would be modules with which you can do generative patches, that was a real eye-opener for me. The René module by Make Noise with it’s cartesian sequencer was my first experimental module and I still use it in every patch I make. Being able to set the notes of a scale, but randomizing the order in which those notes are being played can make for some very interesting variations in a patch.


Artist or Band name?

Panic Girl 

Genre?

Electronica, Downtempo, Experimental 

Selfie?

Martha Bahr aka. Panic Girl

Where are you from?

I’m currently living in Munich, Germany.

How did you get into music?

I discovered my passion for music very early on when I was a child. I was utterly fascinated with this invisible medium that still seemed to surround me though I couldn’t touch or see it. I already knew back then that I wanted to spend my life with music, in whatever way possible. 

Panic Girl in a dream of wires

I sang in the school choir for several years, learned how to play the piano and the guitar and was playing in bands when I was a teenager. That’s when I got more and more interested with the equipment that we used like the mixing desk, the effects we applied to our instruments or DI Boxes for example. I just wanted to know how they worked. When a good friend of mine told me about the SAE Institute I knew instantly that this is what I wanted to do. I quit my studies at the university and finally started the Audio Engineering Program at the SAE Munich.

What still drives you to make music?

I just can’t do without it, it has been such a vital part of my being since early childhood. I still have tons of ideas I want to try out and there is always so much exciting equipment out there to explore. And there are also inspiring collaborations with for example Anatol Locker. We make experimental music as Lucid Grain, where we create music with our modular synthesizers that none of us could compose on it’s own. It’s like melting two musical minds into new fresh musical pieces. Inspiration is everywhere I suppose, you just have to learn to see it.

How do you most often start a new track?

I need a sound that inspires me to make a full song out of it. That sound can be literally everything, be it a noise from the coffee machine or birds singing, sounds from my modular system, my ARP2600 or my OP-1 for example. I often seem to navigate towards mellow and dreamy sounds and pads, noisy background sounds like from a vinyl player or field recordings. That initial sound then determines where I go from there, if the track needs drums or if it will be a more experimental one, if I feel like singing to it or if some more field recordings would fit well. 

Arp2600

How do you know when a track is finished?

The composition part of music making is usually done pretty quickly. It’s the mixing that takes up most of my time. I check it on several loudspeakers and headphones and have to adjust it several times, until it sounds equally good on everyone of them. I also find it very useful to not listen to the track for at least one or two weeks, so you actually have forgotten how it sounds. If you then re-listen and still like it, then I guess you’re good to go.

Show us your current studio

Eurorack and Arp2600
Roland Juno-60 and a Casio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

One of the sentences that stuck in my head for years is that you shouldn’t listen too emotionally when you’re working on a track, especially during the mixing stage. That’s something I still can’t fully control, sometimes I just need to crank up the volume, dance around and go back to work after that. You need a clear and calm mind for mixing to make those technical decisions, to make a mix work. I could for example drown everything in reverbs and delays, I just love how they sound. But it’s definitely not good for your mix, it gets muddy very fast. So I need to hold back and work on the mix from an mixing engineers perspective to get the most out of it.

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

I’m very proud of my latest album “Cake On Jupiter” that I released with Modularfield last year:

https://panic-girl.bandcamp.com/album/cake-on-jupiter

[Editor: Beina a musician now a days means taking on many different roles. Which you can see that people such as Ms. Bahr is very adapt at. Do you struggle with the various roles required to be a productive musician these days? And which roles are the most challenging? Leave a comment below.]


[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…
]