Spektakl – David Eilertsen

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

Not really a knob, but I love the matte black clicky buttons on the Digitakt and I’m a bit of an Elektron fanboy. The buttons are just very satisfying and of high quality. I definitely prefer hardware over software.

Elektron Digitakt with battery mod

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

I love grooveboxes and I’m still searching for that perfect one. The Digitakt is pretty close, especially with the new firmware adding song mode and new machines. It’s a future classic.
I do wish it had a rechargeable battery, stereo sampling and more than 8 audio tracks.
I made the internal battery mod for it, but it wouldn’t fit inside because of the way i attached the bms board. Plan ahead man! Oh well, I had to desolder the thing and along the way I sort of shorted the battery pack. I might give it a go again someday.

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

Korg Electribe 2

I often take the Korg Electribe 2. It’s definitely a favorite of mine and the one piece of gear I have kept the longest. I also have the sampler version with the hacktribe mod. Looks very techno in matte black, nice! It’s portable, well built, battery powered and has lots of hands on control. It can export stems to Ableton (all 16 tracks) and even chained patterns, making it easy to make a full track. I think it’s a very underrated machine. Check out rbeny on youtube.
He created some great ambient and droney stuff with it. Also check out Legowelt he also used the tribes for live stuff. The box does have some limitations though (voices). Korgs latest update was in 2016 which makes me very very sad.

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

I can’t really think of any. I think that there are so many options today in both realms. Wavetable, FM, granular, modular etc. With software I use Ableton Live for arrangement, mixing and so forth. Izotope Ozone for basic mastering. And that’s it basically. I used to be a Native Instruments Komplete user, but moved over to hardware.

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

When getting a new piece of gear I usually sell some other stuff and I don’t mind my setup changing and evolving. I love the chase of finding used gear for a good price and I enjoy fixing broken stuff. Sometimes it’s just a bad solder joint or a part that needs to be replaced.
I’ve had many different synths and nerdy stuff over the years and I don’t regret buying or selling any of it. But I have to say I do miss the Synthstrom Deluge sometimes. It ticks a lot of boxes. If it had the possibility to edit waveforms on that new Oled screen, that would be fantastic. Who knows it might come in a future update.

Synthstrom Deluge

The Korg Electribe EMX-1 is another great device that was hard to let go of. I got it for a very good price because it had a bad power socket. I replaced it with one from an old guitar pedal. Worked like a charm. It’s a very fun and immediate machine and it sounds great with those tubes.

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

I think all the instruments I have owned have been inspiring and fascinating in that certain period of time. It’s always inspiring when you get something new. But this can also be a hindrance in regards to finishing music. Mostly because there’s a lot of learning involved.
Maybe the goal is just to learn and have fun with those toys that make bleepy noises.

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

I would learn to play one instrument really well. Like a piano, the double bass or maybe a nyckelharpa?

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

Elektron Octatrack mk1

I recently got an old octatrack mk1 in rough condition. It was covered in stickers, had some bad encoders and a broken compact flash connector. I got a really good deal and was able to fix it with parts from Elektron. Now it almost looks new again. I was afraid that I would hate it, because of its complex workflow and steep learning curve. But actually, I love it! It’s a lot of fun and definitely annoying.

Eurorack in retro suitcase

At one point I got into modular. Built a 9u rack, then decided to downscale as I got tired of the sounds and sold most of it. I had some modules left and used them in this little retro suitcase project which I think turned out great. It’s a little cumbersome to tune the oscillators every time and I don’t use it that much. But still, there’s something engaging with that playful, experimental approach to making music. And sometimes the patch you create just sounds like shit. So annoying, but so addictive.

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

I’m still learning the octatrack and recently discovered that you can use external gear as send effects. The dark reverb on the machine is ok but not great. So being able to use the Eventide Blackhole with the octatrack is awesome.

Eventide Blackhole with an Octatrack

Artist or Band name?

SPEKTAKL

Genre?

IDM, ambient, garage, noise, dub(step).. probably something else next month.

Selfie?

Spektakl – David Eilertsen

Where are you from?

Copenhagen

How did you get into music?

I’ve been working as a motion designer for a long time and sound design is a big part of my profession. So this goes hand in hand with my interest in electronic music.
I’m not very skilled with an instrument, even though I received piano lessons. To quote Brian Eno, I think that formal training and instrumental virtuosity should not be the sine qua non for music making. So it’s just as much patching and experimenting for my part. I started making music with Fruity Loops (now FL Studio) about twenty years ago (feeling old). I was inspired by the music I heard at that time. I was into post-punk, industrial and weird experimental stuff back then.

