Nadia Struiwigh – Ambient Experimental Techno

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

4-axis joystick from the Argon8 of Modal Electronics

This is actually a harder question than I initially thought ha ha. Firstly I want to say that the knobs from DJ Techtools are awesome. I replaced my knobs from my TB-3 into bright Purple ones (love purple) but my all time favourite tool is the the 4-axis joystick from the Argon8 of Modal Electronics. I was a big gamer when I was young, and it reminds me of the good old days and it just feels like FUN. The joystick on the Argon8 can be assigned to many modulation possibilities which is ace for a live performance.

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

Desktop synths

I guess I can interoperate this as my perfect setup as I haven’t burned my hands on
modules yet. Well, my setup is always evolving and I am sometimes surprised by how many pieces of gear are in my collection. I love to use my gear rack as a library, so I can swap out elements and finetune my set for each performance separately. At the moment I am a big fan of my Maschine+, Korg Opsix, Korg Electribe EMX, Hologram FX, Big Sky FX, Elektron Analog Four, Korg Volca FM, Moog Sub37, and Roland TB-3.

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

I would love to bring everything haha, but unfortunately that’s impossible. I reckon it’s the setup I mentioned above, but for holiday time I would bring the Maschine+ and Modal Skulpt as it has batteries. Myvolts made a handy mini mixer so I can hook up some small devices to it. They also have incredible coloured cables which makes my holiday setup more fun – it’s all about the fun!

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

I’ve been working lately a lot with MNTRA plugin… it’s sample based and it has some
lovely FX in it as well. The layout and the layering works great for ambient pieces, and the sounds are really organic. If this is created in a hardware piece, I will be the first one to buy it. It’s already stunning as plugin, so I can imagine how it will look in an actually 3D product.

MNTRA VST plugin

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

I wish I had, because it would mean my studio was way more portable haha! I almost
never sell things, but when I do, it is jus time for the device to move on. I believe that gear should always be played and be loved (gosh I sound like a massive nerd now), so therefore if I’m not using something I will give it away or maybe sell it, but I will never regret it.

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

Nadia Struiwgh keyboards

My Moog Sub37 and Nord Lead A1. It’s hard to put this in words, but they truly opened up a whole new world for me. I started by playing as a DJ, Techno sets, and I still love it but I am always hunting for more depth in music. By creating music “freeform” you start to get in touch with your biggest creative part of your brain, and playing keys is doing it for me. I love how keyboards/ synthesizers look, the layout, the harmonies I can create by tweaking the Oscillators and filter it down into a warm sounding layer. It is just so hands-on, and it always invites me to play.

Korg Electribe EMX

My Korg Electribe EMX has showed me how to create a track with just one piece of gear. The crunch it has, FX, Wavetables, Drive, Tubes and the step sequencer is nothing alike other pieces of gear. It truly has a big place in my heart, therefore I have two of them. (I love writing love letters to my gear haha!)

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

I started off by getting a Doepfer Dark Energy, the store owner advised me this. Because of that… I had to learn immediately about synthesis as it’s a mono synth and it’s ready to patch up. I wouldn’t recommend someone this more complex device (I love it though). I would have start off with first some midi devices and maybe something like the Roland Boutique or Volca FM series. Just to try out what fits my needs. I would advice to pop in a store regularly and just try out stuff instead of buying it. For modular fans, maybe try out some plugins first and dive into books like Bjooks – they make amazing books with a lot of insights.

The Bjooks

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

My Yamaha DX200. I have a big love for FM synthesis, but this old man has some bugs and it jumps to presets and different settings when I want to turn knobs. I would never sell it, because it’s a synth that is really well made and kind of a classic. I also got it from a dear friend of mine, so there is a lot of emotional connection to it. DX200 my mate.

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

I think I just got the hang of making devices sound different than they are known for, I love that challenge. So I got the Korg Volca FM, which definitely sounds like FM, but I surprisingly got it sound like a deep Sound Bowl by slowing down the BPM and slowing down the Sequence. By combining it with the Hologram FX it got that deep frequency that really hits the spot. It’s insane!

Synth library

Artist or Band name?

Nadia Struiwgh.

Genre?

