Workspace and Environment: Vaetxh

Robert Clouth of Vaetxh.

I was born in Abergavenny, a smallish town in South Wales. I went to uni in London for 4 years and now live in Bristol. I started messing around with computer sound when I was 12 or so when my family got our first computer (an epic 186mhz) on this shitty MIDI programme called Evolution Audio Lite. I wrote a couple of potential xmas number ones on that – one anthem called Losenge, and another that consisted of one of the demo songs compressed down to a single beat. Then later got Fruity Loops v1 on a pirated mega-disk of music software my brother brought me back from Thailand, then worked up through every version until now (10).
Listening to the IDM classics got me motivated back then, these days music doesn’t so much. I have real motivational issues sometimes with music, especially when I’m under deadline pressure. The spiral usually goes like this: leave it too late -> don’t think I have enough time to make it as good as possible -> don’t think it’s going to be any good -> put it off -> leave it too late, etc. There a lot of other things I like doing and sometimes music doesn’t get my time for weeks (but when I go back I remember what I was missing and have an all nighter).

Current Favorite Hardware
If it counts, first is my computer by a long, long way. Most stuff that can be done in hardware can be done in software, and if it can’t someone is usually working on it. One thing software can’t very well yet is imitate the real world, so second is my Zoom H2 recorder and mic collection. I bloody love it. As soon as I bought it a couple of years ago it became my camera and I always keep it in my bag, just in case there’s some sound that I want. I’ve got some nice mics to go with it – some deep-ear binaural mics, some waterproofed contact mics (double up as hydrophones) and this relatively new one, a coil mic that picks up the electromagnetic fields of electronics (you can hear CPUs crunching numbers, it’s nuts). I’ve also modded the H2 ready for a soundfield mic that I’m making for capturing ambisonic recordings, for post-rec panning with head-tracking experiments. Third favourite is this little Roland Dr-Drum that I’ve taken the back off to expose the synthesis circuits. When you poke it, it sounds like the scream of someone trapped in a digital nightmare. Instaglitch. Crack a bit of reverb on it, job done.

Current Favorite Software
Synthmaker is fuckin wicked. I started playing with it when Max dropped their export to VST feature in favour of the Max for Live thing (which I have almost no use for, and when I thought I might do I’ve found it can’t do it yet). It’s done so many things right and in some ways I prefer it to Max. It’s so quick to prototype stuff in it that it’s changed what VSTs mean to me – now I tend to knock out ones that create a specific sound for a specific track, rather than more flexible synths etc. Plus it’s tightly integrated in FL which which is great. I’m a Max fan though, but I just use it for live stuff and sound generation, I’ve never found a way of knitting it fully into my setup. A couple of years ago I started programming, and that’s changed things because now I can make new tools for sound design and sequencing. For example, one thing I’m working on is sound painting – sculpting sounds from the ground up by painting their spectrums using a digitizer I got for xmas. Another is a tool for sequencing fractal-structured tracks with infinite zoom (i.e. as the track slows, the next layers emerge in the opening gaps between the beats), a bit like that fold 4 wrap 5 Autechre tune but controllable faster and slower. As for actual VSTs, has some really weird physical modelling ones which are great, and also the convolver that comes with FL is excellent – you can record the impulses of other plugins with it.

Workspace and Environment
I know this is Workspace and Environment, but they don’t really effect me too much to be honest. I find that when I get into the zone it doesn’t really matter where I am. I’ve snapped out of sessions and realised that I haven’t eaten since breakfast and that I’ve been needing a piss for the last 4 hours – where I am is the least of my concerns.

Are Ergonomics Important?
Very, after one summer without a mouse and keyboard and the savage aches and pains in my wrists that resulted. I sorted it out then and haven’t had a problem since.

Does Your City Affect Your Output?
Definitely, but I’m far more affected by the people around me than the music scene of the city itself.

Ideal Location
The massive dweeb answer: virtual reality. It would be bonkers. Music wouldn’t be just sound anymore because sound waves wouldn’t exist and you wouldn’t have eardrums to hear them if they did. Everything would become general sensory input. Smelling music and hearing light, etc, etc. Sound/visual synths that you control just by thinking about it. It brings up some interesting questions. How fast could you press a note of a keyboard or twist a dial if you weren’t limited by the physical speed of your finger? How many separate parameters could you control at once? I’ve thought about this way too much. A slightly more realistic location would be in some sort of floating sky-booth that sits above the clouds, like the London eye but not shit, a lot higher and with a stonking sound system.

Generally I make an effort to experiment with new techniques. It’s too easy to get locked in the same formula. A while ago I got muscle memory tweaking this one reverb to exactly the same sound, and put it on almost everything. I try to avoid that now. Though I guess my general process is to listen back to the tune I’m working on for little hooks and ideas (not necessarily intentional ones as I use some generative techniques), and then develop those. It’s by expanding and emphasising these anomalies that my tracks are made basically.

First Piece of Gear
My Event TR-8 monitors. Loved em then, love em now. When I bought them I cracked them on the floor facing each other and lay between them, listening to rain sounds of all things. I know you can more expensive ones with flatter responses, but unless your studio is in an anechoic chamber inside another one in space it seems a bit pointless getting posher ones since the room has much more of an effect…and I’ve been in acoustically turd rooms since I got them.

Last Piece of Gear
10 radios for one of my half-finished projects. My thoughts of them now are that I’ll probably never end up using them so I should just offload them to the chazza shop, but probably won’t. My thoughts of them in the future will be that I should have offloaded them to the chazza shop because I never used them, and now they’re just going in the bin.

How Many Workspaces Have You Had?
As many as I have had houses in the last 5 years…so 7. It hasn’t changed that much to be honest. It’s not the best studio but I only really use the monitors to listen to things really, really loud, generally I find a good pair of headphones better for mixing. The biggest change it got was when I got a sub a couple of years ago. The first thing I did when I got it (as everyone must do when they get a sub) is do a 20kHz to 20Hz sine sweep. I got a call 2 minutes later from my estate agent because the lady next door had ran to the office to complain that my ‘drum and bass music’ was rattling her picture frames. It goes down to 20Hz, and having this entirely new chunk of the spectrum really affected my music (and the neighbours), putting 20Hz rumble in tunes and that.

Extra Curricular
Me and my housemate made this silly animation recently that seems to be going down quite well on youtube. The internet does love cats it seems. Too much in fact because some people have actually bought the track. Some german public TV show contacted us to feature it and we’re getting 40 quid out of it which is nice.

Rob Clouth Soundcloud

Vaetxh- crumbling shuffle from numbercult on Vimeo.

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