Mike Berndt – Pedal Of the Day

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

Feedback knobs

I tend to lean towards the Feedback areas of pedals that can perform that function, so Feedback knobs, on Delays especially, and Gain knobs on dirt pedals would probably be tops. If you can mix the two and get an overdriven or distorted signal to feedback into self-oscillation, with the possibility to get completely out of control, that’s my happy place.

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

For years now, all of the demos I record have run through a Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo, and I recently upgraded to the Twin X Duo. The preamps are so nice, and the plugins you can get replicate so much vintage gear right at your fingertips…it’s pretty incredible. The functionality / ease of use is perfect, it’s almost a plug-and-play type of situation, with as big or small of a learning curve as you want.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo

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

Well, we haven’t really left or gone out or done anything over the last year, but usually when I travel for a vacation, I just bring along an acoustic guitar. I’m surrounded by electronics and hardware and pedals the majority of the day, and vacation is a time to get away and take a break from all of that. The acoustic lets me get back to why I started playing guitar in the first place, lets me focus on the raw energy that those instruments bring, and opens up or reinvigorates a passion for stripped-down music that can sometimes get lost in the world of effects. Been using an Alvarez AD60SC for about 16 years now, and still love it, but really want a nice Martin or Taylor or something along those lines at some point.

Alvarez AD60SC

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

I use some plugins with my UA Apollo Twin X Duo to clean up and finalize the audio for Pedal of the Day’s demos, but there’s something about having an actual rack of gear right in front of you that just can’t be replaced by a computer screen. Having a Teletronix LA-2A, Studer A800 and an actual vintage Tape Echo unit here in the studio would be rad. As for the opposite, they’re making pretty much everything you can think of into some form of plugin or patch these days, and there are many devices which let you run your analog effects straight into your recording, so the sky’s the limit there.

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

TONS of gear. I wish I could keep every single pedal or guitar or keyboard that I have ever owned, but I don’t have the space, and I wouldn’t make any money!

During the last Covid-infused year, I have had to get rid of some long-time favorites, but I think the ones that really hurt were my Moogerfooger Delay, Phaser,

Mooger Foogers LowPass, Murf and 12-stage Phaser

Low-Pass Filter and MuRF. I’d like to say I’ll have them all back again someday, but even since I sold them last year, the prices have skyrocketed, so those might just be gone for good.

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

I think all gear can be inspiring, even a piece that you may find boring or dull at first. With pedals especially, you need to sit down and really get to know them, how they act/react, what their key functions are, any hidden features or treasures they hide, waiting to be discovered, etc… Part of the fun of this line of work is the constant exploration and uncertainty about each effect, and since we all use them differently, there’s really no wrong way to go about that.

I think the demo community provides a lot of different perspectives on how each pedal can be utilized and exploited – the companies themselves seem to enjoy how different all the demos sound, as we each are giving an individualized interpretation of the effects, and come up with sounds the original designers might not have even thought of.

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

A vintage Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb, a cheap-ish guitar (maybe a Strat or Tele) that I could mod and customize, and a Delay pedal. I have enjoyed swapping pickups and wiring out of guitars over the years, but haven’t had the time or focus to do so recently, and think that would be fun to jump back into.

Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb

The Deluxe Reverb is a perfect pedal platform, plus you already have the Reverb and Vibrato built in. Delays are by far my favorite effects, so it wouldn’t even really matter how wild or crazy it was, just something simple to get started, like a Boss DM-3 or a Way Huge Supa-Puss, something along those lines.

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

Years ago I bought a couple of old Ibanez rack delays from the ’80s, a DM1100 and a DM2000. They each have this Hold function that can be controlled by and external switch, and the DM2000 has one for its Modulation settings as well. The DM1100, when it’s set the way I have it and you play a note or chord and hit that Hold, it takes the audio and continually ramps it up and down, with a thick, seemingly uncontrollable modulation sound that is different every time. It can get super annoying, but also adds a certain layer of chaos into the mix that is just lovely to experience.

