William Stewart – W1llys

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

Uher Speed Knob

The speed selector on my Uher. The older model has a tiny gear shift for selecting the speed, but the new one just has a knob; a knob with a nice feel and weight. When you move it, you can feel the shifting of the gears inside as the mechanisms thunk into place. It’s immensely satisfying.

Uher Speed Lever
Uher Tape recorders

My second place choice is the hi-hat decay knob on my 808 clone. Riding that during a groove is endless fun.

808 Hihat decay knob

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

It might be the SE-02. The first synth I really learned how to use was the SH-09. It taught me how flexible a simple architecture can be, and how rewarding learning how each piece of a synth works together is. It taught me that the controls are as much a part of the instrument as the keys. Ever since then, no synth has been as fun to play as a solid monosynth.

Roland SE-02

The SE-02’s very much in the same vein, and it seems to be able to scratch every sonic itch I have. The delay’s grainy in all the right ways. The filter has a character that doesn’t make me think “Moog” for some reason. The filter has grit, filth, and somehow feels cold. Not machine cold, but unfeeling in the same that the universe is. When that filter sweeps just right it feels like the dawn, it feels like the slow and sudden heat as the sun rises in the morning. I love this thing. There’s magic in the way the envelopes and filter interact with the delay.

There are three things I’d change. The first thing I’d change is the knob taper. It’s exponential and it makes playing the knobs an extremely delicate procedure. The second is I really wish I had full ADSRs. That extra level of control would be much more welcome than panel controls for portamento. The third is the sequencer. It would be a lot nice if I could have longer sequences, and I really wish the sequence transpose could latch.

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

The obvious answer here is the OP-Z. It’s fun, quick, and easy to use. It’s also super easy to take on a plane. Making a full track with just this is surprisingly easy and fun. It definitely caught me off guard with how user friendly and fun it is to use.

Teenage Engineering OP-Z

Realistically and historically, though, my preference is to bring either the Volca FM and Mini KP or the Roland SE-02. When I sit down to play I’m not typically trying to write or work on a song. Usually I just want to explore a sound or a musical phrase. The SE-02 and Volca FM are excellent for sound exploration. If I want to make a minimalist composition these are my go-to pieces of gear, and fortunately they’re small enough for a carry-on.

Korg Volca FM and Kaoss Pad Mini

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

I am (un)fortunately a luddite. When I record or make music it’s almost entirely analog. One thing I wish I could do with my hardware setup is automate parameter controls. There are ways to do this if I went modular. If I used software I know I could automate some of the parameters of my physical instruments. Bringing Windows, Mac, or Linux into my setup would violate a lot of what my setup’s built on: spontaneity. I can write and record a song relatively quickly and easily, without worrying about system updates or getting sucked down the black hole that is the internet.

Analog recording

This is typically just called a DAWless setup. But I really don’t like that nomenclature. It defines a musical approach as being the absence of something, in a way. Really I just like playing instruments and don’t want to try and play a computer like an instrument.

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

DSI Prophet 6

The Prophet 6 is a rare animal. I’ve bought a lot of gear that I regretted, but this one the only one I’m keeping. It sounds great and it’s super flexible, but it has a lot of little design choices that drive me nuts. The problem is it sounds sooooo good. So, when I use it I love the sounds I get, but I always find myself frustrated by something.

It seems like it’s made for people working in studios who want to lay down tracks, or sample its lush sounds to use in a DAW. Regardless, it doesn’t seem to be made for my workflow.

DSI Prophet 6

But I am going to keep it around because it sounds ridiculously nice. The sound is so rich and deep I forget how annoying it was to program it. It’s like hiking up a mountain with uncomfortable shoes. It’s a real pain at times, but the views you get make the discomfort worth it.

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

The Volca FM is definitely my most inspiring. It’s endlessly versatile, and has more features under its hood than it has any right to for its size and price point. It has the wild and wiry sounds FM is known for, and the limited controls on the surface are deceptive in their simplicity. It’s easy to rely on presets, and tweaking the few controls on the surface gets you tons of control. It also plays nicely with any effect you want to pair it with.

Korg Volca FM

It’s an instrument I have a love-hate relationship with, though. I’ve owned three of them. Whenever I try to dive into the parameters to do some deep editing, it make me want to toss it out the window. The balance of features, and how easy it is to switch between playing modes to introduce variations makes it really fun to play.

