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.


Mikael Tobias – ResonanTechno

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

After much deliberation, I’m gonna go with the volume knob on my 80’s Japanese Fender Precision Bass. Something about the textured metal just feels so solid and badass.

MIJ Fender P Bass Volume knob

Honourable mention goes to the knobs on the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor for their sheer monstrosity, which I get to use when I work at @SixBitDeep.

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

Every piece of kit is perfect just the way it is =D

VervilleAudio MDC-1

Ok, actually I’ll shout out my homies at @VervilleAudio for their MDC-1 which is a hand-made 2-channel Variable Mu tube compressor on steroids plus 2 preamp channels. I have a Beta version which sounds incredible, but I’ve been in close contact with them discussing some minor improvements (mostly just the interface) and I think the next version will be close to perfect! These guys are developing some amazing gear in Montreal.

VervilleAudio MDC-1

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

The last tour I did was a solo one around Europe and the UK. I was taking planes, trains and busses everywhere, so I needed a really compact setup. Laptop, small RME FF400 interface and Novation Launch Control XL controller (+ some vinyl and extra clothes) in a backpack and my lap steel guitar and a few pedals in a soft gig bag (actually a rifle case!)

Gibson Lapsteel in a rifle case
Rifle softcase

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

Hardware sequencer Faderfox SC4

I don’t find myself wishing this very often. A lot of the software I love is already great emulations of hardware, and generally when I’m using hardware it’s because I want to have my hands on something other than the mouse. Having rare and expensive hardware reverbs and compressors easily available in the form of plugins is a godsend! And conversely, there are so many software sequencers, but I always seem to get more interesting results when I use a hardware sequencer. So I guess the short answer is no 🙂

Hardware sequencer Akai MPC1000
Hardware sequencer Arturia Beatstep Pro

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

When I moved to Copenhagen from Montreal I had to sell a ton of stuff, and while sometimes it’s nice to do a purge and move on, I sure do miss the amps I had. There was a Traynor YBA-1 head with this awesome old Peavey cabinet that was painted white and that I put a vintage 15” Jensen speaker in. And the love of my life was a Music Man 210HD One Thirty. One of the guys from Arcade Fire once asked if they could buy it from me and I said no. 

Traynor YBA-1 with Peavey cabinet

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

Sennheiser MD211
Electro Voice RE15

Probably getting a new microphone. Whenever I pick up a new mic, I immediately want to hear how it sounds on different sources, and putting myself into that engineer mindset always makes me feel super creative. A new instrument has a similar effect. When I got my Korg Mono/Poly I did a pretty deep dive and got really inspired with the sounds it can make. That thing is all over my new album.

Korg Mono/Poly

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

That’s a tough one because I started with a guitar (a cheap copy of a Gibson Les Paul) then an amp, then a wah pedal, and I don’t think I’d change that course of events. But in the early 2000’s I had a friend who sold all his keyboards. He had a Rhodes MKI, a Roland JX-3P and a Korg MS-10. I bought the Rhodes and 2 of my friends each bought one of the synths… all for dirt cheap. I wish I had taken the MS-10 instead of the Rhodes (I can’t play piano for shit) but synths were such a mystery to me then. My homie still has it though so at least it’s in the family.

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

Getting on the case

CASES! Rack case, road cases, instrument cases etc…It’s such a juggling act to set up a studio that’s ergonomic and makes good use of available space. I feel like I’m on a never-ending quest to find the best compromises between a great setup that’s easy and inspiring to work in, and portability (if I need to take some gear on location or on tour, etc…). And all the seldom-used cases take up so much space, but, like what do I do when I need to take my synth somewhere once every 2 years?!?!

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

It’s not actually about the gear, it’s all about what you do with it.


Artist or Band name?

Mikael Tobias

Genre?

Ambient / Post-Rock / Neo-Classical / Experimental Techno

Selfie?

Mikael Tobias

Where are you from? 

Toronto/Montréal Canada

How did you get into music?

My parents put me in guitar lessons for a year when I was 10, then I essentially taught myself the rest.

What still drives you to make music?

Some kind of burning inner demon, I mean a compulsion to create, to experiment, to push boundaries. Music has given me so many of the most visceral and emotional experiences of my life and I’m very interested in all the ways sound can affect us, both physically and emotionally. So there is a constant quest that I can’t imagine ever coming to completion.

How do you most often start a new track?

Generally with some kind of “play.” If I can lose myself and not worry about how productive I’m being or what I’m doing this “for” that is when I feel like I’m accessing real creativity. So being in the moments and just playing is often how my tracks begin. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

Some kind of combination of utter mental exhaustion, and 1 or 2 re-scheduled self-imposed deadlines.