What still drives you to make music?

Learning new gear and the creative process of building something from scratch. I usually get in the zone when I listen to some music that inspires me. But that GAS can be an obstacle.

How do you most often start a new track?

Usually the beats come first – getting a groove going. Sometimes it starts with a pad or drone.

How do you know when a track is finished?

It’s never finished, but at some point you just have to let go and move on. If I work on a track for too long I start hating it and then abandoning it. So it’s key for me not to get stuck in the details. I don’t have a lot of spare time, so it’s actually a real challenge finishing a track.

Show us your current studio

Studio Desktop
Eurorack with Arturia Keystep

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

When in idea-generation mode, listen for potential rather for perfection. Creative time is short and you have to move fast.

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

https://soundcloud.com/spektakl


Midlife Synthesist – Crisis & Confessynth

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

Octatrack scene fader

My absolute favorite is the Octatrack scene fader. It ́s the heart and soul of the performance aspect of the machine. What’s mind blowing is how sensitive it is, how smooth the transitions are between the scenes and how it can really take a lot of punishment when in the heat of the moment and (after about 5 years of owning one) it ́s never given me any issues. It ́s just one of a kind to me.

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

Arturia Polybrute

The Polybrute is pretty much my idea of a perfect synth. Absolutely stunning sound combined with one of the most user friendly interfaces out there that make for easy sound design as well as innovative performance controls. The only thing I wish it had was a stereo audio input for processing external audio through it ́s filters and audio fx. Aside from that, being able to expand it ́s voice count like on the Sequential Rev2 would be awesome.

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

Dirtywave M8 Tracker

I always sneak in a little musical mischief into my everyday backpack. The OP-1 and M8 practically live in there and there’s always a third piece that rotates. Sometimes it is the Polyend Play, others the Octatrack. Nothing too big. Lately I ́ve been experimenting with a more hybrid setup and my Macbook with the Erae Touch have found their way into portable setup quite nicely.

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

 I wish there was a hardware version of Arturia Pigments. It ́s just such a beautiful sounding synth with so much depth to it. I can’t even imagine what it would look like in hardware form though lol. I’d imagine something huge, with loads of buttons and a massive screen like on the Waldorf Iridium.

Chase Bliss Blooper and Habit with Make Noise 0-Coast

As for hardware that I wish was software, pretty much all of my FX pedals. In particular, it would be a dream to have multiple instances of the Chase Bliss Habit pedal to mess around with in VST format, though I have to admit that half the appeal is the looks and feel of the knobs on that thing.

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

Ouch, this hit home haha. My biggest regret is selling the Synthstrom Deluge. I sold it a few months back because even though I loved it, I was pretty sure a version 2.0 was bound to show up in 2023. Probably with an updated screen. Well, I was right about the screen haha. However, I was wrong in assuming that all companies are out to get your money. Turns out Synthstrom did come up with a new screen, but it is compatible with the original Deluge, so you can send your unit to them and they will fit in the new screen for a small fee. Mindblowing.
Anyway, now I just have to hope I can grab a new one in 2023. As for gear I regret buying, I don’t really regret buying anything, especially since I’m constantly flipping my setup and selling off the gear that I don’t use. Everything I ́ve experimented on has given me some new insight into sound design or music. Though I don’t gel with everything or even understand everything I buy, I try to learn as much as I can and if it just doesn’t click after a considerable amount of effort, I sell it. I think of my gear addiction as more of a “catch and release” thing than hanging on to everything I ever buy. The world is full of amazing things to try out, so why not let go of the things you don’t need and keep moving forward?

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

Ironically, I think I ́ve made most of my music on a wooden guitar and a piano haha. As for gear that changed the way I make music and really got me doing new things, there are four that come to mind. First is the OP-1. Sounds great, doesn’t give you overwhelming options so you can really focus on writing music and you can take it anywhere with you. Also the tape recorder forces you to make very deliberate choices when editing, and I found that limitation helped me avoid getting stuck in unimportant details that I can waste hours on in a DAW. Second, the M8. Just as with the OP-1, it ́s portable and battery powered, which means you get a ton of more access and play time on a day to day basis. A huge plus is that you can use it standing up like a gameboy and don’t need to set it up on a surface (say hi to subway beatmaking). Absolutely different feel and experience than the OP-1. Sounds absolutely amazing, the FX are out of this world and it gives you surgical precision to make your melodies and sounds as intricate as you want them to be. It ́s workflow is very particular and it makes using it a bit more cerebral, which I appreciate because it has made me produce music I would have never thought of if I was just playing stuff on keys or pads. Third place, the Octatrack. To me it is the quintessential performance sampler. The way you can mangle and slice and morph your sounds is inspired, and it was the first machine that really made me want to use my FX as part of songwriting and performance and not just set and forget like in traditional guitar pedal boards.