Ibanez rack delays DM1100 & DM2000

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

There isn’t one specifically, but I love to dive into the more complex pedals (Microcosm, H9, ZOIA, etc) and see what hidden treasures await. The designing and execution of musical ideas over the last couple of years has been astounding, and I’m glad to be a part of bringing these sounds to people everywhere.


Artist or Band name?

I haven’t released anything new in a number of years, unfortunately. I had a number of little side jam projects starting to happen right before Covid hit, so those are all obviously on the back burner for right now. Years ago, I was in a bar band called Alcoholocaust, and we just played bars around Boone, North Carolina, where I was living at the time. I also released some tracks under the name DJ Big Berndt a couple years ago, mostly chill, ambient kind of background music, and that was a lot of fun.

Genre?

I love ALL genres of music, except for pop country. REAL country I can listen to all day, but the pop garbage I can’t do. Classical, metal, rap, jam bands, disco, yacht rock, classic rock, techno, you name it….I love it all.

Selfie?

Mike Berndt

Where are you from?

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, currently reside in Weaverville, North Carolina (USA)

How did you get into music?

My dad bought a drum set when I was 8, and he taught me a little bit about it before my folks split up. The drum set stayed, though, and I learned to play down in the basement with headphones, playing along to Zeppelin and Guns n Roses and the like. I got a cheap neon yellow guitar and a little Gorilla amp when I was 12, but didn’t stick with it for whatever reason. I finally got an acoustic when I was 19 or 20, started taking some lessons from a friend of mine, who ended up selling me his Epiphone Sheraton, and it was all over from there.

What still drives you to make music?

Music is everything! Constantly looking for inspiration in not only the music I create but from all kinds of outside sources is just the greatest. The way that different tracks, genres, artists and sound can influence you at any given time of day, or with anything that’s going on in your life, at any moment, is a pretty spectacular thing to be a witness to. The fact that music has and continues to evolve constantly, around the world, on a daily basis, is just a spectacular phenomenon, one I hope that never goes away.

How do you most often start a new track?

As a drummer, the rhythm parts are the keys, so getting a simple beat and maybe a little bass line down is always a great place to start. However, sitting around jamming on your acoustic can open up a can of musical worms as well, and when inspiration strikes, you gotta capture it. I have a lot of handwritten notes scattered around the office that have been building over the years, as well as a bunch of quick ideas I’ve recorded into Amplitube on my phone. Whether any of them will ever turn into something more or get recorded remains to be seen, hopefully I can revisit them soon and start working more on finishing some of them up.

How do you know when a track is finished?

You don’t. You can sit and overthink and tweak over and over and over, and still never truly be satisfied with the result. The first mix that sounds the best, stick with that. It’s kinda like recording a number of different guitar solos and then trying to decide which is the best – chances are, the first one was the best, because you were just playing, rather than comparing it and second-guessing yourself, you know?

Show us your current studio

Amp wall
Amps and friends
Mike’s Pedalboard
Studio desk

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

My grandpa used to say, “As you go through life, let this be your goal: keep your eye on the donut, and not the donut hole.” I think that you need to focus on all aspects of whatever you do, not just on one particular thing, whether it’s how you approach a new recording session, or how you cook a meal, or how you interact with your family and other humans in general on a daily basis. Focusing on the little things can be key, of course, but seeing the bigger picture, breathing and taking it all in is how I try to live and create.

Instagramming with Mike

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

Pedal of the Day – https://www.pedal-of-the-day.com/
Pedal of the Day on YouTube – https://youtube.com/c/pedaloftheday208
DJ Big Berndt on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/c/DJBigBerndt


Joseph Willem Ricci-Anima&Ennui

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

Fender Ramparte goes all the way up to 16!

