Chris Calvert – Enjoy Scenery

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

Rossum Panharmonium

If we’re talking sensorial tactility, then nothing beats the firm yet liquid luxury of turning any of the knobs on the Rossum Panharmonium (or any Rossum module, for that matter). I don’t think any other manufacturer uses them, but it seems like they really get how important the tactile nature of Eurorack is. 

As for the actual function, the Panharmoium’s ‘Voices’ knob can take you from a close approximation of the input source to an ethereal choir just by reducing the number of oscillators. Less impressive on synth sounds, but plug my Dictaphone in there with some fingerpicked guitar and you’ve got an ambient track right there. almost feels like cheating.

T-Rackonizer

A close second would be any of the knobs on the T-Rackonizer. From “is this thing on?!” to “woah!!!” in about two degrees of turn. Even though I’ve read the fucking manual, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but it sounds amazing. 

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

Sounds weird, but maybe my SQ-1. I’ve had a few sequencers, but none have allowed me to play around so intuitively, and none have resulted in more surprising sounds than that little black, metal brick. I say ‘sounds’ rather than melodies because I often use one channel for pitching the Loquelic Iteritas and one for Rings, run the two channels polyrhythmically and then you get these moments where the two pitches clash to create the grinding, clanging tones. HOWEVER, the fact that Korg uses a different sync standard to everyone else means I always have to mess around with clock dividers and I’d definitely make the battery life better and the battery access less like an ode to Russian military hardware.

[Editor: Ha! Yeah that battery access drove me batty as well]

Korg SQ-1

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

Before COVID, I was traveling from Copenhagen to Stockholm by train every week to see my girlfriend, and so when Intellijel’s Palette Case came out, I felt the planets aligning. Five hours in a comfy seat with mains power and beautiful Swedish countryside flying past your window – is there a better place to get lost in making sound? The nest of patch cables always garnered interesting looks from fellow passengers, though! My plan is to revive the palette this summer with a battery and record some stuff out in the wilderness. 

Intellijel’s Palette Case with buddies

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

This is a tough one, but apart from things like wishing that Spitfire’s Cinematic Piano was a real piano in my actual apartment, I’d have to say some of the Inspired by Nature Max for Live devices like Bouncy Notes. I know there are similar things in hardware, but the graphical visualization feels very accessible and intuitive. I think it’s nice to ‘see’ how generative things work so it doesn’t just feel like a black box with pleasing random shit coming out of it. Conversely, I’d love if there was good Marbles-like plugin for my DAW. VCV Rack has a lot of ports of other MI modules, but not Marbles. I’ve lost count of the number of times Marbles has formed the foundation of a track. 

[Editor: I’ve been informed that Marbles has been added to VCVrack. Thx TimCox … It’s just called Random Sampler]

Mutable Instruments Marbles

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

What I love about Eurorack is that there’s such a great second-hand market, so regrettable purchases can be recycled in no time. Recently, I’ve been regretting selling my Chronoblob 2. I got rid of it when I went over to a hybrid Euroack/DAW setup and figured plugins would handle all my delay needs, but I underestimated the creative, compositional power of a delay. I used to put a fairly mundane beat or melody into the Chronoblob, turn that delay time knob, and suddenly you were transported into a ping-ponging, syncopated kaleidoscope.

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

I know it’s a boring answer, but it has to be the modular. For me it’s the ultimate creative instrument because it’s never just one thing – it evolves. Not just through buying new modules but also the ones you think you know really well. There’s always some way you’ve never thought of using something. I also love that it’s ideally suited to randomness and experimentation. I always feel like I’m guiding this thing rather than playing it – or sometimes it’s even guiding me. You feel like you’re discovering rather than composing. 

Eurorack modular… so many knobs!

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

My journey from first synth (Korg Minlogue) to first Eurorack module was about six months, so I’d probably just cut straight to the modular. However, if I could ‘start again’ but keep everything I already have, then I’d love to try the ‘guitar and bunch of interesting pedals’ route. I’m actually on the lookout for a guitar or lap steel to put through the modular, so I guess it’s kinda happening. 

Studio stuff

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

Clocks. Since I went partly back ‘in the box’, the most frustrating time I’ve had is syncing things up. I’ve got all my midi set up through the Poly 2, but I always end up with some Morphagene loop I’ve mangled, or some distorted thing that seems to have no beginning or end that I want to put some sample strings on in Logic, but then I can spend hours trying to get it to behave. 

