Nathan – Accelerator Jengold

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

In terms of aesthetics and tactility, it has to be the main rotary knob on the ZOIA by Empress Effects. The way it subtly clicks is super satisfying, and the chunky chrome design stands out compared to other pedal knobs. In terms of functionality I’ll go with the D-C-V (Dry-Chorus-Vibrato) knob on the Walrus Audio Julianna.

Dry-Chorus-Vibrato knob on the Walrus Audio Julianna

It controls the stereo spread of the effect and the mix of chorus and vibrato. The Julianna is an ‘always on’ pedal for me – the modulation sounds great and D-C-V knob helps to always find that sweet spot. I typically use the Julianna to make lofi guitar tones using the random LFO setting and a slow vibrato.

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

I’ll have to go with the ZOIA again for this question! It’s one of my favourite pieces of gear and I use it in pretty much all of my music. It’s both dauntingly complex and surprisingly intuitive. It’s mind-blowing how much Empress Effects managed to cram into this small box! I’ve been using it for a couple of years now, but I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do. I use it in all sorts of ways, such as a semi-generative synthesizer, looper, midi controller and of course as a multi-FX unit.

ZOIA by Empress Effects

My only complaint is that because it does so much it’s difficult to know where best to put it in the signal chain. One possible solution would be a set of additional inputs/outputs for an FX loop, and the ability to assign modules either before or after the FX loop. A couple of additional assignable knobs would also make parameter control more immediate.

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

I’m a fan of the Elektron Model:Samples for making music on the go. It’s super portable and I like the directness of the ‘function per knob’ design. It’s perfect for quickly sketching out ideas whilst travelling.

Elektron Model:Samples

Other devices offer more features, like the OP-Z, but I have a soft spot for the Elektron workflow. I don’t use it in my main setup due to the lack of direct sampling, but it’s a fun device to kill some time with.

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

I predominantly use a ‘DAWless’ setup, so I don’t have much experience with software. I only really use my DAW (Studio One 5 to be exact) to record/master and try to do everything else using hardware. Tactility is an integral part of making music for me, I like the physical connection to whatever I’m writing. I don’t have the same drive to write music when I’m working on a laptop. I also find a limited palette of sounds to be quite inspiring, so the inherent limitations of hardware gear can paradoxically be liberating.

Nathan’s pedalboard of tactility

That said, I would love a virtual version of my pedalboard so I could try out different setups without having to tear the whole thing apart!

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

I recently sold my Walrus Audio Slö reverb pedal and replaced it with a Meris Mercury7. Although I really like the expansive stereo sound of the Mercury7, I definitely prefer the modulation on the Slö. It has a unique dreamy quality which is perfect for lo-fi reverbs and woozy textures. I would rebuy it in a heartbeat if they ever made a stereo version with a random LFO mode

Sovtek Big Muff

My biggest gear regret is not looking after my Sovtek Big Muff. Unfortunately it’s been battered from years of gigging and no longer has the original knobs or switch. It’s just too temperamental to use regularly in my setup now.

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

Roland JU-06A

I’ve been really inspired by the Roland JU-06A synth over the past year, it’s the synth I come back to most often. I love the range of sounds, the simplicity of patch design and its compact size. Roland did a great job replicating that classic Juno sound in a small and affordable package. I also get a lot of inspiration from my humble Boss RC202 loop station. I love working with loops and layers, and the RC202 offers a good balance of features and usability. All of my tracks begin as loops, and I wouldn’t know where to start without my RC202.

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

This is a bit of a cop out, but if I had to start over I would probably start with some guitar and piano lessons! I’m completely self-taught, so I sometimes feel a little limited by my technical skills. To answer the question more directly, if I was starting over with electronic music production I would probably begin with an Arturia Microfreak.

Arturia Microfreak

Due to the wide range of features and relatively low price, it’s a great introduction to hardware synthesis. The keybed isn’t for everyone, but the range of synth engines, the intuitive modulation matrix and the analogue filter make it incredibly good value. If it had built-in FX it would be the total package. Although I don’t use mine much anymore, I still consider it to be a modern classic.

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

As much as I love my Elektron Digitakt, it can be a real pain to use sometimes! There are a lot of functions which are not immediately apparent, and it takes time to learn how to use it properly.

Elektron Digitakt

I actually prefer the usability of its little brother, the Model:Samples, but the additional features of the Digitakt make it substantially more powerful. It’s basically the brain of my setup, even though I probably don’t use it to its full potential. Elektron have done a great job with software updates over the years and have added a number of clever features, like the secondary LFO.

