Maysun – Drummer Of Synths

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

The Mighty Power Switch

My #1 favorite switch is the one from the power supply to my rack mount gear. It is hard to reach, it makes a loud click sound and it is the first thing I turn on before
starting a recording session. It is my preferred one, because activating it means I’m about to create something. (I also like my modular synth power supply switch, my camera’s on/off swivel switch, my cassette player’s stop switch, my dictaphone’s stop/eject switch and my lego wheel OP1 knobs.)

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

A lot of my gear is broken / acts weird / only works sometimes, and I like them just like that. I enjoy the thought that the machines have moods and maybe don’t want to cooperate sometimes, or that they want to influence the artistic direction. I try to accept the glitches and use it to a musical advantage. I would not change anything about them.

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

Sony A6000 Camera + OP1 + Zoom H6 + iLok, Laptop and Headphones (ATH M50x).

Sony A6000 Camera + OP1 + Zoom H6 + iLok, Laptop and Headphones (ATH M50x)

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

I wish I had a hardware version of the Pusher plugin from Kush Audio. I use it to add dirt, grit and noise to any track that needs a bit more personality, be it synths, bass,
drums, etc. It works on everything. I have a EHX memory man deluxe delay pedal that I use as a kind of dirty preamp / chorus / overdrive. I haven’t been able to find a
plugin that sounds like it.

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

I regret selling my Strymon DECO pedal. It had a very good tape emulation sound and was stereo. I used it for live shows at the end of my signal chain. I sold it
because I needed to money to buy a sampler. (I also regret selling my Korg Poly800, it was a really nice synth.)
I don’t think I regret anything I bought, but a piece of gear that I sold after only a few days of having it was the KMI Boppad. It just wasn’t for me.

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

MorfBeats

Any instrument by Morfbeats. When i’m running out of ideas, I’ll pick any piece and throw it on the drums to add rattle and new sound possibilities, or i’ll use the melodic instruments like the gamelan strips to create an ambiant loop. They also work well with a contact mic and effect pedals.

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

An acoustic piano. I’ve wanted one for years and recently was given one that I have slowly been integrating into my music. I find that composing is much easier on a real piano than on synths and if I were to start over, I would get that first.

Upright Piano

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

My zoom H6, I like it and I hate it because it’s really finicky on SD cards, but I always have it with me for sampling, or as a portable sound card to my computer.

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

Bells and Rattles

If a snare drum counts as a bit of kit, what I like to do, is tune it low, and add a t-shirt and object on top, like bells or heavier metal. It makes it sound really deep, controlled and punchy, but you have random rattles from the bells that will add nice texture once you compress a bit.


Artist or Band name

Maysun

Genre?

Instrumental, cinematic.

Selfie?

Maysun

Where are you from?

Montreal, QC, Canada.

How did you get into music?

I always wanted to play drums, I don’t know why. Maybe because my father is a bass player. After years of asking, my parents got me a snare, hihat and a cardboard box with a pedal attached to it. From there, I went to high school in a music program, took private lessons, completed a music degree in college, did a small part of a Jazz Performance degree in university, that I quit after a year. From that point I was in an apartment where I could not play drums, so I started getting into synths and recording, which turned me onto modular synths, which led to sound design, which brings me to where I am now.

What still drives you to make music?

I like sound, I enjoy completing pieces of music and I like the whole process of sculpting music through playing, recording and mixing.

How do you most often start a new track?

Recently, for my daily videos the process has been about recording a short drum performance and adding synths to it afterward. I do this as quickly as possible and try to not censor any idea while doing it, allowing the piece to go into any direction, even one I don’t like. It helps me practice new ideas and test out recording techniques, plugins, instruments, etc.
For EPs, I usually start with a strong story line in my head that I transfer to sound. The drums usually represent me, and the other instruments are my life events. I create different sound scenarios and then add transitions between them. I mess with physical movement of sound through 4 speakers recorded through a binaural mic to create ambiances and add synth textures and drums after that.

How do you know when a track is finished?

For my daily videos, they are done once I run out of time.
For EPs, it is more difficult. The last EP I recorded (should be out fall 2020), I had trouble letting go and finishing it. I think it was because I had been used to doing daily compositions, where you can always do better the next day. For an EP, I felt like it was more permanent.
And so, when I thought I had gone to the maximums of my capacities, I asked for help from another sound engineer, and together we finished it. I think it helped a lot to get a second opinion.