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

I’m not sure if it’s surprising, but maybe using Rings as a resonator to process audio rather than a voice on its own. The problem is that plucking Rings makes such a seductive sound, it’s easy to forget what Emilie Gillet’s original intention was. I like to put a really nasty VCO through it, like the Loquelic or Manis Iteritas, and then play the pitch of that and Rings like I mentioned before. You discover sounds that you couldn’t conceive of without just playing around.  

Rings and Manis Iteritas

Artist or Band name?

Scenery

Genre?

Ambient? Soundtracks from imagined movies? Elevator music for extremely tall buildings? 

Selfie?

Chris Calvert

Where are you from?

Born in England, lived in Copenhagen for 14 years, and currently in Stockholm.

How did you get into music?

Played all sorts of instruments for five minutes at school, then discovered the bass and played that in school bands. Then guitar in a few bands in London. Then nothing but bedroom strumming for years until I figured something was missing and bought that Korg Minilogue. 

What still drives you to make music?

Music so immediate and powerful. Everything else in life feels so tangled and overthought – nothing’s just what it is anymore. Music isn’t like that. You hear it and you feel something. And the great thing about making it is that you get to experience it as you’re creating it and you can use the feelings it elicits to fuel the music. I have a terrible attention span for everything else, but with music I can go deep and long without needing to come up for air. 

How do you most often start a new track?

I like to start with something random, often just to have some kind of melody to drive a VCO for the purposes of sound design. Then I just try to follow that – maybe it’s nothing but maybe it’s something, and even if it is, it’s never the thing I thought it would be. 

I often just record track after track of some kind of texture or melody in Logic, trying not to be too precious. Then I’ll go back another day and listen again and if something feels good, I’ll try and add something to it that steers it in a particular direction. I remember reading once about how jade sculptors would just look at a solid block of jade and decide what they would carve based on the swirls and patterns they saw inside it. I try and think like that. The music is already in there, I just need to be open to it and carve away. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

At the end of any work session, I bounce down a mix and upload it to SoundCloud. Then I live with it for a bit on walks and make mental notes about the bits that I feel are off or that I stumble over, and then I go back and change them. I know it’s done when nothing breaks the ‘spell’ of the track when I listen. 

Show us your current studio

Chris Calverts Studio
Chris Calverts Studio with plants and daylight

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Something my girlfriend said when she was getting into her ceramic work. She was talking about how she often fell into the trap of getting obsessed with the end product: what was it for? Was it good enough? Was is it finished? She would snap herself out of it by focusing on how much she enjoyed just having her fingers in the clay. So, whenever I get obsessed with results, I just remember that sometimes I just need to get my fingers in the clay.  

DIY resonator. Fingers right down there in the clay.

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

Just released my second album:

Confabulations by Scenery


Paul Talos – Signal Soundlabs

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

Make Noise Morphagene

Lately, it’s been the Vari-Speed knob on the Morphagene. It’s really incredible how something as simple as changing the speed and pitch of a sound can turn it into something completely unrecognizable. Things get even more interesting when you start reversing things too. You really end up discovering all kinds of sounds within sounds that you never really would have thought were there, especially when slowing samples down. Gotta love the wonderful world of microsound.

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

Moog Subsequent 37

The closest thing for me would be my Moog Subsequent 37. It just puts so much sound design power at your fingertips, you almost don’t need anything else. Between having one of my favorite filters, two different kinds of distortion, and plenty of modulation options, there’s enough in there to make a lifetime’s worth of music. It may not be as infinitely versatile as my eurorack setup, but there’s a certain immediacy about it that allows me to get what I need out of it very quickly. The only thing that could possibly make it even better is if it had voltage control over more of the parameters. I actually really regret not jumping on the CV version while they were still making those, as that would have been as close to perfect as you can get.

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

Moog Mother-32

I can’t say I do much traveling with my gear, as my setup wasn’t exactly designed with mobility in mind. But I guess if I were to bring anything, it would be my Moog Mother-32. Not only is it one of my more compact instruments, but I find its limitations to be pretty inspiring. It’s a surprisingly deep instrument and can yield some very unexpected results with a bit of clever patching. I often feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what it can do, so I suppose traveling with it would really force me to get everything I can out of it.

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

Spectrasonics Omnisphere

I really wish there was some kind of hardware version of Spectrasonics Omnisphere. It’s such a useful instrument when scoring for a film, especially for creating cinematic soundscapes. It’s one of the few VST instruments I find myself going back to time and time again. If they made a hardware version with some CV control over the parameters, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. Of course, with the size of the library being what it is, I’m sure it would be incredibly impractical to actually implement in hardware form, much less in eurorack format.

