Mike Berndt – Pedal Of the Day

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

Feedback knobs

I tend to lean towards the Feedback areas of pedals that can perform that function, so Feedback knobs, on Delays especially, and Gain knobs on dirt pedals would probably be tops. If you can mix the two and get an overdriven or distorted signal to feedback into self-oscillation, with the possibility to get completely out of control, that’s my happy place.

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

For years now, all of the demos I record have run through a Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo, and I recently upgraded to the Twin X Duo. The preamps are so nice, and the plugins you can get replicate so much vintage gear right at your fingertips…it’s pretty incredible. The functionality / ease of use is perfect, it’s almost a plug-and-play type of situation, with as big or small of a learning curve as you want.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo

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

Well, we haven’t really left or gone out or done anything over the last year, but usually when I travel for a vacation, I just bring along an acoustic guitar. I’m surrounded by electronics and hardware and pedals the majority of the day, and vacation is a time to get away and take a break from all of that. The acoustic lets me get back to why I started playing guitar in the first place, lets me focus on the raw energy that those instruments bring, and opens up or reinvigorates a passion for stripped-down music that can sometimes get lost in the world of effects. Been using an Alvarez AD60SC for about 16 years now, and still love it, but really want a nice Martin or Taylor or something along those lines at some point.

Alvarez AD60SC

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

I use some plugins with my UA Apollo Twin X Duo to clean up and finalize the audio for Pedal of the Day’s demos, but there’s something about having an actual rack of gear right in front of you that just can’t be replaced by a computer screen. Having a Teletronix LA-2A, Studer A800 and an actual vintage Tape Echo unit here in the studio would be rad. As for the opposite, they’re making pretty much everything you can think of into some form of plugin or patch these days, and there are many devices which let you run your analog effects straight into your recording, so the sky’s the limit there.

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

TONS of gear. I wish I could keep every single pedal or guitar or keyboard that I have ever owned, but I don’t have the space, and I wouldn’t make any money!

During the last Covid-infused year, I have had to get rid of some long-time favorites, but I think the ones that really hurt were my Moogerfooger Delay, Phaser,

Mooger Foogers LowPass, Murf and 12-stage Phaser

Low-Pass Filter and MuRF. I’d like to say I’ll have them all back again someday, but even since I sold them last year, the prices have skyrocketed, so those might just be gone for good.

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

I think all gear can be inspiring, even a piece that you may find boring or dull at first. With pedals especially, you need to sit down and really get to know them, how they act/react, what their key functions are, any hidden features or treasures they hide, waiting to be discovered, etc… Part of the fun of this line of work is the constant exploration and uncertainty about each effect, and since we all use them differently, there’s really no wrong way to go about that.

I think the demo community provides a lot of different perspectives on how each pedal can be utilized and exploited – the companies themselves seem to enjoy how different all the demos sound, as we each are giving an individualized interpretation of the effects, and come up with sounds the original designers might not have even thought of.

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

A vintage Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb, a cheap-ish guitar (maybe a Strat or Tele) that I could mod and customize, and a Delay pedal. I have enjoyed swapping pickups and wiring out of guitars over the years, but haven’t had the time or focus to do so recently, and think that would be fun to jump back into.

Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb

The Deluxe Reverb is a perfect pedal platform, plus you already have the Reverb and Vibrato built in. Delays are by far my favorite effects, so it wouldn’t even really matter how wild or crazy it was, just something simple to get started, like a Boss DM-3 or a Way Huge Supa-Puss, something along those lines.

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

Years ago I bought a couple of old Ibanez rack delays from the ’80s, a DM1100 and a DM2000. They each have this Hold function that can be controlled by and external switch, and the DM2000 has one for its Modulation settings as well. The DM1100, when it’s set the way I have it and you play a note or chord and hit that Hold, it takes the audio and continually ramps it up and down, with a thick, seemingly uncontrollable modulation sound that is different every time. It can get super annoying, but also adds a certain layer of chaos into the mix that is just lovely to experience.

Ibanez rack delays DM1100 & DM2000

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

There isn’t one specifically, but I love to dive into the more complex pedals (Microcosm, H9, ZOIA, etc) and see what hidden treasures await. The designing and execution of musical ideas over the last couple of years has been astounding, and I’m glad to be a part of bringing these sounds to people everywhere.


Artist or Band name?

