1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?
My absolute favorite is the Octatrack scene fader. It ́s the heart and soul of the performance aspect of the machine. What’s mind blowing is how sensitive it is, how smooth the transitions are between the scenes and how it can really take a lot of punishment when in the heat of the moment and (after about 5 years of owning one) it ́s never given me any issues. It ́s just one of a kind to me.
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
The Polybrute is pretty much my idea of a perfect synth. Absolutely stunning sound combined with one of the most user friendly interfaces out there that make for easy sound design as well as innovative performance controls. The only thing I wish it had was a stereo audio input for processing external audio through it ́s filters and audio fx. Aside from that, being able to expand it ́s voice count like on the Sequential Rev2 would be awesome.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?
I always sneak in a little musical mischief into my everyday backpack. The OP-1 and M8 practically live in there and there’s always a third piece that rotates. Sometimes it is the Polyend Play, others the Octatrack. Nothing too big. Lately I ́ve been experimenting with a more hybrid setup and my Macbook with the Erae Touch have found their way into portable setup quite nicely.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I wish there was a hardware version of Arturia Pigments. It ́s just such a beautiful sounding synth with so much depth to it. I can’t even imagine what it would look like in hardware form though lol. I’d imagine something huge, with loads of buttons and a massive screen like on the Waldorf Iridium.
As for hardware that I wish was software, pretty much all of my FX pedals. In particular, it would be a dream to have multiple instances of the Chase Bliss Habit pedal to mess around with in VST format, though I have to admit that half the appeal is the looks and feel of the knobs on that thing.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
Ouch, this hit home haha. My biggest regret is selling the Synthstrom Deluge. I sold it a few months back because even though I loved it, I was pretty sure a version 2.0 was bound to show up in 2023. Probably with an updated screen. Well, I was right about the screen haha. However, I was wrong in assuming that all companies are out to get your money. Turns out Synthstrom did come up with a new screen, but it is compatible with the original Deluge, so you can send your unit to them and they will fit in the new screen for a small fee. Mindblowing.
Anyway, now I just have to hope I can grab a new one in 2023. As for gear I regret buying, I don’t really regret buying anything, especially since I’m constantly flipping my setup and selling off the gear that I don’t use. Everything I ́ve experimented on has given me some new insight into sound design or music. Though I don’t gel with everything or even understand everything I buy, I try to learn as much as I can and if it just doesn’t click after a considerable amount of effort, I sell it. I think of my gear addiction as more of a “catch and release” thing than hanging on to everything I ever buy. The world is full of amazing things to try out, so why not let go of the things you don’t need and keep moving forward?
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
Ironically, I think I ́ve made most of my music on a wooden guitar and a piano haha. As for gear that changed the way I make music and really got me doing new things, there are four that come to mind. First is the OP-1. Sounds great, doesn’t give you overwhelming options so you can really focus on writing music and you can take it anywhere with you. Also the tape recorder forces you to make very deliberate choices when editing, and I found that limitation helped me avoid getting stuck in unimportant details that I can waste hours on in a DAW. Second, the M8. Just as with the OP-1, it ́s portable and battery powered, which means you get a ton of more access and play time on a day to day basis. A huge plus is that you can use it standing up like a gameboy and don’t need to set it up on a surface (say hi to subway beatmaking). Absolutely different feel and experience than the OP-1. Sounds absolutely amazing, the FX are out of this world and it gives you surgical precision to make your melodies and sounds as intricate as you want them to be. It ́s workflow is very particular and it makes using it a bit more cerebral, which I appreciate because it has made me produce music I would have never thought of if I was just playing stuff on keys or pads. Third place, the Octatrack. To me it is the quintessential performance sampler. The way you can mangle and slice and morph your sounds is inspired, and it was the first machine that really made me want to use my FX as part of songwriting and performance and not just set and forget like in traditional guitar pedal boards.