Walrus Audio Descent

On the flip side, I’d love a plugin version of my Walrus Audio Descent reverb pedal. I use the shimmer mode on that pedal quite a bit to add an almost choir-like quality to synths, and would love to have multiple software instances to use throughout a mix. Sure, there are ways of creating a similar sound using other software (the Descent is digital after all) but the pitch shifting on this pedal has a very particular, kind of unnatural sound to it. Hard to describe, but it definitely has a tone and I haven’t really come across anything else that sounds quite like it.

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

Korg MS-20 mini

I sold my Korg MS-20 mini when I first started diving into eurorack. At the time, I figured it didn’t make sense to have a semi-modular synth that didn’t speak Volt per Octave and was looking to get some cash to finance the beginnings of my modular (I believe I ended up buying a Maths with the money I made). But over time I realized just how much I missed those oscillators and filters. It’s such a unique instrument, and much like the Mother-32, it just has a very inspiring set of limitations. So last year, I actually ended up buying it again and will never repeat the mistake of selling it.

Arturia Minibrute 2S

As far as buyer’s remorse on a piece of gear, I bought an Arturia Minibrute 2S when they first came out and had some regrets on that one. The synth voice itself is phenomenal, and the ability to integrate it with eurorack really enhanced the functionality of my existing modular system. But I never got into a good flow with the sequencer. As someone with a background in music theory, I found it really difficult to visualize musical intervals due to its lack of a traditional keyboard. So I eventually ended up selling it and getting the keyboard version instead. Been loving it ever since.

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

Signal SoundLabs Eurorack

Lately, my eurorack rig has been the most consistent source of inspiration. I made some upgrades to it recently, and after about three years of buying and selling modules, I finally feel like I have most of the puzzle pieces in place. Modular synthesis definitely has an element of unpredictability, feels like these modules have a will of their own sometimes and I’m just along for the ride.
It really is a happy accident machine. The downside is it can be a bit difficult to tame, especially when working on music that is synced to visuals. But lately I’ve managed to find a workflow that has been very effective for film music. The key was to start recording everything I did on the modular and then spending some time editing to pick out all the best parts. The editing can be time consuming, but I find myself getting faster and faster with patching so it all evens out. Overall, I just find it more inspiring to capture a bunch of audio from the modular and then work by subtraction rather than addition.

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

If I had to start again, I’d probably get the most powerful computer I could afford, along with a copy of Cubase, a Universal Audio Apollo Twin, and some kind of semi-modular synth like the Minibrute 2. A basic rig like this would cover pretty much all the essentials, while combining a tactile hardware workflow with plenty of digital flexibility.

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

Mutable Instruments Clouds

Hard to say, but I guess I kind of have a love/hate relationship with my Mutable Instruments Clouds module. I rely on it pretty heavily when it comes to making any kind of ambient drone patch, but I find it rather annoying having to remember what all the controls do in its various different modes. Having installed the Parasite firmware really didn’t help with that either. That said, I came across an iOS app called Modes that acts as a nice cheat sheet for some multi-function modules, so I’m definitely not pulling my hair out as much as before. As much as I have a few gripes with Clouds, it really brings a lot to the table and has become pretty much irreplaceable in my rack.

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

Chase Bliss MOOD

I’ve recently been getting more and more into processing audio from Cubase using effects pedals. Plug-ins can be great, particularly for utility functions like EQ, but nowadays there are so many unique pedals out there, it feels like a shame not to use them to process in-the-box sounds as well. I’ve been doing this a lot with my Chase Bliss MOOD pedal in particular, which lets me grab a short slice of audio from the DAW and transform it in all kinds of quirky and interesting ways. Lately, whenever I get stuck on a track, I’ll start feeding random audio into MOOD (unused takes from the modular work particularly well) just to see what happens. It’s a great way to get myself out of a creative rut.


Artist or Band name?

Paul Talos

Genre?

Cinematic Electronica. I’ve never been sure how to categorize my music exactly, so eventually I just made something up. I think it sums things up pretty nicely.

Selfie?

Paul Talos

Where are you from?

Born in Germany, grew up in Boston, MA. Currently living in Philadelphia, PA.

How did you get into music?

I started playing electric guitar around the age of ten and started experimenting with home recording on a laptop when I was a teenager. After high school, I spent some time at Berklee College of Music studying guitar and discovered a love of synthesis and all things electronic music shortly after that.