My amp goes up not to 10, not to 11, but all the way up to the hilariously arbitrary number of 16. It’s a Fender Ramparte, and although it looks like it belongs on the stage of a hushed, smoky, late-night show at an upscale 1950’s jazz club, it—well… as Music Radar puts it—”requires anti-social volume levels to avoid intrusive hum”. Honestly, it’s a bit of a gimmicky amp which I’m not particularly proud of, but I do genuinely love that its two volume knobs are its only knobs. No tone, no drive, no reverb. Keep it simple.

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

Walrus Audio Slö reverb pedal

The Walrus Audio Slö reverb pedal is my baby. It’s whole thing is that it pitch-modulates the wet signal. I plug my acoustic guitar into it when playing live, and when subtly mixed in, it creates the subconscious sensation that everything is slightly moving, like a boat in an easy current. It’s a really musical pedal, and I like to adjust the mix while I’m playing to give the guitar an element of changing depth, but holy hell do I wish you could plug an expression pedal into it, because turning the tiny mix knob with my right foot while playing a difficult guitar part and singing requires way more concentration than is actually reasonable.

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

I’m one for bringing a guitar with me just about everywhere I go.

Guitar up a mountain

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

Well, the hardware of this software does already exist, but I don’t own one and sure, I wouldn’t mind if I did. That’d be the hardware version of the Minimoog iOS app.

Mighty Moog

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

In October I had a really remarkable week in which I broke my Martin (like, I mean smashed it), computer, phone, bike (twice) and rain jacket. I panicked and sold my classical guitar, a really nice Takamine TH90. I wish I would have just taken a couple extra days to breathe before letting it go, because the world always has a way of coming through for you when you need it to.

Takamine TH90

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

Lately, my newest toy, a Korg Minilogue XD has been opening up a whole new world for me. I don’t know how to play anything on the keys except for the intro to “Roses” by Outkast, so it’s been an amazing exercise to sit down and write with no focus on melody, chords or structure, and instead get my head deep into exclusively texture, color, tone, and movement. And it’s been interesting to discover that, after years of writing songs only on guitar, a piece can feel complete without any of the former qualities, as long as it meaningfully explores the latter ones.

Korg Minilogue XD

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

One good microphone. I recorded most of my band’s album on one of those cheap Audio Technica mics. There’s a lot that I would do differently if starting over, but at the very least I wish I knew that as soon as that precious frequency spectrum enters that black hole of a microphone, much of it is never coming back.

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

Martin 00-15

My Martin 00-15. Although I had already been playing guitar for almost fifteen years before getting it, it was my first ever really nice guitar. It’s warm, responsive, has subtle, nuanced overtones and overall is just a joy to play. But, what I didn’t expect when I got it, is that it shows me how much better I could play. On a shitty guitar, the difference in sound between playing something well and playing something poorly isn’t really that big. But on this one, a perfectly played chord or passage—with just the right fretting pressure and position, just the right picking contact point between fingernail and fingertip, just the right balance in emphasis of the bass, middle and treble lines, just the right transition between chords while the resonance from the last one lingers in the body for a moment… you get the idea—sounds and feels SO good that, while it has taught me to become a more sensitive player, it has also made it abundantly clear how much subtlety there is to the instrument, and how far there is to go.

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

If you have a guitar, buy a gig bag and go for a bike ride. At some point during the ride, fall off your bike directly onto your back so your guitar catches your fall and smashes under your weight. Then find a luthier or repair person to fix it, and voila: your guitar will sound even better.

Korg and Walrus and Song cassette tape

Jk. Def don’t do that. Maybe a more useful tip: I always wanted to play the sounds of nature on my analog instruments. This little set up gets pretty close to that. I take a cassette with the sound of running water, birds chirping, or wind in the trees, and merge the signal together with the signal of my guitar or synth. Then I run the merged signal into my Walrus Slö reverb pedal on auto-swell and with 100% wet mix. Since the auto-swell reverb tail is triggered by change of amplitude, it acts as a gate for the soft, ambient nature sounds. But when you play your instrument, it triggers the auto-swell, letting through the merged signal of the instrument plus the sound of running water.


Artist or Band name?

