Megan Leber – Modular Mist

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

Lots, but one of them is the “Tone” knob on the Desmodus Versio. Try turning that reeeaaally slowly 😉 Also every fader from Gaz’ modules (Big T Music LTD), they just feel so sturdy and smooth!

Rangoon and Monsoon from Big T Music LTD  eurorack module
Rangoon and Monsoon from Big T Music LTD

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

This is such a hard question! Well, a bit unexpected maybe, but I’m going for a VST here: Cycles by Slate & Ash. It’s just spot on for me, I could create an entire album using just that. The atmospheres you can get out of there, the subtle movements, the gorgeous effects, the sequencer, the granular part. It’s still so inspiring after 2 years of using it. I also love the Xone 96 by Allen & Heath, this mixer is perfect for my live performances.

Xone 96 by Allen & Heath
Xone 96 by Allen & Heath

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

If I have to bring as little as possible I’d bring my Digitone or Tasty Chips GR-1 and Octatrack. But if I’d do a tour I’d probably add something.

Tasty Chips GR-1
Tasty Chips GR-1

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

Paulstretch and definitely Cycles + Landforms from Slate & Ash. Their software is mindblowing! And vice versa: Intellijel Rainmaker.

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

No! 🙂 You can learn something from every piece of gear. If something doesn’t spark joy anymore or stops inspiring you, just let it go. For instance I recently sold my Mannequins Mangrove and Three Sisters and I think many people would have kept them because they’re so hard to obtain nowadays. But that’s no reason for me to keep stuff.

Three Sisters Module
Three Sisters Module

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

All of my granular modules (Arbhar, Morphagene, Monsoon)! And I’d say that Cycles by Slate & Ash inspired me so much, that it really got me to produce regularly again and to feel creative. It even got me looking into modular again until I couldn’t stop myself from buying the first modules. Since I started with modular I got more and more inspired, especially by the granular modules mentioned above. With these modules, combined with a nice reverb/delay, you can create otherworldly soundscapes which can really carry you away and make you lose track of time. Love that!

Make Noise Morphagene
Make Noise Morphagene

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

I don’t think I would have done anything differently, other than getting into modular earlier on. The creativity I get out of that is unbelievable. Oh and I would have put my music out there earlier too.

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

Hmm, I would say the Octatrack? No, I think I could live without that (if I have to). Unanswered!

Elektron Octatrack
Elektron Octatrack

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

My D.O.MIXX (5-channel mixer module by Blood Cells Audio) has 1 aux send. I just recently found out you can switch between pre/post aux per channel, so if you choose pre aux you can cue your channel with headphones. I’ve now routed that aux send to my Xone 96 mixer (on send D) so I can cue every channel of my modular on there and this is huge to me for my live improvs!

D.O.MIXX (5-channel mixer module by Blood Cells Audio)
D.O.MIXX

Artist or Band name?

Megan Leber

Genre?

Techno and ambient/electronic (if I have to put a label on it).

Selfie?

I rarely take selfies! 

Where are you from?

Rotterdam, Netherlands. 

How did you get into music?

I remember I was always drawn to instruments from a very young age. When I was 10 my teacher put a piano (and later a guitar) in the classroom and I was instantly hooked. He taught me some stuff about chords and intervals and let me play after school. Later my parents let me buy my own keyboard from my savings and after that I got my first electric guitar. Never took any lessons, I always played by ear.
When I was 16/17 I got into electronic music production, when I put Reason on my laptop and a whole new world opened up! Soon after that Ableton followed and I got more and more obsessed. Got a few MIDI controllers and my first synth: a Yamaha AN1x. A year of studying Electronic Music Production, a few drum computers, synths and modules later: here I am!

What still drives you to make music?

I just HAVE to, it’s this thing I can’t stop doing. It’s what I love to do most and which will never bore me. As soon as I open my eyes I’m thinking about making music. When it comes to making music I’m a sponge. I always want to know and try more. My mind can be quite chaotic sometimes, but when I’m making music I’m at ease. It gives me this weird (the positive weird) feeling I can’t really explain, like all these endorphins are floating around inside of me. Endless possibilities!

How do you most often start a new track?

It sometimes starts with an idea or feeling in my head, something I want to try out, “what would happen if I do this?”. Sometimes I create a soundscape first, other times I start with a sequence on the Atlantis. What’s important to me is that I can completely lose myself in the sound design and slowly build a “mood”. But I also start without any idea/expectation and just jam.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Intuition. It’s just a feeling of being satisfied with the result. And to be honest there are always things that could have been changed after a track is “finished”. I also have to admit I’m bad at finishing tracks! I’m more of a creator and that’s what makes me happy. As soon as I have to stop creating and start mixing etc, I get bored or distracted and want to make new things… haha. 

