Urspring – Durch Veraltet Technik

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

The panning dials on the Yamaha MT-120S cassette recorder are just yummy.

I like the pan dials on my Yamaha MT-120 four track cassette recorder. Not as much for what they do, but how they feel and how they enable me to actually play the stereo field simultaneously with 4 fingers. If they were designed as knobs you could only control 2 at a time, in an easy way. But they are designed as dials almost like the 4 encoders on the OP-Z and therefore you can control all four at the same time with one finger at each dial.

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

Elektron Digitakt and Digitone

We are always in endless search for a perfect bit of kit, aren’t we? Haha! Well I don’t think there will ever be a perfect kit – especially not a perfect kit for all times. For me an inspirational kit changes over time. 10 years ago it would have been Ableton Live and a Push. Or simply just an acoustic guitar.

These days I’m tripping over the Digitakt/Digitone combo after watching a Patreon video by Jogging House. I think these two in combination simply allows me to translate melody and sonic texture ideas very easily to tracks that I can then record straight to my 2-track Revox B77.

The Digitakt/Digitone also lets me sit down and make music without sitting in front of a laptop screen. I have a non-music related daytime job where I’m in front of a screen all the time. And music making with hardware has almost become a kind of meditative activity away from the screen. Where the perfect combo is the Digitakt/Digitone … At least it is for me.

I also really dig the Ciat Lonbarde Cocoquantus and Deerhorn in combo with the Digitone.

Ciat Lonbarde Cocoquantus and Deerhorn

There are instruments that when you master them, they almost become an extension of yourself. They let the feelings you are expressing flow without friction. Like the piano or the acoustic guitar.

Then there is gear the keeps surprising you. Like a good band mate. It’s gear that you always have an interesting conversation with. The Cocoquantus is like that.

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

These days I’m bringing the Digitakt/Digitone combo. But sometimes just the OP-1. It’s sometimes really hard for me to get into the creative flow and mood when only having small islands of time, like 20 minutes, between family time. But now I’m better at telling myself “you’re not suppose to make an album now. You’re just having fun!” That inner voice is my friend.
So I often bring my OP-1 to the summer house.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

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

I almost never use compressors in my composing these days, but I like the Vulf Compressor VST for it’s distinct lo-fi squeezed Madlib sound. I could definitely see a use for this as a hardware pedal in my setup. But then again I might just throw a Boss SP-303 into my setup. The Vulf Compressor is heavily inspired by the ’Vinyl Sim’ effect on the SP-303, which is a radically weird compression algorithm.
These days I’m mostly into a DAWless approach, so I don’t have any hardware that I wished was software.

Vulf Compressor

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

I’m really not that much of a gear flipper. I try to have a minimal setup with only a limited set of handpicked pieces. I tend to stick with a piece of gear for way too long before letting it go. I still have a Push 1 laying around, haha. However I see this changing quickly because somehow the amount of gear on my desk has multiplied lately!
Anyways, I don’t really regret buying or selling anything, but one thing I regret NOT buying was a secondhand Juno 6 about ten years ago. The price was around 400-500 euros at that time, and at the last minute I decided that I didn’t have the space for it. Well, now the prices have rocketed out of the atmosphere, and I’m still looking at Junos. Poor me.

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

No doubt it would be the 4 track cassette recorder. When I was around 13 my dad had a 4 track Fostex, that lived in my room. Back then in the nineties I made hip-hop parodies, sad core indie and I recorded my grunge band with that piece of gear.

When listening back today I must admit that most of the music was kind of crap. But I still remember the excitement and feeling of loosing myself 100% in music making for tens of hours and the feeling of listening back and thinking “this track rocks”.
Fast forward 30 years and I was still using a Fostex 4 track (another device though) as a core device in an electronic duo Klingerhult with Martin – yes the editor of this blog.

[Editor: Hello everyone 🙂 … if you’re curios about us? Then check out Klingerhult here]

Yamaha 4-track cassette recorder MT120

I’m also still using the 4 track cassette recorder now as a simple mixer, with tape loops, for pitch and reverse effects, resampling and for crunchy overdrive.
I just like the texture and sound of tape recorders.

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

An Op-1. Then I would sit down for tens of hours and just go with the flow.

