1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?
I’m not that emotionally attached to individual knobs and faders, but there might be a few which have been important. First, the ”Frequency” fader on my first synthesizer, the Jen SX2000, which gave me the first real player experience of an actual filtered analogue synth sound and gave birth to a lifelong fascination.
Second, maybe the MS20 Mini Lowpass filter knob which brought me back to analogue synthesis after many years of playing mainly samplers and vst plugins. And finally, any of the SOMA Lyra 8:s VCO tuning knobs which made me listen to sounds in a different way and appreciate imperfection.
When it comes to tactility I must say that my Bugbrand banana cables mean a great deal, though. They’re a pleasure to use. Colourful and sturdy fun!
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
The word ”almost” is important here because the perfect bit of kit doesn’t exist, I think. Gut feeling right now whispers about the Ciat-Lonbarde Cocoquantus. It never disappoints and has opened up a vast sound palette to me. Though ”perfect” is certainly not the correct word for any C-L gear. Which is the wonder of it!
3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?
Always: Field recorder. A pretty crap one, my old Zoom H-1 (the Rec button on that one´s been very important, too). For many years the small holiday setup was Laptop/Cubase, USB audio interface, master keyboard.
If I ever start travelling again I guess the Cocoquantus or the Plumbutter (or my most recent addition, the Lorre Mill Double Knot) would be great to bring but I’m not sure I’d risk them.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
I’m not very good at wishing for what isn’t there already. Nowadays I find it really hard wishing for hardware to be anything else. The tactile side of playing electronic instruments has grown extremely important to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t like software. There are lots of great fx and instruments which I use a lot. I love the Sketchcassette, Valhalla Supermassive and NI Kontakt, for instance.
Software into hardware… if Soniccouture suddenly turned their Geosonics library in a portable, beautiful little synthesizer I’d probably be curious about it.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
I regret selling my second synth ever which was the Roland SH1000. I sold it for very cheap around ’98 when it seemed completely obsolete (and it probably still is, but what a clumsy old beauty!). To be honest, there was some divine justice going on since I sold it to the same guy from who I bought a Yamaha CS5 even cheaper a few years before that.
I kind of regret that I sold my Tascam 388 quarter-inch tape/mixer studio too, but that may be mostly from nostalgia and considering the recent tape hype.
Through the years I’ve bought lots of gear which I’ve sold pretty quickly. I’d say most of the Volcas and a Roland Boutique JX03 were all pretty regrettable purchases. And I didn’t gel with the Eowave Quadrantid Swarm, sadly. Maybe I should have been more patient.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
Chronologically: my family’s upright piano, my first Porta studio (Fostex 260), the AKAI S2000 sampler, and most recently the Ciat-Lonbarde instruments. All of these have shown new and compelling paths into new territories, or territories looking more and more like the ones I vaguely started dreaming of exploring as a kid. It’s not that different now from what it was back then.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
Piano, DAW, a nice bass guitar and some assorted percussion. And after that I´d discover touch- and gesture-based synthesizer instruments a bit earlier 🙂 .
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
I usually sell the annoying stuff. One instrument I think will stay with me is the Lyra 8. It changed my listening a lot and I love it but to be honest, those tuning knobs really take some patience. The lower they go, the more mindfulness demanded to get the wanted notes. But having grown into that routine has made tuning of the Ciat-Lonbarde instruments a breeze, so I guess I should be grateful to that sturdy little ”white angel”, annoying as it is.
The Tocante Bistab is on the whole extremely annoying and I could definitely live without it, but it’s a fun curiousity.
9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
To my surprise I´ve become a much better bass player through switching to fretless bass. Over all, everything that forces you to listen carefully, instead of having safe routes and measures laid out all the time, is good. As long as we leave the Theremin out of it, of course. And a bunch of other instruments. But – baby steps …
Artist or Band name?
Noctopolis and Mattis Hencke.
For Noctopolis I guess have to say electronic. And I would hope cinematic and emotional in its better moments. MH is more semi-classic, fairytale music and pop.
Sort of, but not really. A musical portrait 😀 .
Where are you from?
Living in Uppsala, Sweden.
How did you get into music?
Singing, drumming on biscuit tins and making up melodies from early age. Discovering the sound of synthesizers and pop music in general at the age of about 10 was a huge revelation. I took drumming and piano lessons and performed in different orchestras and ensembles but more importantly, I always wrote songs and formed different bands with my brother and schoolmates. Making noise, trying different instruments, dreaming up concepts and bouncing hissy tape recordings between decks with my friend to create full productions became very important, we learned about multitrack recording and from there it really took off. I’ve just never stopped creating and discovering music. Artists like David Sylvian, Trent Reznor, Scott Walker and Fennesz have been huge inspiration sources, as well as numerous neoclassical, ambient and post-metal artists and bands.
What still drives you to make music?
I want to create the sounds and represent feelings and pictures that I carry inside of my head and which are beyond words. I also strive to make the music I want to hear, it´s a way of life by now. Playing and making music is ta great path to get in touch with my core, so to speak. I wouldn´t call it an escape from reality – music and art contains so much more of creative, constructive reality than a lot of other miserable pastimes and preoccupations. Music can be an outlet for emotions and a recalibration of the soul and spirit. And that’s regardless of objective quality and results, as long as it leaves the performer curious and imaginative, I think.
How do you most often start a new track?
That varies a lot. Sometimes with a bassline or a sample, more often with improvising on the piano which turns into fragments of a song. Sometimes with a sung melody. There are plugins which have inspired quite a lot of my music too. The last few years I´ve started to improvise a lot on hardware electronic instruments and nowadays the Ciat-Lonbarde setup is a good starting point for exploring. I’ve got loads of recordings and snippets on the hard drive which sooner or later find their way into more ambient tracks or actual pop songs.
How do you know when a track is finished?
A good sign that I’m on the right track is when I get the sensation ”Wow, did I really create this?”. That, combined with a certain kind of childish happiness when listening to the music in an environment which is not the studio. The most difficult part, when it comes to knowing whether a track is really good or not, is to find the balance between emotional impact and cool or newly found sounds and ideas. That, and also to know that sometimes less is more, but that more is more quite as often!
Show us your current studio
It’s about 1,5 x 2,5 meters with no window. That’s definitely both a blessing and a curse.
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
Spend time away from your music before finishing it. Never mix more than one track at once. Abandon songs that keep annoying you and make you frustrated, they’re probably not that good anyway. Or (quite rarely) they are, but you need more time to grow into them.
Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.
Recent two track ambient single:
2020 ”Space trilogy” albums:
…and a sentimental little something:
They´re all at the major streaming platforms as well.
[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…]