Navin Kala – Pastoral Electronics

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

Roland RS-09

Right now, the RS09 Tuning knob. I like the little struggle that happens inside our brain when a note is slowly approaching the “tuned” area.
Five months ago, was the Grandmother cutoff filter, it’s addictive, I guess they know it and that’s why they made it so big.

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

Gibson EH150 lap steel

My Gibson EH150 lap steel, from 1937. It’s 84 years old and sounds like it has always been here and always will. I feel inspired just by looking at her. And I’m not a guitar player myself, just an aficionado. It makes me wonder how my Digitakt is going to look in 84, by the year 2104.

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

If I have to leave home, I’ll take the iRig2, the reface CP, and the garage band on my phone. It’s a frustrating experience though, it reminds me how little is needed to make music technically acceptable nowadays.

iRig, Yamaha Reface and cat

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

Studio desk and racks

I don’t use software. Two months ago, I bought Reaper, but I’m using it strictly as a multitrack recorder. Paired with the Softube Fader, so I can have a more tactile experience.
Don’t get me wrong, plugins and VST are as good, and many times better than the real thing. But when I see my studio with all the gadgets, I feel inspired to play. If instead, I see a computer screen, I don’t feel the call at all.
It’s like masturbating versus having sex, you’ll reach the same level of satisfaction. But you’ll miss the joy of the process. Although it will be less tiring, that’s true.

[Editor: Literally I laughed out loud at this comparison…. it’s so true]

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

TC Electronic Finalizer

Due to logistics, I can’t sell anything. The post office is 100 km away and parcel companies are few, and they never find our house. If I was living in a city, I would definitely be selling stuff.
I do regret buying several things, one of them the TC finalizer, I still don’t know what it does. But there’s a small revelation in buying the wrong gear, you slowly find what is adequate for yourself, by elimination.

[Editor: I totally agree, this kinda process is also an essential part of learning and growing. The only thing, is that people get so bummed out by their regrets. Enjoy your regrets! You’ve learned something and it means you’re willing to take creative risk, so it’s all good (I actually just picked up a Finalizer too 🙂 haha)]

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

Piano and pussy

Just like others already answered on your blog, the piano. I sit in front of this massive primitive device, and there’s an instant communion. It’s like the whole mechanism is holding plenty of new songs, waiting for someone to take them out. It is an utter physical experience. And this is something I exclusively feel with the piano.

[Editor: Yup, I got that with the acoustic guitar]

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

I started years ago with Cakewalk and a Dx7, I don’t wish this on anybody. I suffered so much with the membrane buttons, and the menu written in extraterrestrial code. That was a huge technological wall between electronic music and me. And actually, that’s why I completely stopped making music in my first reincarnation. And also why choosing the right tools, for oneself, is pivotal in the engagement with music.
Today, I would buy the Korg Minilogue, functional, intuitive, and with a great sound. I don’t have one though.

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

Cables and patchbays

The Patchbay, but not the front side, the backside of course. It was a pain to set all the cables, but once it’s done, it makes everything much easier. Until you need to change some routing.

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

Korg Monologue

I like to use the Korg Monologue as an analog drum machine. I started diving into this thanks to Oscillator Sink’s rhythm collection on Korg’s site.


Artist or Band name?

Navin Kala

Genre?

I’m still experimenting and trying to find a comfortable place. Right now, this place must be somewhere between electronica with ambient and a bit of experimental.

Selfie?

Navin Kala

Where are you from?

Brazil, with mixed blood.

How did you get into music?

I began piano lessons as a child, it was either that or karate.
But it is extremely frustrating, learning with music you don’t like or feel. Stuff like “What Mozart composed when he was 5”. And I was 10, so it was like saying, you are retarded.

What still drives you to make music?

It makes me feel good, I know that without music I don’t feel fulfilled. Creativity, of any sort, sublimates our existence. This and the fact that I have a 70% of hearing loss, since a child, and at some point, I might lose it completely. I want to play as much music as I can before my only working ear falls under a functional threshold. Funny fact, Stereo does not exist in my universe.

[Editor: Damn good reason!]

How do you most often start a new track?

With Instagram, I force myself to make a post, like an exercise, a few every week. Each time with a different instrument. Something comes up. I see people’s reaction, and from there I decide if I keep working on the idea. Is like a focus group.
This first idea narrows down how the next instrument will interact, and so on. Limiting each time your options. I call it the Funnel Paradox. You begin with a universe of options, and as you add layers, these options decrease.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I don’t have a rational answer to this. I have a big folder with tracks I’ve started. Some go a few years back. And I certainly know that they are not finished. But I don’t know what it takes for them to be completed. Paradoxically, when they are finished, I know they are. I suppose is easier when you work with a client, let’s say making a soundtrack. The deadlines will tell you when something is finished.

