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Workspace and Environment: Eric Avery

Eric Avery has wrapped up his second solo album and is currently part of a music project with Brent Hinds of Mastodon, Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Jon Theodore.

I was born here in LA. I arrived here by being born – it got messy. Ive made music since I was a lonely wee lad. I had lots of time not having alot of friends and not getting laid, a few good motivational sources there. What keeps me motivated is my desire to keep motivated. I make as many decisions as I can afford to based on what will keep me interested and keep the proverbial flame lit, and of course I’d like to continue getting laid.

What is your current favorite hardware
Favorite current piece of hardware is almost always the most recent piece of hardware, right? That would be Make Noise Phonogene module, right now. Actually captured a spam cell call in the Phonogene this morning and fucked around with it, love that little thing. I would have to probably describe my access virus c as THE piece of hardware I couldn’t live without. Since a friend gave it to me, yeah, I know; GAVE it to me, I found its the workhorse. It does everything great. I also love my Andromeda A6, Little Phatty, etc. Oh , fuck, did I forget my OP-1? Christ that thing is creative.

Favorite current software?
Soundtoys. Decapitator. Decapitator. Decapitator. Did I mention Soundtoys?

Workspace and Environment
I try to shut out the day as much as possible. Its the Las Vegas casino strategy: if you don’t know what time it is, you’ll just get lost in it. I find ergonomics generally feel more fascist than comfortable. Just as long as you don’t move, you feel perfectly comfortable? Not me. Not for very long anyway.
I don’t think municipalities can always really have much of an effect on your work. Not site specifically really but LA has because I grew up in a multigenerational film family. My grandfather was an LA transplant re-recording engineer, father was an actor. Academy members, involved in the business and art of film. I think that directly informs my work, always has and probably always will. To a greater degree than anything else. Regardless of the style of music I am ever currently interested in, I am always listening to things in a cinematic way. A sense of place or environment has always been more important than melody or other more musical concerns. Not always consciously but always just the same.

What is your ideal workspace?
Wherever I am really. When I get too concerned with anything being just right, I generally just get a bigger than usual dosage of the blank canvas syndrome. The blank canvas becomes a giant white wall. Ok, everything is just right…ready…set…go…make genius happen now. I hope that makes sense. Plus, if I lived in a big scruffy warehouse space on a beach with a great surf break, I might be too busy counting my blessings everyday to get anything done.

I adhere to the by-hook-or-by-crook strategy. Whatever gets it done. I always hear people talk about rules “all the best music just flows out easily” blah, blah. Not for me. Sometimes the music that just flows out FEELS great but when I listen back a few days later I just think, “oh no its happened, I am officially a douchebag”. Sometimes it’s my best work but sometimes my best work comes from hammering the shit out of some idea for years until its listenable or makes some sense one day. Some folks might have tidy creative rules that apply. Not me. look at the accompanying pic of my workspace. I’m a fucking mess.

TipTop BD808, Snare, and Open/Closed High-Hats Patch 2

TipTop BD808, Snare, and Open/Closed High-hats-Patch 2 from Richard Devine on Vimeo.

Patching with the new TipTop BD808, Snare, and Open/Closed High-hats. Sequencing only with the 4ms Clock divider, SCM and one plan-b LFO.

Workspace and Environment: Keith Fullerton Whitman

I was born in Bergen County, NJ, where I grew up (Hillsdale, to be precise). I went to college at Berklee in Boston, where I’ve stayed for the last 20 years (the Boston area, not Berklee). Currently I have an office & a studio space in Porter Square in Cambridge (just a few blocks north of Harvard) & there’s another set of workstations in my apartment in Somerville about 2 miles away. Although these days I tend to do most of my music-work at home (recording at least).

I started making electronic music on a vic20 when I was 10 years old ; then the Atari 400/800/st, then Mac’s, etc … I love music, I always seem to find new areas & techniques to explore & I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by people (although less actual & more virtual these days) who at least share some of my interests. I’m largely motivated these by other people continuing to ask me for music ; I have a hard time saying no …

Favorite Hardware
The two items I’ve been using the most this month are a Tascam dp-008 digital 8-track & a Soundevices mix-pre-d … I bought the Tascam on a whim, but it’s proven to a be a great stand-alone multitrack (it fits with a Cloudlifter CL-2 on a shelf mounted to a mic-stand! It’s tiny) ; I’ve been recording loads of music on it, which is always the sign of a good piece of gear. I picked up the mix-pre-d to do higher quality location recording (previously i’d just been using a Sony PCM-D50 & was considering the standalone phantom power source, then realized this cost almost as much as the mix-pre-d) but its ended up being a pretty powerful workhorse – works beautifully as a mic pre, a usb recording interface, a preamp for feeding decent audio into a dslr for video, a mid-side decoder … the list goes on.

Favorite Software
It’s been AGES since I’ve gotten anything new, or even updated my DAW setup at the studio (I’m running Logic 8 & MAX-MSP 4.5, there’s a UAD-2 card in the main machine). Everything is running smoothly & it sounds great, so stasis is the best course … wait, I did get some of those Valhalla DSP plugins recently, those are great (the room one is especially good) … I was really into that Tobor experiment Berna package for a while, although I quickly realized I VASTLY preferred doing those sorts(s) of things in hardware ; still, it was a cool idea for a software suite. Oh, and the madrona aalto is really, really great for a software synth.

