I’ve not traveled too far from home. I grew up in a rural Hamlet outside the city of Windsor, Ontario and moved into the city in my early twenties. I started working on the U.S. side of the border which provided more opportunities both within my career and artistically as well.
I started producing music while attending University. I was a fine art major but experimental audio eventually became a big part of my studies. I was in a multi-media program which focused on audio, video and installation art as a discipline. It wasn’t a very popular program at the time but it gave me a foundation for understanding the impact of time based media. Video production at the time was rather pricey so I started experimenting more with audio gear. It was the early 90’s and my work was also influenced by the evolving techno/warehouse scene in Detroit. I made some work at that time which might have been classified as “techno” but I never really took to it as much I as I had hoped I might. So my focus eventually turned to producing audio for video, installations and eventually performance. Producing sound continues to be a more accessible creative outlet for me. My studio is always a few steps away and I’ve found methods for working that can produce satisfying results quickly.
I think it’s difficult for me to identify only a few pieces of hardware that could be called current favorites. A couple of years ago I started down the treacherous path of working with modulars. I researched for months ultimately hoping to find a device that didn’t require that I be staring at a screen and that was instantly accessible to experiment with. The tactile nature of modular gear has satisfied that need perfectly. If you see the modular as a singular instrument, then that is my current favorite piece of hardware. But I see all the individual modules that add up to the system as being instruments as well. With that said, if I were to narrow it to a few modules I would say the last few Intellijel units I’ve picked up. I’ve been using a Dixie for the last few tracks and it’s incredibly full sounding. I really do need a few more.
My first piece of gear was a Yamaha TG-33 that I bought from a local piano dealer. It’s an FM based synth that combines samples that allowed you to morph between four quadrants with a joy stick. It was capable of multiple voices so it was a good place to start. I still own the unit and am not likely to part with it despite not having used it for years. Perhaps I’ll boot it up again in the near future.
The last piece of gear I acquired was the Flight of Harmony IMP eurorack module. I’ve been building and working with a modular system for more than a year now. Those familiar with modulars, especially eurorack, are aware that it’s continually evolving and you never completely settle on a finished hardware arrangement. I haven’t so far and I suspect I’ll keep at it for some time. I’m having some difficulty finding good uses for the IMP at this point. It’s essentially a noise machine that doesn’t take to tuning easily. I bought it understanding that but to force myself to think a bit less musically. I listen to a lot of work that would be classified as noise so you might think I could break my formulas, but old habits die hard.
Other than building the modular more recently, I generally don’t update gear or software too often. I’ve been working with Reaktor for years and it still manages to achieve what I expect as well as continually offering new paths for experimentation. I use it for both sound creation as well as effects. I’ve worked in a digital semi-modular manner for years so the transition and integration of hardware and software has been fairly seamless and intuitive.
Workspace and Environment
I know plenty of musicians that are capable of working in a carefree cluttered environment. That is not my modus operandi. If my studio is too cluttered, I find it very difficult to work. Somehow my mind is on organizing rather than producing. I’ve had a few different work environments but I find the current location to be the most comfortable. A few years ago I was determined to produce work on a laptop in any number of locations, but I’ve found that in foreign environments, I’m continually distracted by my surroundings. My studio is a safe haven from disturbances…for the most part.
Ergonomics play an important role in my studio in that I want to have most everything in easy reach. If it’s trouble to set up or assemble, it doesn’t seem to get used. I think there is a balance between comfort and function as well. I like my studio space to be relaxed but not at the sacrifice of productivity. I don’t want to waste precious time being indolent.
I think at one time both Windsor and Detroit contributed to the kind of music I made as well as providing an audience. Over the years my sound has changed and as a result so has my listening audience, which was small to begin with. I think the art scene was as equally important as the music scene was in contributions. I feel the ability to reach out online via social media channels has provided me a good substitution for exposure to a wider audience.
I’ve always imagined creating a studio in a remote location. Imagine something akin to Philip Johnson’s Glass House. It’s likely to have poor acoustics given the amount of glass, but I can’t help but think I’d be extremely productive in such a tranquil environment.
My studio has been in about 4 locations over the years. It really did start out as a bedroom studio but I started buying larger vintage synths and they really can take up some room. I then moved to a basement studio with more than enough room but it ultimately lacked the comfort needed to spend extended periods of time in. Eventually I reduced the size of my studio as I was working mostly digitally and figured I wouldn’t need bulky hardware as much. I sold a few things I wish I had kept, but realistically I didn’t need them. Too many options can be paralyzing.
There is no question that the “less is more” philosophy applies to my creative process. More accurately I believe “inventiveness is a direct result of working within constraints”. I’ve had more gear at one time and gear lust is by nature part of music production it would seem. But I’ve learned over the years that it’s far too easy to get distracted by a multitude of options. That includes software as well. I’ve restricted myself to essentially three software programs, a couple of outboard processors and a modest sized modular setup. As well, when producing a new track I often restrict my sound sources, attempting to create as many variations with a limited selection.