What still drives you to make music?

Music’s become my job over the last few years, so a paycheck is definitely one thing that drives me. But more importantly, I constantly find myself inspired by just listening to other people’s music and trying to deconstruct what I’m hearing. I’ve come across some very interesting synthesis and production techniques just by trying (and usually failing) to emulate something I heard somewhere else.

How do you most often start a new track?

As a film composer, the answer to that question really varies from project to project. Production timelines and deadlines can be vastly different from one film to the next, so sometimes it might be starting a new track every day, other times I’ll write two or three a week. I do try to spend some time every day just to make some kind of noise though, usually on the modular. I find that synthesis is a skill that really needs to be maintained, otherwise it just gets harder the longer you are away from it. So regardless of what I’m working on, I try to squeeze in some synth time at least once a day, so I don’t get too rusty.

How do you know when a track is finished?

It really never is, but once the deadline hits it’s usually good enough. Honestly, if I didn’t have deadlines of some sort, I’m not sure I would ever finish anything. 

Show us your current studio

Signal SoundLabs studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

This one kind of relates to one of the other questions about finishing tracks. I took this music production class in college, and the professor said something one day that really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something along the lines of this: A mix is never done, you just stop working on it eventually. To hear that from a professional in the industry was incredibly reassuring at the time. I think it’s something that applies not only to a mix, but to music making in general. Nothing is ever truly finished and that’s okay.

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

Back in July, I released my score for a short thriller film called ‘Just Like You.’ The score is available on all streaming platforms. Links below.

Just Like You (Spotify)

https://music.apple.com/us/album/just-like-you-original-score-ep/1521324795

https://paultalos.bandcamp.com/releases


[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…
]


Northern Lighthouse – Travel Moods

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

From an aesthetic point of view I like the big old-looking knobs on Momo Modular’s version of Mutable Instruments Rings. I like having small sets and portable instruments but I admit small devices are sometimes difficult to use, especially live. Big knobs = big satisfaction.

Momo Modular’s Mutable Instruments Rings

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

I don´t, but for gigs I usually have a drum machine, a sampler and two keyboard synths for live improvisations. No midi sync for the clock, just a mixer. I am now exploring all the features of every instrument I have and try to end the Gear Acquisition Syndrome fuelled by Instagram and YouTube! The synth world is so different from the rock scene I entered during the MySpace era. There is too much attention on social media, gear and design than music. Myspace was used to sell merch and organise gigs, the rest was pure fun on stage. No need for 4K videos on your page showing your new shiny pedal. I bought my drum set more than 15 years ago and I basically never changed it. Instead with synths, I keep on checking modulargrid for new modules…

Northern Lighthouse gig setup

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

During my last summer holiday I brought with me some Eurorack modules in a small . It wasn’t easy to decide what to bring with me and I’m always afraid that something could break or not pass airport security. I once was stopped by an Italian officer who wanted to know more about my Arturia Keystep! One day I might buy the OP-Z because it’s as big as a TV remote controller.

4ms eurorack pod

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

One of the things I like the most about Ableton is the ability to slowly launch several clips and use separate faders on a midi controller to control the volume of each one, and that is something that I looked for for ages in samplers. The tiny Blackbox sampler by 1010 music seems to tick this box. Regarding software although they give me endless possibilities they do not inspire me enough when making music. I use my laptop a lot at work already and I do not want to stare at a screen in my free time.

Akai kidi controller

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

I regret having bought the Ableton push 1 controller. It is huge, really heavy and not standalone. I bought it in a second hand shop but I‘ve almost never used it and when I play live I don’t like using my laptop on stage. I prefer launching loops with the SP404 and playing with other synths on top of it.

Live setup based around the Roland SP404

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

Critters and Guitaris’ organelle is my favourite instrument, I use it in every jam because it has so many sounds and it is portable. It’s in every song I have recorded so far because some of the patches created by the users are incredibly versatile, warm and close to real older hardware synths. Who wouldn’t like to have a free Juno or theremin patch in their tiny synth?

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

I would still start with the Volca FM which was my first hardware synth. Cheap and portable and not scary to use at the beginning. I confess, at the beginning I didn’t even know what attack or LFO meant!

