Joel Negus – Synthing Classics

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

Cutoff on the Moog Sub25. Nothing like the ladder filter!

Moog Subsequent 25

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

The Vermona DRM-1 mkiii is amazing, but maaaan I wish the trigger inputs were on the front panel!

Vermona DRM-1 mkiii and Lyra-8

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

OP1 basically lives in my backpack if it’s not out in the studio. I’ll often develop ideas on it that end up staying on a track.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

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

Couldn’t come up with a direct answer to this question 😂 so decided to answer it by saying that the Arturia Polybrute beautifully blends software / hardware as a complete instrument.

A Strymon Zuma trying to hide an Arturia Polybrute

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

I used to own a Korg SV-1 until my dad passed his 1977 Rhodes down to me. I always enjoyed playing the sv-1 and realize I shouldn’t have sold it whenever I see one.

On the Rhodes again… I cain’t wait to get on the Rhodes again!

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

The Moog Subharmonicon!!! More ideas have started on that thing than any other instrument for me (except maybe the piano).

Moog Subharmonicon and friends

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

If I had known just how magical tape echo was, I probably would’ve wanted it sooner… but it probably wouldn’t have been first 😂

Echo Fix EF-X2

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

The helping hand for soldering!!!

A helping hand for soldering

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

I recently learned about the tails mode on the Earthquakes Avalanche Run – haven’t used it yet, but I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about that before I bought it!

An avalanche of eurorack! Run!!!

Artist or Band name?

Joel Negus

Genre?

Various, often in classical / jazz / electro-acoustic worlds

Selfie?

Joel Negus

Where are you from?

Born and raised in Chicago IL, but I’ve been in Cleveland OH for 15 years.

How did you get into music?

Both of my parents are professional musicians. Growing up, I was a boy soprano 🤵 and my dad had me sing on a number of commercials on the jingle scene. Eventually I fell hard into the punk rock scene, which turned to metal – I was a part of starting the band Born of Osiris. Changed directions in high school and focused on classical / jazz upright bass.

What still drives you to make music?

Creativity cannot be severed from relationships. The very act of making itself is collaborative – this connection to others is a constant source of inspiration.

How do you most often start a new track?

Playing an instrument and a spark hits. Recently though, trying to think more in silence before jumping in – starting more in my head. Always looking for different ways to compose!

Korg MS-20

How do you know when a track is finished?

I rarely “feel” that it’s finished, but I suppose it’s when I’m at the height of my excitement over it. I’ve found it best to wrap it up somewhat quickly when I’m really excited about how things are sounding.

Show us your current studio

A solemn of guitars
Bass-synth, bass-ukulele, contra-bass

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

We can’t just think about what we’re making, but the social context in which we’re making.

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

I just released a score I did for a modern dance company in town called Inlet Dance Theater. The piece was called Red Tape and was a total joy to collaborate on. Cheers!

https://joelnegus.bandcamp.com/album/red-tape-original-score


Urspring – Durch Veraltet Technik

[Editor: If you’re here for the Free Stuff in this post. There’s the Impulse Response samples from the Great British Spring Reverb tank that Urspring recorded]

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

The panning dials on the Yamaha MT-120S cassette recorder are just yummy.

I like the pan dials on my Yamaha MT-120 four track cassette recorder. Not as much for what they do, but how they feel and how they enable me to actually play the stereo field simultaneously with 4 fingers. If they were designed as knobs you could only control 2 at a time, in an easy way. But they are designed as dials almost like the 4 encoders on the OP-Z and therefore you can control all four at the same time with one finger at each dial.

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

Elektron Digitakt and Digitone

We are always in endless search for a perfect bit of kit, aren’t we? Haha! Well I don’t think there will ever be a perfect kit – especially not a perfect kit for all times. For me an inspirational kit changes over time. 10 years ago it would have been Ableton Live and a Push. Or simply just an acoustic guitar.