Ambient, Experimental, Techno. I like to combine all styles, and adjust it to my mood. I actually am not a fan of the word Genres, as I hear and feel music as… music.

Selfie?

Not feeling it right now haha, sometimes I do, but I am already so much online on
Instagram, that I become bored by my own face. My machines will do the job.

Where are you from?

The Netherlands 🙂 but currently a nomad. I live where my heart guides me to.

How did you get into music?

Long story short, I was a massive raver when I was young. You could find me at any
Electronic party, and it really got me. One day I asked myself, there must be more to it than only craving for a phat base. I met my mentor 13 years ago at a party, DJ Estroe, and I was amazed by her appearance. A WOMAN IN THE SCENE!! HELLO! So I wrote her a message, and I never left the journey. I practiced a lot at her house, started to play DJ sets and borrowed an old laptop from my partner in that time to make music with Reason. All my time and money was poured into music, and that’s the journey I will always follow.

My first setup was this:

Nadia’s first setup

What still drives you to make music?

My soul and community.

How do you most often start a new track?

It really depends on my mood and it really changes each time. Sometimes I start by using pads, mostly I do actually, and sometimes I just love to start off with crazy beats. It always starts by just jamming and sitting down to have fun. If I don’t do it like that, I force something which will turn into a big frustration.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it feels, when I have no doubts, when I have no questions. I learned in life, when there are no questions, it flows and it makes sense. And it really applied to music as well for me. When you feel the “YES” feeling it’s time to let it go.

Show us your current studio

Nadia’s happy place

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

“You Do You”. And I still listen to it everyday again. I try not to watch what other people do too much, because it distracts me from my path and it influences my music. I learned to keep the focus within. If you are happy with what you are doing, there will always be someone around that will be happy with what you are doing too, so keep the drive, keep going, keep learning and keep celebrating life.

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

instagram.com/nadiastruiwigh – and for bookings please send my agent a message 🙂 Marcus@lb-agency.net


Andrea Cichecki – ElectrOrganic

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

Mutable Instruments Ripples

My favorite is the filter knob. I use it a lot, especially, when I’m recording live, either to create space or for creative effect. On the picture you can see the filter knob of my Mutable Instruments Ripples. Other ones I like are the function knobs, to dive into the menus of my devices. I need them in order to make everything work.

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

Blofeld synth

It always changes but, at this moment, I’m in love with the Waldorf Blofeld. I can produce full songs with it, as it has all the sounds I need in there. It’s small, so it fits easily in between my other gear. It would be great if it had more knobs to have more access at once, however, for the price, I really can’t complain at all.

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

Eurorack and buddies

That would be my Digitakt, Strymon Timeline, Big Sky, my modular synth, the ZoomTrack 8 mixer and my Beyerdynamic headphones. It’s all compact, fairly easy to set up, light weight to travel with and it all fits in one small suitcase. If it’s just a small trip, it’s usually my Digitakt as I can create a lot with that already.

Elektron Digitakt

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

I wish the Make Noise Morpaghene had a software version. The same would be the case for the Mutable Instruments Beads. Software I’d like as hardware: a Teletronix LA-2A compressor would be very welcome in my studio. I just love this compressor, especially, for my synth sounds. It’s a classic and it just works.

Mutable Instruments Beads

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

I’ve got little regret regarding gear I bought in the past. When I buy something I try it out and if I don’t use it a lot, I will sell it again to find something else. Until now, I don’t have regrets on sales either as my setup always improved for the better.

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

Soundcraft desk and Strymon FX

My Soundcraft desk. It took me a while to find out what works best for my workflow and the mixer is the main instrument, as I can route everything with each other, send signals in all directions, which makes it a lot more fun to record. I don’t need to worry anymore, think about how to connect things or route it, as it’s all set up and ready to go.

Soundcraft Desk

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

The book Patch and Tweak and piano lessons instead of the clarinet training. The book is a must if you want to work with synthesis, I learnt a lot from it and still read it regularly.

Bjooks Patch & Tweak

Piano lessons would have made my life easier in terms of composition. However, I’m slowly progressing with my compositions now and just give myself the time to learn. It’s never to late for that and every day you can learn something new.