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

At the moment it’s mildly annoying to tune the Ciat Lonbarde Deerhorn to a chromatic scale. It’s like Petter Blasser (who invented it) intentionally made it almost impossible, like a big “screw you” statement. But when it is in tune it is so liberating and relaxing to play the notes with the hands on top of an ambient bed. And here’s the thing: Tuning has become a way of clearing my mind, like an inlet for getting into the zone.
But the Deerhorn is not the easiest beast to tame.

Ciat Lonbarde Deerhorn

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

I like the sound of flaws and almost broken things. Whenever I use a bit of gear that supports that, I think I’m more inspired and make more music. For example, when using tape loops or just using tape machines I often find myself deliberately exaggerate the flutter and wobble effect by holding a finger on the tape reels or shaking the dictaphone or walkman. In that way it’s possible to control the pitch flaws almost like playing an instrument. The tape machines are probably not that
happy about it. But it’s fun!


Artist or Band name?

Urspring

Genre?

Ambient I guess

Selfie?

Rasmus Rune Larsen aka. Urspring

Where are you from?

I grew up in the endless suburbs of Odense in Denmark, but currently I’m living in Copenhagen.

How did you get into music?

My parents were music teachers at elementary school and I grew up with guitars, amplifiers and synths in my home. Then I watched MTV and wanted to be like Nirvana, Beck, Beastie Boys and all the rest. It all got rolling from there…

What still drives you to make music?

Music is the art form that, by far, resonates the most with me. I make music simply because I need to. In particular making ambient music is to me an effective way of expressing abstraction.

How do you most often start a new track?

Most often I start by fumbling with a naive and cheesy melody loop and then build upon that from there. But there’s no clear recipe. I could also be a dusty pad loop or a drone done with the Lyra. I can also be really inspired by a track that has a part, a texture or sound that I like. I often wonder how they made it and suddenly I’m switching on my gear, and going exploring.

The Lyra is a really good track starter.

Revox B77 Reel to reel and Lyra-8

How do you know when a track is finished?

It’s finished when you keep adding new things and it’s making it all worse 🙂
Well, I’m not sure it’s that simple. Most often it’s a kind of feeling that is hard to explain. It’s when you somehow suddenly can see that the track has got its own personality and you can see it as a part of the family.

Show us your current studio

Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of a separate room for my music studio. My studio space is a multi functional, shared family space in my apartment: It’s a home workplace, a walk in closet, a pathway to my daughters room and a hang out
place. So there’s not much room to go crazy with blinking lights, knobs, faders and keys.

Urspring coming out of the closet

Nonetheless I’m quite happy with this little studio space in the corner.
One thing I have done is hack an IKEA storage system (BESTÅ) so it’s almost
a hidden music studio. Open the storage doors, let the ambient spirit out and rock on! (but very softly and quietly)

Spring tank
Great British Spring Reverb
Pianette

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

“Make sure you are having fun!” Quote by Jogging House on his Patreon blog. If you are into making ambient music I can highly recommend supporting Boris and joining this fantastic community over at his Discord server. It’s a really supporting and friendly place.

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

I’m still working on an actual release. But until then you can follow Urspring at:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/urspring_/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwiEV85XM7cEElzmEOdfmtg


William Stewart – W1llys

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

Uher Speed Knob

The speed selector on my Uher. The older model has a tiny gear shift for selecting the speed, but the new one just has a knob; a knob with a nice feel and weight. When you move it, you can feel the shifting of the gears inside as the mechanisms thunk into place. It’s immensely satisfying.

Uher Speed Lever
Uher Tape recorders

My second place choice is the hi-hat decay knob on my 808 clone. Riding that during a groove is endless fun.

808 Hihat decay knob

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

It might be the SE-02. The first synth I really learned how to use was the SH-09. It taught me how flexible a simple architecture can be, and how rewarding learning how each piece of a synth works together is. It taught me that the controls are as much a part of the instrument as the keys. Ever since then, no synth has been as fun to play as a solid monosynth.

Roland SE-02

The SE-02’s very much in the same vein, and it seems to be able to scratch every sonic itch I have. The delay’s grainy in all the right ways. The filter has a character that doesn’t make me think “Moog” for some reason. The filter has grit, filth, and somehow feels cold. Not machine cold, but unfeeling in the same that the universe is. When that filter sweeps just right it feels like the dawn, it feels like the slow and sudden heat as the sun rises in the morning. I love this thing. There’s magic in the way the envelopes and filter interact with the delay.