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

The Expression Ramper by Old Blood Noise Endeavours is a deceptively versatile pedal, which offers a unique approach to expression control. There are so many ways to use this tiny pedal to drastically change how other pedals work.

Expression Ramper by Old Blood Noise Endeavours

My favourite trick is to use the Expression Ramper to control the pitch parameter on the Red Panda Particle v2. Whilst in reverse mode it creates a fantastic reverse pitch-shift effect which cascades with the delay repeats.


Artist or Band name?

Accelerator Jengold.

Genre?

A mix of lofi, synthwave, dreampop and shoegaze.

Selfie?

Nathan

Where are you from?

North Wales, UK.

How did you get into music?

Music has always been an important part of my life; I’m thankful that my parents and brother introduced me to artists like The Cure, Radiohead, Tom Waits, Massive Attack, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Brian Eno. I took up bass when I was a teenager and played in a few post-rock and post-metal bands whilst in University. I later moved into electronic music production using software like Reason, and then got into hardware gear with an Arturia Microbrute (which I sadly no longer own).

What still drives you to make music?

I’ve always enjoyed being creative and having a musical outlet helps me to cope with stress and anxiety. I like having a way to express how I feel, even if I don’t always understand my own thoughts and feelings – which probably explains why most of my music has a downbeat or melancholy vibe. Producing something tangible from my creativity, like a finished song or EP, is a big driver for me.
I think this is linked to my preference for tactile music production; using software feels too ephemeral to me. I love conceptual music and take inspiration from a wide range of books, films and other media when writing. Short-form jams on Instagram are my primary output, so I’m super inspired by other artists with a similar approach like Andrew Black, Joshua Dowell and Simon Von Walbrook. I’m really proud to have had my music featured on microbiology posts by Chloe Savard and Penny Fenton, and I would love to produce more music for other media.

How do you most often start a new track?

I typically start with sound design, either creating a unique guitar sound using various FX or developing a new synth patch. I’ll then loop a simple melody and experiment with different layers until it feels right. Sometimes I focus on the melody, other times I focus more on the overall vibe, it just depends on the individual track. Percussion usually comes last so I can choose samples and rhythms to fit the music. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

Most of my music is based around looping and building layers of melody, so an important skill is knowing when to stop. When I can remove a layer and the track sounds better, it’s probably finished! If I get stuck on a track I’ll take a break for a few days and then come back to it with a fresh perspective. My least favourite part of making music is mastering, so I’ve developed a couple of mastering templates in my DAW to help speed up the process and remove some layers of indecision. For official releases on Spotify (etc.) I rely on my good friend Chris Walker, who always does a great job fixing up my masters.

Show us your current studio

Synths, samplers and loopers

My setup is in a tiny office/walk-in wardrobe in my house, but it has pretty much everything I need. I’m planning to add an analogue synth at some point (like a Pro-1 or Minilogue) and a Colour Palette electronic kalimba by Lottie Canto.

Studio desk

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I’m going to echo what Dev Bhat (Shipwreck Detective) said in his interview for this blog: “keep it simple, stupid!” This really resonates with my own approach to writing music. There’s a skill to communicating an emotion, theme or concept in an honest and direct manner without resorting to cliché. I like to embrace simplicity and try to express myself with a limited number of components.
An important part of being creative is trusting your instincts and not focusing too much on what does or doesn’t work in theory – theory should be used to help us translate and communicate our ideas rather than to provide a rigid framework for them.

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

I regularly post jams on Instagram (@accelerator.jengold), so that’s the best place to keep up to date with what I’m doing. My music is also available on most streaming platforms, just search for Accelerator Jengold. My latest EP, Pyre, came out last year and is full of weirdo synthwave tunes, go check it out! I’m currently working on a new EP and some upcoming collaborations. Thanks!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/accelerator.jengold/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0KrYUaPA2BsqVMiDCVmywM?si=ZJdIN-wDS4-J0UdkHjEWsA

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/acceleratorjengold


Stefan Fast – from The Pedal Zone

[Editor: Besides being a great riffmaker and guitar pedal demo youtuber. Stefan also has a pretty cool band called Don’t Come Looking For Us. Check it out]

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

Well, generally I’m a fan of the Mix knob on pedals. That’s where the magic begins. Endless sonic shades, textures, tones and timbres can be found within the pure level and balance of a wet and a dry sound.