[Editor: The author of Patch & Tweak did a interview on this very blog right here Kim Bjørn]

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

Euroack Patch Cables

My patch cables, they always lay everywhere in the house, but I cannot do without them. I recently bought a couple of nice patch cable hangers from Sector Sieben, this already helps a lot.

Even more Euroack Patch Cables!

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

Mackie Big knob

Get a monitor controller and establish two settings to listen at, one low listening level (you still can hear somebody whisper) and a higher level around 70-80dB SPL. I mostly listen on either of these two settings.

This way you train your ears and start to hear small differences when using compression, EQ or FX settings. Last but not least, the most important ‘trick’ is to A/B reference your song, level-matched, with either previous versions of your mix as well as other songs. You can easily fool your hearing by thinking louder is better and sometimes you may think you are doing a good job treating a sound, only to find out, after level matching, you did too many changes.

With level- matching you really hear what you do. Plugin Alliance has a good plugin for that (Metric AB) but you also can do this in your DAW and simply level match the different songs with each other.

Metric AB

Artist or Band name?

Andrea Cichecki

Genre?

Deep music such as ambient, big soundscapes, dub-techno and ‘immersive organic sounds’. I like to emulate nature with electronic gear.

Selfie?

Andrea Cichecki

Where are you from?

I’m originally from the Netherlands, but have been living in Germany since 2012. At first, I lived in Berlin and now in the countryside near Dresden. I moved there because of a beautiful recording studio called Castle Studios where I work as well.

How did you get into music?

When I was young, I started with the clarinet and played a lot of classical music. Around my 16th birthday, I fell in love with electronic music and started to collect vinyl and, eventually, became a DJ.

In my mid-twenties, I already wanted to learn audio engineering but, sadly, where I lived at the time, there was no audio school and no online education available. So I tried to meet people to find out how things work and learnt a lot by myself until later in my life, where I attended the Abbey Roads music production and audio engineering school.

Clarinet

What still drives you to make music?

It’s a very strong inner feeling, call it intuition that I have. I’ve done a lot of different things in my life for work already, but this feeling with music always came back, telling me that I need to make music and learn all I can about it. I try to just follow that intuition. My life has changed ever since I became a full time producer and audio engineer. It’s hard work, especially, when you need to build it up from scratch to make a living. It’s also a particular life style. You really need to want this, otherwise it doesn’t work. I gave many things up in order to do it, but also don’t regret it a minute.

How do you most often start a new track?

Mostly, I start with a sound or chord progression on a synth that inspires me. I choose the key I work in and just go with the flow. Sometimes a drum loop inspires me or a melody gives me a certain feel and then it depends. Generally, there are two ways of making music for me. Either, I create a live-set, which means that I let things flow a bit more and don’t work in a particular song structure. However, when I produce songs with something specific in mind, I’m very structured and try to follow the sections. It took me a long time to find out how to finish tracks and, working structured and in sections, was the best for me. That also goes for when I work with clients.

Most musicians have a structure in their music as well and it’s just easier to be able to work like that, to have the same language. Otherwise translating their needs can get complicated.

Ableton Template

How do you know when a track is finished?

When the deadline is there. 🙂 In general, when all elements of the song are there and work good together, than it’s time to mix. Usually, I already do a lot in pre-production stages, so that I can keep my mixes simple and effective.

Show us your current studio

Andrea’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Have a lot of quality output, educate yourself and, if possible, learn from mentors that can guide you. This is what I started to do, I try to educate myself on everything to do with music, the industry, music business in general, producing and engineering, marketing and promotion, social media.

Having an understanding of the work you need to put in makes everything a lot easier, as you can plan along and are able to communicate with the people around you better. Having mentors in your life to learn from is very important, so that you can improve yourself and are able to ask for advice.

Socials:
https://www.andreacichecki.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/AndreaCichecki/
linktr.ee/AndreaCichecki
https://www.instagram.com/andrea_cichecki
https://www.facebook.com/AndreaCicheckiMusic
https://soundcloud.com/andrea-cichecki
https://castle-studios.com/


Kim Bjorn – The Knobfather

[Editor: I’m very pleased to present to you this interview with a very inspiring person: Kim Bjørn, the author of the wonderful gear books – Patch&Tweak, Push Turn Move and Pedal Crush]

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

The mighty On/Off Button

The on/off button. It’s the portal to creativity. Seeing those gear-lights turning on catapults me into an adventurous state of exploration. But I love all knobs so much I could tweak them all day – and my old Sequential Pro-2 had these really nice and interactive pressure-sensitive touch strips.