Korg Volca FM

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

Reverb. It is not annoying, it is essential in my music. I use it on almost every synth because I rarely like harsh and metallic sounds. That’s why I have a love-hate relationship with FM synthesis. Even when distorted my songs need to sound like they come from the past or from a far away land. When I create music I focus less on melody (although I find long drones a bit boring) and dedicate more time on creating a melancholic atmosphere, usually made of different layers talking to each other. Guitar pedals help me create new sounds. The downside of it it’s that 90% of these sounds cannot be reproduced again. I listen to a lot of posthardcore and post-rock and compared to those, ambient is much more ephemeral.

Digitech Polera

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

Using pink noise to quickly mix all the tracks in a song. I know professional sound engineers might disagree…

Artist or Band name?

Northern Lighthouse

Genre?

Electronic/Ambient

Northern Lighthouse

Where are you from?

Bologna, Italy. A town full of students and music, with its many squats, art cinemas, festivals and bars for alternative music it somehow made me who I am and feeded my interests in films and music. I later moved to Newcastle, UK where I started this electronic music project. I’m now based in Brussels, Belgium. This is where I started jamming with other people and moved from daw to actual instruments and even modular synths in 2019.

Erica synths Cables

How did you get into music?

I always liked percussions. When I was in kindergarten my parents gave me a drum kit for children as a present.

Northern Lighthouse and first drumkit

Years later, during high school a club near my family house went bankrupt and I managed to bring home an old Pearl drum set for free. I was into punk and metal and I started playing music with a guitarist friend of mine. After a while we founded a metalcore band called Rising Hate. There was a big hardcore scene in the early 2000s, we played around Italy for 5 years until I went abroad. It was so fun, I miss that life!

The way I approached electronic music is really different though. I remember as a kid I had an old music software called Music Maker which was my first daw. Years later, in Newcastle, a small town in northern England surrounded by beautiful cliffs and touched by the northern sea, I saw Loscil live and it blew my mind. I was without my drums  and I was so curious about this genre called Ambient that was new to me. I decided to look for a new tool to make music and I started using Ableton. The following year I moved to London looking for a job, but it was a really sad and lonely time, so music was my escape!

What still drives you to make music?

Making music is like a trip from your daily routine to an exotic destination that you choose and create. It affects my mood, it gives me energy and it makes me imagine new landscapes and allows me to meet like-minded people. This project in particular was born from the need to create soundscapes and stories with a deeply nostalgic atmosphere which also includes field recordings, videos and photography. I like curating every aspect of it.

Having lived abroad since 2010, travelling, exploring and missing my Heimat became part of my life. This mix of nostalgia and excitement affects and inspires my music a lot. I also listen to a lot of posthardcore music which I find the most cathartic music ever and I try to transfer this feeling into my songs as well. Besides electronic music, I keep on playing the drums in a post-rock band called Yakhchal. I need this dualism of sadness-happiness, delicateness-anger in my life. Unfortunately COVID put on hold every live gig and opportunity…

‘Fyrtaarn’ is Lighthouse in danish

How do you most often start a new track?

I simply improvise with my gear and if there is a sound or melody that I really like I recorded it as a loop. I then add more parts like bass, rhythms, field recordings and other drones or melodies on top of that. Everything should help recreate a specific image I have in mind. It is usually something coming from a book, documentary or film I saw. But this happens from time to time, without rush. It can take days or months. This also helps me understand what I want to keep or modify from that track because I listen to it with a “fresh” ear every time.

Microcassette

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it sounds full and when modifying it doesn’t improve the song, but actually makes it worse!

Show us your current studio

I live in a 2-room apartment, so I don’t have space for a proper studio. I have a lot of IKEA pieces of furniture where I keep my gear and I dissemble everything after every jam. I’m a tidy person, so when there are too many cables around I get nervous. 

A tidy desk of fun

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

A friend once told me that he liked the story behind my project. I think it’s important that bands and artists develop a strong and personal identity, do research and explore a specific idea or theme. Many people just copy themselves, follow trends. In this case I feel content and branding should be intertwined and support each other. People need to recognise you and your style.

The Sardinian coast

Promote your latest thing… 

My latest self-released tape is called Lantern, and it is composed of layers upon layers of loops of recorded sounds, synthesizers and guitar pedals that pay tribute to distant landscapes, sailors and lighthouse keepers. I am now working on two projects: a split album with a fellow italian drummer and synth lover and a multi-disciplinary project (music, videos, field recordings and analog photos) on an abandoned miners’ village on the Sardinian coast.

Bandcamp: https://northernlighthouse.bandcamp.com/

Northern Lighthouse Lantern cassette release

[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…
]