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


Red Means Recording – Jeremy Blake

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

The Hydrasynth main encoder knob. It’s huge.

Hydrasynth main encoder knob – it’s lit from beneath

Second place goes to anything that turns up the volume. 

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

I wish the Synthstrom Deluge had an OLED screen and I wish the Mashine+ could make actual synth patches from scratch. 

Native Instruments Mashine+

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

OP-1 or Deluge or iPad for granular apps like Borderlands.

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

I used to think a bunch about this, but after getting the Hydrasynth I don’t really care about software in hardware. If I could get Pigments as hardware that would be dope. I would love more wacky probabilistic and self-patchable software stuff.

Slow spagettification of a studio

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

Zero regrets in selling. Selling is freedom. 

A corona lockdown audience

Buying, I dunno. Everything I’ve bought I’ve bought because it had a reason to exist in my setup at that time. When I sell it, it’s because it’s redundant or I’ve outgrown it.

Vivid colors of eurorack

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

Neatified cables

Up until this year, the Teenage Engineering OP-1. This year it’s been eurorack.

A rainbow in eurorack

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

I still think a good DAW with a decent sample library, one good synth VST, and a hunger to learn is the best thing you could possibly start with. So I would do that.

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

Anything involving my computers, haha. I know that’s a cop-out answer, but like, man. They can do everything, but fuck up harder than anything else.

Can’t get around computers. But you can mount them up high!

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

I think audio-rate modulation, in general, is something that never occurred to me until recently. Everytime I see DivKid do something with it I’m like “oh right, I can do that”. It’s wild.

Audio rate mod everthing… in eurorack

Artist or Band name?

Jeremy Blake for music, Red Means Recording for YouTube

Genre?

Electronica, Downtempo, Alternative Electronic

Selfie?

Jeremy Blake aka. Red Means Recording

Where are you from?

Seattle, WA

How did you get into music?

I started playing the flute in Elementary School. Was lucky enough to be exposed to orchestral playing and jazz ensemble. Flunked out of music performance school because I was spending too much time sneaking into the studio to use the equipment and I didn’t wanna play the flute anymore. Was playing with trackers and anything I could get my hands on. Went to audio engineering school, kept experimenting. Eventually fell into YouTube music production videos. Most recently I’ve fallen hard for modular and I’m having a blast.

Desktop inspiration

What still drives you to make music?

When life gives you cables, make yellow shelving organisers

All the little pieces of things I know can be rearranged to augment some new idea. Everything can be recontextualized and spun into a new idea. There’s no end to the inspiration.

Gratuitios knobalation of the Sequential Pro 3
Knobalicious

How do you most often start a new track?

Lately, a lot. Modular has been a really refreshing platform for experimentation. I’m writing at least one new thing a week.

How do you know when a track is finished?

With modular and hardware it’s easy: when the performance is done and I’ve mixed and mastered it. With DAW-based stuff, it’s when I’ve gone through all my iteration passes, like idea, arrangement, mixing, re-arrangement, ear candy, and mastering. I go by a rule of three approach: if I can listen to a track 3 times and not mess with it, it’s done. If something bothers me 3 times, I change it.

[Editor: That answer is one of the most systematic and quantified approach to that question. That I’ve read. Excellent!]

Show us your current studio

Jeremy Blake’s very red Red Means Recording studio
Blackmagic ATEM Mini and a tuner

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Limitation breeds innovation, tied with “put a donk on it”.

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

I make music performance and education videos here: https://www.youtube.com/redmeansrecording

You can find my music on all platforms here: https://rmr.media/findme


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw 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.]