Navin Kala – Pastoral Electronics

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

Roland RS-09

Right now, the RS09 Tuning knob. I like the little struggle that happens inside our brain when a note is slowly approaching the “tuned” area.
Five months ago, was the Grandmother cutoff filter, it’s addictive, I guess they know it and that’s why they made it so big.

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

Gibson EH150 lap steel

My Gibson EH150 lap steel, from 1937. It’s 84 years old and sounds like it has always been here and always will. I feel inspired just by looking at her. And I’m not a guitar player myself, just an aficionado. It makes me wonder how my Digitakt is going to look in 84, by the year 2104.

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

If I have to leave home, I’ll take the iRig2, the reface CP, and the garage band on my phone. It’s a frustrating experience though, it reminds me how little is needed to make music technically acceptable nowadays.

iRig, Yamaha Reface and cat

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

Studio desk and racks

I don’t use software. Two months ago, I bought Reaper, but I’m using it strictly as a multitrack recorder. Paired with the Softube Fader, so I can have a more tactile experience.
Don’t get me wrong, plugins and VST are as good, and many times better than the real thing. But when I see my studio with all the gadgets, I feel inspired to play. If instead, I see a computer screen, I don’t feel the call at all.
It’s like masturbating versus having sex, you’ll reach the same level of satisfaction. But you’ll miss the joy of the process. Although it will be less tiring, that’s true.

[Editor: Literally I laughed out loud at this comparison…. it’s so true]

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

TC Electronic Finalizer

Due to logistics, I can’t sell anything. The post office is 100 km away and parcel companies are few, and they never find our house. If I was living in a city, I would definitely be selling stuff.
I do regret buying several things, one of them the TC finalizer, I still don’t know what it does. But there’s a small revelation in buying the wrong gear, you slowly find what is adequate for yourself, by elimination.

[Editor: I totally agree, this kinda process is also an essential part of learning and growing. The only thing, is that people get so bummed out by their regrets. Enjoy your regrets! You’ve learned something and it means you’re willing to take creative risk, so it’s all good (I actually just picked up a Finalizer too 🙂 haha)]

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

Piano and pussy

Just like others already answered on your blog, the piano. I sit in front of this massive primitive device, and there’s an instant communion. It’s like the whole mechanism is holding plenty of new songs, waiting for someone to take them out. It is an utter physical experience. And this is something I exclusively feel with the piano.

[Editor: Yup, I got that with the acoustic guitar]

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

I started years ago with Cakewalk and a Dx7, I don’t wish this on anybody. I suffered so much with the membrane buttons, and the menu written in extraterrestrial code. That was a huge technological wall between electronic music and me. And actually, that’s why I completely stopped making music in my first reincarnation. And also why choosing the right tools, for oneself, is pivotal in the engagement with music.
Today, I would buy the Korg Minilogue, functional, intuitive, and with a great sound. I don’t have one though.

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

Cables and patchbays

The Patchbay, but not the front side, the backside of course. It was a pain to set all the cables, but once it’s done, it makes everything much easier. Until you need to change some routing.

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

Korg Monologue

I like to use the Korg Monologue as an analog drum machine. I started diving into this thanks to Oscillator Sink’s rhythm collection on Korg’s site.


Artist or Band name?

Navin Kala

Genre?

I’m still experimenting and trying to find a comfortable place. Right now, this place must be somewhere between electronica with ambient and a bit of experimental.

Selfie?

Navin Kala

Where are you from?

Brazil, with mixed blood.

How did you get into music?

I began piano lessons as a child, it was either that or karate.
But it is extremely frustrating, learning with music you don’t like or feel. Stuff like “What Mozart composed when he was 5”. And I was 10, so it was like saying, you are retarded.

What still drives you to make music?

It makes me feel good, I know that without music I don’t feel fulfilled. Creativity, of any sort, sublimates our existence. This and the fact that I have a 70% of hearing loss, since a child, and at some point, I might lose it completely. I want to play as much music as I can before my only working ear falls under a functional threshold. Funny fact, Stereo does not exist in my universe.

[Editor: Damn good reason!]

How do you most often start a new track?

With Instagram, I force myself to make a post, like an exercise, a few every week. Each time with a different instrument. Something comes up. I see people’s reaction, and from there I decide if I keep working on the idea. Is like a focus group.
This first idea narrows down how the next instrument will interact, and so on. Limiting each time your options. I call it the Funnel Paradox. You begin with a universe of options, and as you add layers, these options decrease.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I don’t have a rational answer to this. I have a big folder with tracks I’ve started. Some go a few years back. And I certainly know that they are not finished. But I don’t know what it takes for them to be completed. Paradoxically, when they are finished, I know they are. I suppose is easier when you work with a client, let’s say making a soundtrack. The deadlines will tell you when something is finished.

Show us your current studio

Navins Studio with a couch, patio doors and a hammock!

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I was thirteen years old, my piano teacher was pissed with me, again, because I wasn’t able to prepare the lessons before the class. Instead, I was procrastinating playing popular music (the concept of procrastination didn’t exist back then). He asked me eventually; “When you wake up every day, do you feel a compelling need to play the piano?” I said “Nope”.
And he replied; “Then you must find, quickly, something that you feel like doing daily. You’ll be a realized person.”
I quit piano lessons the next day. He was relieved.

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

My second album, Horse. Few months old. I hope you like it.

Navin Kala – Horse album

[Editor: Also check out Navins IG… it’s lovely. C’mon join the funnel paradox]


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/


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.