1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
I would say my mission engineering expressionator + my expression pedal. A lot of the time, I use my hands to make music, so having a knob under my foot is super useful. And with the expressionator, I can use the same expression pedal for a number of different pedals, and on top of saving space on my board I can use it on several pedals at once. For me the expression-pedal is so important because I can play around with a lot of different musical parameters while I am playing – so it gives me a great connection between the acoustic and the electric.
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
My trombone. The sound is wonderful and it’s in great condition even though it’s pushing 60 years old now. If it doesn’t break in some way, I will still be playing it in 60 years time 🙂 However: the one thing I would change is to implement some kind of pickup system. It is a constant work-in-progress scouring the internet, talking to other horn players etc. and I have tried a number of systems (clip-on mics, piezo-pickups soldered to the mouthpiece, practice mutes with microphones) but they usually fail in either sounding crappy acoustically or not being well suited for effects. I’ll continue searching and cross my fingers that one day, I’ll have a true electronic trombone.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
Zoom H6 + a few instruments & my macbook. The zoom H6 is brilliant because of it’s size and versatility: I can do field recordings, use it as an audio device and record into a DAW, using stereo mics or whatever I have on hand.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
Eventide Physion plug-in is a brilliant tool for changing the texture of an instrument. It separates the audio signal into transients and tonal parts – take away the attack of a piano, get a randomly stuttering horn sound – etc. and since I mainly work with acoustic signals, this can really change the sound of the instruments into something unexpected and unique.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I am pretty un-sentimental when it comes to instruments and gear: if it’s useful and inspiring to me I’m happy, and if it ends up unused in the corner, then someone else may as well enjoy it. Having said that I almost sold the very first pedal I ever bought – a Boss Turbo Overdrive (OD-2) a couple of years ago but thought twice because, of course, it’s still a great pedal. I saved up for it over 20 years ago, in high school and it was the beginning of a new world for me.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
My computer. Studio-quality recordings in the bedroom, weird processing, layering of sounds etc etc. – the fact that I have all this at my fingertips still gives me a surge of amazement and joy every time I do it.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
A 4-track cassette recorder. Simple to use, but infinitely inspiring – and it would have put me on track (!) towards composing my own material much sooner.
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
My trusted TC Helicon Voicelive pedal. A large fellow, that I really only use for one thing: harmonizing. My main instrument (trombone) only produces one note at a time, so it is an endless thrill for me to add extra notes – do a keyboard part, play a nicely voiced chord etc. It really opens up the spectrum of what is possible on my instrument. Basically I can program it to produce 4 new notes depending on what note I play – so way beyond just adding notes of a scale. And precisely this feature means that I cannot live without it. Quite annoying, because it is noisy, clunky and heavy. Please, someone make a small pedal that does just that and I’ll have room for loads more stuff on my pedal board 😉
9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
Recently while I was working on the recordings of my indie-tronica choir project “Ghost Coast Choir”. I got some really cool distortion out of playing around with side chain compression. I basically set the attack and release time to very fast and the compressor just didn’t know when to grab the audio. The fluctuating digital distortion I got out of that was completely unpredictable and a sound I would never have gotten otherwise.
Artist or Band name?
The KutiMangoes, Ghost Coast Choir.
Afro-beat, post-classical indie-choir/ambient/experimental.
Where are you from?
How did you get into music?
Started playing the trumpet as a 7-year old. Then messed around on a lot of different instruments growing up, and this really shaped my musical development, in the way that I’m more interested in the music than the instrument.
What still drives you to make music?
The desire to communicate with sound. The way music can make me feel certain things, swallow me up in whole worlds or surprise me, is a constant motivation, and to not only be in the receiving end, but changing it around and having my music affect the listener in all sorts of ways is a great joy.
How do you most often start a new track?
Any inspiration will do. Often I use some kind of technical issue to start me up like “let’s explore a new effect, certain mode of playing or plug-in” – and this then takes me to new places. For me it needs to feel new, so I don’t resort (too much) to the tried and true.
How do you know when a track is finished?
To me it’s a matter of trying to listen to it as if you’ve never heard it before and register your own reaction to it. When you work deeply with a track you can lose sight of how it communicates, because your mind is focused on technical stuff on many levels. But being able to take a step back and just listen is really crucial.
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
Accept that you keep on feeling like a beginner – even after 20 years. Every time you create something it feels as if you are re-inventing your own work process. In other words: it never feels like another day at the office – when you create something new you start from scratch. Every time.
[Editor: It is refreshing to read about an audio-fx obsessed player, whose main instrument isn’t electric guitar or keyboard. Know any other timbral explorers playing others instrument? Suggestions are welcome in the comments]