Show us your current studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Once, I took a skype lesson with a guitar player, and I was asking questions on what exercises to practice to be able to do a certain rhythmic thing. He told me to just do it until I hear it. No secret exercise or shortcuts for learning this.
That was 10 years ago and it really changed my approach to music.
I feel like many musicians, especially online, are looking to find that perfect video, piece of gear or secret exercise that will make you play better / create better music / find your identity.
But in my opinion, I think that there are no shortcuts to building your sound and that your musical identity is not only about going directly to what you like about someone else’s performance or music, but forged through personal experiences and experimentation. It takes time, effort and patience.
In short, his advice was to simply do it, until you figure out on your own, how to make it work for you, and not procrastinate by waiting around for the answers to pop up by themselves.

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

New music almost everyday here: https://www.instagram.com/maysun.music/
A new EP out after the COVID situation here: https://maysunmusic.bandcamp.com/
Free samples for everyone on my bandcamp.

[Editor: It seems like Maysun really enjoys acoustically prepared instruments: drums, piano and percussion. Do you have a favorite method for modding acoustic instruments? Leave a comment]


Liam Killen – Killer Beatz

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
OPZ knobs are so smooth- they’re the easiest things to spin- easier than any other knob that i’ve seen. It’s quite genius actually! A +  to Teenage Engineering on that design (as per usual).

TE OPZ
Teenage Engineering OPZ

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
Recently I’ve been discovering Arturia’s software synth bundle. Synths/keyboards include: DX7, Jupiter 8V, Fafisa, Prophet V and many more. KILLER and super affordable pack that I would recommend to anyone, I got it off Splice.com
I love me some synth hardware, but I just don’t have the space, budget, time and interest to deal with it and this is an amazing alternative.

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
I would bring my laptop, just because I can do most of what i’m capable of doing at home with just that- and of course my OP1 because of how portable and easy to use it is. It also makes for a great midi keyboard, instead of using the keys on my laptop. Sometimes I actually prefer a mini set up rather than all of the gear I have at home. 

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Teenage Engineering OP-1

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I’m beginning to wish that all hardware was software just because of how much easier/less expensive/more accessible it is in that format. That being said, there’s nothing quite like a modular synth, or an OP1 and I don’t think it would ever be possible to replicate it 100% using software (watch it happen this year). Honestly, I don’t have a solid answer to this question right now. I like everything as is, that being said, I feel like a combination of hardware + software is the way to go as a producer in 2020.

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I recently bought an API lunch box- but then never needed to buy pre amps to go with it. I bought it to record drums, which i’m not really doing much of anymore, because I no longer have a studio to play at. So now it’s just sitting at my friend’s place…collecting dust.
I will say that buying gear is a skill- like all of the gear that I own now, I use, where as when I first started collecting gear, I bought things that I thought were cool, but I didn’t really need. I feel like it’s just something that you have to go through- so just make sure that you take care of your gear so you can resell it when you’re done.

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
Recently i’ve been using the SP404 a lot and have been composing tunes specifically for the sound and aesthetic of the instrument; so more in the lofi genre. That being said, i’ve been exploring what other genres work and the thing is quite diverse! I recently posted a live set on my Youtube channel, for anyone who’s interested, linked right here below.

Liam Killen killin’ it

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
I’m happy with where i’m at now, not sure I would change anything to be honest! I’m glad that I started on drums because it gives me that rhythmic intuition that most people don’t have. Sometimes I do wish that I had started my Youtube channel earlier so that i’d have more of a following, but it takes time and i’m really enjoying the process anyway. I genuinely do love creating videos for you guys and so i’m going to keep doing it!

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
I bought a Pocket Operator Modular 400 months ago. The gear itself is not annoying at all…What’s annoying is assembling the thing. I’m pretty sure that the screws that came with it were not the proper ones- so I had to find these tiny little watch screws to put the thing together. Assembling it was probably the most annoying thing that i’ve ever experienced. That being said though, now that it’s all built, it looks so pretty!

