Dean Fuller – The Washington Monument Amb

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

The RANDOMISE button on the Korg Opsix
The RANDOMISE button on the Korg Opsix

You want a gateway to all possible multiverses of music? The RANDOMISE button on the Korg Opsix will take you there. 

Maybe you just want to go to the universe next door. Korg has got you covered: You can set the level of randomisation, giving you everywhere from the tiniest variation on your current sound too.

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

Chase Bliss Dark World

Chase Bliss Dark World. It’s an ugly/beautiful reverb that makes anything sound cool. But … I want it in stereo. 
DARK on the left. WORLD on the right. Let ‘em twist and twirl together. Let them have babies with two heads and two dark hearts . I digress… 

PS. An adjustable loop length on the Chase Bliss Habit would be dope too… 

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

If I need to be agile/mobile/hostile I stick with this: Korg Volca Keys paired with a Zoom G1 Four. The Keys was my first synth, and it was cheap. The Zoom has pretty much every standard effect under the sun – and a 30 second looper. I’ve recently added the Arturia Keystep as a keyboard, because the patented Volca keyboard is a flaming trash heap.

Korg Volca Keys paired with a Zoom G1 Four and Arturia Keystep

Give it another couple of weeks and it might be the Volca FM2 instead though…

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

If Puremagnetik’s Driftmaker delay was a pedal I’d pay a ridiculous amount of money for it without a second thought. It adds such a gritty, messed up ambience to whatever it touches. Blankfor.ms had a hand in it, so you know the lofi is legit.

Puremagnetik’s Driftmaker
Puremagnetik’s Driftmaker

I don’t wish any of my hardware was a software plugin* This is not to say that I’m dismissing the digital side of music making in any way, shape or form. Plenty of great artists use it to great effect.  
I don’t use these tools because I just don’t have much time to play music.  

Booting up a computer, opening up Ableton, selecting one of an infinite array of software synths, worrying about CPU usage or RAM – all of this takes time and energy to deal with. I ain’t in a headspace (or a techspace) where I can do any of that quickly or efficiently currently. 

My hardware setup can go from POWER OFF to ready to play in about 10 seconds. Maybe a minute if I’ve got some super crazy stereo stuff I want to dial in.

 If I had a small, always on computer with enormous processing power next to my synth setup, then I’d definitely be integrating more.  

*although I am intrigued by plugins that work in tandem with my hardware pedals. When I have world enough, and time, I’ll be doing some weird n’ wild stuff with the Chase Bliss Plugin for Gen Loss 2 , as well as a user created plugin for HABIT…
 

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

Moog Mavis

Moog Mavis is the perennial underdog of my setup. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful as a single module in a larger modular setup. Oora Music gets a ton of mileage out of it as part of his suitcase of modules. On its own… you don’t have much to work with and I’m not fully ready to commit to it.
In retrospect, I wish I’d saved an extra couple of weeks and grabbed a Make Noise Strega instead. Alas, currently Mavis is a humble lowpass filter for my drum machine.  

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

I refuse to read the manual for Matt Bradshaw’s Drumkid because I wanna believe that it has a mind of its own. Sure, it’s supremely limited, but everything it does it nails. I randomise a drum pattern, and now I have a drummer that will flick in a little something extra from time to time. It’s a true collaborator – spitting its endless rhythmic ideas my way to play off. I need a good collaborator with an excellent brain to get my fingers working.  Drumkid is both.

Drumkid

Heck, a lot of the time I mute the drum channel – all I need is the groove that the Drumkid thoughtfully provides. 

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

I started off many a year ago with just a Korg Volca Keys and nothing else for like 5 years. Please note that the Keys sounds like a squealing pig until you grease it with heavy reverb. 

Korg Volca Keys

Can you blame me? I was seduced by that wonderful word: ANALOG.

Now I just want a usable sound that I can dial in quickly. 

If I could turn back time I’d grab a Volca FM instead and have every DX7 preset ever made loaded onto it. Who needs to properly learn FM synthesis if you’ve got some great presets, right? 

Also I’d get a MIDI keyboard for the thing because no-one deserves to be punished with the standard Volca ribbon keyboard. 