Anima & Ennui. Maybe future music will be under a different name… maybe not.

Genre?

The released music is folk mixed with various other influences. Future music is yet to be categorized.

Selfie?

Joseph Willem Ricci

Where are you from?

Arlington, Massachusetts, USA

How did you get into music?

I was listening to Arnold Schoenberg in the womb. That’s to say through my parents 🙂

What still drives you to make music?

I feel like it would be almost criminal to not bring into the world the music that is in my head. Just as I don’t belong to myself, my music doesn’t belong to me—it belongs to the world.

How do you most often start a new track?

Songs seem to start when I’m not trying to do anything in particular. Non-doing. Fiddling around. Then when a certain fiddle or theme or accident suddenly catches my attention, suddenly feels like the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard, that’s when it starts.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it feels right. That’s it.

Show us your current studio

Joseph Willem Ricci’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Mistakes don’t exist.

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

2020 album is online. Anima & Ennui – An & En. For a taste of a different, more recent direction though:

https://soundcloud.com/anima_x_ennui/ywayvdre4xkz/s-nMLQ4Uk5jGl


[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…
]


Oriol Domingo – El Garatge

[Editor: This is interview nr. 100! Yay!!! And to celebrate, we’re doing a GIVEAWAY! Oriol has kindly donated an El Garatge expression knob to one lucky price winner. Check out how to enter on my Instagram]

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

Moog Sub 37 chicken head knob

My Moog Sub 37 has a very good over all build quality. I like that despite being quite big, the filter knob moves really smooth, but what I like even more, is the pattern type and octave selectors, even the click sound is very pleasing!.

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

Access Virus Indigo 2

I really like my old Access Virus Indigo 2. Sounds really powerful and offers a lot of sonic possibilities, but due to the metal sides it’s insanely heavy and the keybed feels really cheap for me. I already have a bigger midi controller connected to it, but I like to use the built-in keyboards, especially when I’m just creating new sounds.

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

Teenage Engineering OP-1

Most of the time, just the Teenage Engineering OP-1. It’s perfect to practice with limitations. It allows me to create full songs without using any other device and I remember discovering some cool melodies that, with another piece of gear, wouldn’t have happened, because of the way it makes me work. Also, I can use the built-in mic, line in or FM radio too, when I want to use a little more elaborated portable setups.

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

VST Synthogy Ivory Piano

As a piano player, I really like the VST Synthogy Ivory Piano. Most of the time I do my music without a computer, where the OP-1 is current main device to record with.
It would be really cool to just have that piano sound out of the computer, as most of the time I just want to play and it doesn’t make sense starting up a DAW or even a computer simply to play a sound, when I don’t want to do anything else. In fact, they did release a hardware version, but in addition to being really expensive I think they discontinued it.

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

Yamaha RM1X

Since I first discovered grooveboxes and synths, over time I ended up with a fair amount of devices, but sometimes I was more attracted to the aesthetics or possibilities, than what I really lacked in my studio.
Other times maybe I needed what I purchased, but in the end, the device didn’t fit my preferred way to work. I remember buying (and selling again very soon after) a Yamaha RM1X. It had a really powerful sequencer, but it wasn’t satisfying for me to play with. I also had fun with the Roland MC-303 Groovebox and even though I wouldn’t give it much use nowadays I still miss it sometimes.

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

Again, the OP-1 alone has given me a good amount of ideas. The workflow and immediacy to record and loop is something really well designed and that works very well in my case, because it really helps me to have visual feedback on what I’m doing.

TE OP-1

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

Probably a Korg Minilogue XD. It offers a lot of immediacy and very little menu diving, which is great to design sounds fast. In addition, the sonic possibilities and extra oscillators make it a really good synth to start with. It can easily do everything from drum sounds to bass, leads and pads. I miss a little more of polyphony, but adding a little of the internal reverb or delay effects can help with that.

