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]


Joseph Willem Ricci-Anima&Ennui

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

Fender Ramparte goes all the way up to 16!

My amp goes up not to 10, not to 11, but all the way up to the hilariously arbitrary number of 16. It’s a Fender Ramparte, and although it looks like it belongs on the stage of a hushed, smoky, late-night show at an upscale 1950’s jazz club, it—well… as Music Radar puts it—”requires anti-social volume levels to avoid intrusive hum”. Honestly, it’s a bit of a gimmicky amp which I’m not particularly proud of, but I do genuinely love that its two volume knobs are its only knobs. No tone, no drive, no reverb. Keep it simple.

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

Walrus Audio Slö reverb pedal

The Walrus Audio Slö reverb pedal is my baby. It’s whole thing is that it pitch-modulates the wet signal. I plug my acoustic guitar into it when playing live, and when subtly mixed in, it creates the subconscious sensation that everything is slightly moving, like a boat in an easy current. It’s a really musical pedal, and I like to adjust the mix while I’m playing to give the guitar an element of changing depth, but holy hell do I wish you could plug an expression pedal into it, because turning the tiny mix knob with my right foot while playing a difficult guitar part and singing requires way more concentration than is actually reasonable.

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

I’m one for bringing a guitar with me just about everywhere I go.

Guitar up a mountain

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

Well, the hardware of this software does already exist, but I don’t own one and sure, I wouldn’t mind if I did. That’d be the hardware version of the Minimoog iOS app.

Mighty Moog

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

In October I had a really remarkable week in which I broke my Martin (like, I mean smashed it), computer, phone, bike (twice) and rain jacket. I panicked and sold my classical guitar, a really nice Takamine TH90. I wish I would have just taken a couple extra days to breathe before letting it go, because the world always has a way of coming through for you when you need it to.

Takamine TH90

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

Lately, my newest toy, a Korg Minilogue XD has been opening up a whole new world for me. I don’t know how to play anything on the keys except for the intro to “Roses” by Outkast, so it’s been an amazing exercise to sit down and write with no focus on melody, chords or structure, and instead get my head deep into exclusively texture, color, tone, and movement. And it’s been interesting to discover that, after years of writing songs only on guitar, a piece can feel complete without any of the former qualities, as long as it meaningfully explores the latter ones.

Korg Minilogue XD

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

One good microphone. I recorded most of my band’s album on one of those cheap Audio Technica mics. There’s a lot that I would do differently if starting over, but at the very least I wish I knew that as soon as that precious frequency spectrum enters that black hole of a microphone, much of it is never coming back.

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

Martin 00-15

My Martin 00-15. Although I had already been playing guitar for almost fifteen years before getting it, it was my first ever really nice guitar. It’s warm, responsive, has subtle, nuanced overtones and overall is just a joy to play. But, what I didn’t expect when I got it, is that it shows me how much better I could play. On a shitty guitar, the difference in sound between playing something well and playing something poorly isn’t really that big. But on this one, a perfectly played chord or passage—with just the right fretting pressure and position, just the right picking contact point between fingernail and fingertip, just the right balance in emphasis of the bass, middle and treble lines, just the right transition between chords while the resonance from the last one lingers in the body for a moment… you get the idea—sounds and feels SO good that, while it has taught me to become a more sensitive player, it has also made it abundantly clear how much subtlety there is to the instrument, and how far there is to go.

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

If you have a guitar, buy a gig bag and go for a bike ride. At some point during the ride, fall off your bike directly onto your back so your guitar catches your fall and smashes under your weight. Then find a luthier or repair person to fix it, and voila: your guitar will sound even better.

Korg and Walrus and Song cassette tape

Jk. Def don’t do that. Maybe a more useful tip: I always wanted to play the sounds of nature on my analog instruments. This little set up gets pretty close to that. I take a cassette with the sound of running water, birds chirping, or wind in the trees, and merge the signal together with the signal of my guitar or synth. Then I run the merged signal into my Walrus Slö reverb pedal on auto-swell and with 100% wet mix. Since the auto-swell reverb tail is triggered by change of amplitude, it acts as a gate for the soft, ambient nature sounds. But when you play your instrument, it triggers the auto-swell, letting through the merged signal of the instrument plus the sound of running water.


Artist or Band name?

Anima & Ennui. Maybe future music will be under a different name… maybe not.

Genre?

The released music is folk mixed with various other influences. Future music is yet to be categorized.

Selfie?

Joseph Willem Ricci

Where are you from?

Arlington, Massachusetts, USA

How did you get into music?

I was listening to Arnold Schoenberg in the womb. That’s to say through my parents 🙂

What still drives you to make music?

I feel like it would be almost criminal to not bring into the world the music that is in my head. Just as I don’t belong to myself, my music doesn’t belong to me—it belongs to the world.

How do you most often start a new track?

Songs seem to start when I’m not trying to do anything in particular. Non-doing. Fiddling around. Then when a certain fiddle or theme or accident suddenly catches my attention, suddenly feels like the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard, that’s when it starts.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When it feels right. That’s it.

Show us your current studio

Joseph Willem Ricci’s Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Mistakes don’t exist.

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

2020 album is online. Anima & Ennui – An & En. For a taste of a different, more recent direction though:

https://soundcloud.com/anima_x_ennui/ywayvdre4xkz/s-nMLQ4Uk5jGl


[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…
]


Shipwreck Detective – Dev Bhat

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

I love the knobs on Chase Bliss pedals. They have responsive, precise dialing and feel durable.

