Tyler Cassidy – Studbagl

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

Sequential Mopho X4

My favorite knob is actually a combination of knobs; cutoff frequency (LPF in particular) and Resonance. Coming from a jazz saxophonist background, I did not have any interest in gear until my mid 20’s when I was at a music store with a good friend of mine. We sat down at the synths, found my way to a Microkorg XL, again with no real interest in them, and then I somehow managed to play around with the filter knob. I was mind-blown how cool sweeping a filter was! It was so space-sounding and magical and a sound I didn’t expect to find. I sat there for 30 minutes just playing a chord, letting it sustain while I swept the filter/resonance to get the dreamy space sound. The picture is of my Mopho x4, which has a stunning LPF Cutoff and Resonance combo.

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

Pedalboard

I love my pedalboard! Again, as a saxophonist, there was no clear tutorial I could find on YouTube to figure out how to get the sounds I wanted to now achieve using a saxophone. I started experimenting with pedals in 2017, and have found a great balance between in-home solo ambient jamming and live performance utility. At home and by yourself, you can try any pedal/combination for anything, but playing with a live band, especially in a jazz setting, it becomes difficult to find the right pedals. The saxophone is a very difficult instrument to use with pedals live because most of the sound still will come acoustically. Therefore, I had to choose effects that would compliment my sound rather than change it. Looping makes a cool background in live settings, delay/reverb always nice because it lingers in the spaces of your playing, and the right kind of pitch shifting will add depth to your playing. No dirt here because it doesn’t really work well live because you’ll basically only hear the acoustic sound.

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

Recording setup – saxophone with pedals

With the pandemic going on, there has not been much opportunity to travel for musical reasons however, I was able to go and record my dream album in Washington D.C. back in December. It is an all-original music album of mine where I utilize the same pedalboard in the picture above in combination with my saxophone. When traveling home for holidays, I usually only bring the saxophone. I don’t end up playing much but will sometimes get some practicing/noodling in to try and stay in shape. The picture is of my set up from the album recording back in December

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

To be honest, I don’t use too much software as far as instruments/effects are concerned. I mostly just use Ableton to record my solo-ambient music and lightly mix/master it there. I prefer the hardware due to my tactile way of approaching music. I learn best through my sense of touch and it is crucial for me when playing/writing music. This is probably why I am so bad at vocals, but also why “button” oriented instruments like saxophone, piano/synth, pedals are my instruments that I use the most.

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

Earthquaker Devices Avalanche Run and Meris Hedra

There is nothing that I regret buying. I take a very long time thinking about what gear I want and why I want it so I never really have impulse purchases that I regret later. I do have a few pedals that I don’t often use; for example, the Avalanche Run and Hedra. However, they are not regrets as I still will pull them out from time to time to create a song or two. They are just not as crucial for most of the things I do with my music. I also have never sold a piece of gear so I can’t really say I regret selling anything, ha!

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

Meris Polymoon

Finally, an easy question to answer! The Polymoon by Meris is ABSOLUTELY 100% the gear that has inspired me to produce the most music. It has so much to offer, especially when you run it at the end of your chain. It can do the simple delay stuff, but also has a gorgeous phaser-verb when you crank the dimension. Putting it 100% wet mix will give what I consider the most beautiful sound a piece of gear can offer to this day. Not only that, but it has a wealth of modulation options that I use in so much of my music. Most notably, the octave up/down pitch shifted delays add such a beautiful space-cruising sound to your song. Being in the end of the chain, after my loopers and everything else, you can manipulate your loops by doing any of those things mentioned above and it will really dynamically change your composition/jam.

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

Afterneath by Earthquaker Devices

If I had to start over… this is a tough question to answer. My first purchase was the Afterneath by Earthquaker Devices, and it was probably the best thing I could buy to get into this stuff. I really wanted to find a way to stack multiple notes on saxophone as it is a monophonic instrument. Afterneath having the capabilities of having a really long/pronounced sustain, it was perfect for what I was trying to do. The only issue I ran into was when I would stack a chord of some sort, playing over the top of it would get added into the Afterneath. So going back, I would probably get the NS-2 by Boss and run it in conjunction with it. That way, I could stack my chords, then essentially mute my microphone so I could, acoustically, improvise/play over the top of my new chord. Also, I would buy a phaser, because as Stefan from the Pedal Zone has shown, running a phaser after the Afterneath is just beautiful and has that sweeping motion that first got me hooked in the first place.

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

Boss NS-2

I don’t know if I would call it annoying per say, but I have found that the NS-2 by boss is absolutely necessary for probably any player who relies mostly on their acoustic sound. When playing live with a band, especially the louder bands, your microphone is going to bleed in all those drums, guitars, whatever. The NS-2 is SO useful with its gate function so it will only pick up whatever is directly in front of the mic. Not only that, but it cancels any feedback that I would get in those live settings which playing with a microphone will almost always give you (especially when using noisy effects). The only reason I would consider it slightly annoying is that because it takes up real estate (in my pedalboard picture you can see that I taped it to the side of the board) for something that I use basically as a one-trick always-on effect. However, it must be said that the NS-2 is a live-setting modified saxophonist’s biggest buddy.