Korg Minilogue XD

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

Despite having some decent synths and quality pedals, I still own, not one, but two Behringer mixers and a Tube Ultra-Q which I have only connected to my Yamaha Reface CP to add some EQ. I have one rack mixer with 8 stereo inputs where I connect all the synths. From that, I connect the main out to the other small mixer. where I add aux effects and additional synths or mics. Both mixers add a considerable amount of noise, especially the small one, depending on levels, but I’m just used to it and I keep using them for now.

Behringer mixers and Tube Ultra-Q

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

Maybe this can’t even be considered a technique, but sometimes I have fun placing piezo microphones between my midi keyboard keys and then amplify and add EQ to the noise while I play. Then I can record piano music with some real noises. I even tried placing the mic on old wood furniture to add some cracking noises while I record, which adds a little more atmosphere in my opinion.

[Editor: That is fantastic lateral thinking technique! I dig it!]

Piezo mic for mechanical noise

Artist or Band name?

I make music as Efímer on YouTube/Spotify. You can find me at youtube.com/efimer where I upload soundpacks and demos of my own devices too.

Genre?

I’d say Ambient/Downtempo, but sometimes I make piano and orchestral music too.

Selfie? 

Oriol Domingo in his studio

Where are you from?

Barcelona, Spain.

How did you get into music?

My grandparent used to take care of another family’s orchard. One day he returned home with one of these little mechanical toy pianos, that the kid of the other family didn’t want. I was 4 years old, but I still can remember what I felt when I played the first notes, I was immediately hooked and I’ve been playing by ear from that age.

The first song I played with that toy piano was MacGyver by the way, haha. When I was 8 my father understood I wasn’t going to stop playing the piano and he bought me a more decent one. From there, I discovered what I really liked was to play by ear and also create my own songs. All the synth stuff and GAS came when I was about 16 when I discovered the Roland MC-303 and Korg Electribes.

What still drives you to make music?

The act of creating something out of nothing, the possibility to create some unique music that could convey feelings to other people makes me happy. Of course it’s complicated to do anything really “new” but even the process of trying to create it can lead to understanding ourselves a little better, by trying to find our own voice. Creating music makes us wonder what do we want.

How do you most often start a new track?

I use two different methods. Sometimes when I’m learning to use a new piece of gear I just want to create some sounds. If during the process a new melody comes to my mind, I try to follow that and see where it goes, and if not, I’ll still have some patches to use another day. The other method I use is just starting with a piano or rhodes sound, which are my favorite, and start improvising while I think about other things.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When even the “worst” part of a track is still acceptable in my opinion. I usually listen to each fragment many times and try to correct the things I still don’t like. Sometimes works well too just listening to it in another moment or another day to realize there are still things to fix. I think it’s good to listen to your own old music too, in order to see if you would make the same decisions again.

Show us your current studio

I don’t have much space so it’s quite fragmented and messy.

Oriol Domingo’s home studio

I love synths with keyboards, so it can be quite uncomfortable sometimes.

The El Garatge home studio keys

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Embrace limitations. It may seem very common to hear and I think it may not work for everybody. Not just your own creative limitations, but also adding and forcing other kinds of limitations like gear or even time.
Especially when starting new songs, the less options the better for me. It’s easy to get lost in the possibilities when you have a lot of gear, you could be constantly wondering if you chose the right synth or sound to start and which effects add, etc.
If you force yourself to use one synth, sound or even sample, changing is not an option, it’s all you have, so no need to think about that again and you can now start creating.

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

In the last weeks I’ve been developing this piggyback LFO knob with extra features for pedals with expression inputs, which will be finished soon I hope!:

https://elgaratge.com/echo-knob/


[Editor: It’s been a wild ride doing this music gear blog this past year and the blog isn’t even over 1 year old. Over 30,000 unique visitors have stopped by and had a monthly readership of between 1500 to 4000 readers.

… And I’d just like to thank YOU, my fellow music gear junkie…. But also, of course, the 100 artists who contributed and made this past year a little more tolerable.

Do you have any suggestions for the future of this blog? Then leave a comment below.]