These days I’m tripping over the Digitakt/Digitone combo after watching a Patreon video by Jogging House. I think these two in combination simply allows me to translate melody and sonic texture ideas very easily to tracks that I can then record straight to my 2-track Revox B77.

The Digitakt/Digitone also lets me sit down and make music without sitting in front of a laptop screen. I have a non-music related daytime job where I’m in front of a screen all the time. And music making with hardware has almost become a kind of meditative activity away from the screen. Where the perfect combo is the Digitakt/Digitone … At least it is for me.

I also really dig the Ciat Lonbarde Cocoquantus and Deerhorn in combo with the Digitone.

Ciat Lonbarde Cocoquantus and Deerhorn

There are instruments that when you master them, they almost become an extension of yourself. They let the feelings you are expressing flow without friction. Like the piano or the acoustic guitar.

Then there is gear the keeps surprising you. Like a good band mate. It’s gear that you always have an interesting conversation with. The Cocoquantus is like that.

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

These days I’m bringing the Digitakt/Digitone combo. But sometimes just the OP-1. It’s sometimes really hard for me to get into the creative flow and mood when only having small islands of time, like 20 minutes, between family time. But now I’m better at telling myself “you’re not suppose to make an album now. You’re just having fun!” That inner voice is my friend.
So I often bring my OP-1 to the summer house.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

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

I almost never use compressors in my composing these days, but I like the Vulf Compressor VST for it’s distinct lo-fi squeezed Madlib sound. I could definitely see a use for this as a hardware pedal in my setup. But then again I might just throw a Boss SP-303 into my setup. The Vulf Compressor is heavily inspired by the ’Vinyl Sim’ effect on the SP-303, which is a radically weird compression algorithm.
These days I’m mostly into a DAWless approach, so I don’t have any hardware that I wished was software.

Vulf Compressor

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

I’m really not that much of a gear flipper. I try to have a minimal setup with only a limited set of handpicked pieces. I tend to stick with a piece of gear for way too long before letting it go. I still have a Push 1 laying around, haha. However I see this changing quickly because somehow the amount of gear on my desk has multiplied lately!
Anyways, I don’t really regret buying or selling anything, but one thing I regret NOT buying was a secondhand Juno 6 about ten years ago. The price was around 400-500 euros at that time, and at the last minute I decided that I didn’t have the space for it. Well, now the prices have rocketed out of the atmosphere, and I’m still looking at Junos. Poor me.

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

No doubt it would be the 4 track cassette recorder. When I was around 13 my dad had a 4 track Fostex, that lived in my room. Back then in the nineties I made hip-hop parodies, sad core indie and I recorded my grunge band with that piece of gear.

When listening back today I must admit that most of the music was kind of crap. But I still remember the excitement and feeling of loosing myself 100% in music making for tens of hours and the feeling of listening back and thinking “this track rocks”.
Fast forward 30 years and I was still using a Fostex 4 track (another device though) as a core device in an electronic duo Klingerhult with Martin – yes the editor of this blog.

[Editor: Hello everyone 🙂 … if you’re curios about us? Then check out Klingerhult here]

Yamaha 4-track cassette recorder MT120

I’m also still using the 4 track cassette recorder now as a simple mixer, with tape loops, for pitch and reverse effects, resampling and for crunchy overdrive.
I just like the texture and sound of tape recorders.

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

An Op-1. Then I would sit down for tens of hours and just go with the flow.

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

At the moment it’s mildly annoying to tune the Ciat Lonbarde Deerhorn to a chromatic scale. It’s like Petter Blasser (who invented it) intentionally made it almost impossible, like a big “screw you” statement. But when it is in tune it is so liberating and relaxing to play the notes with the hands on top of an ambient bed. And here’s the thing: Tuning has become a way of clearing my mind, like an inlet for getting into the zone.
But the Deerhorn is not the easiest beast to tame.