Show us your current studio

Navins Studio with a couch, patio doors and a hammock!

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I was thirteen years old, my piano teacher was pissed with me, again, because I wasn’t able to prepare the lessons before the class. Instead, I was procrastinating playing popular music (the concept of procrastination didn’t exist back then). He asked me eventually; “When you wake up every day, do you feel a compelling need to play the piano?” I said “Nope”.
And he replied; “Then you must find, quickly, something that you feel like doing daily. You’ll be a realized person.”
I quit piano lessons the next day. He was relieved.

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

My second album, Horse. Few months old. I hope you like it.

Navin Kala – Horse album

[Editor: Also check out Navins IG… it’s lovely. C’mon join the funnel paradox]


Idra – Modular Via Trumpet

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

Novation Summit Noise and Frequency

One of my favorite knobs is without a doubt the Summit cutoff combined with the
noise knob that always adds a lot of depth to the sound.
Other knobs that I find very interesting are the branches and mutation on the Qu-Bit
Bloom, which makes any patch generative and potentially infinite. Sometimes when I’m in the studio (which is also my home) and I’m doing something other than producing music I create a random patch and totally open both knobs, it’s fun.

Branches and Mutation on the Qu-Bit

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

I’m not a pianist even though I studied it a bit during my studies in classical music at
the Conservatory. I think that among all the instruments I own, my grandfather’s piano is my perfect one. Both for an affective value and for the harmonic completeness, it has always been the instrument that allows me to create more, I just sit there and throw down some ideas and then go down to the studio and develop them on my modular system.

Piano

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

Modular (although it’s starting to become huge, in fact I think I will shrink it with a Palette case from Intellijel) headphones and zoom recorder for holidays. But when I have to play live I don’t care too much about comfort and I carry everything and more, including the Summit (my back doesn’t thank me).

Intellijel Palette

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

All Felt instruments plugins on eurorack format would be great, as well as a hardwere version of Ableton, would probably make live performances much more interesting

Felt VSTs and Ableton

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

I’m not a person who sells a lot, but I recently sold my digitakt two days before its new update – that’s all I’ll say.
Joking aside I must say that in the eurorack world there is a lot of buying and selling and you can never lose anything or have too many regrets for having sold something.

Smokin’ hot Elektron Digitakt

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

As I said before certainly the piano is always my starting point for composition, but in the end my main tool today is the modular system, which constantly offers a
continuous sound research avenues and new ways to create sounds from scratch, even using a few modules and always trying to study them in depth. The great thing is that it can be an instrument in continuous evolution and change and the perfect medium to express ourselves even with our personal changes.

Idra’s Eurorack

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

I think I would do the exact same path again that led me to be who I am today. I don’t
know if everyone knows this, but I start my music journey as a classical trumpet player.
Classical music and its study has definitely helped me both in technical knowledge but especially in maximum attention to listening. A sensitivity to sounds and sonorities, I would say. So if I had to start again, I would start with the trumpet again.

Trumpet

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

Endless cables

Cables… nicely organized

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

One of the tricks I use the most is after watching a video of Ricky Tinez based on
understanding how to manipulate LFO phase points and make them free and random in independent points of time.
I highly recommend it, especially to create movement and use LFOs in new ways.
Another “trick” that I often use is to stop listening to an album that is almost finished
for a while before putting the finishing touches on it.


Artist or Band name?

IDRA

Genre?

Ambient

Selfie?

Idra

Where are you from?

Milan, Italy

How did you get into music?

I started playing trumpet when I was nine years old, graduating in classical trumpet.
For a few years I got into jazz and world music, but it was electronic music that I fell in love with and where I found my own spot in the world.

What still drives you to make music?

The sense of freedom and the need to communicate something first to myself and
then to others, is a refuge and a medicine that keeps me alive and allows me to
express myself in the most creative way I can know

How do you most often start a new track?

Whenever I feel the need to enclose and let out my feelings and sensations. I often
have very profitable moments of production, but I also often need silence, I do not
follow a precise path, every time I turn on the machines in the studio and I feel that
something beautiful comes out, it can become a track or simply my soundtrack of the
day.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it makes me smile and gives me a clear picture in my mind, I would say the
moment I think of a title the track is over.

Show us your current studio

Idra Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Don’t be afraid to listen to advice and always be open to change. But the best will always be: keep things simple.

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

seilrecords.bandcamp.com/album/lone-voyagers-lovers-and-lands

(I always take the opportunity to thank Boris aka. Jogginghouse – for this release)


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.]