Moog Subsequent 37

Finally, the Subsequent 37. It is to this day one of my favorite synths, just because the sound alone is enough to bring the house down. Whether it’s leads or bass, it cuts through a mix like a hot knife through butter. It has inspired me to let loose with improvisation, not only musically, but to use sound design as part of the performance, tweaking the patch as a play for great effect.

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

If I was just starting, I think I ́d pick a lane and try to get really good at it. Doesn’t matter what piece of gear or instrument, but really double down on getting as good as I can before moving on

Roland Fantom 6

 to something new. If I could only keep one thing, it would probably be either my Roland Fantom 6 or the OP-1, just because both of them have everything I need to make music till the cows come home and have a blast while doing so.

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

Octatrack MKii

Once again, the Octatrack. Most of the time it ́s awesome to make music and party with it, except when you need it to do something more speciific that you know it can do, but you either don’t know or can’t remember how to get it to do the thing. Then it’s either diving into the incomprehensible elektron manual or even worse, having to go online and search for the answer among thousands of forums posts with similar questions and ever more solutions. As I said, it ́s one of my favorite devices, but when you hit a wall, it can be really frustrating. (Big Shoutout to Synthdawg for making user friendly Octatrack Manual that’s actually fun to read!)

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

I recently learned how to use the Vocoder on my Roland Fantom 6. I’m still learning but playing around with the frequency response and trying out different synths with it has been an absolute joy. To be honest I didn’t even know it had a Vocoder when I bought it, so it has been a very pleasant “bonus”.


Artist or Band name?

Midlife Synthesist

Genre?

I really wish I knew, I suck at classifying music. Somewhere along the lines of Depeche Mode and Pearl Jam if I had to guess.

Selfie?

Midlife Synthesist

 Where are you from?

I was born in Chile, grew up living in the USA, Brazil, Lebanon, South Korea and now I live in Chile again.

How did you get into music?

My older brother had an acoustic guitar and he would often play songs to me. As soon as I could wrap my fingers around the neck (of the guitar btw, I didn’t strangle my brother) I started noodling and never stopped.

What still drives you to make music?

I ́m a very anxious person and music is the closest thing to meditating that I can manage to do. When I let myself really sink into the music, my mind goes blank and I’m not worrying about the future, global warming, ChatGPT becoming Skynet etc. I make music to relax and calm myself down.

How do you most often start a new track?

I try to vary as much as I can, cause I tend get stuck in ruts quite easily. My most common way to start a track is noodling with a chord progression and singing a melody and then I just start adding on to it. I try to change it up by starting with a bassline or drums every so often.

How do you know when a track is finished?

A famous filmmaker once said “A movie is never finished, only abandoned”. I feel the same way about music. You can always add something else, put a little more work in. That doesn’t mean you always should. I used to spend months fussing over a track, and then I realized that when the idea or emotion you where trying to transmit is there, it ́s enough. All the rest is optional. I ́d rather spend my time experimenting with a new track than worrying about my hi hats not being properly compressed.

Show us your current studio

Midlife Synthesist studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

“All art is derivative. If you think it ́s original, it ́s only because you don’t know the references”. I think I spent way too much time trying to be “unique” or “original” in my music, when in reality, everything you make is a mixture of the things you’ve heard and seen through the course of your life that have left an impact. I ́m not saying you can’t make something new or exciting, but your creations will always have influences, references of things that have moved you in the past. And I find that quite liberating because I used to get really stressed when someone would say things like “hey, your song sounds like this other song”.
I would take it as a sign that I was not being original enough, when really it was just my influences shining through in a piece of music that was completely mine. After all, there are only 12 notes. Whatever you make now is most likely going to sound a little similar to something someone else out there has already written in the last couple of hundred years, and that’s fine. Just stay true to yourself and your particular blend of music. That’s as original as you need to be.

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

I ́m just trying to figure out this whole digital artist thing and it ́s been a hell of a ride. Though I have a few “traditional” tracks under the name the Midlife Synthesist on Spotify, I have much more music and fun jams on my Youtube channel. I also have a Patreon community with the nicest people you’ve ever seen on a discord server, huge shout out to them for their friendship and support.