Show us your current studio

It’s constantly changing! Here’s one of my most recent pictures, just before I hooked everything up again (cables cables cables):

Megan Lebers every changing setup
Megan Lebers every changing setup

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Can I also put my own advice here? 😀 Do exactly what you want to do and not what you think others might expect from you. Don’t follow any ‘hype’ because you think you’ll get noticed. Stay true to yourself! 

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

Check out Mystery Circles’ BandCamp on the 5th of June for a nice surprise! 😉 https://mysterycircles.bandcamp.com

[Editor: Megan’s IG can also be found here: https://www.instagram.com/meganleber]


Prior Use – Andreas Bak-Reimer

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

Gettin’ it on with the Roland SH-1

The power switch on the Roland SH-1. It’s an old synth, and the button has a distinct mechanical quality to it. The way it feels, the way it sounds, and the way the power LED lights up immediately – it just feels like getting it on! The SH-1 does that really swell PWM (pulse width modulation) that I enjoy immensely, and simple as it is, it invokes an atmosphere of a simpler time, with a lot of nostalgia to it.

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

My Roland Juno-106 is close to perfect for it’s purpose. Countless 80’s and 80’s emulating tracks have been born using it, and it’s built in a way that grants plenty of sweetspots, and not so many dead ends. Some people prefer non-DCOs, and have plenty to say about the 106 being a budget synth, but mine’s fresh back from service, and it makes me happy.

Roland 106

I sometimes wish it had another oscillator with an easy option for detuning, to get a wider sound from it, but there is a lot to be said about limitations to foster creativity.

… Also, I am not particularly fond of the way the resonance sounds when it’s cranked way up. It’s glassy instead of being juicy – and rarely that’s a good thing. On the other hand, I don’t have any other things that sounds like that, so it’s probably best to leave that unchanged.

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

Roland TB-03

Laptop, almost certainly. I am no where near anything dawless, and don’t have anything that I could arrange anything with, besides a computer. If I weren’t writing, but merely playing around, I would bring my Roland TB-03, or Yamaha Reface CS – built-in speakers and battery operated, they are 1. 2. go!

Yamaha Reface

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

Absynth, Brain, Modular.

Software -> Hardware: I think Native Instruments Absynth. I have had that since forever, and still use it heavily. Also, I would like to see the physical shape/color/layout of such a thing!

Absynth

Hardware -> Software: My brain. Although it feels soft at times, I consider it hardware. It certainly interfaces like 40+ years old hardware (poorly that is), it is sometimes difficult to control when hot or cold, and it’s almost never in tune. Also – patch memory is severely limited. If I could instantly recall patches, production tricks, channel-settings and export/bounce the tunes and sounds directly, like with a lot of software, then… Well, it might take out the fun at times.

Brain

To be serious: My modular setup would be nice as software – mainly for patch recall.

Eurorack modular

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

I never sold anything ever, so that doesn’t apply. And therefore I never regret selling anything either!

I once bought a portable recorder, thinking I could get a lot of good sample material that way. I only did once, but it never made it into a track I finished. I have fond memories of getting up early to catch a few big trucks on big roads going by, though… So, no regrets I guess…

Tascam Recorder

I bought an Ensoniq SQ-R module, because it features Transwave synthesis. Never used that, but it had a nice belltree sound that I used once or twice. It’s probably the thing I’ve bought that comes the most close to being a regret.

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

My trusty iPod classic 80 GB. That’s a lot of late 90’s goatrance… Listening to that is what inspired me most over the years. It had a growing line of dead pixels over the course of a year, and when the line was fully dead, the pixels started working again from the beginning of the line! A year after, the whole display was good again. That is probably my strangest experience with any electronic gadget ever.

iPod classic

If I should channel this to some sort of an inspirational tale, it would something like how the small and weak Hobbits defeated the mighty Sauron – it might appear to be failing, and an unlikely source of victory, but give it some time, and it will surprise you.

That is also why I have never sold anything. You never know.

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

A decent room for working in. Go all crazy thinking about getting the ‘right’ monitors, nice preamps, the perfect cables (ugh!)… But if your room is horrible, none of that matters. I have sunk a fair bit of time into acoustic treatment, and it has made a world of difference.

Foam

Also: time. So that’s it. Time and space – that’s all I want. At first…. Then a Mac.

