For the past few months, I’ve noticed Aaron Funk, aka Venetian Snares, reissuing rare, out of print, and older albums from his insanely vast discography through Bandcamp. This is exciting because I’ve never heard these older albums and am not surprised that they still hold up after more than a decade. And in his own words, Aaron Funk shares his Workspace & Environment…
I was born in Winnipeg, MB, Canada. I have come and gone, but here I am again. I wouldn’t say I live in Winnipeg, I live in my home and when I venture out, I am in Winnipeg. I’m parked in a sense maybe. I’ve been making music all my life really, as far back as I can remember. I think I simply love music, that’s all there is really. It’s how I express myself best. No motivation other than that.
Definitely my modular synth and 1176s. I rely on them. Most else I could get by without. These are probably my favorite sound shaping tools. The synth of course plays many roles.
My modular is mostly my own format. It’s multiple modules built onto panels with 1/8″ jacks. But it runs on +/-10v so it’s a bit more like Frac rather than Euro. I have a bit of Euro stuff + a rack of Modcan with banana jacks switched to 1/8″. Also have a rack of Blacet Mini-Waves in there which I love. Other than that it’s all this funny format unique to me. Built on 19″ panels with printed out stickers stuck on and holes hand drilled for pots and jacks. It looks super punk rock to me, I love it. I don’t give a shit what it looks like. It’s kinda like me, I look like a homeless guy most of the time but I’m lovely on the inside. Have a bunch of Oakley, CGS, Tellun, Ian Fritz, Jurgen Haible, MFOS, MOTM etc stuff as well as a bunch from my friend here in Winnipeg, Chris McDonald who builds it all for me. Tap Audio. He’s a wizard. He is one of my very closest friends. Maybe he would beat the shit out of you, but me and him are BFFs! He puts up with dumb shit from me like drilling out panels and labeling everything with stickers. I’ve got many of his own designs, they are some of my favorite modules. He’s also modded most other people’s designs when I bring them to him, improving upon them. He does nice shit, nice touches, he’ll build little mixers into modules for me so I can have multiple in and outs. Adds attenuators for absolutely everything! I love that. Who wants a bunch of attenuator modules?
A couple of my very fave modules are a sick Vactrol VCF of Chris’s which I rock all the time. He has a new filter based on that one which is 100x more mental now. His Ultra Seq sequencer design is one of my fave sequencers. It’s ridiculous. Neither of which I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about. I try to tell him he would do really well if he started manufacturing and selling this stuff but he doesn’t really give a shit. Just builds for friends. It’s like locally grown organic farming or something. Doepsanto. I get pretty into sequential switches, math modules, Interpolating Scanner is big fun. VCOs haha! Shit everything is so useful, all of it is my favorite. Guess I’ve had a few VCFs along the way I wasn’t too into but other than that, everything is so killer. Multiples. I love multiples!
I use the 1176s all the time to get things to sit back, sound forward. Fool around with the apparent loudness of a sound, all those fun little compression duties. They are magic. Simplest things but so useful. They add this kind of aroma I like as well. Transistors sweating perhaps. Really helps me to sculpt a mix with depth those things. Of course they are big fun to abuse as well, ramming the in or out to an extreme! Have a lot of fun with them making reverbs sound like they are swelling up in neat ways. I’ve never tried the UAD plug version but word is it’s nice as well. Also been pretty into this Valley People Dynamite. Heard there is a plug for that but haven’t tried it either.
As far as software goes, all I really use is Renoise and Sony Sound Forge. I do all my tunes in Renoise but use Sound Forge almost as much to edit sounds, chop things. I’ve used that for years, since before Sony bought Sonic Foundry. So I’ve always been jumping back and forth to Sound Forge no matter what I was sequencing in over the years. I am also really into FM8 and was into FM7 before that. So dreamy FM synthesis, glass clouds and oceans of molten iron. Love that shit so much. Also been using the East/West Orchestra libraries forever, they’ve been super useful to me. Don’t really use fx plugs, just send things out these days.
That Vache tune was actually made in 2004, was the first tune I did in Renoise. Dug it out and videoed it a couple years later. I can’t remember why. I used to use Cubase and OctaMed for the PC at one point, sort of going back and forth. Midi and VST was good in Cubase and MED was inspiring as a tracker. But Renoise had both so ended up ditching them. I liked them but I felt like I wanted to keep everything in one place, you know? No, I don’t get bored of Renoise or anything else. It’s just a blank canvas. Sometimes I use Renoise only as a master clock and recorder. It’s great and so tight even with the BPM jumping around. Great clock! Never tried Abelton or anything else but I hear it’s fun.
