Nick Lisher – LesjaMusic

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

The filter modulation (as opposed to filter cutoff) knob on my Oberheim OB-Xa. The slightest circular movement can change the character of the sound from fluid and subtle to a punchy and brassy.

Oberheim OB-Xa

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

Impossible to answer with one!

1. Oberheim OB-Xa. I have had this synth for about 12 years, and I just love everything about it. I wish you could have more precise mix control over the two oscillators, and cross modulation like on the OBX, but otherwise what other piece of gear makes you sound like both Prince and Boards of Canada?

Oberheim OB-Xa

2. Vongon Ultrasheer [US]. An almost perfect reverb/vibrato pedal. Add a wet-dry mix and it would be even-more-almost-perfect.

Vongon Ultrasheer

3. Schippmann PHS-28 16 stage dual super phaser module, to give it its full name. It’s a beautiful phaser but also capable of utterly feral behavior with the right kind of modulation. 

Schippmann PHS-28 16 stage dual super phaser module

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

Polyend Tracker! [US]

Polyend Tracker

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

I’d love AudioThing, Valhalla or SoundToys to make some hardware, though I think Valhalla reverbs are available on the TipTop DSP module. As I work almost 100% in hardware (computers are for my day job!), the second half of the question is too difficult to answer.

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

I bought a Roland Juno 6 for £50 in 2000. The seller even drove it round to my house. It was such a lovely, lovely synth. I sold it to a friend to help fund my Oberheim.

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

Akai Headrush V1

I adore looping pedals and modules. In the early 2000s I bought an Akai Headrush V1 and used to just create layers upon layers of guitars on top of one another. Here’s a couple of tracks I made under my old moniker Ecce that used this very specific technique, one of which is even called Headrush! One, Two, Three. Nowadays I use the excellent Chase Bliss Blooper in a similar way.

Chase Bliss Blooper

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

A guitar and a looping pedal!

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

I’m gonna say my electronic drum kit, in that I wish it was a real kit, but I am not sure my family would put up with the noise of an acoustic kit.

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

On the Juno-6 I sold – if you pressed both Chorus buttons at once gave a wild chorus effect. 


Artist or Band name?

I relaunched myself as LesjaMusic last year, but I am yet to release anything under that moniker except short Instagram / Youtube clips

Genre?

Nautical fiction

Selfie?

As much as I hate to…

Nick Lisher

Where are you from?

Kent, UK

How did you get into music?

I played the saxophone when I was 9. Sax was cool in the 80s!

What still drives you to make music?

Fun! I have near-to-zero ambition for my music achieving any sort of popularity – I feel that ship has sailed – but it’s nice when a few folks listen to my stuff on social media.

How do you most often start a new track?

Either by playing the drums or by messing around with a looping pedal

How do you know when a track is finished?

It never is. Ship it.

Show us your current studio

Happily.

Nick Lisher Home Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

Don’t be afraid to have a method – a repeatable creative process. I used to mix it up a lot, but came back to my favourite techniques, and these help form a signature sound.

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

Follow me on Instagram! http://instagram.com/lesjamusic


[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]


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]


Benjamin Shaw – Ponderer Sounds

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

Recently I got the Type One Analog Ensemble by Tom Oakes of Horrothia FX who just
happens to live in my town of birth, Cornwall in the UK. Asides from being an absolutely gorgeous chorus the Type One has this excellent arcade style button for the footswitch and it is so satisfying to click.

Type One Analog Ensemble

I also really love the Speed Control dial on my Sony Clear Voice Walkman, it’s old, plastic and the dial is knurled and recessed almost past the point of being able to turn it but the tactile experience mixed with the sonic result is awesome.

Sony Walkman varispeed

Lastly I don’t own one yet but I’m really looking forward to getting a Nakedboards MC-8 MIDI controller, the faders are a little larger and spaced nicely for using with orchestral software libraries to add that ‘human’ feel.

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

A recent addition for me is my StudioLogic SL88 Studio MIDI keyboard. I have an old family heirloom upright piano that is gorgeous but I haven’t been able to relocate it to our current residence, so getting a properly weighted, natural feeling, full size key bed has made writing with software instruments way more enjoyable and inspiring, so far I wouldn’t change a thing on it.

StudioLogic SL88 Studio MIDI keyboard

I used to manage a mates boutique shop, Pedal Empire, in Brisbane and build pedalboards professionally, so I have played hundreds, if not thousands of individual pedals, my ethos from that experience is that ‘perfect’ is a relative term and every pedal, if you allow it the time, can yield some ‘perfect’ results in the right context. I think it’s up to the player to find the gold and follow where it leads. Even something as amazingly engineered as the Chase Bliss Blooper for example, is full of quirks, artifacts and limitations of sorts, but if you ironed all those out to be ‘perfect’ it probably wouldn’t be half as fun.

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

Since moving to a rural, coastal location in Tasmania in recent years I haven’t had need to take a rig on the road much, however if we do go away for longer than a few days and I need to film a demo or make some music I’ll usually take the Walrus Audio Slö, Bondi Art Van Delay, 1981 DRV & CBA Blooper. Those with a guitar, laptop and little interface is all I need for guitar inspiration.

Walrus Audio Slö, Bondi Art Van Delay, 1981 DRV & CBA Blooper

I’m also building a small modular system that is easy to take out and make generative ambient music.
If I don’t have need for anything and just want to make some music in the moment I love using the Fugue Machine app, it’s great for coming up with a simple melody and layering in different speeds and directions… too much fun.

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

I use PaulStretch a lot, something about taking a 1 minute piece and making it 15 minutes long is so fascinating to me and PaulStretch does that in it’s own special way, I’d love that in a pedal. I’m pretty new to modular synth but perhaps there’s a module that does that.

