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/


Ricard Magnusson – Wheel

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

The boring answer is the Cutoff! It’s probably my most used knob after all… If I choose to interpret the question from another angle, and discuss the overall feel of my favourite knobs, I’d say the knobs on my Novation Peak. There is a stiffness to them that makes them feel sturdy and reliable, and a rubberized texture that is really great. The Peak feels like it could survive anything! For me it’s really important to connect with a synth on an aesthetical level, an UI level. It needs to look and feel great and be inspiring. For me that’s the whole point of hardware!

Novation Peak

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

Elektron Model Cycles

There are two pieces of gear that I have recently owned that I liked a lot, but had some shortcomings. First off – The Elektron Model Cycles. Fun, cheap, and almost everything you do on it sounds good. But I really would have liked individual outs on all tracks and the ability to play it like a 6 voice poly. The other thing is the JU-06A, which also is a fantastic piece of kit that just sounds awesome. But why only 4 voices… Bugged me a lot!

Roland JU-06A

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

Since my computer is the only thing I can’t do without when producing, I’d have to start off by saying my Macbook Pro. Just bought the 2020 13” which is a perfect size for me. My Keystep usually tags along as well, it has great feel in the keys and a good size. Add my Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro headphones and I’m all set! All I actually really need, holiday or not!

Macbook Pro and Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

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

There is a piece of software I always dreamed of having in hardware form: The Sonic Charge Microtonic drum synth. I use it all the time and in all my productions. I really like hardware drum machines, and would really enjoy getting hands-on with the Microtonic in a fully analog hardware form. I would really like a software version of the Boss Tera Echo pedal. Maybe there is one that I haven’t found? I mainly use software effects to be able to tempo sync easily, automate parameters etc, and the Tera Echo is the only thing I haven’t really found a software equivalent of.

Boss Tera Echo TE-2

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

This is a hard one… I have a complicated relation to hardware (even wrote an editorial about it: https://producerhive.com/editorial/confessions-of-a-compulsive-gear-flipper/). I constantly buy and sell stuff. Basically, I regret buying almost everything. I kind of regret selling the Sequential Circuits Pro One I used to own in my 20’s (by the start of the millennium). I owned early on, when I was just getting into synthesizers. I have realized that I didn’t appreciate it enough when I had it… Would love to turn back time an own it again, a beautiful and fun machine! The only synth by Dave Smith that hasn’t failed me… I had a Prophet rev 2 that I had to replace the main controller board on, even though I bought it brand new. Had a Tetra recently with a dead sub oscillator and bad LCD-display. Also owned a Prophet 08 Desktop with encoders that had a life of their own…

Guts of a Prophet rev 2

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

I’d have to say Omnisphere. I keep coming back to it. It has a preset library that never ends, and great modulation options. It always leads me to exciting places I didn’t know existed. When it comes to hardware it’s probably my Novation Peak. It has a perfect balance between complexity and easy tweakability.

Novation Peak and Arturia Keystep

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

Nothing. Well, not really, but I would try to not get too hung up on getting the “right stuff”. Give me a Mac laptop and I’m good to go. I started out with nothing but my computer, not even a midi keyboard. I just entered notes in the Piano roll (in Cakewalk, at the time).

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

I’m trying really hard to live by the code “Don’t get stuff you can’t do without”. But I guess it’s my computer. Can’t do without it when it comes to music making. It’s also many times a source of frustration. I have a new computer now, but the one before it was a real pain. I accidentally poured a cup of coffee (my biggest addiction) over the keyboard, which made it act really irrational. Had it like that for like 6 months before I gave up and got myself a new computer! Computers have historically been a big source of annoyance for me, mostly due to failed hard drives. Nowadays I have a rigorous backup solution, so nothing gets lost.

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

Maybe not that surprising, but at the moment I’m really into random waveform LFO’s, that are key synced. I really like making sequences where each note played gets a random modulation of some parameter. On the Peak you can modulate just about everything which is great fun!


Artist or Band name?

Wheel

Genre?

Electronic music, mostly quite chill. A reviewer once called it Chill-glitch, which kind of sums it up quite well!

Selfie?

Ricard Magnusson aka. Wheel

Where are you from?

Sweden

How did you get into music?

Started playing a nylon string guitar, inspired by my grandfather who played classical guitar. My dad and brother also played a little, so there were always guitars around. Moved on to playing with a progressive death metal band in the mid-nineties. Kind of slowly digressed to synth driven, electronic music from there… How did that happen?

What still drives you to make music?

I need to have a creative outlet that is not about demands or goals, just about being creative and reaching a flow state.

How do you most often start a new track?

I’d say with a pad sound. Most of the time it doesn’t stay in the production, but I’ve always been a sucker for pads, and I use them to set the mood of the production and get some basic chord progressions going.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I can listen to a track and not instantly come up with things I would like to change, it’s probably close to finished. If I feel the same after not listening to it for a day or two, it’s probably done!

Show us your current studio

It’s constantly changing, and I change up my gear all the time. But the pic shows the current state!

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Wow, there are lots of advice floating around and I’m guilty of a few myself… But the one thing I try to remember is to not overthink my productions. Let go of the fear and just release stuff!