Ciat Lonbarde Deerhorn

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

I like the sound of flaws and almost broken things. Whenever I use a bit of gear that supports that, I think I’m more inspired and make more music. For example, when using tape loops or just using tape machines I often find myself deliberately exaggerate the flutter and wobble effect by holding a finger on the tape reels or shaking the dictaphone or walkman. In that way it’s possible to control the pitch flaws almost like playing an instrument. The tape machines are probably not that
happy about it. But it’s fun!


Artist or Band name?

Urspring

Genre?

Ambient I guess

Selfie?

Rasmus Rune Larsen aka. Urspring

Where are you from?

I grew up in the endless suburbs of Odense in Denmark, but currently I’m living in Copenhagen.

How did you get into music?

My parents were music teachers at elementary school and I grew up with guitars, amplifiers and synths in my home. Then I watched MTV and wanted to be like Nirvana, Beck, Beastie Boys and all the rest. It all got rolling from there…

What still drives you to make music?

Music is the art form that, by far, resonates the most with me. I make music simply because I need to. In particular making ambient music is to me an effective way of expressing abstraction.

How do you most often start a new track?

Most often I start by fumbling with a naive and cheesy melody loop and then build upon that from there. But there’s no clear recipe. I could also be a dusty pad loop or a drone done with the Lyra. I can also be really inspired by a track that has a part, a texture or sound that I like. I often wonder how they made it and suddenly I’m switching on my gear, and going exploring.

The Lyra is a really good track starter.

Revox B77 Reel to reel and Lyra-8

How do you know when a track is finished?

It’s finished when you keep adding new things and it’s making it all worse 🙂
Well, I’m not sure it’s that simple. Most often it’s a kind of feeling that is hard to explain. It’s when you somehow suddenly can see that the track has got its own personality and you can see it as a part of the family.

Show us your current studio

Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of a separate room for my music studio. My studio space is a multi functional, shared family space in my apartment: It’s a home workplace, a walk in closet, a pathway to my daughters room and a hang out
place. So there’s not much room to go crazy with blinking lights, knobs, faders and keys.

Urspring coming out of the closet

Nonetheless I’m quite happy with this little studio space in the corner.
One thing I have done is hack an IKEA storage system (BESTÅ) so it’s almost
a hidden music studio. Open the storage doors, let the ambient spirit out and rock on! (but very softly and quietly)

[Editor: You can get some Impulse Responses from this Great British Spring reverb right click and download here. If you do use’em let us know in the comments😉]

Great British Spring Reverb
Spring tank
Pianette

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

“Make sure you are having fun!” Quote by Jogging House on his Patreon blog. If you are into making ambient music I can highly recommend supporting Boris and joining this fantastic community over at his Discord server. It’s a really supporting and friendly place.

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

I’m still working on an actual release. But until then you can follow Urspring at:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/urspring_/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwiEV85XM7cEElzmEOdfmtg


Kevin McKinney – QueTheWash

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

Cooper FX Generation Loss V1 mix knob.  Something about the oversized knob, the smoothness with which it moved, and the symmetry of the 6 knob setup with the mix knob proudly in the middle…I ended up parting ways with it to fund the V2 and i have to say, i miss that knob.

Cooper FX Generation Loss V1

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

The Digitakt is so powerful and versatile, I have used it to make beats, ambient loops, and everything in between. For me, I have always wished that it had more playable keys/pads.  I am actually currently looking into pairing it with some kind of external pad controller to fully maximize it’s performance playability.

Elektron Digitakt

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

The OP-1. I almost put this answer for the previous question as well, because just think if it had bluetooth! That would make the already quintessential travel companion undeniably perfect.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

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

I run my studio completely DAWless via the Squarp pyramid, so I don’t have much experience with software synths beyond some of the ones I play with on the iPad. There was this one I remember playing with, ‘Poseidon Synth’, that had a function where it would just randomize all the settings and leave you with something ridiculous. I think that would be fun on a piece of hardware, like say, my DSI Rev2 😛

Poseidon Synth

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

I regret selling my Tascam Portastudio 424 Mk1. I ended up making a pretty penny on it thanks to the recent boom in cassette music being made, but I definitely miss it. I have other cassette recorders, but that one was something special.