Show us your current studio

A leopard skin chair is essential…. for those vibes
FX and Pedals
Stacks and Racks
Guitars and Synths living together in harmony

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

If you’re getting stuck, grab an instrument that you don’t know how to play. It breaks you out of the confines of muscle memory and patterns you’ve developed and it opens up creative doors that you probably didn’t know were closed.

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

My new album APERTURE:

https://mikaeltobias.bandcamp.com/album/aperture


Gabriel Vinuela – Viñu-Vinu


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

White MoogerFooger RingMod

The knobs on my MoogerFooger RingMod are the best, I think. They have the good resistance, size and shape. They just feel right!

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

Elektron Digitakt

The Elektron Digitakt is almost perfect for me. I love the workflow, its limitations, the sequencer, the size and the sound. That box sounds so good and has such unbelievable headroom! I guess I would like to have a slot for an SD card for more storage and easier sample transfers.

Digitakt and friends

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

I always bring my Zoom H4N everywhere to record field recordings which I really enjoy doing. For a minimal holiday setup, I would add to that my OP-1. Not super original here, but you can do so much on the OP-1 alone, it wins for a minimal setup!

OP1 and Zoom H4N

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

I think having PaulXStretch in an effect pedal format would be pretty cool! Freeze, stretch the signal to immense drone with frequency shift, filters etc…
For a while, I was wishing for the Digitakt sequencer to be available as a software, but with overbridge it’s almost the case now. Also, Ableton 11 implementing randomisation in the sequencer totally fills that gap now for me.

Paul Stretch

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

I don’t really sell gear, cause I’m always afraid I’ll regret it later and that I might need it for a project. To be fair I’m also really cautious of the gear I buy and I don’t have a lot. I sold my first electric piano which was a Yamaha S90 a while back. I kind of regret selling now, because it had a pretty good keybed and I think I could use it now as master midi keyboard. Therefore, reinforcing that I should not sell gear! haha

Yamaha S90

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

I know it’s not a hardware piece, but I need to say Ableton Live. It’s definitely “the piece of kit” that got me started and I can still find endless inspiration within. I like that there’s so much different workflows possible, different ways of doing things and it’s such a modular environment to make music. No two person use it exactly in the same way!

Ableton

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

Something like the Minilogue I think. A synth with almost all the functions on the front panel is way better to start learning about synthesis.

Korg Minilogue

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

Cables!!! We absolutely need them, but there are too much cables around everywhere in the studio: xlr, 1/4, usb, dongles. It never ends OMG.

Cables

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

A surprising trick I learned watching a Dave Meck tutorial was that you can create FM tones by setting a really fast bpm multiply on the LFO and modulating the sample tune. Better to check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Wsu7CB1SSI

Digitakt FM tones

Artist or Band name?

Viñu-Vinu

Genre?

Electronic music, ambient, downtempo, experimental, melodic, beats (I guess??)

Selfie?

I’m cheating here… That’s a photo taken by my friend Mathieu Lalonde (Couleurves)

Gabriel Vinuela aka. Viñu-Vinu

Where are you from?

Montréal, Canada.

How did you get into music?

I started taking piano lessons when I was 10 years old and continued studying music and classical piano performance all through college and University. I completed a Bachelor degree in both classical and jazz piano performance at University of Montreal. Around 2013-14 a friend showed me Ableton and I started experimenting more with sounds and textures and started doing electronic music and music production more seriously around 2016. And here we are!

What still drives you to make music?

I think what still drives me is the infinite quest, exploration and learning experience that music is for me. I’m always looking for something new to make or to learn.

How do you most often start a new track?

Most of the time I fire Ableton Live and then it so much depends on the day! I generally like to establish and think about a process first. For example: explore this new plugin, today granular stuff, starting with a hardware synth, work with that new sequencer. The process gets me going at first and then I can go where ever from there and a new track or idea start emerging from that.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it’s released and I’m listening to it on the Bandcamp or another platform stream. It’s really the only way you’re sure the track is fully finished… haha. Joke aside, that’s such a hard question to answer. For me it’s really a gut feeling, a sense that all the pieces of the puzzle are together, like I almost see the whole thing visually. Sometimes it happens really quickly and sometimes it takes for ever to get there.

Show us your current studio

Studio
Studio
Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

See your art as a practice and practice it everyday. Even for a really short amount of time. Blankfr.ms posted something in those lines a few days ago in an Instagram caption. It’s something that I always tell my piano student, but it kind of reaffirmed it for myself reading it. You’re better practicing 10 min a day, than an hour once in a while. Getting that sense of daily creation is such a good and rewarding feeling too.

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

I just released my new album Exilio Transitorio:
Vinyl + download:

Exilio Transitorio

https://vinu-vinu-music.bandcamp.com/album/exilio-transitorio

Streaming: https://album.link/i/1557425920