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

Chase Bliss Mood

I love the Chase Bliss Mood. I still don’t know what I’m doing with it half the time. I just did a session where it seemed like all the settings were reversed and maybe the thing is trying to gaslight me. I dunno man… 

But when it hits, it breaks through the fabric of reality. Even that basic reverb sounds so weird and warped and wonderful. To say nothing of its DELAY or SLIP modes. 

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

Chase Bliss Habit

Treat it right and Chase Bliss Habit can be a mono synth.
Firstly you need: 
⦁ A constant(ish) sound source/tone. 
⦁ Chase Bliss Habit.

Here’s how you do it: 

⦁ Set the MODIFY switches to A1. You are now in pitch delay mood. Twisting between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock will pitch your echoes down. Twisting it further either side will pitch your echoes up to the heavens.  
⦁ Set the DRY KILL dipswitch up to ON. Now you have no dry signal. This is very important. 
⦁ Set SIZE and SPREAD to minimum. 
⦁ Set LEVEL to maximum. 
⦁ Run your signal through HABIT. 
⦁ I like dragging my input cable over a surface for extra loftiness. Radio static is also cool.  
⦁ Twist the MODIFY knob to get your note of choice. 


Artist or Band name? 

the_washington_monument_amb 

the_washington_monument_amb

… in retrospect, this name makes me incredibly difficult to search google for. But hey, it’s mine now. 

Genre? 

Lo-fi ambient. Lofi is a fine way to hide my (currently) novice playing skills. 

The Fauna of Lo-fi ambient

Selfie? 

[immediately before an exorcism] 

Dean Fuller
Dean Fuller

Where are you from? 

The land I live on was called Boorloo before colonisation. Nowadays it’s called Perth.

Perth

How did you get into music?

My parents played me stuff that blew my mind*. My sister played me stuff that blew my mind. My friends played me stuff that blew my mind. I feel obliged to return the favour. 

*specifically, in no particular order: Elton John. Frank Zappa. Queens of the Stone Age. King Crimson. Heather Nova. Foo Fighters. South Park: Chef Aid. The Goon Show. Tom Waits. Goreki. Massive Attack. Godspeed You! Black Emperor. David Holmes. After Dinner.

What still drives you to make music? 

Vanity. I like that people like my work. Shouting into the silent abyss can get dispiriting.  

Progress. Seeing improvement today over yesterday and the day before is awfully gratifying.

Meditation. It’s been a strange few months. I’ve been keeping too much in my mind. The act of creation wipes things away, if only briefly…

How do you most often start a new track? 

Korg Opsix
Korg Opsix

I’ll hear something on my way to work from tybo_ambientsky or shimmery.mp3 or kaicarsonwest do something cool with a piece of gear that I have. I’ll spend the day consumed by the thought. I crib the settings in the margins of my workbook. I imagine all the ways that I can take this and break it and then go ham with distortion and layers until I have an ungainly tower of grain and fuzz. Then I go do it.

How do you know when a track is finished? 

When my darling tells me to go to bed. 

Bedtime

Show us your current studio

Desktop setup

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Create incessantly and with intention. Be like Prince – record all the damn time, release only the gems. And release gems all the darn time. You are an iceberg; you are a vault. The little that the public sees is supported by the vast volume of work that you toiled on out of sight. Constant introspection and evaluation will make your work better. But only if you make your work.

All but shadows and lights

I’m paraphrasing Father Bronques here. His advice took me from an unemployed student to a photographer charging $200 an hour in the space of a year. 

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

I have a YouTube that would love a few more followers. Feeling like long, long lofi ambient pieces to sleep to? Do you need to hear tape loops looping forever? This is the place to go.

Spaceman explorering the synthverse

Also @royriverswhite is a good mate of mine doing fabulous art on an early 1980’s Apple MacIntosh. We’re gonna be doing something weird. Together. Soon.


[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]


Stegonaute – Lofi Thought

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

Redson EC25 Repetition knob

I’m in love with the “repetition” knob (in French on the device) of my Redson EC25. It turns most chord progressions into space travel. The result can be extremely soft, with ethereal echoes, or very violent with destructive feedback. I use this (very lofi and cheap by the way) echo chamber as an instrument in its own right.

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

I don’t have ONE perfect kit, I like to navigate between my different devices. I will consider a perfect kit for one week before using another exclusive for the next. That’s what I like and that makes me never get bored.