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

The Jazzmaster. Even though any synthesizer can run sonic circles around any guitar/pedal combo, it feels more emotional to play than any synth or drum machine. Fiddling around with the different intervals on the neck taught me everything I know about music, too. It’s cliche as hell, but playing a guitar with some fuzz and delay could keep me happy forever.

Fender Jazzmaster

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

The Zoia is hands down the most useful and inconvenient piece of gear I own. If I have an idea that I can’t achieve with anything else, the Zoia can usually get me close enough. It does what it does better than anything else I know of, but I wouldn’t want to use it with a band.

Empress Effects Zoia

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

Envelopes are surprisingly underrated. Clones of “good” ones don’t really get talked about, and people don’t really seem to covet and worship the exact curves of one over another’s.

No two synths I’ve played have had the same envelopes. Each one has its own type of pluck, swell, and decay. It feels like they’re what transform a synth into a playable instrument. I wish there was more emphasis on modulating and controlling their parameters. Slight modifications to the decay of an adsr can completely transform a bland sequence. They really breath life into every sound.


Artist or Band name?

Willy

Genre?

I’ve never been good at sticking to a genre. It seems to waffle between synthwave, cinematic, harsh noise, and synth-pop.

Selfie?

William ‘Willy’ Stewart

Where are you from?

Benson, Utah

How did you get into music?

My mom signed me up to play violin in my middle school’s orchestra. After that it was relatively easy to play bass in my friend’s band. From there I was hooked.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s an emotional thing mainly. It helps me experience my emotions. Lately when I sit down to play it’s after a rough day, and it helps me process what’s happened. Other times, it’s when I’m feeling numb, and playing helps me open up and experience my emotions. This is essentially why I haven’t recorded very much music. It’s usually an expression of anxiety, depression, or fear. So, I don’t really want to live in that moment long enough to record it.

How do you most often start a new track?

Most often it’s with a riff or a phrase. I’ll have an idea for a sound, or find one via knob twiddling, and then I see what notes feel good with that sound. Once I’ve got something that makes me happy, I start seeing what other sounds I can layer in to compliment the original sound.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I can listen to it without wincing, and it doesn’t feel empty. If I can listen without wincing it means I don’t have anything to redo, and as long as it sounds “full” I don’t need to add anything else.

Show us your current studio

William’s studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Play every day. Some variant of that’s what I hear all the time from everyone, but there really is no better advice. In my twenty years of music making experience, this advice has always held true. If you’re not inspired then try learning theory, practicing your technique, try reproducing real world sounds with synthesizers, try something outside of your comfort zone, or just have fun making noises. Keep at it every day to keep your tools sharp, then you’ll be ready to act when you actually have something to play.

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

The only places I regularly post anything are my Instagram and tiktok.


TJ Dumser – Six Missing

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

Jazzmaster volume knob

Yes, absolutely, without a doubt, the volume knob on my Jazzmaster. Coming from a band background and learning how to blend with other musicians and when to step out front, I was always using my volume knob. Mostly to clean up my tone and then to send it into overdrive. I play expressively and dynamically, never with a compressor pedal so I am always going for the volume knob. I can control swells and it’s become such second nature to my playing that my pinky just sort of rests there all the time.

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

My room is pretty dialed in right now. Since my day job of being a sound designer and mix engineer for advertising, film, and TV keeps me mostly in the studio, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into making the room my instrument. I have my modular rack, my pedalboard, my synths all patched and routed so I can send and receive audio from any of those places – I have total freedom to create. But I would change the amount of space I have, haha, I always want more.

The Six Missing hub

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

Since the start of the pandemic we haven’t traveled anywhere. And before that I wasn’t touring all that much since my live setup got pretty large, in fact, the setup got to the point where I wasn’t able to take the subway any longer – I need a cab or to drive to the gig. Which for people that have never lived in NYC, that’s a huge dealbreaker as you’ll often spend the money you made from your set on cabs. So the biggest thing for me when I go on holiday is my headphones. I try to create music every day so when I take a vacation, I am truly off-the-grid. But now that I’m in Austin which is far from my home in NYC, I have begun planning a travel/mobile rig – it’s Ableton based and I think the Arturia Keystep looks like the best investment in a tiny keyboard as I could integrate it into my modular rack as well as controlling VSTs. I fall prey to the “I want to have all my options be options” mentality, so traveling light will be a fun challenge I look forward to. I’ll have to check back in with you and keep you posted on how I net out!