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

The Moog Grandmother – I’d just replace the spring reverb with a shimmer reverb or a stereo delay. Actually, I did that, but using pedals. Then there’s the Teenage Engineering OP-1. I’ve had it for 8 years now. Add velocity sensitivity and aftertouch, 4 more tracks, multiple FX slots, and better in- and output options, and it’s a winner. However, imperfect bits of kit make for limitations, which usually spark creative thinking – or annoyance if you haven’t been eating for a while.

Moog Grandmother and Teenage Engineering OP-1

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

My OP-1, a book, iPad and/or laptop – I can cover any work or music gig – and it fits in my backpack. I never commute, go on holiday or tour – and I really can’t make music when I’m on an airplane. I’m usually traveling to a music tech convention, where I then bring my Intellijel 7U travel case with a selection of modules and a couple of pedals, for demonstration and maybe performance.

Kim’s Eurorack Modular

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

Spectrasonics Omnisphere as a hardware synth would be amazing. The Sequential Prophet-X is somewhat there, and with a built-in 8-track sequencer/recorder and multitimbrality, it would be amazing. There’s also a lot of VCV-Rack modules that are far more experimental than current Eurorack modules, and would be nice to have as hardware. I’ve never really wanted any hardware in software-form, but having vintage and/or expensive synths in a software version is a really nice option if you can’t afford the real thing (what is “real” anyway?).

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

I miss my old Elektron Octatrack, but the mkII version is not enough to make me re-purchase – I’ll wait for a MkIII miracle. But like Amy Winehouse and William Shatner, I usually don’t regret anything. 

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

It really depends on how you define the concepts of producing and music. I get inspired by almost every piece of gear to at least produce a squeaky noise. Of course, there’s some that invite towards more jamming, like my TR-8S drum machine, or noodling and creating evolving soundscapes and sequences, like with the modular system. The Elektron sequencing interface has always been a favorite of mine – and even more so with the probability options. The Endorphin.es Furthrrr Generator, Squarp Hermod modular sequencer, Arturia Microfreak, Moog Grandmother, and the Chase Bliss Audio Blooper pedal, are among my top-inspiring friends at the moment though.

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

A job. That’s what I did back then. After that, I’d get a Moog One and an 8-track tape recorder. You’d never see me again.

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

Snyderphonics Manta
Snyderphonics Manta

I think I sold it – so apparently I can live without it. However, I love my Snyderphonics Manta, but can never remember which hexagons hold what. I guess it leads to what some call improvisation.

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

Teenage Engineering OP-1

I don’t know if it’s surprising, but the first time I ran notes from the OP-1’s Tombola sequencer into a reverb 100% wet to create an evolving soundscape/pad, I got so excited I went out and bought myself a Snickers bar.


Artist or Band name?
Kim Bjørn / Dreamhub

Genre?
Ambient

Selfie?
Can’t find my selfie-stick.

Where are you from?
Copenhagen, Denmark

How did you get into music?
Took piano lessons from age 7, then got an organ and a 4-track tape recorder. The rest is unclear. 

What still drives you to make music?
Curiosity. “What if..?”

How do you most often start a new track?
Dabbling around with no purpose, then grabs a line, sound or sequence. 

How do you know when a track is finished?
When there’s nothing left to take away. Or if I fall asleep while re-listening – it’s ambient after all.

Show us your current studio
I don’t really have one – but there’s some stuff on a table:

Kim Bjørn

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera”.
Translate this to the musical world, and lo and behold…

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

Pedal Crush – The wonderful book by Kim Bjørn and Scott Harper

[Editor: Kim, in his humble way, simply offered one link to his latest book Pedal Crush. But trust me, his other books Patch&Tweak and Push Turn Move are equally excellent. Go get’em here.
Kim’s ambient music can be found here on bandcamp


[Editor: Do you have one of Kim’s books? Which one and why? Leave a comment]