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

Travel setup

I like to travel with the Arturia Microfreak because it is small, light and runs on usb battery. And when my children give me permission, I use their Nintendo 3DS with the Korg DSN12 program, which is a surprising emulation of the Korg MS10. I also bring a Sony TCM200 tape recorder to play with the different playback speeds. And of course on my Zoom H5 to record.

Nintendo 3DS with the Korg DSN12 program and a Sony TCM200 tape recorder

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

I would love to have the equivalent of Arturia’s “Fragments” plugin in pedal format. It’s a very inspiring granular processor, which can totally change a drum beat or a synth pad. I don’t use it as much as I would like because the computer is almost completely absent from my creative process now.

Arturia’s Fragments vst plugin

On the other hand, I haven’t found an echo plugin as dirty as my Redson EC25, all the space echo emulations that I have tested sound much too clean, even with an old tape simulation. So I would say a cheap tape echo plugin.

Redson EC25 Tape Echo

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

I have a love-hate relationship with the Arturia Minibrute (MKI), which I’ve bought, sold and repurchased several times. So I would say it is perfect to answer the 2 questions haha.

Arturia Minibrute

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

It’s hard to choose between my Fostex X14, which introduced me to the world of tape looping, and between the Arturia microfreak which allows me to compose outdoors, whether in the forest or on the top of a mountain.

Fostex X14

I have the Fostex for 18 years, and the Microfreak for 2 months. This makes me happy because I think there are always new things to discover and explore.

Microfreak

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

I think I would take a Mac and a UAD interface directly. I lost too much time with the computer, with my current system I almost forget it.

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

Except my computer, nothing bothers me yet !

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

I recently discovered that with a tape multitrack recorder like my Fostex I could play tapes recorded on normal devices in reverse mode. Combined with the different tape speeds, it’s pure happiness !


Artist or Band name?

Stegonaute

Genre?

Euuuh… Lofi, Trip Hop, Ambient ?

Selfie?

Stegonaute

Where are you from?

I live in a small village in the south east of France

How did you get into music?

I started at the age of 12 with the bass, then with the guitar.

What still drives you to make music?

I like exploring new sounds, traveling and letting myself be carried away. It’s my main way of expressing myself.

How do you most often start a new track?

Stegonaute’s piano covered in FX

I start most of the time on my acoustic piano, even if I don’t know how to play it. I like the fact that there’s no need to turn it on, it’s even faster than plug and play!

How do you know when a track is finished?

NEVER ! I stop working on it at some point in order to move on. Releasing EPs on the platforms allows me to say to myself “it’s over, I’m not touching it anymore!”. Otherwise I’ll still be working on it…

Show us your current studio

Stegonaute’s studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Put your phone in airplane mode.

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

Instagram @Stegonaute

Here is my latest EP : https://stegonaute.bandcamp.com/album/freefall

and my YouTube Channel


[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]


Yukes – White Ghost beyond the Great Firewall

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

Yamaha MT44 cassette tape recorder
Yamaha MT44 cassette tape recorder

If I’m being honest, the “feather touch technology” buttons on my Yamaha MT44 4-track cassette machine are just… something else entirely.

Back in the 80’s when buttons n’ switches were more mechanical and clicky, a lot of different “options” were lost to the more common ones. What we have here is a thin ribbon beneath a plastic cover with no click. Sounds bad right?

But when you press the button, it causes whatever mechanical function you triggered in the machine to violently come to life somewhere deep within the machine, causing an almost distant haptic shake, despite the button feeling almost unresponsive.

There’s a creative satisfaction to the physical start of a cassette session, of course, but my monkey brain finds some deep satisfaction in how the button feels.

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

Bamboo Xiao and reel-to-reel recorder
Bamboo Xiao and reel-to-reel recorder

My bamboo Xiao, in key of F. We really figured this stuff out 38,000 years ago, didn’t we?

I needed to buy a new xiao when I arrived in Chengdu a few months ago, and got one at a shop that sounded the nicest. I realized it sounded so nice because I bought one in the key of F, not G, so it’s lower with a substantially deeper, woodier sound.

I don’t have any electric gear I consider perfect. I’m a big optimist and love all the gear I have, but there’s always something frustrating, missing, or something lacking that causes desire. Not enough inputs. Too much menu diving. Too complex. Not complex enough.