[Editor: There are affiliate links to the relevant gear throughout the articles. It helps to support this blog. In fact, should you be needing some patch cables or guitar strings. Then clicking on one of the above links and buying any product that you prefer, will help the blog… doesn’t even have to be the ones in the link. Thx]


Stefan Tretau – St Modular

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

Lots of Freq Knobs

First of all, I love every cutoff control. It is just such a powerful and enjoyable part of subtractive synthesis, that it will always be my first and preferred choice when looking for a knob to turn.

Elektron Octatrack

Second, the Elektron Octatrack fader is definitely one of the most powerful controls for a wide range of parameters, be it effects or sample processing. The possibilities are endless and its so easy to use.

Contour – Shuttle Express

Last, but not least, I bought a multimedia editor controller called “Contour – Shuttle Express” that allows me to create shortcuts for certain functions in the Eagle CAD program, which I use to design circuit boards. This has drastically improved my efficiency and speed when designing PCBs.

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

S-CAT Double-Trouble Dual Filtered Distortion

I recently bought the S-CAT Double-Trouble Dual Filtered Distortion and I would immediately call it a perfect device. It has two channels, one optimized for synths and one for drums, and sounds delicious. I started to used it with the Roland TR8-S and the Behringer TD-3-MO and immediately went into an acid-frenzy. Here’s a video snippet where I also used it with the little Roland T-8 Aira compact groovebox.

Fun thing! :-

Blokas Midihub

Also worth mentioning is the Blokas Midihub, an interface and standalone MIDI processor that is as flexible as a midi interface can get. With the included editor, you can configure every midi setting imaginable. The only improvement would be a larger version with at least 8 channels.
Finally, the “GIVE2“ Oscillator I designed is still my favorite and I use it in almost every single patch. The only thing I would change in a future version would be to add faders instead of knobs and VCAs for each waveform at the mix output.

GIVE2 oscillator

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

A couple of years ago I put together a small Eurorack case that would somehow eliminate my GAS for the Buchla Music Easel (I named it “Euro Easel” ;-} ). It’s a small case with quite some limitations, but it has just the right modules to create very interesting sounds…. and it worked, I haven’t bought the Easel yet 🙂 It’s my travel case that I choose to take on vacation. You can find some videos about it here.

Takin’ it Easel

If I can’t take the travel case with me, I like to use an iPad or the three Aira Compact Grooveboxes, which are definitely fun.

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

There are many multi fx vsts available, but there are just few ways to add multi fx with a hardware device that is not a pedal. I currently use the Octatrack to add effects to the main output. But I would like to have a device that looks like one of the Pioneer FX series units and has a functionality like Sugar Bytes Turnado VST, Fabfilter Effects VST or the Ozone Mastering Tools – and nothing less 😉

VCV Rack

If VCV Rack didn’t already exist, I would want to see some sort of modular software to test and review modules. Fortunately, VCV Rack is already the perfect solution for that. It has helped me to come up with new module designs that combine various module functions into one unit. In VCV Rack I tested their practical application in advance before writing schematics and making prototypes.

I can’t think of any other hardware that I would like to see as a software solution.

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

I wish I still had my Korg Electribe R and the Clavia Nord Micro Modular. They were way ahead of their time and I really enjoyed using them.

These were some of the last sounds I made with the Micro Modular, and it breaks my heart not to have it on my desk today.
There are some modules I bought that I didn’t keep for long. But the list would be too long to mention them here.

As for my designs, there are a few modules I have published that I regret creating.
Mostly because my design skills have improved and I wouldn’t design them the way they used to be published. But I won’t tell you which ones they are 🙂

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

The ST Modular Beast

Definitely my modular. Especially the last album „Ostinato Modulare“, released in 2020, is strongly inspired by modular synthesis. But also other releases have their origin in melodies and sequences I created on my modular system.

A little close on the ST Modular Beast

Also worth mentioning is the “Mopho“ from Dave Smith Instruments, which I used very often in the past. It’s such a great sounding and powerful little instrument when used with a software editor.

Little Mopho hiding there

I also often used the Korg Gadget iOS app to sketch out ideas that eventually found their way into a final track.

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

Any Groovebox (Syntakt, Roland TR8-S, or Roland MC707 or similar)

Elektron Syntakt

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

My soldering iron! I used to love soldering and enjoyed that deep yoga-like relaxation of soldering in repetition and deep concentration. But the solder fumes and flux residue, the time it takes me to solder prototypes and troubleshoot, and the fact that my body doesn’t like sitting in one position for long periods of time are increasingly annoying me.