Finally, the Subsequent 37. It is to this day one of my favorite synths, just because the sound alone is enough to bring the house down. Whether it’s leads or bass, it cuts through a mix like a hot knife through butter. It has inspired me to let loose with improvisation, not only musically, but to use sound design as part of the performance, tweaking the patch as a play for great effect.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
If I was just starting, I think I ́d pick a lane and try to get really good at it. Doesn’t matter what piece of gear or instrument, but really double down on getting as good as I can before moving on
to something new. If I could only keep one thing, it would probably be either my Roland Fantom 6 or the OP-1, just because both of them have everything I need to make music till the cows come home and have a blast while doing so.
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
Once again, the Octatrack. Most of the time it ́s awesome to make music and party with it, except when you need it to do something more speciific that you know it can do, but you either don’t know or can’t remember how to get it to do the thing. Then it’s either diving into the incomprehensible elektron manual or even worse, having to go online and search for the answer among thousands of forums posts with similar questions and ever more solutions. As I said, it ́s one of my favorite devices, but when you hit a wall, it can be really frustrating. (Big Shoutout to Synthdawg for making user friendly Octatrack Manual that’s actually fun to read!)
9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
I recently learned how to use the Vocoder on my Roland Fantom 6. I’m still learning but playing around with the frequency response and trying out different synths with it has been an absolute joy. To be honest I didn’t even know it had a Vocoder when I bought it, so it has been a very pleasant “bonus”.
Artist or Band name?
I really wish I knew, I suck at classifying music. Somewhere along the lines of Depeche Mode and Pearl Jam if I had to guess.
Where are you from?
I was born in Chile, grew up living in the USA, Brazil, Lebanon, South Korea and now I live in Chile again.
How did you get into music?
My older brother had an acoustic guitar and he would often play songs to me. As soon as I could wrap my fingers around the neck (of the guitar btw, I didn’t strangle my brother) I started noodling and never stopped.
What still drives you to make music?
I ́m a very anxious person and music is the closest thing to meditating that I can manage to do. When I let myself really sink into the music, my mind goes blank and I’m not worrying about the future, global warming, ChatGPT becoming Skynet etc. I make music to relax and calm myself down.
How do you most often start a new track?
I try to vary as much as I can, cause I tend get stuck in ruts quite easily. My most common way to start a track is noodling with a chord progression and singing a melody and then I just start adding on to it. I try to change it up by starting with a bassline or drums every so often.
How do you know when a track is finished?
A famous filmmaker once said “A movie is never finished, only abandoned”. I feel the same way about music. You can always add something else, put a little more work in. That doesn’t mean you always should. I used to spend months fussing over a track, and then I realized that when the idea or emotion you where trying to transmit is there, it ́s enough. All the rest is optional. I ́d rather spend my time experimenting with a new track than worrying about my hi hats not being properly compressed.
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
“All art is derivative. If you think it ́s original, it ́s only because you don’t know the references”. I think I spent way too much time trying to be “unique” or “original” in my music, when in reality, everything you make is a mixture of the things you’ve heard and seen through the course of your life that have left an impact. I ́m not saying you can’t make something new or exciting, but your creations will always have influences, references of things that have moved you in the past. And I find that quite liberating because I used to get really stressed when someone would say things like “hey, your song sounds like this other song”.
I would take it as a sign that I was not being original enough, when really it was just my influences shining through in a piece of music that was completely mine. After all, there are only 12 notes. Whatever you make now is most likely going to sound a little similar to something someone else out there has already written in the last couple of hundred years, and that’s fine. Just stay true to yourself and your particular blend of music. That’s as original as you need to be.
Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
I ́m just trying to figure out this whole digital artist thing and it ́s been a hell of a ride. Though I have a few “traditional” tracks under the name the Midlife Synthesist on Spotify, I have much more music and fun jams on my Youtube channel. I also have a Patreon community with the nicest people you’ve ever seen on a discord server, huge shout out to them for their friendship and support.
[Editor: There are affiliate links to the relevant gear throughout the articles. It helps to support this blog. In fact, should you be needing some patch cables or guitar strings. Then clicking on one of the above links and buying any product that you prefer, will help the blog… doesn’t even have to be the ones in the link. Thx]