Mix Knob Magic

But I would like to give a big shout-out to Death By Audio. I think they are masters at making knobs an integral part of their pedal layouts, mixing knob sizes and designs in order to give the players a more organic, intuitive and playful user experience. I especially like the design of their Evil Filter, where the huge Filter knob instantly catches your attention, so you know the main purpose of this pedal is to freaking rock that filter frequency with every fiber in your body!

[Editor: And it’s got that Moog girth!]

Death By Audio Evil Filter

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

I think every piece of gear is “almost” perfect. That’s what makes them perfect. A piece of gear is a distillation of the designer’s mindset and skill set at a certain moment in time, and it’s the fact that you get the ability to figuratively experience and step into that moment when you play the gear that makes it inspiring.

Hence I always experience “Wow! I would never have thought of that!” moments more than “Why didn’t they do that instead?” moments, whenever I play a pedal, guitar or synthesizer. I know that’s probably just me over-romanticizing gear and the narrative behind them, but that’s just who I am and what I do. Plus, I see a big creative benefit in embracing limitations. A product’s small quirks and weird limits is often what prompts you to create something unique with it.

[Editor: Gear as a narrative story. That’s a beautiful way to think about it]

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

I’m currently not in any touring bands, so I haven’t dragged around my rig from venue to venue in a long time. But I’m currently in two newly started bands, so let’s see if that changes in the near future.

On a commute, I just bring my phone. There’s so many great music apps out there, and they give me all the creative outlet I need when I’m on the go. I really like the Moog Model D and Moog Animoog synth apps, the granular synthetic sample playground in Spacecraft, as well as the simple, yet immersive and calming generative ambiance of Bloom: 10 Worlds.

Moog iOS apps

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

I really like the Valhalla DSP plugins. I wish their reverbs and delays were available in pedal format. They just sound divine! Going the other way, I think any pedal by Meris would become a freaking mind-blowing VST plugin. Their devices are equally adept as standard guitar pedals, synth enhancers and transcendant studio tools that can take drums, vocals or an entire mix to the next level. So being able to call them up whenever I wanted on my computer would be cool as hell.

Meris Pedals

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

Not really. I try to keep regret as far away from my life as possible, even though that’s easier said than done… That being said, I recently did re-purchase a Line 6 Echo Park. I didn’t buy it because I regretted selling my old one, but because I felt like I didn’t give the pedal a proper chance when I had it the first time around. I’m very happy that I acquired it again. It’s a highly underrated delay pedal. Way ahead of its time. I really enjoy its swell mode and reverse delay, they just sound super organic, and its multi-tap and ping-pong modes sound unreal in stereo.

But the real kicker about this pedal is that every mode can take on the characteristics of either a Digital, Analog or Tape delay. Reverse Tape Delay is the beez neez. A fun story about it, is that the algorithms are designed by Angelo Mazzocco of Meris, during his time at Line 6.

[Editor: I think I gotta check out the EchoPark again!]

Line6 Echo Park

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

My music very often starts with a mood. Hence it’s never really a specific instrument that inspires it, but instead my pedals that inspire me to play a certain way on my instrument.

Reverb and rhythmic Delay always gets me going, and my EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master or Avalanche Run always deliver inviting and inspiring ambience in spades. So they have definitely initiated a lot of my compositions. Also have to give a big shout out to my Meris Enzo, which is basically 4 instruments in one pedal (mono synth, poly synth, arpeggiator and pitch-shifter). Its swelling synth pads, amazing filters and bouncy arp sequences always puts me in the mood to create.

Loop pedals also help me flesh out possible ideas on the fly quickly, or capture samples, textures and drones that later turn into full compositions. That being said, you of course need instruments to trigger the pedals, so a nice open major chord tuning on either my Telecaster or Jazzmaster always inspires me to create.

EarthQuaker Devices and Meris

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

A decent single-coil equipped guitar (probably a Telecaster… No, most definitely a Telecaster 😀 ), a great clean amp, a dreamy expansive reverb pedal, a versatile delay pedal, some sort of fun pitch-shifting textural tool and a looper.

[Editor: Sounds like a good time]

Fender Telecaster and Revv amp with Engl cabinet

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

That would probably have to be my Chase Bliss Audio Thermae. It can do the most amazing analog pitch-shifted delay sequences, but it’s not envelope triggered and there’s no visual indicator for where you are in the pitch sequence, meaning it’s extremely difficult to recreate the moments in time where you’re perfectly in sync with the sequence.