There are three things I’d change. The first thing I’d change is the knob taper. It’s exponential and it makes playing the knobs an extremely delicate procedure. The second is I really wish I had full ADSRs. That extra level of control would be much more welcome than panel controls for portamento. The third is the sequencer. It would be a lot nice if I could have longer sequences, and I really wish the sequence transpose could latch.

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

The obvious answer here is the OP-Z. It’s fun, quick, and easy to use. It’s also super easy to take on a plane. Making a full track with just this is surprisingly easy and fun. It definitely caught me off guard with how user friendly and fun it is to use.

Teenage Engineering OP-Z

Realistically and historically, though, my preference is to bring either the Volca FM and Mini KP or the Roland SE-02. When I sit down to play I’m not typically trying to write or work on a song. Usually I just want to explore a sound or a musical phrase. The SE-02 and Volca FM are excellent for sound exploration. If I want to make a minimalist composition these are my go-to pieces of gear, and fortunately they’re small enough for a carry-on.

Korg Volca FM and Kaoss Pad Mini

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

I am (un)fortunately a luddite. When I record or make music it’s almost entirely analog. One thing I wish I could do with my hardware setup is automate parameter controls. There are ways to do this if I went modular. If I used software I know I could automate some of the parameters of my physical instruments. Bringing Windows, Mac, or Linux into my setup would violate a lot of what my setup’s built on: spontaneity. I can write and record a song relatively quickly and easily, without worrying about system updates or getting sucked down the black hole that is the internet.

Analog recording

This is typically just called a DAWless setup. But I really don’t like that nomenclature. It defines a musical approach as being the absence of something, in a way. Really I just like playing instruments and don’t want to try and play a computer like an instrument.

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

DSI Prophet 6

The Prophet 6 is a rare animal. I’ve bought a lot of gear that I regretted, but this one the only one I’m keeping. It sounds great and it’s super flexible, but it has a lot of little design choices that drive me nuts. The problem is it sounds sooooo good. So, when I use it I love the sounds I get, but I always find myself frustrated by something.

It seems like it’s made for people working in studios who want to lay down tracks, or sample its lush sounds to use in a DAW. Regardless, it doesn’t seem to be made for my workflow.

DSI Prophet 6

But I am going to keep it around because it sounds ridiculously nice. The sound is so rich and deep I forget how annoying it was to program it. It’s like hiking up a mountain with uncomfortable shoes. It’s a real pain at times, but the views you get make the discomfort worth it.

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

The Volca FM is definitely my most inspiring. It’s endlessly versatile, and has more features under its hood than it has any right to for its size and price point. It has the wild and wiry sounds FM is known for, and the limited controls on the surface are deceptive in their simplicity. It’s easy to rely on presets, and tweaking the few controls on the surface gets you tons of control. It also plays nicely with any effect you want to pair it with.

Korg Volca FM

It’s an instrument I have a love-hate relationship with, though. I’ve owned three of them. Whenever I try to dive into the parameters to do some deep editing, it make me want to toss it out the window. The balance of features, and how easy it is to switch between playing modes to introduce variations makes it really fun to play.

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

The Jazzmaster. Even though any synthesizer can run sonic circles around any guitar/pedal combo, it feels more emotional to play than any synth or drum machine. Fiddling around with the different intervals on the neck taught me everything I know about music, too. It’s cliche as hell, but playing a guitar with some fuzz and delay could keep me happy forever.

Fender Jazzmaster

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

The Zoia is hands down the most useful and inconvenient piece of gear I own. If I have an idea that I can’t achieve with anything else, the Zoia can usually get me close enough. It does what it does better than anything else I know of, but I wouldn’t want to use it with a band.

Empress Effects Zoia

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

Envelopes are surprisingly underrated. Clones of “good” ones don’t really get talked about, and people don’t really seem to covet and worship the exact curves of one over another’s.

No two synths I’ve played have had the same envelopes. Each one has its own type of pluck, swell, and decay. It feels like they’re what transform a synth into a playable instrument. I wish there was more emphasis on modulating and controlling their parameters. Slight modifications to the decay of an adsr can completely transform a bland sequence. They really breath life into every sound.


Artist or Band name?

Willy

Genre?

I’ve never been good at sticking to a genre. It seems to waffle between synthwave, cinematic, harsh noise, and synth-pop.

Selfie?

William ‘Willy’ Stewart

Where are you from?

Benson, Utah

How did you get into music?