Workspace and Environment
I keep myself pretty boxed in with my gear. I go compact but stack to the ceiling. I like it that way. So I’m in my listening spot and surrounded by all my favorite things. I find when I’m walking around to different stations all the time it fucks with my flow.
Ergonomics are important to me. I try to keep as much as possible in reach. Get strategic with it you know? Have more set and forget type things further away and things I will constantly tweak closer. Have gotten pretty good with plotting those setups over the years. So these days I keep my modular directly to my right with a coffee table sitting in front of it. Had a few 303s and whatever sort of sequencers I feel like using with it. Then beside that I’ve got a rack for synths and other sequencers I can stack up to the ceiling. Directly to my left I have a rack again to the ceiling with my master mixer, a couple patch bays, various fx, compressors, EQs, preamps etc. Then to the left of that, kind of behind me I’ve got another 24 channel mixer with all my drum machines patched in to a patchbay with another rack of fx n things. Keep keyboards against the walls. Mostly because they are big bulky stupid things. I have a midi controller in front of me now. Haven’t hooked one up in 4 or 5 years. It’s been good! Got some sick keyboard chops haha!
I try and make as much available to myself as possible. Sometimes something will be based on a few things and then I will recreate it or mangle it through everything else in the room. I don’t really find I need to adhere to any set of rules or impose and limitations on myself. I just flow with whatever’s around. Sometimes that’s loads of stuff so I’m open to any of it.
My studio has been in 4 or 5 places I guess. It’s been here in my house for ages. Have changed it around siginficantly about 4 times maybe. I liked it better where it was in here before but had to move it. Strangest thing happened. Basically in my listening spot, there is a huge void. It’s weird because that was always my spot for 8 years. Perfect spot. It’s like there is a sine wave going through that spot eating half the frequencies now. I went kind of nuts and broke trying to work out what had happened. Ruled out all scientific explanations for it. My theories are I either accidentally conjured something that’s doing that or more likely I somehow misalligned whatever sync I had with an alternate universe and there’s an alternate me sitting there only hearing the other half of the frequencies going through the same nonsense. It bothers me that there is no logical explanation for it. I even considered the room suddenly going bad, absurdity. It’s bullshit.
A big perfect room with maybe a Funktion-One system for mains, or something clear and bangin. An old building with loads of empty rooms to use as reverbs. For about a year I had a good setup at an ex girlfriend’s place at her kitchen table. A laptop and a few little synths like an SE-1, a 303, one of those little original Evolvers and a Sid Station. I liked that setup, was mobile.
First Piece of Gear
A Roland SH-2000. Got it at a garage sale when I was a teenager for 5 or 10 bucks. Remember at first thinking it was a bit stupid you couldn’t stray all that far from the sounds but then I discovered I could take the top cover off of it and get at all trims pots. Then it was mental! I traded it to a guy for an Amiga when all mine were broken at one point. Good deal for him. It was a preset synth and the presets were really ridiculous. Opening it up and twisting things harnessed some really cool sounds. This was before I knew anything about synthesis but I imagine I was giving the filter some insane range. Sometimes I would play it with a screwdriver opened up and record that. Used it for bass sounds a lot once I had something to sample it into. The aftertouch was pretty funny on most of the patches. In retrospect, that is a pretty dumb synth, but for 5 bucks it’s pretty great.
Latest Piece of Gear
Last thing I got was a Waldorf Microwave XT off this guy I know a couple months back. It’s in my rack where my Prophet 08 with the world’s wonkiest pots used to live. I’m pretty into what you can do with multis, can take 8 patches and layer them together in really interesting ways. Still exploring the synth when it calls to me. In the future I’m sure I will feel more at one with the Microwave. Right now it’s a very interesting visitor.
Venetian Snares in Public
I went to a goth night once and heard my music. It was funny that people were dancing to it the same way they were dancing to Sisters of Mercy. On TV on a cooking show once in a hotel. That felt strange. Normally it doesn’t happen but people tell me sometimes they’ve heard my music in funny places.