But I’ve also really learned to appreciate the randomness and “chaotic” nature of it, and I often use it to add a bit of unpredictability and “whimsy” underneath my playing. A texture I can react to. Like having an invisible improvising collaborator, that’s constantly pushing you to creative places you would never have thought of.

Thermae has really taught me that everything in life doesn’t need to be controlled and predictable. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and see where it takes you. On top of that, when you turn off the pitch sequencing, it becomes one of the best analog delays I’ve ever played, if not the best.

[Editor: …And GOLD knobs! I feel that isn’t said enough]

Chase Bliss Themae

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

If we’re talking a specific pedal, then it’s probably my cascading octave-delay trick on the Meris Polymoon. If you hold down the Tap Tempo switch on it, it momentarily turns on a half-speed effect, which technically just makes your delay time twice as long, as long as you hold down the switch. So the trick is to hold down the switch, and play a quick melody pattern before you transition to the next chord in your progression, and the second you transition to the chord, you release the switch creating a beautiful flurry of cascading octave up delays. You can hear that exact trick in action here in my Meris Polymoon demo at 06:17, if you want to.

Meris Polymoon

If we’re talking in general, then it’s the importance of the volume and tone knobs on a guitar. This is definitely a no-brainer and not surprising at all for a lot of people, but it really took me a long time to understand and appreciate them.

When you start out on guitar, you (or at least I) just want to go full blast all the time. Why would want to turn down your guitar? and why would you want to kill the lovely clear high-end of your guitar with the tone knob? If I could, I would honestly have removed the volume and tone knob on my guitars long into my guitar journey.

But over the last 4-5 years I’ve discovered how important they are for finding your place in a mix, especially if you do a lot of loop compositions, like I do. If everything is full blast and full frequency all the time, then things will begin to sound un-dynamic and lifeless really quick.

On top of that, the volume and tone knobs are so pivotal for unlocking new tonal nuances when using dirt. I really like to use a very sharp and biting square-wave fuzz, and then roll back the tone on my guitar for rounder synth-like tones. It’s basically the same concept as subtractive synthesis. You have a wave-shape, and then you remove harmonic content via the tone knob to change that wave-shape. So guitarists, start rocking those controls closest to you!

Vol and Tone knobs

Artist or Band name?

Stefan Fast – Ambient noise-maker and host of YouTube channel, The Pedal Zone.

Genre?

Ambient/Post-rock.

Selfie?

Stefan Fast from The Pedal Zone

Where are you from?

⦁ Currently I reside in Aarhus, Denmark.
⦁ Born in Randers, Denmark.

How did you get into music?

It’s a long journey, I guess. I’ve always loved music. I have fond childhood memories of me laying on my parents’ couch reading comics and listening to Bryan Adams and Michael Jackson. I really cherished those moments, and somehow the music just augmented the reading experience. But I didn’t really get into playing music before I was 17-18 years old. I picked up a guitar in high-school because some of my class-mates played, and I thought they were cool, and I wanted to be cool.

When I discovered it wasn’t enough to just have the guitar to be cool, I decided I might as well learn to play it. So I learned some Metallica, System of a Down, Kashmir and Radiohead, and had fun with that.

But it wasn’t until a local post-rock band played at our high-school that my musical path was revealed to me. I had never heard anything like it. How so much emotion could be conveyed solely through instrumental music. I had never experienced music as dynamic and touching. I bought a delay pedal the next day, a Boss DD-6, and quickly discovered that the pedal could self-oscillate, effectively transforming my guitar into a synthetic instrument of doom and chaos. I haven’t looked back since!

What still drives you to make music?

When I make/play music on my own, it’s in order to reach a state of zen and calmness. Just strumming a guitar or listening to a 20sec reverb trail decay is pure meditation for me. It’s not a means for escape, but a means to create or restore balance within myself. When I play with others, it’s in order to be inspired by them, go new sonic places I would never travel on my own and to reach a heightened sense of unity and togetherness through the music we create.

How do you most often start a new track?

Often with a texture or a mood created by a slew of pedals. Other than that, plenty of reverb, delay and slowly played guitar arpeggios will always open doors to new tunes.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I start to just drift away and let myself live inside the music, instead of thinking about EQ’ing or if tracks need to be added or taken away.

Show us your current studio

The Pedal Zone Desktop Studio
The Pedal Zone Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away – Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

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

I upload new pedal demos or tutorials almost every week on my YouTube channel The Pedal Zone. So if you’re interested in ambient/post-rock/indie-rock applications of pedals, then it would be an honor if you stopped by and checked out some of the videos here -> www.youtube.com/thepedalzone.