Soldering iron

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

PCB

I would like to mention the moment when I found out how easy it is to order ready soldered PCBs. I used to solder all SMD components myself and at some point decided to use PCB assembly for prototyping. This dramatically increased the speed at which I could work on my PCB designs. That was both a surprise and a relief.

Closer to the PCB

Apart from that, almost every single unit has some “hidden” features that surprise me – like the ducking functionality with the FX tracks on the Syntakt, the control-all functionality on most Elektron units, or the way you arrange effects in scenes on the Octatrack.

Also, a modular system is an endless source of “happy little accidents,” as Bob Ross would say. There are so many different techniques to use CV. Every time I patch, I’m surprised how musical challenges can be solved with modular control voltages. I remember being overwhelmed by the possibilities offered by a single function generator. Depending on the patching technique you can use it as an oscillator, a filter, a distortion and an envelope with sustain stage.

Not what you think of when you see a module like this, is it?

A single module can be a world in itself, spreading its CV tentacles into an endless modular universe full of surprises.


Artist or Band name?

Stefan Tretau / ST Modular / ST Records

Genre?

From Ambient to Techno

Selfie?

Stefan Tretau

Where are you from?

Oberhausen, Germany

How did you get into music?

Well, it’s not the piano and guitar lessons I used to get, but it was actually a friend’s Roland MC- 303 that I was lucky enough to use in 1999. That was my rabbit hole that I never got out of.
Shortly after that we bought a Roland MC-307, a Future Retro 777, a TB-303, a Micro Modular and a Jomox Xbase 09 and we started playing acid live acts as Complexx303“ in the early 2000s. Some time later it was just a small step to jump into the Eurorack universe. I bought my first Eurorack modules in 2016.

Stefan’s first eurorack case

ST Modular also started with a little push from a friend. He showed me how to build a Schmitt- Trigger oscillator, and I couldn’t believe how easy it was to recreate it on a breadboard. That was the second rabbit hole that somehow replaced the synthesizer-hole for some time. So instead of making music, I breadboarded, read books, created magic smoke, and eventually designed a desktop synthesizer, effects pedals, and a first Eurorack module, a passive mult.

Live synth setup

However, before I got into Eurorack designs, I focused on pedal and synthesizer designs. In the video linked here, you can see how I create all sorts of noises with these DIY boxes. You can also see a first logo design there, which is the predecessor of the current ST Modular logo.

Now that I had a foot in the door I could not resist to deal further with concepts and circuit diagrams and spent whole weekends researching on the internet and watching youtube tutorials.

First synth design called Dillen in 2015

When the first working Eurorack module was built (Triple Tom), I didn’t actually intend to offer modules or boards to other builders. It was then the builders themselves who kept asking for boards and finally got me to make a first attempt to offer PCBs in cooperation with pushermanproductions.com in 2018.
And ST Modular was born.

What still drives you to make music?

That moment you surprise yourself.

How do you most often start a new track?

A kick and a bassline or a sound/melody that fascinates me.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I used to be very fast at producing and it wasn’t uncommon to finish a track in one day. I once participated in a remix contest for a label called “Karmarouge” and produced and submitted my remix within a single day. Surprisingly, my track was chosen to appear on the final vinyl release.

So, I’m not a perfectionist I guess and I don’t spend hours working on a snare sound.
If the track conveys a certain vibe, I can’t remove anything superfluous from the mix and nothing else extremely bothers me, it’s done!

ST modular System

As for the ST modular designs, each new prototype has to go through several weeks of extensive testing in my case. I design modules primarily for my personal use. If I don’t like the experience of playing with it, it doesn’t get released. I have a whole case full of finished prototypes that I have never published. They work technically fine, but they somehow didn’t turn out the way I had imagined.

Show us your current studio

Attic home studio
To the left of the Attic home studio
Center of the home stuio
Left side with the modular beast

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Just sit down and start!

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

ST Records – Latest Release „Ostinato Modulare“
https://www.st-rec.de/

ST Modular – Euphoria (DIY Semi-Modular Synthesizer)
https://www.st-modular.com/euphoria/

ST Modular – Eurorack DIY
https://www.st-modular.com/

Follow me on Instagram
@stefan_st_modular

[Editor: There are affiliate links to the relevant gear throughout the articles. It helps to support this blog. In fact, should you be needing some patch cables or guitar strings. Then clicking on one of the above links and buying any product that you prefer, will help the blog… doesn’t even have to be the ones in the link. Thx]