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

I think the best trick I have learned about gear in terms of using gear as part of the compositional process is to experiment with your signal path and definitely put effects AFTER your loops. For example, having the Polymoon after my looper lets me change the composition so drastically that you almost wouldn’t believe it’s the same exact loop if I showed them separately. That is a very powerful thing to have at your disposal for those live gigs when a solo interlude to start the second set is warranted. Another idea is to put a pitch shifter after your loops so you can modulate to a different chord/key center to give you something new to play over the top of (this might require more parallel signal paths but I have done before and is very cool).


Artist Name

Tyler Cassidy (studbagl on youtube, Instagram, etc)

Genre

Adventure music, jazz, ambient.

Selfie

Tyler Cassidy

Where are you from?

I am originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, now living in Boston, Massachusetts.

How did you get into music

I played saxophone in middle school and was very neutral about it; it wasn’t fun or boring. But then my first day in high school in 2006, my grandad picked me up, who was the only other musician in the family. He had the music of Richie Cole and Charlie Parker playing on his CD’s and I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t know these things were possible on a saxophone. So when I got home, I opened up YouTube and listened to everything I could. It all spiraled from there.

What still drives you to make music?

I love writing music! As I said previously, I wrote an album and got to record it with a bunch of my friends and some new people back in December. The feeling of writing songs and then having them come to life is nothing less than fulfilling; you feel proud, happy, and satisfied all at the same time. This particular album was special for me because I got the chance to record live with a huge band. It was 10 people, myself on saxophone/effects, an electric guitarist, nylon/steel-string/electric guitarist, pianist, bassist, drummer, string trio and person conducting the string trio. It was magical and I can’t wait to write more and bring them to life.

How do you know when a track is finished?

So this question is better answered for my solo ambient stuff. Being a live-oriented musician, I usually one-take all of my compositions. So whatever you are listening to was all done live and in one track. It basically boils down to if I was satisfied with it or not and that’s how I will know if it is finished. Most of these compositions are live jams, some have a little more planning, but never usually that much.

Show us your current studio

I call it the LazerMaze

Tyler’s home studio

Best creative advice I have ever heard?

Trust your ears. If your ears say it’s good, it is good. Sometimes it’s easy to let your brain get in the way when it says, “No, this definitely shouldn’t work” or “This wouldn’t make sense to go from this chord to this chord”. Your ears should always be trust! We are musicians after all.

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

The latest thing I have out is “Gentle Shore” which is a solo ambient album of mine. On my studbagl.bandcamp.com you can find 3 of my solo ambient albums as well as an album I did as a bandleader back in 2017 in Washington D.C. Definitely want to look out for the new album coming out in summer 2021 that I just recorded though; it blends all the jazz, ambient, post-rock, romantic adventure music that makes up my imagination into one.


[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…
]


Michael Famiglietti – Wander.Wonder

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

Automating the flying faders on the Chase Bliss Automatone is a magical way to explore overdrive and fuzz. 

Chase Bliss Automatone

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

Native Instruments Maschine MK3. NI just released a standalone version that somewhat improves upon the MK3. Hopefully the next version will have a touch screen, battery, CV in/out, & more control over what plugins/VSTs you can have onboard. 

Native Instruments Machine MK3

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

I typically take break from music when I’m away from the studio since I’m immersed in it most days. Maschine MK3, headphones, & a laptop is all I need for a portable writing setup. I also use GarageBand on my phone or iPad to get ideas out. 

iPhone and GarageBand and a pair of headphones

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

Like I mentioned earlier, Native Instruments just released a standalone version of the Maschine MK3 so they are working towards perfecting that software into hardware. I think the next version may be the one. I wish Meris would dive into VSTs/plugins. Their sounds are otherworldly but I think their pedal layout makes it tough to dial in their full potential sometimes. 

Meris Ottobit

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

I always regret selling my Meris pedals. I had them all at one point but now I only have the Hedra & Ottobit. I sold the Mercury7 to get a BigSky, Enzo for a C4 and Polymoon for a Timeline. I don’t own the BigSky, Timeline or C4 anymore so I think it may be time to revisit my old Meris friends. 

Meris Hedra

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

NI Maschine MK3

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

A laptop and a Maschine MK3. 

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

My Focusrite Saffire 56 interface. It has never worked quite right, but I’ve made it work for the last 10 years. Time to get an Apollo of some sort. 

Focusrite Saffire 56 audio interface

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

Cassette recorders are very useful. I use them as an instrument, as a “looper” or to add tape warmth/grit to recordings. The best $100 I’ve ever spent was on the old Tascam Porta02. 

Tascam Porta02

Artist or Band name?

Wander.Wonder 

Genre?

Chillhop meets Post-Rock

Selfie?

Michael Famiglietti aka. Wander.Wonder

Where are you from?

Virginia in the United States 

How did you get into music?

I bought a guitar in high school to start a band with my friends and I never stopped. 

What still drives you to make music?

I love exploring new sounds and seeing where they take me. 

How do you most often start a new track?

Typically with a sound I discover on a pedal or plugin. The algo inspires a riff or progression that I write around. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I’ve said enough but not too much.

Show us your current studio

Michael Famiglietti’s home studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Write as much as possible. Whether you’re trying out some new gear or just noodling on guitar, hit record and try to create. Just explore in the moment and then you can refine your ideas later. 

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

Just released my second album. You can stream it on your preferred platform in this link. Also check out my gear noodles on YouTube or IG if that’s your thing. 

https://linktr.ee/rednaw.wonder


[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…
]


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.