My mom signed me up to play violin in my middle school’s orchestra. After that it was relatively easy to play bass in my friend’s band. From there I was hooked.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s an emotional thing mainly. It helps me experience my emotions. Lately when I sit down to play it’s after a rough day, and it helps me process what’s happened. Other times, it’s when I’m feeling numb, and playing helps me open up and experience my emotions. This is essentially why I haven’t recorded very much music. It’s usually an expression of anxiety, depression, or fear. So, I don’t really want to live in that moment long enough to record it.

How do you most often start a new track?

Most often it’s with a riff or a phrase. I’ll have an idea for a sound, or find one via knob twiddling, and then I see what notes feel good with that sound. Once I’ve got something that makes me happy, I start seeing what other sounds I can layer in to compliment the original sound.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When I can listen to it without wincing, and it doesn’t feel empty. If I can listen without wincing it means I don’t have anything to redo, and as long as it sounds “full” I don’t need to add anything else.

Show us your current studio

William’s studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Play every day. Some variant of that’s what I hear all the time from everyone, but there really is no better advice. In my twenty years of music making experience, this advice has always held true. If you’re not inspired then try learning theory, practicing your technique, try reproducing real world sounds with synthesizers, try something outside of your comfort zone, or just have fun making noises. Keep at it every day to keep your tools sharp, then you’ll be ready to act when you actually have something to play.

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

The only places I regularly post anything are my Instagram and tiktok.


Paul Cousins – Reel-in-Vibes

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

The play switch on my Akai X-100D reel-to-reel. It’s extremely sturdy and has a very rewarding click. It’s 56 years old and works perfectly, which just blows my mind. There’s something pleasing about having to use physical energy to make sound happen.

Akai X-100D reel-to-reel

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

Roland Juno 6

A slight cheat on this answer. I thought my Juno 6 was somehow inferior to the Juno 60 (which is what I truly wanted) because it doesn’t have memory patches. That would’ve been my answer, but I’ve grown to love and appreciate the fact that the instrument exists as it is – whatever you want from it you have to make happen. It’s a productive way to learn how to use a synth because there are fewer shortcuts. See also anything pre Prophet-5.

Tape machines

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

On writing trips I just take a laptop and good headphones. So AKG K701s get packed!

AKG K701

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

I’d love a software version of the Empress Echosystem, it’s my favorite pedal. And if there were somehow a rackmount version of the Fabfilter Pro-MB I’d be all over it!

Empress Echosystem

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

I once sold a 1973 Gibson EB0 to the bass player from Showaddywaddy. It was a really beautiful bass, no idea why I did that. And the second synth I ever bought was an Alesis something… which I didn’t gel with at all and regretted pretty quickly.

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

The Roland Space Echo RE-201. It’s just the most amazing piece of engineering, half a century old and it can still create magic from nowhere. I use it any chance I get.

Roland Space Echo RE-201

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

A good set of monitors. I think this is the most valuable piece of equipment you can own. Currently I’m loving the PMC Result 6.

PMC Result 6

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

I’d have to say the amp powering my Yamaha NS10’s, it buzzes slightly but I always need to use them. It’s on my to do list!

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

Watkins Copicat

I think using the pre amps of echo machines is often overlooked. Just driving a guitar or bass through a Copicat or Space Echo is the most awesome tone. Same with reel-to-reel, they can be overloaded to produce amazing results.


Artist or Band name?

Paul Cousins

Genre?

Ambient, Tape, Experimental

Selfie?

Paul Cousins

On tour in Mordor

Where are you from?

London

How did you get into music?

I’d been singing and playing bass in bands for a number of years before I started making electronic music.

What still drives you to make music?

Finding a point of creative satisfaction.

How do you most often start a new track?

I’ve recently got into writing a short piece, transferring it to tape loops, and playing it back through various effects or in some obtuse setup. The original piece comes back like a weird photocopy of its former self. There’s something about transferring music to a physical format that revives it from a potentially anodyne digital state and gives it a different life. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

You stop wanting to mix it.

Show us your current studio

The organized chaos of my studio is frankly an embarrassment. Instead here’s a heavily curated corner featuring my new upright piano and an Akai 4000DS.

Upright piano and an Akai 4000DS

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Music is the silence between the notes. Which Debussy said over a century ago, but has never lost relevance!

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

A recent 20 min ambient reel-to-reel mix: https://youtu.be/_g7Kurux36w

[Editor: Paul also has a quite lovely and lively instagram @paulcousinsmusic which I don’t think you should miss out on]