Compact setup: MacBook, UAD soundcard and guitar

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

An interesting question indeed. I had seen someone else you interview mention that a lot of software is hardware emulations or based on some piece of hardware, which I agree with. I don’t get picky, though I do think that having Big Sky algorithms in plug-in format would be super cool. Although, I’m sure you’d need a separate computer to run all that DSP, which then circles back to having a box, so I suppose they thought about that and why they stayed away from it. I mostly feel like there’s a companion piece of hardware or software for anything you can dream of these days, and like I said, I don’t discriminate – while, yes, an original Minimoog Model D probably sounds better than a VSTs version, I don’t have the $10k for the real thing and dang if presets aren’t awesome to recall.

Moog Matriarch and Eurorack

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

I’ve been fortunate enough to never really have buyers remorse because 30-day return policies are awesome. But I will say that I purchased the ROLI Seaboard recently with hopes and dreams of it completely transforming how I compose with strings and MPE devices and it was just…awkward. Perhaps I didn’t give it enough time to grow on me. The squishy part was fun for a bit, though I can see it attracting cat hair like crazy. I have only ever sold gear I know I was never going to use again. I tend to hang on to things because I’m a sound designer and having random old pieces of gear are inspiring and you never know when you’re going to need it.

Pedalboard goodies

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

Surprisingly, diving into modular gear was the most inspiring and overwhelming. And now that I’ve picked up Norns and Grid, I’m feeling that same sense of “how do I control you!” which I really think makes you enter into that beginner’s mind and where the magic happens. It’s for this reason (and I’ll get roasted for this, I’m sure) that I absolutely never read a manual. I love clicking about/turning knobs/making horrible mistakes when I first get a piece of gear. I think not knowing what you’re doing is when your true talent shines through. You just kind of use The Force to figure it out and stumble your way through. But to stop getting preachy and answer your question, modular. My newest EP on Inner Ocean Records happened in about three weeks after I got all my rack set up, it was just insanely inspiring to have semi-generative sounds morphing and allowing me space to write other lines over it with other instruments.

Norns and Grids

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

If I had to start over I would still start with just a single piece of gear and learn it completely inside and out before buying the next piece of gear. I admit to falling victim to gear acquisition a while back but I always had this sense of wanting to know how to use the gear I had before stepping up. Granted, I have a ton of pedals these days, but it took me a good three years to get to this point.

Pedals galore

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

Haha, this question is great. The most annoying piece of gear I have (though I still love it) is my DD-20, the old big block delay. When the thing boots up it defaults to being on. There’s probably a way to change that but I never looked it up and when it kicks on with the board the first algo is my custom 16-second delay. So if there’s a bit of hum from the unplugged ¼” cable or I flub a note I won’t hear it for another 16-seconds, way after I’ve forgotten and then I’ll chase line hum or a looper pedal somewhere in the chain for five minutes, until I realize it’s just the delay kicking around every 16-seconds. I have Nels Cline to personally thank for making me lust after 16-second delays.

Boss DD-20

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

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

I got to be one of a very small handful of beta testers on the Hologram Microcosm, so I had the pedal well before the public did and I have never had the opportunity to speak directly to the minds that designed and created the pedals I played, so I learned tons of fun insider tricks with it. But my most favorite trick on it, is taking a live effect and capturing it into the looper and then sending that loop back through the live effects pre-effect and processing that loop a second time but through a different live effect. So fun.

[Editor: The Microcosm is gonna be a classic!]


Artist or Band name?

My name is TJ Dumser but I perform as Six Missing.

Genre?

Ambient, Electronic… Meditation Music sounds grabby, so does Furniture Music or Music for Plants. Music that allows you to do other things and zone out to it.

Selfie?

TJ Dumser aka. Six Missing

This isn’t a selfie, but I spent money on this session with this talented photographer Shervin Lainez and so I usually like to get some mileage out of it 😛 

Where are you from?

I’m from NY, but have been spending the past year (lol, let’s be real, quarantine) in Austin, TX. 

How did you get into music?

I have always loved music and performing, I used to do it even as a baby in diapers, shouting nonsense into a microphone and directing orchestras through the kitchen. But it really hit when I saw Back to the Future and caught my first glimpse at Marty’s red Gibson 335. After that, I uncovered milk crates of records in my grandma’s attic and heard Stairway to Heaven and had my mind blown as a 11 year old. After that, I needed to have a guitar. So I was able to convince my parents that I was interested enough for them to get me one and had been playing since I was 12.

