Michael Hell – Minimalist Conjuring

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

I think this is a toss up between the fader on the Octatrack and the magnetic encoders on the OP-Z, they both feel great on their own terms so I would say both.

Octatrack Fader and OPZ encoders

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

The OP-Z is great and I think it is almost perfect. The big one is of course the hardware itself. I am currently having lots of issues with miss triggering and double triggers and it’s getting a bit annoying tbh and of course I hear people having issues with warpage of the OP-Z itself and popping encoders. On a lighter note, I would love to have the tonic drum engine (from PO-32) in the OP-Z as well, then it would be perfect.

Teenage Engineering OPZ

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

I think it might be obvious by now…. OP-Z.

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

I would love to have OrcΛ in hardware form, I just dreamt of a hardware device similar to Polyend tracker, but instead of a tracker for sequencing it’s OrcΛ.

PolyEnd Tracker

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

I miss my Moog Minitaur a lot actually, the bass that thing churns out is staggering. I also miss the MPC Live at times, it was a really nice partner with the OP-Z. But I found the workflow really boring tbh

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

OP-Z for sure. I love how you can twist and bend a sequence with it.

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

Octatrack, It’s just a stream filled with possibilities.

Elektron Octatrack

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

The SP-404 I love the thought of it, but I hate using it, but I don’t want to sell it. One day I will truly master it! and I also feel like i should enjoy Eurorack a lot more, but I’m actually on the fence about selling all my Eurorack. I’m really down with minimalism. Ohh and the keys on the Arturia Keystep are atrocious, but that little thing is so damn handy.

[Editor: I had the SP404 years ago and sold it coz I just didn’t use it enough. Then I just got the SP404sx model with sd card. It’s strangely a lot more useful. Dunno why]

Roland SP404

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

Octatrack and QY70 go really well together. The standard midi template on the Octatrack corresponds with the midi implementation of the QY70. So basically you just have to connect them via midi and then start p-locking parameters without even setting up the CC’s. Also realizing that the midi implementation on the MPC Live is actually fantastic once you connect the devices with both midi in and out. the MPC reads all the midi CC settings so you can automate everything on the machine. its pretty incredible tbh.

Octatrack with Yamaha QY70

Artist or Band name?

Grååskala or Graaskala for you non nordics Genre? IDM…. i guess… Glitch… Maybe?

Micheal Hell

Where are you from?

Märsta outside of Stockholm. Currently living in the north of Sweden with wife and family.

How did you get into music?

Played piano and violin as a kid (briefly) but really connected with music through a friend who was doing troubadour gigs at the age of 21. Learned to play guitar and sang to that. Then I went on to study music as a vocalist for two years. Played in bands and such as a vocalist. Got into the electronic hardware thing just a couple of years back, when I wanted to get back into music, but didn’t have anyone to play with… so basically I made a one man band.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s a stress relief thing, I just love disappearing into music. Plus I have a primal need for creating stuff, I guess that’s why i became an engineer by trade so that i can always be in the process of creation.

How do you most often start a new track?

Drums. Almost always drums.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Through my work I’ve learned to adapt to the phrase “good enough”. I know a track is ready when I feel like I have a structure in it or rather a story, there’s almost always imperfections in my recordings, but I chose to honor it instead of shunning it.

Show us your current studio

I’m not a collector in any sense. I have a ‘one-in-one-out’ policy and I strive towards having a streamlined workflow and most importantly FUN. So this is what I’m playing with currently.

Michael’s studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

On the subject of writer’s block Björk stated something in her Reddit AMA that really resonated with me. TL;DR don’t force your creativity.

“I think creativity always lives somewhere in everyone, but its nature is quite pranksterish and slippery and every time u grab its tail, it’s found a new corner to thrive in. Perhaps the trick is not to force it and put it up against a wall and want it to be in a particular area. But rather with a lot of kindness sniff it out and wonder where it has gone to this time around. If its in sauce recipes , writing theater plays , paper-mache improv with nephews, discovering new hiking routes or simply trying to figure out a family members sense of humour . I definetly don’t succeed in this all the time, but feel overall things have been more fertile when I trust this creatures instincts and follow it, rather than me willfully reforming it into a circus animal colouring by numbers”.

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

Well it’s not new by any sense, but it is my latest, my OP-Z only album released on Golfshoe Music. Straight stereo recordings of performances, with imperfections and all.

Thanks for having me! Stay safe and creative folks!!


[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…
]


Marine Drouan – Kritzkom

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

I love the even VCO main knob from Befaco’s Eurorack module. It’s beautiful, and I
like the feeling when you turn it. And I like to use it (it changes the octave) mostly if
it’s plugged on a reverb.