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

Laptop

Mac laptop

Again, my computer. Ill timed software updates, one too few CPU cycles in stacked projects, failing disks… The woes are many, but I wouldn’t have written a bar of music without it.

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

Roland JV-2080

About 20 years after I got my Roland JV-2080, I realized it was capable of faux PWM. If I set a regular sawtooth wave on one osc, and an inverted sawtooth on the other, and modulate pitch slowly and independently, then it happens. I wish I had known that 20 years earlier, but that would probably mean I wouldn’t have bought my SH-1 (with the fab power button) – so it’s all good!


Artist or Band name?

I have mainly been producing under the moniker “Amygdala”. Goa and psychedelic trance in the old (old!) sense of the word.

Lately, I have been making some drops in the already over saturated ocean of synthwave music. I enjoy that very much, and as a child of the 80s, it takes me back to a simpler time – worries forgotten. The moniker for this activity is “Prior Use”.

Genre?

Many kinds of trance music: Goa, psychedelic, melodic, uplifiting, minimal, tech-, progressive.
Besides that, a bit of synthwave, and the odd “psy-bient” piece.

Selfie?

Andreas Brain

Where are you from?

I am from Denmark – just a tad north of Copenhagen, but most of my music has been produced in Århus. You can really tell what a big difference those 170 km makes!

How did you get into music?

My parents and brother. Music was omnipresent at home when I grew up. My parents encouraged me to take up playing violin when I was 6, and I have had some great experiences with that. When music production became reasonably available to the regular consumer with computer interest, I was hooooked! At first, it was just another thing I could do with the computer, but rather quickly it was pretty much all I ever did with it.

What still drives you to make music?

The two biggest drivers are probably the “flows” and “highs”.

Flow when I can be completely engrossed in production, enjoying the situation, and getting something done which I like and feel as an accomplishment. Time flying as I ignore my body’s attempts to drag me to the loo, trough or bed.

Highs when I hit something that (in the moment) is spectacular – a catchy tune, a sweet timbre, or a really dope fill or transition. It can still make me laugh after all these years, and the surge of energy and motivation I get from that is unparalleled.

How do you most often start a new track?

Sometimes I start with a very simple idea like a tune, a chord progression or a synthesizer patch concept. Then Drums. Then bass. That’s the most usual case, although sometimes I skip directly to the drums. Lately, I have been thinking that it’s not the best way to go, as I am finishing fewer and fewer tracks. I often end up with a pretty decent groove, but lacking the centerpiece idea that makes the track stand out. I polish the rhythmic section and transitions, until there is not space left in the spectrum (frequency and/or mental) for anything else.

So, from now on, I am trying to start off a new track with an idea, and then build drums and bass around that. We’ll see how that goes.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When a track has all the arrangement elements (intro, good stuff, breakdown, great stuff, climax, outro – or some other configuration), I bounce it and listen away from the studio. I make a lot of notes I want to change, enhance, remove, whatever. When that list feels complete, I do those changes. Hopefully I am happy with the result, because at that point I am usually fed up with the piece. I am not one for endlessly tweaking everything, and I have a tendency to detail focus early – which means I “decide” that this bit is perfect, and then unconsciously prohibit myself from editing it (too much 🙈).

I know there is some degree of contradiction in the above, but I’ll just hide behind “you can’t argue art”.

Show us your current studio

Andreas Studio
Andreas synths

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I bought a CD from Eat Static sideproject Dendron (Merv Pepler). I think he burned the disc himself and mailed it. Included in the package was a makeshift invoice with the words “always experiment” on it. I think that’s pretty good advice. It’s hard, because as time grows scarce I tend to stick to the beaten path, but even though it feels like it’s safer and more productive that way, I get less enjoyment from it.

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

As mentioned above, I dabble in synthwave. Swing by https://soundcloud.com/prioruse and tell you friends.

[Editor: if you want to check out Andreas psy-trance stuff it’s here: https://ektoplazm.com/profiles/amygdala]


Mikael Tobias – ResonanTechno

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

After much deliberation, I’m gonna go with the volume knob on my 80’s Japanese Fender Precision Bass. Something about the textured metal just feels so solid and badass.

MIJ Fender P Bass Volume knob

Honourable mention goes to the knobs on the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor for their sheer monstrosity, which I get to use when I work at @SixBitDeep.

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

Every piece of kit is perfect just the way it is =D

VervilleAudio MDC-1

Ok, actually I’ll shout out my homies at @VervilleAudio for their MDC-1 which is a hand-made 2-channel Variable Mu tube compressor on steroids plus 2 preamp channels. I have a Beta version which sounds incredible, but I’ve been in close contact with them discussing some minor improvements (mostly just the interface) and I think the next version will be close to perfect! These guys are developing some amazing gear in Montreal.