I haven’t released anything new in a number of years, unfortunately. I had a number of little side jam projects starting to happen right before Covid hit, so those are all obviously on the back burner for right now. Years ago, I was in a bar band called Alcoholocaust, and we just played bars around Boone, North Carolina, where I was living at the time. I also released some tracks under the name DJ Big Berndt a couple years ago, mostly chill, ambient kind of background music, and that was a lot of fun.

Genre?

I love ALL genres of music, except for pop country. REAL country I can listen to all day, but the pop garbage I can’t do. Classical, metal, rap, jam bands, disco, yacht rock, classic rock, techno, you name it….I love it all.

Selfie?

Mike Berndt

Where are you from?

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, currently reside in Weaverville, North Carolina (USA)

How did you get into music?

My dad bought a drum set when I was 8, and he taught me a little bit about it before my folks split up. The drum set stayed, though, and I learned to play down in the basement with headphones, playing along to Zeppelin and Guns n Roses and the like. I got a cheap neon yellow guitar and a little Gorilla amp when I was 12, but didn’t stick with it for whatever reason. I finally got an acoustic when I was 19 or 20, started taking some lessons from a friend of mine, who ended up selling me his Epiphone Sheraton, and it was all over from there.

What still drives you to make music?

Music is everything! Constantly looking for inspiration in not only the music I create but from all kinds of outside sources is just the greatest. The way that different tracks, genres, artists and sound can influence you at any given time of day, or with anything that’s going on in your life, at any moment, is a pretty spectacular thing to be a witness to. The fact that music has and continues to evolve constantly, around the world, on a daily basis, is just a spectacular phenomenon, one I hope that never goes away.

How do you most often start a new track?

As a drummer, the rhythm parts are the keys, so getting a simple beat and maybe a little bass line down is always a great place to start. However, sitting around jamming on your acoustic can open up a can of musical worms as well, and when inspiration strikes, you gotta capture it. I have a lot of handwritten notes scattered around the office that have been building over the years, as well as a bunch of quick ideas I’ve recorded into Amplitube on my phone. Whether any of them will ever turn into something more or get recorded remains to be seen, hopefully I can revisit them soon and start working more on finishing some of them up.

How do you know when a track is finished?

You don’t. You can sit and overthink and tweak over and over and over, and still never truly be satisfied with the result. The first mix that sounds the best, stick with that. It’s kinda like recording a number of different guitar solos and then trying to decide which is the best – chances are, the first one was the best, because you were just playing, rather than comparing it and second-guessing yourself, you know?

Show us your current studio

Amp wall
Amps and friends
Mike’s Pedalboard
Studio desk

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

My grandpa used to say, “As you go through life, let this be your goal: keep your eye on the donut, and not the donut hole.” I think that you need to focus on all aspects of whatever you do, not just on one particular thing, whether it’s how you approach a new recording session, or how you cook a meal, or how you interact with your family and other humans in general on a daily basis. Focusing on the little things can be key, of course, but seeing the bigger picture, breathing and taking it all in is how I try to live and create.

Instagramming with Mike

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

Pedal of the Day – https://www.pedal-of-the-day.com/
Pedal of the Day on YouTube – https://youtube.com/c/pedaloftheday208
DJ Big Berndt on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/c/DJBigBerndt


Mylar Melodies – Talks With Hands

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

UA Apollo

My UA Apollo interface’s on/off switch – it’s a big silver lever that goes CLACK in an extremely loud and satisfying way. Apparently it’s actually the same on/off switch they use on their LA2A’s, so that switch has royal heritage.

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

I think everyone thinks it’s very easy to improve on gear, or that a manufacturer was daft not to include some simple feature when in fact it’s anything but simple (or cheap) to add just any old feature. Or that that feature is the thing stopping you from making good music. But as for perfect gear – I guess the Juno 60. It’s very simple, it has nothing superfluous, and it always sounds absolutely amazing. If I would change it, I would take presets off (because it’s so direct you don’t really need them – and of course, yes that’s a Juno 6) – and if I added anything, well I DID add the Juno 66 mod to mine, the best thing being, that it turns a precise DCO machine into a aphexy wooze-machine.
The perfect effect is the LA2A. It has two knobs, it’s set and forget, and it never fails, or sounds over the top.