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

Sure thing! Make sure to check out my editorials at producerhive.com, where I write about the connection between the mind and music production/creativity. You find it all here: https://producerhive.com/author/ricardm/

The latest single I released is found here:

https://open.spotify.com/album/17HQRNPSGUIJRMS4W3yuFa?si=u_SeC-tbQVqGwza_b9J4sg


[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…
]


Close your Eyes – Wide Open

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

Feedback knob on my Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo. I like balancing on the edge of a wild totally uncontrollable feedback. Or even crossing this edge sometimes 🙂

Strymon El Capistan

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

Red Panda Particle 2.  For me it’s a perfect granular delay pedal. It can go from gentle reversed echoes to the wall of glitch and chaos in sound. And it’s stereo! It is important, as I use to process synths, drum machines or even groups of tracks through it.

Red Panda Particle

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

I’ll go with Digitakt and Hokema Electro Kalimba. Digitakt is an in-a-box workstation which allows sketching, playing jams on my own or with fellow musicians, and almost to do a finished track, while this kalimba is just tiny magic.

Elektron Digitakt and Hokema Electro Kalimba

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

It’s a tricky question, because all of my favorite plugins already have hardware prototypes. At the same time, I’m not a big fan of software to wish anything hardware turned into soft.
Nonetheless, recently I discovered amazing plugins by Puremagnetik. Although they obviously have some hardware inspiration, the plugins are truly unique and have strong personality in sound and usability. So yes, I wish I could have these in hardware.

Puremagnetik Plugins

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

The only thing I got rid of without any doubt was an AKAI MPK249. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing midi controller which is perfect for its purposes, it just doesn’t work for me personally, cause I’m not really a controller-kind person. In this case I clearly realised that I cannot rely on computers in creating music. With this MPK249 in setup, I had an almighty controller and a laptop with awesome software, but I couldn’t come up with any idea for weeks.  Being honest, I actually don’t regret buying it, because it helped me finally to understand that midi-controllers are not my thing, speaking on composing workflows.
Talking about selling, I didn’t sell that much to regret something.

APC Key25 (the midi controller that stuck around)

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

Definitely my piano. If you’d do me the favour to call it “gear” 🙂

Piano money shot

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

No surprises — a piano! 🙂

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

Definitely any computer. Now I set myself a goal to reduce the computer part in my music production and live sets. However, I’m far from this right now, the computer still does lots of work. I don’t like endless possibilities which computers give, preferring a simple gear which is capable of very limited things — but does it perfectly.

MacBook

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

Turning a three-headed cassette recorder into a tape echo by creating a feedback loop on a mixer. I do it with my Marantz PMD 222, it sounds lovely.

Marantz PMD222

Artist or Band name?

closeyoureyes

Genre?

electronic

Selfie?

Close Your Eyes wide open

Where are you from?

Saint Petersburg, Russia

How did you get into music?

Melodica, Ukulele and Xylophone

I was obsessed with the idea of playing guitar in high school, so I tried to self educate. I played several bands, something like indie/funk/rock, we all know this good old story. Then I realized that composing music with the band doesn’t work for me personally, and no matter how awesome the band is. So I quitted all bands and started to search how I can do music on my own. This led me to electronic music — as a field where I can compose and perform alone. Nonetheless I still love acoustic instruments, therefore I use a lot of them in my production. Like ukulele, melodica, kalimba, flute, toy pianos, obviously not to mention guitar and piano. So the outcome is an electronic music filled with tricky processed acoustic instruments.

Pedals and Toy Pianos

What still drives you to make music?

A conviction that for me it’s the very best way to communicate with the world and to release feelings and ideas that I carry inside.

How do you most often start a new track?

I start with a piano or polyphonic synth mostly. The very first thing is the sound. Usually, I need to prepare my  piano with felt because a quiet sound with a lot of rustle going on is what I really like, and also do some experiments with mics positioning. At the same time I may apply some effects like delay or granular stuff because these effects  drastically change the way I will play the piano. When the sound is ready, the next step is to come up with a nice chord progression or/and melody. At this stage I try to catch the idea of the whole track with all its changes and turning points, and then use other instruments to amplify the emotions which are already included in the piano part.

Behringer DeepMind 12

How do you know when a track is finished?

I listen to it a lot. Mostly while walking in the streets, I listen and ask if I want to add something or get rid of it. When everything’s fine, it’s finished.

Show us your current studio

Close Your Eyes Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

There were two actually.
1) Listen to your most inner voice. You have a lot of inner voices, but there’s one that always was there since your early childhood. Find it and listen to it.
2) Start to compose with the opposite of what you used to associate with yourself. You will add all this to your common features later, but the start should be far far away from your familiar territory.

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

Well it’s been a while since I released new music, but something new  is coming really soon, so I’ll leave these links in case you want to stay in touch:
instagram.com/closeyoureyesmusic
(here I share most recent news, studio sketches and some daily music related routine)
youtube.com/closeyoureyesmusic
(here I share live sets, both electronic or acoustic, gear demos, tutorials and all this YouTube stuff 🙂
And if you want to support what I do, you are always welcome to my bandcamp
closeyoureyes.bandcamp.com


[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…
]