Befaco VCO

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

The Octatrack is for me almost perfect. A kind of similar software like the Overbridge for the other Elektron machines would be perfect. Of course a possibility to record the 8 tracks separately, but simultaneously. Add it a simple synthesizer and it would be totally perfect.

Elektron Octatrack

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

On holiday, I take a small battery powered devices because I like to be outside. It can
vary from a sampler (MicroGrany for Bastl Instruments or SPS-404) or the Teenage
Engineering PO-35, or the iPad. I almost always take a recorder (Zoom) to do field
recording.

Bastl Microgranny
Portable samplers

If I am on the train or plane I love to work on the computer, either exploring some Max for live patches I never tried or some other little software that I usually don’t use.

Zoom sampling on a boat

It is interesting how having fewer devices force us to explore other ways to do music.
When I perform I always take my Machinedrum, often the MicroKorg XL and if not
other small synths. Now that I have one, I would also take the Octatrack. I also take a
few MIDI controllers like the Novation Lauchpad and the my old Korg NanoControl,
they are small and are practical.

Zoom recorder and various input devices

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

Borderlands (the iOS app) as a hardware could be interesting to imagine, although I
have no idea how it could look. Probably this is also the reason I like this kind of app, which really use the touch screen and couldn’t have exist as a hardware. On the other side I have the feeling most of the hardware now exists as a software. I find modular synthesizers as software pretty nice, even if it never can replace it. It is perfect to try some modules, learn to use it, or if you cannot afford it.

Borderlands iOS

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

My first machine was an MC-303, but at this time I had nothing else. It was interesting to learn, but alone it was a bit limited. I was a teenager I had no access to any studio or couldn’t buy more machines. I sold it to buy a MIDI keyboard which was at the time the best for me. If I see one I get a bit of nostalgic and I sometimes regret I sold it.

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

The Electron Monomachine, it was my first proper sequencer and it made a huge
difference in my way of doing music. Having a sequencer improved so much the way
to use synths. But then it is the Machinedrum which inspired me the most and for a long time.

Elektron MonoMachine

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

I should have get the Elektron Machinedrum as soon as it got released.

Elektron Machinedrum

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

Only an old M-audio firewire sound card which is very small and has midi in/out + 2
stereo audio outputs and one stereo input, so everything you need all the time. I took
it everywhere, it worked forever, the most stable I ever had. Unfortunately it now
doesn’t work on the new OS. I still have a hard disk partition with an older system on
my mac to use it. But because of this I use it less and less… Only because of the
driver is not updated.

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

Nothing really crazy for a user of modular synthesizers. But as I am still in the discovering phase, I enjoy this little self-discoveries, and find it funny to trigger the steps of a sequencer (In my case: Pop Corn from Bastl Instruments) just by touching the cable. Of course, it is doing an electric impulse which makes it goes to the next step.


Artist or Band name?

Kritzkom

Genre?

Electronic music of many kinds from ambiant, experimental, to slow techno with a touch of house sometimes.

Selfie?

Marine Drouan

Where are you from?

Nantes in the west of France.

How did you get into music?

I started to learn play the piano which is an instrument I like a lot, but I stopped after 2 years. I wanted to play my own tunes, still it was the first keyboard experience. I guess, it was listening to techno music late in the night on the radio as teenager, that I really started to really love music and wanted to do some.

What still drives you to make music?

Life in general, but more nature than humans. I guess I need music and often I have
something in mind I want to express. What I work on is sometimes the only thing that I want to listen to. Like an infinite exploration. The nature and listening to its subtle sounds, is definitely the most inspiring to me.

How do you most often start a new track?

By experimenting with and making sounds, textures or loops most of the time, but it can really always be different. The only sure thing, I never start with a structure.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I can be hard to know. If I don’t know, I stop to working on it and let it be, so that I can listen to it with more distance a few days later, then it’s much easier. It can either be very simple and intuitive or be super hard. It can happen that I do 30 different versions and it makes it harder to choose. Sometimes it can also mean that it’s not worth it to finish this track.

Show us your current studio

It is hard to do in one only one picture, as the room i have, is long there is not so much place to take a photo. I also have a cupboard where some gear is resting quietly and safe from the dust before I feel like using them again.

Eurorack on the rack
Studio
Home studio from above

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Trust your ears.

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

My last album “Melt Map”:
https://disorientation.bandcamp.com/album/melt-map

A new track “Infinite” on the compilation Kedi 2 on Baumusik:
https://baumusik.bandcamp.com/album/kedi-2-2

[Editor: Do you have any tips or tricks with any of the gear in this interview? Leave a comment below]


[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…
]


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?

IMG_1074.jpg
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. 

IMG_1075.jpg
Liam’s studio desk
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E-piano and E-Bass
IMG_1079.jpg
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

CURIOUS final.PNG
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]