Roland Juno 66

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

My iPhone, running Xynthesizr, pretty much just sequencing one blissy dual VCO with 98% echo patch, that I never modify beyond a few basic parameters. That’s all you need. I actually literally played a set at Moogfest on just my iPhone with this – directly connected to the PA through the headphone jack – I just improvised on Xynthesizr for 45 minutes with a couple of other elements for colour. I worked out the kinks about a day before. I can’t believe I got away with that, but I hope it makes a point. In fairness I had spent over a year solid jamming with that app on trains, planes and automobiles. I am always far more impressed with and weirdly, envious of (for their restraint and focus) musicians that have almost no gear, than ones that have everything. I make videos about gear, so it can’t help but pile up.

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

I wish Xynthesizr was hardware. I wish the Reason PX7 rack extension was hardware. I wish the Casio FZ1 filter was software.

Reason PX7 rack extension

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

I regret selling my second-ever synth, the only synth I’ve ever maxed out every single memory location on with my patches – a Korg MS2000.
I regretted buying the Novation Nova, which was my first synth. It was way, way, way too complicated for me and I had no idea where to start. I directly swapped it for the MS2000. And while I think the person I did the trade with thought they got the better deal, I definitely did. That was the synth that taught me synthesis. I rinsed that MS2000.
I definitely bought or traded stuff for a Cheetah MD16 drum machine at one point which I remember thinking “what the absolute hell am I doing with this grey door stop”. In fairness I probably didn’t know what I was doing and it was fine, but I’m still not convinced.

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

Ableton Live. That’s also all you need, but it’s all too easy to fall into jaded patterns of use and habits with it, which you need to be aware of or you’ll end up spending thousands of pounds on a eurorack habit in a desperate bid to rekindle the feeling of “beginners mind” once again.
But mainly, what has inspired the most music is time. Having the luxury of time in which to make music is harder and harder as life goes on and responsibilities grow, and especially the idea of being a full time musician is incredibly difficult to maintain and I’m amazed people do it at all. It’s interesting to consider that many musicians can only become successful through either being utterly utterly dirt poor, or rich to start with – being the only way one could afford the time to become successful. Is there a middle ground?

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

A Digitakt. That’s also all you need.
[Editor: And a nice doggie for company]

Digitakt and doggie

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

Adobe Premiere. It’s a bug-infested rats nest, it’s stupidly basic with audio… but I need it. If it ever truly falls over, Davinci Resolve is waiting in the wings, and is free.

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

The incredible genre-defining boundary-expanding main spooky string riff in LFO’s “LFO”, clearly the sound that inspired the track (because you wouldn’t just magically find that sound would suddenly fit what you were doing, you fit a track around IT) is a straight preset (melody and all) from the cheap as chips Kawai K1. That’s right, one of the best moments from one of the best British dance tunes of all time is a preset. Presets are not “for the weak”. Making a good tune is hard enough as it is. Having FINISHED a tune BECAUSE you used presets is far cooler than having hundreds of half finished tracks where you synthesized every hihat from scratch.
Guitar bands don’t build new instruments for every song – there’s a balance to be struck. You can separate the processes of sound design and song writing – it’s something I’m mindful I need to do more. Either way I accept inspiration wherever I find it.

[Editor: ‘Accept inspirations wherever you find it’ – that is a nicely turned phrase and great advice]


Artist or Band name?

Mylar Melodies

Genre?

Electro/techno. I’m inspired whenever I think about Aphex, LFO, Boards of Canada, James Stinson, and Kraftwerk. So hopefully I float around in their worlds musically… A bit.

Selfie?

Mr. Mylar Melodies

Where are you from?

An hours drive from where Mark Bell was from.

How did you get into music?

A perfect storm of having older brothers to who played me Orbital and RDJ, one of whom had an MC-303 (Yes, MC) which he let me fiddle around with, having access to a stack of Future Music issues in a time before the internet, and being bequeathed several grand from my late great uncle at the age of 16(!) years old.

As you might image I frittered most of that money away on stupid pointless things, but I did spend a massive chunk of it on my first ever music gear and a proper stereo, and I never looked back. That was probably the best imaginable upshot of him leaving me the money, despite me wasting most of it – it’s funny that the right gift at the right time can change someone’s life.

You can see how privileged I was to get that push, and the money, and to be young enough to have the time especially – I lived in the countryside, so there were no friends to see (without a lift) or places to go. It’s good to remind yourself that having access to tools and a relaxed environment and the luxury of time, where you can experiment with them – and to have taste makers like your brothers – is essential to make people who can explore creative pursuits, and I’m lucky I had it.