What still drives you to make music?

Music has always been a way for me to retreat from other stresses. Given the state of the world and the general level of collective anxiety, music has given me a way to take care of myself. It’s a way that I can contribute something positive. It ends up making me genuinely feel better having taken some time to play. My hopes are that I’m able to give just even the smallest bit of relief to people who hear my music, maybe it gives them that chance to take a breath or to help them meditate or go to sleep – which I realize isn’t every musicians dream “for folks to fall asleep to my music” but hey – if that helps someone, then I’m happy.

How do you most often start a new track?

It has morphed. When I was mainly composing ambient guitar loops or guitar based tracks, I would just turn on the gear and let the DD-20 sit in 16-sec delay mode and start piling layers into it, slam that into the Ditto x 2 and knock it into half speed and that became my bed. But these days I’m spending more time with eurorack modular gear and synths like the Monome Norns. I can usually get a nice atmosphere created by sending some audio to my modular gear and manipulating over there, capture some ideas and then start adding a bass line with the Moog Matriarch. Though I’m new to it, Norns is massively inspiring and I love the idea of having a tiny digital bandmate taking care of melodies and rhythms for me.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I’m sure the answer is very different for the musicians you’ve interviewed, but for me my answer changes all the time. I have a set of tracks that comprise an LP, about 11 tracks, just sitting collecting dust because I “still feel like they need something” and then I have EPs that I sit and complete in a weekend. Honestly, it’s that different for me. I suppose there’s just a knowing you feel about the track, like, did I serve this? If so, I move on. Also, if I get bored with or anything I try to add to a track starts sounding like garbage or I spend far too long working on a line…that’s how I know. If the track tells me it’s complete. It’ll push away all the superfluous junk.

[Editor: That’s a different way of doing things, it sounds almost like your songs have their own desires and needs. I guess a more empathetic approach to composition by considering the needs and wants of a piece, independently from your own wishes as a composer]

Show us your current studio

Six Missing home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Show up each day and do something. Whether that’s reading about someone who set out to achieve a goal or career and is doing it. Or just noodling with the guitar. Or perhaps even just turning on the synth, just to let it warm up. You don’t have to expect a masterpiece, but the fact that you’ve done something with the day means that you’ve placed your intention on it and odds are you’re going to get surprised every once in a while.

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

Thanks for asking! I have my debut EP coming out on Inner Ocean Records called “Patricia” on February 12th.

It’ll be available via Inner Ocean’s site as well as mine – or you can stay tuned to my Instagram (www.instagram.com/sixmissing) for more!


[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…
]


Couleurves – Mathieu Lalonde

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

Make Noise Morphagene varispeed knob

Morphagene’s varispeed knob! I’ve got a lot of great feeling knobs, but this one is the only one that has this nice colour window. I used this module a lot lately and I never got bored of that intimate light show. It’s immediate, fun and incredibly inspiring.

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

A square of Eurorack

My first modular setup is as close to perfection as I got with a piece of gear. It went through a few phases, but it’s stayed as it was when it got in that wooden case for years. It’s very limited compared to my Palette setup, but it’s what makes it perfect. It’s an incredibly fun mono synth with a ton of tricks up its sleeves. 

There’s a few things that I’d change still. I had this case built and I asked for a deep bottom section. I didn’t know what I’d put in it at the time, so it’s deep enough to accomodate any module. I think the deepest one in there is the Disting. It’s way deeper than it needs to be which makes it bigger and heavier than I’d like. I also temporarily swapped my uVCAII for a ModDemix. It was a mistake and the uVCAII will come back in its right place. Don’t mess with a perfectly good setup.

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

Elektron Digitone and eurorack

I haven’t toured yet, but I settled on a live setup this past summer. I went and recorded a live version of douzaine with that setup and I found it to be very fun. The Digitone takes care of the sequencing and of the key sounds, while the modular adds another analog voice on top. My guitar is being fed in the Morphagene for some live looping/mangling. 

I also don’t take gear on holidays. Either that vacation time is used to record stuff or it’s used for some time off. I either bring everything or I bring nothing. No half-measures!