I recently got hold of a Pecan Audio Edera which is a stereo warming unit in a small simple pedal format. Previously I would use some plugin distortion on the fx bus to warm up tracks while wishing I had something like the Analog Heat, but way less complicated, so the Edera has fulfilled that wish.

Pecan Audio Edera

Back the other way, hardware I wish was software, I still haven’t found a plugin or process that yields the same result as recording to cassette or tape and slowing down. 80’s and 90’s tape/cassette equipment all have their own oddities that they impart to a recording. They sounds so good to me and even the best tape emulation can’t quite nail it just yet. They’re getting closer and closer though.

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

Years ago I made my mind up that I wouldn’t have any extra pedals/gear laying around that weren’t in constant use or on my pedalboard so I used to sell everything surplus to my needs and made my mind up not to regret any of it. I don’t follow that mantra anymore and have heaps of gear in corners and on shelves. I have bought and sold an El Capistan about 4 times now, currently don’t have one, that’ll probably change again. I did have an original Bondi Del Mar that I let go right before the prices got exorbitantly high which is a bit of a bummer, but I kinda despise that part of the gear community anyway, I like to sell knowing people are getting a good deal.
Working at PE for years made it easy not to miss things I’d personally sold when it’s always there in store if you need a fix. I would get way too sad if I let myself think too much about what I’ve let go, safe to say I’ve moved through hundreds of pedals on my board in the last 10 years. I don’t think I’ve regretted a purchase ever because it’s all a learning experience finding out what works and what doesn’t.

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

My process for making pedal demos has always been to let the subject pedal guide my noodling and musing so mostly when you watch one of my videos you’re hearing snippets of how the said pedal has inspired me.
I always get inspired easily by Spitfire Audio orchestral samples, they just capture so much realism and are emotive to play, same goes for Fracture Sounds, The Phonoloop and Felt Instruments.
Pedal wise the Hologram Electronics Microcosm is pretty much the most inspiring analog thing I’ve owned and I can rest assured that plugging into it will spark something if I’m ever drawing a blank.

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

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

I started playing guitar in the ‘Big Amp Heavy Guitar’ era, if I could go back and tell myself to get a Telecaster and a Princeton it would make a world of difference. My first pedals were a Line-6 DL4 and a Crowther Hot Cake which I still think now for the way I like to write and play are great pedals to start with.

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

I feel like maybe I’m in a sweet spot where I’ve narrowed down my choices to equipment that largely improves my work flow. That said, I recently dived headlong into modular synthesis after a few years of deliberating, and though I have a clear vision for what my desired sounds from Modular are, the learning curve is pretty dramatic. The Patch & Tweak book from Kim Bjorn Bjooks is helping a lot though.

Ponderer Sounds eurorack

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

In the box I love to duplicate tracks, hard pan them, and then zoom in and move one of them just a few milliseconds ahead for a massively wide sound. Also a fun trick is recording something to tape, physically speeding it up and recording it again and then slowing it down and stretching it out to overlay with the original recording. This adds textures that I absolutely adore the heck out of.

Hardware wise the Horrothia Type One I mentioned earlier is a terrific widening tool with the chorusing effect dialed at it’s slowest where you can’t actually discern the movement. I nearly always record guitars for stuff other than demos through the Type One in stereo even if I later end up panning or summing to mono, it just sounds so good and I leave it on constantly. The only downside is I don’t get to smash that arcade button as much as I’d like!


Artist or Band name?

Ponderer Sounds – My Youtube Channel for gear demos and music creation

Genre?

Ambient/Post Rock/Dream Pop/Orchestral

Benjamin Shaw

Where are you from?

Originally Cornwall UK – Live in Tasmania Australia (but probably not for too long)

How did you get into music?

I played piano under my grandmothers supervision from about 4 or 5 years old. Music was always encouraged in our home. I have fond memories of crawling under the dining room table with a small cassette radio and a cushion and listening to George Harrison’s Cloud Nine album till I fell asleep. I would have been 6 or so. And I grew up with a nice collection of records from the Beatles, Bee Gees and Creedence Clear Water that I played to death, plus when someone else wasn’t playing music my mum always had Beethoven or Tchaikovsky on. My childhood had a constant soundtrack.

I think I started guitar when I was 17, I’d steal my sister’s boyfriend’s sparkly silver Ibanez and teach myself how to play punk rock like Rancid & Bracket. I remember discovering the power chord and then it was all full steam ahead. Later I got into Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Foo Fighters before getting into less mainstream and more indie/emo stuff in the late 90’s.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s my life blood, being creative is the way of the future and I believe it will only become more and more important to us the more automated the rest of our lifestyle becomes. It amazes me that there’s only a handful of notes, limited combinations of them to create chords and melody, but somehow the human element of interpreting them constantly yields fruit that didn’t exist previously, and an individual can move so many strangers with mere vibration.

How do you most often start a new track?

I’ve never been one for learning other peoples music, when I sit at the piano/keyboard or pick up my guitar I gravitate towards making something myself. I’m in the process now of adapting small musical ideas from pedal demos and turning them into full tracks so typically that’s where a new idea spawns.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I don’t really know, but when I’ve added everything in my head and find myself getting lost in it, when I’m supposed to be listening back subjectively, I know it’s pretty much ready to go.

Show us your current studio

Ponderer Sounds Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’ Pablo Picasso.

Always start, move yourself till something moves you and then chase that down.

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

Head over to my youtube channel (Ponderer Sounds) to watch weekly demos on great pedals and gear, and stay tuned for a new song creation series I’m working on.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgHpuhheoXRxZVKONOOFE_g/

[Editor: All photos in this interview are by Tiarne Shaw]


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw a comment below…
]