Workspace and Environment: Abre Ojos

Almost 11 years. I was a bit of a late starter to sound focusing more on the visual art side of things until a friend and I went out to his rehearsal shed (a brick storage unit, tin roof) in the middle of summer and found anything that could make or process sounds. 40+ degree heat in rural Australia and noise making go hand in hand. From that point I figured out that I didn’t have to have 15 years classical musical training behind me to create sounds. I have been kinda stubborn about staying untrained in music theory, instead skilling myself up in music technology. Occasionally I dabble with the idea of learning some music theory but prefer (mostly due to laziness) to stay on the idiot savant side. Motivation is easy, its time that’s the problem…. I’m sure time is speeding up.
I have two main projects- Look To the Skies and Abre Ojos. Look to the Skies is a collaboration with Rob Jones ( where it is a hardware vs software/analogue vs digital improvisation project. Rob and I come together, me hardware, him software, with whatever gear we are working with in our own projects at the time and play and record. We played around with different distro ideas and finally settled on the podcast format and have done over sixty of these 20 min tracks.
My main solo project is Abre Ojos where I am exploring the fusion of sound and vision. It’s the attempt to balance my visual art background and passion for sound. It has been a dilemma to workout how to present the work as each track is created in one take with the sound and visuals recorded at the same time, with the vision reacting to the sound. So it’s important for it to be read first as an AV track although with most tracks I do release an mp3 version. Some reviewers of my tracks in the past have got this around the wrong way taking the music first and then the visuals as a video clip, I guess that is the way it has been for so long for so much music that I’m pushing shit uphill. I don’t think that AV tracks are the way of the future, they may gain strength with portable video capable devices way past the tipping point and with other great artists like Richard Lainhart and Robin Fox blazing trails in the AV area, but stand alone music whether digital or analogue will always be the front runner.

Favorite Hardware
Predictably it has to be my euro rack modular, two years ago I would have said the DSI Evolver, but the modular has eclipsed that. Patching is akin to playing chess, or raking a sand garden, it’s a blank slate with a kazillion options and if you manage to explore every option just swap out a module with another one and suddenly you are back to option 1 with a kazillion to go, oh and it sounds good too. The resurgence of modular synthesis has to be an indicator that humanity is getting better.

Software Favorites
There are so many great manufacturers out there, Camel Audio, Audio Damage, Urs, Native Instruments, its hard to pick but Absynth has been a favourite of mine for a long time; the modulation options in it with its envelopes are astounding.
Because of my history with Absynth, I have just made the brave move into Kore 2 with the Komplete package on its way. It’s only been a couple of weeks and so far Kore feels like my missing piece in software/computer/user interaction. I have found it mostly intuitive with a few quirks to double check in the manual, but even after two weeks I can navigate a performance just from the controller without looking at the laptop. NI are getting better with their marketing but Kore is still one of those things that people go “What is it exactly?” I know that was the case for me, until I started researching and reading some of the articles over at the CDM minisite
Other key software in my set up is Ableton Live, which I’ve been keeping up with since v2. Its flexibility through my different musical dabblings, (IDM glitch, to noise, to drone dark ambient stuff) over the years speaks volumes.

How does your physical space and surroundings influence your workflow?
From early on music making spaces were friends lounge room floors, storage sheds, shearing sheds, wobbly tables in a dorm room, a 1 foot wide desk in a studio flat in London, so I learnt to utilise any space, any time with any available gear. I’m now lucky enough to have a spare room that functions as studio and DIY space.

Ideal location… I’d love to spend some time and develop work at the developing COSM Art Sanctuary, the dynamic from working together in a dedicated space with like minded individuals is invaluable. I also want to return to the wire instrument I built with Alan Lamb in Wagga Wagga NSW and interface the modular with it sometime soon, but again its time….

First Piece of Gear? The Last?
Two pieces almost at the same time- a Roland R5 Human Rhythm Composer and a Casio CZ101. These were bought just after the summer noise sessions and were thrown into the cacophony, I had no idea on how to use them, it was just turn em on, hit a key or pad and when a interesting sound occurred, try to remember what I did, which led to some uncomfortable situations while playing live, those spots where you fumble thru a table full of equipment looking for the device that is shattering all the glass behind the bar.
Last bit of kit was a Flight Of Harmony Choices Joystick, Flight makes such great stuff and is a shining example of the development of the euro format! I’m waiting impatiently for the FOH noise/osc module.
What is on your current ‘wish list’ for new hardware or software?
Some new powered monitors would be about it. After 10 years of buying and trading stuff my music making equipment has just about hit a perfect set up (if there is such a thing). The modular will continue to evolve and grow, I have a desk full of PCB’s to build, but recently there is not a single piece of equipment I’m wishing for, gearlust can be a dangerous production assistant for me.

The mobile setup and live set up are basically the same, consisting of the modular suitcase, Macbook Pro for modular & vocal processing in Live plus Quartz Composer for visuals, some pedals, an X-station for audio interface and midi control duty and an Evolution X-Session for Quartz Composer control. Now it’ll be interesting to see if I can swap out the X-station with the Kore and lighten the load a bit.


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