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

Tascam Porta-02ii

I don’t own an iOS device, but I’ve been very interested in both Gauss Field Looper and Flip. I’ve been looking for a cheap and immediate way to record ideas. A sketch book of some sorts. I’d love for some kind of device which would run these apps, but with a better physical I/O integration. I’d get rid of the touch screen as well, I don’t like those on music things. The OP1 fits in that sketchbook territory, but I did get to try it and I found out that it’s not exactly my cup of tea.

I’d also like to have a clean and efficient way to record tape loops. I sometimes want to use them on a track, but I switch plans as it takes a bit of time to get right. I’d use a digital version if it did the exact same thing. Messy and dusty places don’t go well with magnetic tape.

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

Yes! Many actually. I cheaped out on my first and only mic stand. I bought a very small kick drum one as I only wanted to record my amp. At its lowest, it sits too high to record an amp that’s on the ground. I have to prop the amp on something to make it work. It’s also too small to record acoustic guitars, I need to get a chair for it and it puts me in a weird position. I borrowed one from my brother (thanks Nicolas!) and I haven’t used this one in a while. I sometimes use my Zoom H4n to record amps as it’s easier than using this mic stand.

Life’s too short for a short mic stand

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

Definitely the Korg Monologue. It’s heavily featured on two releases of mine and it’s been used on many demos as well. I’m still doing the Monologue + looper jams, the last one being my 37th one. I love it very much and I hope it’ll stay with me for ever.

Korg Monologue

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

I’d get a decent looper pedal. I used a garbage one for so long and it ruined many early recordings I did. They’re great to experiment with if you’re on a budget but I tried to save a few jams and it’s just too messy. I had the chance to use many great loopers from Electro-Harmonix (22500, 45000, 95000) over the years and I realize now that one of those would have made everything so much smoother.

EHX 22500

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

Tascam

Tascam Porta02 MKII. The power cord I have is a foot long, the headphone knob is scratchy and it hurts my ears when it moves, it uses RCA cables for the output, etc. There’s so many things I don’t like about it, but it’s still the only running tape machine I have. Tape loops became pretty much necessary for my workflow and I can’t see this one going away soon.

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


I recently shared the secret fuzz I found hidden in my Optomix. Running the audio signal through the strike input (or through the CTRL input for a different flavour) crunches the signal in a weird and pleasing way. Messing with the knobs alters the tone as well. It has a nice bit-crush/gated fuzz type of sound. It’s surprising for a module that’s known for its smooth and organic character.


Artist or Band name?

Couleurves

Genre?

Ambient/New age

Selfie?

Couleurves

Where are you from?

Curently living in Montréal, Québec! I’m originally from the surrounding countryside.

How did you get into music?

I played guitar when I was around 14 years old, but I quit as my brother got way better than I did and I felt discouraged. I didn’t practice so that didn’t help.

Records like Plantasia and Oxygene piqued my interest in late high school. I got hooked on that whole thing when I bought a Volca Keys in college. I got into the music that people like Jogging House and R Beny did back then and jumped straight from the Volca to my first modular setup.

What still drives you to make music?

Finding new sounds and trying new things. I dug deep in Sounds of the Dawn‘s YouTube channel over the last year and now I’m really excited to try a new direction. The mixer is the newest addition to the setup and it makes everything fun and easier to handle.

Right now, I’m excited to work with more acoustic instruments. I’m trying to distance myself from sequences to keep it organic and free-flowing.

How do you most often start a new track?

It starts with a riff or with a single loop. It usually flows pretty easily after the first part is layed down. If the rest doesn’t follow, it’s just not meant to be.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I don’t know! I stop working on a track when I can’t add anything else to it or if it feels done. I almost never rework half-finished things. It’s very spontaneous!

Show us your current studio

Couleurves ome studio
Couleurves home studio recorder
Couleurves home studio floor and pedal board
Couleurves studio desk
Couleurves guitars
Couleurves mixer


Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I’ve been told to just show up. You can’t do something good if you don’t do anything. Just being there, without any idea of what to do, is a great start. 

“I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”
― Dale Cooper

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

I self-released fils and douzaine over the last few months. They’re available on Bandcamp, on my YouTube channel as well as on a few streaming sites. I also recorded a live session featuring tracks from douzaine which can be watched on my YouTube channel! 

I’m currently working on a new album which, I hope, should be out next year. https://couleurves.bandcamp.com/

I’ll be posting a few behind-the-scenes on Instagram until then! https://www.instagram.com/couleurves


[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…
]