VervilleAudio MDC-1

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

The last tour I did was a solo one around Europe and the UK. I was taking planes, trains and busses everywhere, so I needed a really compact setup. Laptop, small RME FF400 interface and Novation Launch Control XL controller (+ some vinyl and extra clothes) in a backpack and my lap steel guitar and a few pedals in a soft gig bag (actually a rifle case!)

Gibson Lapsteel in a rifle case
Rifle softcase

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

Hardware sequencer Faderfox SC4

I don’t find myself wishing this very often. A lot of the software I love is already great emulations of hardware, and generally when I’m using hardware it’s because I want to have my hands on something other than the mouse. Having rare and expensive hardware reverbs and compressors easily available in the form of plugins is a godsend! And conversely, there are so many software sequencers, but I always seem to get more interesting results when I use a hardware sequencer. So I guess the short answer is no 🙂

Hardware sequencer Akai MPC1000
Hardware sequencer Arturia Beatstep Pro

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

When I moved to Copenhagen from Montreal I had to sell a ton of stuff, and while sometimes it’s nice to do a purge and move on, I sure do miss the amps I had. There was a Traynor YBA-1 head with this awesome old Peavey cabinet that was painted white and that I put a vintage 15” Jensen speaker in. And the love of my life was a Music Man 210HD One Thirty. One of the guys from Arcade Fire once asked if they could buy it from me and I said no. 

Traynor YBA-1 with Peavey cabinet

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

Sennheiser MD211
Electro Voice RE15

Probably getting a new microphone. Whenever I pick up a new mic, I immediately want to hear how it sounds on different sources, and putting myself into that engineer mindset always makes me feel super creative. A new instrument has a similar effect. When I got my Korg Mono/Poly I did a pretty deep dive and got really inspired with the sounds it can make. That thing is all over my new album.

Korg Mono/Poly

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

That’s a tough one because I started with a guitar (a cheap copy of a Gibson Les Paul) then an amp, then a wah pedal, and I don’t think I’d change that course of events. But in the early 2000’s I had a friend who sold all his keyboards. He had a Rhodes MKI, a Roland JX-3P and a Korg MS-10. I bought the Rhodes and 2 of my friends each bought one of the synths… all for dirt cheap. I wish I had taken the MS-10 instead of the Rhodes (I can’t play piano for shit) but synths were such a mystery to me then. My homie still has it though so at least it’s in the family.

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

Getting on the case

CASES! Rack case, road cases, instrument cases etc…It’s such a juggling act to set up a studio that’s ergonomic and makes good use of available space. I feel like I’m on a never-ending quest to find the best compromises between a great setup that’s easy and inspiring to work in, and portability (if I need to take some gear on location or on tour, etc…). And all the seldom-used cases take up so much space, but, like what do I do when I need to take my synth somewhere once every 2 years?!?!

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

It’s not actually about the gear, it’s all about what you do with it.


Artist or Band name?

Mikael Tobias

Genre?

Ambient / Post-Rock / Neo-Classical / Experimental Techno

Selfie?

Mikael Tobias

Where are you from? 

Toronto/Montréal Canada

How did you get into music?

My parents put me in guitar lessons for a year when I was 10, then I essentially taught myself the rest.

What still drives you to make music?

Some kind of burning inner demon, I mean a compulsion to create, to experiment, to push boundaries. Music has given me so many of the most visceral and emotional experiences of my life and I’m very interested in all the ways sound can affect us, both physically and emotionally. So there is a constant quest that I can’t imagine ever coming to completion.

How do you most often start a new track?

Generally with some kind of “play.” If I can lose myself and not worry about how productive I’m being or what I’m doing this “for” that is when I feel like I’m accessing real creativity. So being in the moments and just playing is often how my tracks begin. 

How do you know when a track is finished?

Some kind of combination of utter mental exhaustion, and 1 or 2 re-scheduled self-imposed deadlines.

Show us your current studio

A leopard skin chair is essential…. for those vibes
FX and Pedals
Stacks and Racks
Guitars and Synths living together in harmony

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

If you’re getting stuck, grab an instrument that you don’t know how to play. It breaks you out of the confines of muscle memory and patterns you’ve developed and it opens up creative doors that you probably didn’t know were closed.

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

My new album APERTURE:

https://mikaeltobias.bandcamp.com/album/aperture