Chase Bliss Mood

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

The Empress Effects Zoia is beautiful and versatile when it comes to sound and design. It’s a studio and performance mainstay for me. It’s nearly perfect, however the tweaking of effects is not as immediate as on a dedicated effect pedal. I’d also love to get weirder with the ins/outs, like routing an fx send to an external loop of other effects and then back in. But that’s a small trade-off for what the pedal is already capable of — which is a lot.

Empress Effects Zoia

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

I don’t spend much time making music when traveling, but I once took the OP-1 on holiday, and it was the perfect tool for creating little sketches inspired by the moment or the day. I treated it like an audio travel journal. If I’d had the Zoia at the time, I’d have also loved to bring that.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 and Empress Effects Zoia

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

I’m not very familiar with software. I used Reason for production many years ago when I was first getting into electronic music composition, and the detailed graphic interface had a lot to do with why I eventually became more interested in hardware. On the flip side, if there were a software version of the Chase Bliss Mood (or some kind of similarly playful granular/sampling effect), I’d definitely be interested in exploring it. The only software I use these days is Logic to record.

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

I don’t get attached to most gear, but I regretted selling my Moog Sub 37 a few years ago. I tried to fill the hole it left with a Matriarch, but the Matriarch could not have been more different. I recently reunited with the Sub 37, and the Matriarch is up for sale. 

Moog Sub37 and Matriarch

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

The OP-1 has played a major role in a lot of the music that I’ve released in the past couple years. Its digital tape opens up so many possibilities for texture and looping. I like to record directly to the OP-1 tape, experiment with the tape speed, and process more when I find something I like. I’ve also used my pedalboard to create most of the sounds that eventually end up on the OP-1 tape. I treat it like an independent sampler.

Teenage Engineering OP-1, Empress Effects Zoia and a Tascam Porta-03
Moog and FX Pedalboard friends

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

I don’t think I would change anything gear-wise, but I do wish I had had a better understanding of what I wanted to create. Now that I know which textures and atmospheres I want to convey, I can better figure out which instruments are best suited for that sound. Then again, I wouldn’t have figured that out any other way than through trial and error. My very first synth was an Alesis Micron, bought from a second-hand instrument shop in Santa Cruz. I don’t have that synth anymore and probably wouldn’t use it now, but I love what I learned from it. I feel that way about most gear: each piece of gear teaches me something even if I don’t end up keeping it.

[Editor: I feel exactly the same way. Sometimes I even think that buying a new piece of gear is like borrowing the musical-brain from a gear-maker. Using a great piece of gear really feels like a conversation]

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

I thought this would be a tough question until I looked over at my Octatrack Mkii. It’s a pain in the ass, and I love it. I purchased it thinking I’d use it as a super powerful looper or for chopping guitar samples to use in my band. Instead I use it as an advanced, MIDI-powered mixer that can do stereo looping and some light DJ effects. It’s a kind of hub for my jams that I can’t imagine not having. 

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

That method of using the Octatrack as a mixer comes straight from Enrique Martinez. His videos completely re-contextualized the instrument for me. Thinking about the Octatrack in terms of tangible use cases made it far less intimidating.

Elektron Octatrack

Artist or Band name?

Shipwreck Detective

Genre?

Ambient downtempo drone stuff

Selfie?

Dev Bhat aka. Shipwreck Detective

Where are you from?

San Francisco

How did you get into music?

My first instrument was the trumpet, but discovering rock, especially metal, punk, and industrial music, as a teenager was transformative. Music videos were unashamedly a big part of this. The sound blew my mind, and seeing musicians interact with their instruments and each other also changed the way I interpreted that sound. It looked a lot more fun and expressive than what I’d been doing (sitting and playing old symphonic music in the school band). So I took guitar lessons for a little while and eventually taught myself bass and drums. I just wanted to be in bands and play shows. That’s still all I want. 

What drives you to make music?

A combination of expression and exploration. I want to express the way I feel on the inside through sound and texture. I have a hard time understanding myself most of the time, and exploring sound feels the same as exploring my own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it’s warm and soothing. Other times it’s noisy and confusing. I love music because it doesn’t have to have words; there doesn’t need to be an explanation. It can just be. 

How do you most often start a new track?

How I’m feeling informs the overall tone. Then I establish an atmosphere and sense of place that the track is happening within. I build everything from a base texture like a synth drone, guitar loop, field recording, or maybe a percussive noise (I’m also a drummer, so sometimes I’ll start with beats before melodies).

How do you know a track is finished?

A track is done when it matches the atmosphere in my head and when I feel like I’ve challenged my own conventions at least a little bit. 

Show us your current studio

Shipwreck Detective Studio
Shipwreck Detective Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

The phrase “keep it simple, stupid” has become an ethos for how I make music. I appreciate art that has a minimalist, uncomplicated, or even un-finished element to it. Not to say I don’t appreciate complexity, but there’s a potent energy when something is done quick and dirty—using only what was necessary—and then left that way. It preserves the raw emotion that too much polish can destroy. 

Promote your latest thing

My most recent thing as Shipwreck Detective is a long-form streamed performance that I did for a small group called Man vs. Machine. The audio for that is at shipwreckdetective.bandcamp.com

I’ve also been making music with a new band, Grimoires, and look forward to releasing some songs with them soon.

[Editor: Dev also does a lovely instagram @ShipwreckDetective]


[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…
]