Tascam Portastudio 424 Mk1

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

I compose everything at the piano and then move it to the saxophone, or my electronic gear, or wherever I envisioned it. So, while it might not technically be ‘gear’, it was my first instrument, and everything I do, both electronically and acoustically, stems from the piano.

[Editor: I’d definitely say it is gear 🙂 ]

Kawai Piano

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

If I had to start over I would probably buy a really nice audio interface first. I currently run everything into my studio through an Allen & Heath qu-16c, which acts as both mixer and audio interface for me. I have always wondered what things would sound like and how my workflow would change if I was working with an interface from Universal Audio or something comparable.

UAD Apollo

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

Probably the Keeley compressor on my sax board. I couldn’t live without it because some of the patches I have are really hot and require the use of both a programmable EQ pedal and this compressor/limiter pedal to tame. It’s only annoying because it is not programmable like the EQ, and every time i get my board out of the case I have to readjust the knobs to where I need them.

Keeley compressor

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

A lot of people complain about the OP-1 internal engines sounding extremely digital, tinny, and somewhat like a set of children’s toys. I achieve full, warm sounds on the OP-1 pretty easily with the use of the Elektron Analog Drive at the end of the effects chain. Even just the clean boost setting with a bit of tweaking on the highs and a bit of drive goes a long way and adds a great depth of sound.

Elektron Analog Drive

Artist or Band name?

My name is Kevin McKinney. I play saxophone/effects for the stinky garage jazz band, ‘Doctor Pizza’ in Detroit, Michigan.

Doctor Pizza Stickers
Doctor Pizza Band

Genre?

I am an improviser and saxophonist, although I do a lot of ambient/soundscape work with my electronic instruments.

Selfie?

Kevin McKinney

Where are you from?

I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio.

Cleveland Ohio

How did you get into music?

I got into music as a toddler. I had a little toy piano that I carried around with me and played all the time. My parents noticed this and started piano lessons for me when I was 4 years old. I was hooked for life.

Toy Piano

What still drives you to make music?

I am a new father of boy/girl twin babies, so I have a lot of trouble finding time to make music lately. What drives me to make music, when I do have the time is definitely the way it makes me feel, and the way it can make others feel when they experience it. The rush of holding an altissimo note while the crowd screams..or, contrastingly, the calmness of playing piano alone in your studio with all the lights down… those moments are what make music making so special.

Twin Babies… seeing something hilarious

How do you most often start a new track?

I have lot of gear, so sometimes it can be a case of too many options. I like to pick one piece of gear that will be the focus for that session and then build everything around that. Sometimes I will just pick a single pedal, or a synth, or a set of drum samples…anything that can be a launching point.

Novation Bass Station

How do you know when a track is finished?

With my band and often with my own music, songs are an ever-evolving thing…I will bring in a loose idea, or a lead sheet with some basics and then we shape the rest together during rehearsal.  A lot of times solo sections, the general form of the tune, and even sometimes the melodic information are all up for discussion and debate while we are working through the new idea.  I may go back to things I created years ago and change them if I am having trouble coming up with something new.

Kevin’s band at rehearsal

Show us your current studio

Kevin McKinney’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I forget who told me this, maybe Dave Liebman?… Anyhow, I remember being in a masterclass and being told that you don’t truly know a song, a melody, a transcribed solo, or whatever it may be until you can SING it. The human voice is the most fundamental and primal of instruments and having that connection to your voice before picking up any instrument and attempting to play something is crucial. As an improviser, I try to employ this same thinking… only let out of your horn what you hear in your head as being complementary to the music that is happening around you.

Kevin singing with sax-iness

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

Check out my band Doctor Pizza! We are recording our latest album in mid July and hope to have it out later this year. We are on YouTube, Spotify and all major platforms.
www.doctorpizzaband.com

Doctor Pizza Band