But the Xiao? Thousands of years of technological advancement and this baby’s not going anywhere.

The only improvement I could ask for is a pickup mic that’s easier to install and doesn’t require a button battery. Those things are so unpredictable.

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

Roland SP404a
Roland SP404a

Gotta go with a classic. My SP404a’s been going with me everywhere. Lightweight, not too big, runs off AA’s, and swappable storage means I can switch between a dozen projects within seconds. If I’m playing a live set, I’m already committed to bringing a zither around that’s 1m, or 1.6m. the rest of my gear is gigantic and heavy; but with this lil’ guy I could feasibly run an internal mic in, throw on some simple reverb, and have as many backing tracks as I want, all with performance effects… Even without making beats on the go, this thing is a workhorse. 
It’s a shame the new one is so hard to get.

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

Software to Hardware: I adore Output – Portal. Its interface, it’s complexity, everything about this plugin suits me and the sort of ambience I share with my audience here. If I could get this into a little box with an XLR input, oh man. Feels like game over. I’ve genuinely considered buying a micro-PC with a 7in’ touch screen, programming an auto-launch and building it myself.

Gamechanger Audio Plus Pedal with Guzheng
Gamechanger Audio Plus Pedal with Guzheng

Hardware to software: To me there’s nothing more immediately satisfying than how Gamechanger Audio has mastered minimal granular synthesis with the Plus Pedal. I’d love to find some function within a DAW that let me capture the last few moments of audio and mess around with the grain, in such an instantaneous way.

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

Guzheng and pedal board live setup
Live setup and pedal board

I’m not ashamed to admit that my music gear affixation was preceded by nearly 10 years of struggling to know what was right for me. When I was experimenting with a custom electric ukulele in college, I wanted something to make ambience with. I don’t know how on earth I settled on the Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar. That’s… like a $300, very specific pedal which they say ‘is an instrument in its own right.’ A sort of synth pedal. I was fascinated by the concept of generating sympathetic drones based on what note i played. In retrospect what I actually wanted was shimmer and freeze. 
I never got the hang of it. I still try.
I also had a Line6 DL4 back in the day. I really never got a sound out of it that I liked, but I spent way too much of what little money I had back then, to get it. 
Forgive the photo; it’s the only pic I have of both pedals together on my makeshift pedalboard.  

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

Novation Circuit and little buddy keyboard
Novation Circuit and little buddy keyboard

The sheer number of micro beats I’ve made on the original Novation Circuit I just got is perplexing. Right now my social media strategy in China is based on quantity, so as much as I want to craft bigger and better songs, posting something new every day is more important for growth. And this thing just churns out ideas and concepts.

I can sit with it far away from my desk, run it off batteries, and even use its internal speaker, and get a little beat together in less than 5 minutes.

Omnisphere may have been what opened me up to the most tangible productivity and hours put in, but as for sheer number of songs, nothing comes close to what the circuit could do for me.


Elektron Digitone

Elektron Digitone and Marshall speaker

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

Given the nature of being an expat, this is a far more tangible and realistic question than normal. I try not to get too attached to my gear because realistically I may need to leave it all behind someday. But I don’t let that stop me from acquiring (mostly second hand) gear that doesn’t fit inside a suitcase. Don’t let international politics ruin your interests. 

If I sold it all and started fresh somewhere else, I’d probably start with a Microcosm as my main effect processor, and stick to ambient music for a while. After that, I’d probably start fresh with Elektron, starting with a Digitone. My friend loaned me this beast for the weekend and I’m in love. Then a 404mkII as a hardware unit, and finally pick a keyboard. Novation Summit if I could afford it. Otherwise maybe a Komplete keyboard, A49 I reckon. But honestly I’d be fine with just a Digitone and Microcosm. As long as I can find a dope instrument shop nearby.

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

White Native Instruments Maschine
Native Instruments Maschine

Native Instruments Maschine. Putting 9 hours into tutorials on LinkedIn Learning (of all places) was unarguably the biggest leap forward in my music production skills, but it set me up in a music production environment which is sort of toxic in how un-intuitively it works with other software. No hotkeys, terrible mouse navigation… it’s like I’ve been cursed.