Teenage Engineering PO400 and a little Rick and Morty PO35

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
When I was taking drum lessons, my teacher taught me what I think is one of the most important things that i’ve learnt in music- and that’s the long/short note method. I wouldn’t be able to explain it thoroughly over text but it has to do with syncopation of long and short notes and how there’s actual rules to what makes something groove. Basically, Quarter notes are long and so they are accented and syncopated notes followed by a rest are also long- also accented. Everything else is a short note, and there for played as a ghost note. These rules basically revolutionized the way that I think about rhythms and music in general.
In the synth/gear/modular world, these rules are nowhere to be seen, but I try to make them work in my electronic music tracks, which I think helps give me a certain edge. Maybe i’ll get into this in a Youtube video one day now that I think of it… hmmmmmmm. 


Artist or Band name?
Liam Killen

Genre?
That’s a tough question- we’ll say Electronic Music for now. 

Selfie?

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Liam Killen

Where are you from?
Montreal, Canada

How did you get into music?
I always knew I wanted to do something in music but that “something” has changed a lot throughout my life. I started very young at the age of 9 on the drums- my parents bought me a kit because I was constantly banging rhythms on tables. When I was around 15, I became pretty much obsessed with jazz drumming- wasn’t much of a sporty kid so I figured i’d focus my energy on something that I was naturally good at. I ended up going University in jazz performance on drum set- which I graduated from in 2015. I knew I couldn’t make a living off of jazz performance so I branched out during my time in university- played in a million bands, started learning new instruments and eventually got into music production, which i’ve been making a living off of for the past 5-6 years. Just recently though, like in the past 6 months, i’ve really started focusing on creating video content and not just music, and finding my voice and personality over social media, mainly my Youtube channel. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it and it will remain my focus for the foreseeable future. 

What still drives you to make music?
I’ve always been a very motivated person when it comes to music- like i’m really not hard to inspire. Honestly, recently i’ve been listening to less spotify stuff and more to people over social media, like on instagram and youtube and learning from them, which gives me plenty of motivation. I also just feel “at home” when i’m creating- it’s been a solid outlet for me since as long as I can remember, which is why i’ve worked so hard to make it my living. 

How do you most often start a new track?
Recently, i’ve been starting tracks by either programming a solid drum beat that I vibe with, or with a really inspiring sample, whether it’s one of my own or someone else’s. I used to be against using other people’s samples, but if you think about it, the biggest producers in the world do it, so why would wouldn’t I? Why limit myself?
I’ve noticed that the whole sample thing is controversial for some people. So here’s another interesting way to think of it:
My roots are in a band setting. So for me, I was a piece of the puzzle as was everyone else in the band, I was basically a hired gun a lot of the time. So let’s say you use a drum sample in one of your tracks, something that you had no hand in ACTUALLY creating, isn’t that basically the same thing as a band leader hiring a drummer to play drums on his track? That’s sort of the way that I look at it now. And lastly, if it sounds good it’s good! Also it has to be legal, lol. 

How do you know when a track is finished?
I usually like to take a couple of days away from the track when I think that it’s finished. If when I go back to it i’m able to listen through without being “taken out of it” or distracted by an element of the track, that’s when i’m happy. I try to limit myself in that respect though, because it’s easy to go in circles, especially when it comes to the mix, in which case it becomes a waste of time. Just put it out!

Show us your current studio
It’s such a mess right now! My videos look pretty clean, but then when you see behind the scenes, you see how messy it really gets. 

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Liam’s studio desk
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E-piano and E-Bass
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E-Drums and E-Guitars and other guitars

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
I’ve noticed that a lot of people have a hard time getting started- and 90-95% of being prolific is just sitting down at your computer/instrument, and starting. Once you come up with an idea or something that inspires you, you’re in the clear!

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
I’m constantly releasing stuff and the best way to keep track is through my social medias. I’m always posting new videos to my Youtube channel and I’m also releasing my first official EP to all listening platforms, so stay tuned for that, out April 7th, 2020. EP cover and Youtube channel linked down below. 

Liam Killen YouTube

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LK Curious album cover

[Editor: Liam is obviously a Teenage Engineering fanboi, just like me. But do YOU think that collecting gear from one manufacturer is a good thing or a bad thing, for creating a personal musical style? Leave a comment below]