Ralf and Florian [Editor: Of Kraftwerk fame] were well off, how else would they afford a Minimoog, a Synthi and the time to play it?! Of course now the tools are far cheaper, and the software is free (time is still a luxury). The internet could be like an older brother, but there’s just too much noise. How do you discover your “thing” anymore? I’m encouraged to see that people do discover things like Eurorack, and that’s a route into electronic music for them.

Roland MC303 and Eurorack

What still drives you to make music?

The knowledge that if I sit down and fiddle around, something good will most likely come of it. And about thinking about those people I mentioned before, sat in their personal Kling Klangs, playing around with tools just like the ones I have, and coming up with timeless music. That always makes me want to try as well.

How do you most often start a new track?

Making music is a bit like sculpture, or seeing a dog in a cloud. I NEVER pre-imagine what I’m going to make. I just start turning dials and pushing buttons until something cool pops out and a little light goes on my head, and then I get an idea of what that blob could be further shaped into, and then I zone it in on that, and then other complimentary things suggest themselves.
At the end of it, you end up with a semi coherent thing and wonder… how did this even start out?
Usually, also the first idea is wack, but the second or third thing you make from all the sounds and sequences of the first is far better. The main thing is to just sit down and play, irrespective of whether you feel inspired (that will happen by playing), and not to be concerned whether you will make anything “good” or not (that is – partially – out of your control).

[Editor: Kinda like how it’s useful to separate sound design from composition, I guess it’s equally useful to separate the process of creation from judgement of good vs. bad... Or maybe ‘separate’ is too strict a word? Perhaps ‘compartmentalize’?]

How do you know when a track is finished?

I 100% do not know this, and I fiddle away at things endlessly. So much so, that I’ve been engineering systems, so that I have no choice, but to accept my first or second real-time pass at something as “it”. If I later decide it really is crap, I’ll just have to make something else. Quantity makes quality.

Show us your current studio

Mylar Melodies Studio

This is half plugged in right now, as I’m trying to find a way to have the stupidest amount of gear in the smallest space.
I feel obliged to say there isn’t (so far, for me) a relationship between having loads of gear and making loads of music. Just like having fifty guitars doesn’t make you a brilliant guitarist. I am not in any way proud of having loads of stuff in principle (NB: Although I love all these things, I’ve slowly gathered it all this over decades, it most definitely did not arrive overnight), and most of the things I own are individually pretty cheap bits of gear. I love these individual bits, both for what they are/do (their market value doesn’t correlate to their coolness to me in all cases) and for their place in musical history, I definitely have the curse of being a collector.

Yamaha DX7

Case in point, I own a DX7 – a proper brown old first edition DX7, and I think it’s utterly amazing for both the historical influence and as a synth. It’s such a futuristic beast, yet fuzzy and nostalgic all the same time. FM synths are extraordinary to me and much more like alchemy than subtractive ones.

But the thing I am actually proud of in that studio picture is that in the last three months I have been working to make it all completely accessible and immediate on (3!) patchbays, so I can actually make full use of it, both for impromptu live jams and recording multi-tracks to computer, and variations thereof. About f*king time. Get yourself enough patchbays to have all the I/O of your studio fully plumbed in.

Otherwise you’ll never use it! I didn’t, and I’ve started applying the “build a system” mentality which I’ve learned through Eurorack, to my wider studio. A well organised patchbay system is essential.

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

A recent one:
“Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.”

I believe strongly that quality is a byproduct of quantity. Just make the music and try not to care if it’s good – in fact revel in making something terrible, if that will help you not give up, just don’t abandon it. Finish it and then see what you learned from it. And if you need an evil, but effective way to force yourself to finish something – bet a friend a significant amount of money (£100+, or more if you’re doing well) you’ll make an agreed deadline. Always worked for me.

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

Here’s a video I made about how to recreate a Buchla Music Easel in only 62HP of Eurorack modules. I’m making a whole series of these little mini “Suggested Systems”. Go on and subscribe to the channel if you like nerdy chats about synths and gear? Go on. Go on now:

https://youtu.be/B40AizE6i2g

Also I have a podcast talking to electronic musicians and gear makers, including chats with Scanner, Tom Furse from the Horrors and the wonderful Adrian Utley so far.

http://www.whywebleep.com

Am I allowed three?! Here’s that Moogfest I did on an iPhone:
https://youtu.be/7xhWLtRQ6Aw


[Editor: I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Mylar’s videos and his podcast WhyWeBleep is especially good. Have you stumbled across his videos yet? He’s made so many, which ones standout for you? Leave a comment below]