If you’ve ever tried to work with Maschine as a VST within Ableton or Logic you’d know what I mean. It’s great on its own, but my god, it’ll choke anything but the strongest computers.

I’ve tried working without it. Tried learning the drum rack on Ableton, session view… but nothing is as fast and intuitive to me.

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

Using the SP404 sampler as a synth
Using the SP404 sampler as a synth

I made a video recently about using a sampler as a synthesizer, using only its internal multi-effects. It was a simple idea that I had, which really blew up into an incredibly complex and wonderful challenge in makeshift synthesis.

I designed the technique as a means of exploring and internalizing what effects truly sound like (what does a bit crash do to a sine wave?) but now realize it’s a great way to really understand what effects can do. I’d encourage anyone with a fancy pedal or getting into magnetic tape recording to try dropping basic waveshapes through it and listening to what comes out.


Artist or Band name?

Yukes玉刻

Genre?

Ambient / Chinawave

Selfie?

Yukes aka. Justin Scholar
Yukes

Where are you from?

New York, New York, currently based in Chengdu, China.

How did you get into music?

Trained in jazz & classic trombone throughout school. I tried music so many times as a kid and never really enjoyed it until I tried ukulele, which led me to mandolin, mountain dulcimer, banjo, then all sorts of folk instruments. While studying abroad I fell in love with the Chinese Zither (Guzheng) and came back several years later to make a career out of playing traditional Chinese instruments in Shanghai. It’s started working out quite well recently.

What still drives you to make music?

I found something that works for me. I discovered a niche with wide public appeal, which is proving to be very lucrative and creatively liberating. Breathing new life into traditional instruments has given me a lifetime of new territory to explore, and my relatively new fixation on gear adds the geeky satisfaction as well. Cassette tapes are scratching the lofi / esoteric itch, and all the brand sponsorships (Eventide, Focusrite, Novation, NI) are offering some real sense of authenticity.

How do you most often start a new track?

I leave my acoustic instruments strewn about the studio. I’ll pick it up, fingerpick til I find a strange new chord, strike up a simple rhythm on a sampled CR-78, and try to record it simply. From there it’ll likely become a demo; if not, I’ll record a video of my fingers while I play, then save it for later. My muscle memory is terrible.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When the call of everything else I’m working on grows too loud to ignore, I anxiously polish up whatever I’m working on, wherever it’s at, and ship it out.

It’s… really not ideal, but it’s better than perfectionism and never finishing.

Show us your studio?

Yukes Studio. Novation Circuit. Sp404a. Yamaha 4-track. Launchpad. MicroKorg. Eventide H9.
Yukes’ Studio

My girlfriend and I have been artists-in-residence for nearly a year now, so we’ve been sort of living out of a few flight cases. Our studio’s nothing to write home about, but the environment outside is unreasonably beautiful. 

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Always be ready to entertain.

It was a practical piece of advice, given to me by a seasoned acoustic musician who was dabbling in electronics. The basic nature of the idea is that you need to be able to make music anytime, with anything, if only your voice, or with any instrument you’re handed.

One time I was the guest of honor for a government project in Wuxi, China, the governer walked in and asked me to play something from my home country. I didn’t have any instrument on me, so I immediately started singing “I Wish My Baby Was Born” by Tim Eriksen. I would’ve liked some accompaniment, but it was what I had on me, and what was in my head at the time.

But the lesson goes deeper than that. Learn to learn, don’t learn to master. Be ready to try any instrument that’s put in front of you. As a left-handed musician, I’ve come to terms with the fact that no one will ever hand me a left-handed guitar at a party and ask for a song. So I’ve learned upside down.

John Lennon said, “I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.” Whatever situation you’re given in life, be the artist and make the best out of it.

You’re never gonna cure your GAS. You’re never going to have every piece of gear you desire, and even if you could, you couldn’t reach it all from one place. And you won’t always have a big enough table. More than half my gear is sitting in a basement in a terribly locked-down Shanghai, I don’t know when I’ll get it back. But I’m making great use of what I have.

So whatever your lot in life is, make the most out of it.  

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

After years and years, I’ll finally release my single this month. Search up Yukes玉刻 on Spotify and follow meet_yukes on Instagram for a look into life as a musician in China. Good stuff, lots of chillout, ambience and fun stuff.