Workspace and Environment
The studio space in which I do most of my computer-oriented music work doubles as the warehouse of the distribution company I run ; all of the stock is there, along with my personal record collection … endless inspiration right there. That said, people are always knocking on the door looking for records & that can sometimes get in the way of deep concentration. The space is gorgeous, in a big mill building. After 6 it clears out & it’s whisper-quiet (other than the commuter rail trains going by) … 30 foot high ceilings, good light.

They’re important ; I never set out to make the different workstations ergonomically feasible, but often things get shifted around to be a little more comfortable. The best ergonomic choice I made was to just set up a bunch of different workstations for different tasks ; that way I’m not always using the same set of muscles, sitting in the same position, focusing on the same screen at the same distance for 12 hours a day. I have a “standing desk” at the office where I do things like assemble records, plus there’s a big packing bench which is great for projects where I need to lay out a bunch of different things temporarily … the “synth desk” is also a standing desk ; a bar table with storage underneath for cables & whatnot. I find standing while doing creative work really helps to focus on what I’m doing at any given time.

I’ve chosen to stay in Boston as it’s extremely pleasant here. there’s a great, small, tight-knit scene for the sort(s) of music that I make & enjoy that doesn’t suffer from the delusions of grandeur you’d get in a larger city ; I guess that’s why I love it here – people just going about their lives, working on their craft. The winters are brutal, which is great as I tend to do most of my creative work for the year while sequestered inside. I’m actually fairly antisocial … I can go days at a time without seeing anyone other than my partner & our cats.

Ideal Location
I think this is it! Having the time & resources to get deep into projects without too much temptation to go out every night. That sounds like heaven to me …

I tend to move apartments every couple of years, which is actually a great thing – it’s nice to re-assess what you’re using & what’s gathering dust every so often, pawn off anything that’s not being used. Since moving to boston for good in 1993, I’ve moved home/studio about 8 times. I’ve been in the porter sq. office for 4 years now, this apartment going on 2. I almost always had one of those Omnirax or Middle Atlantic workstations, but I noticed after a while I was getting neck & back pain from always craning my neck up to see the monitor on the top shelf. Now I use bar-tables with storage underneath, much better, plus it forced me to stand … plus those $49 staples “computer desk” stations, which I find very comfortable (you just have to remove the upper shelf).

I often work in very conceptual ways … having the hour or two going back & forth from the home/studio to the office/studio every day, away from all of my gear & whatnot, to think about possible approaches & ideas is crucial. I don’t really make notes or diagrams, but I tend to think about something I’d like to try & map it out in great detail mentally before I begin. specific to the modular, I’m constantly re-working the portable case that I take out on the road. pretty much every week I’m swapping something out for something else. I like to approach it as a series of little micro-patches. Right now, in the 90hp 12u I have in the Monorocket mx-6, there are 7 self-contained sub-patches which all speak to each other in different ways. but it’s constantly changing from week to week.

First piece of Hardware
Hard to say … the vic-20 was prob the first I remember using to actually make music, but I remember saving up my paper route money to get a Casio CZ-1 when those came out. Actually, I remember having Casios before then (def. an MT-68 ; i have a different one now & still use it all the time) – I know I had a TR-505 at one point too, a fostex cassette 4-track, then, later, a Tascam Syncaset 8-track cassette & the matching mixer. I really wish I still have both of those!!! The sound you got out of that mixer was incredible ; the channel distortion …

Last Piece of Hardware
This week I picked up a Boss DR-55 drum machine – super interesting as it has two clock-outs (one sends a 16th note, the other follows accents programmed into a given rhythm) – it’s been fun to clock a modular patch with it, maybe send the clock through a few 4ms rcd’s, but then have the audio of the drum machine to play around with as well … very cool.

I went to see a band a few weeks ago at a “big” rock club ; They played “playthroughs” as the between-band music throughout the night. It kind of freaked me out, actually. I’ve had music on TV, in video games, and in movies as well. Whenever i hear something out of context, I usually get very disoriented …

Extra Curricular
I do a bit of sound-design here & there ; nothing I really pursue, but it’s nice when that work lands in my lap. Last year I did a few pieces for a few games & some sound-design for one of them … it was based on the seven chakras, and I did sound for the final, “crown” chakra level. Did a bit of research on the root frequencies & tunings, which made it this interesting mix of science / psycho-acoustics and music. I’m quite happy with how it turned out …

Keith Fullerton Whitman

Making of Room 237

Finally sold out & made some good old fashioned synth porn. – Jonathan Snipes

In 1980 Stanley Kubrick released his masterpiece of modern horror, The Shining. Over 30 years later we are still struggling to understand its hidden meanings. Rodney Ascher’s film Room 237 is an exploration of the truths concealed in The Shining.

Kubrick’s film was scored in large part with pre existing classical recordings, but the score for Room 237 has taken as its inspiration the elegant but quirky film music that accompanied low budget horror movies in the 1970s. Composers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson utilize a combination of vintage and contemporary analogue synthesizers, as well as acoustic instruments to create an atmosphere that is at once both haunting and funky.

Jonathan Snipes – Synthesizers, Pianos, Vocoder, Percussion
William Hutson – Synthesizers, Percussion
David Rothbaum – Guitars & Bass
Nick Murray – Drums
Maryclare Brzytwa – Flute
Bear McCreary – Clavinet
Cristina Bercovitz – Vocal Effects

Workspace and Environment: Omniflux

Mahsa Zargaran of Omniflux.

I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. Got put in jail at 15 for having a party. So that made it kind of an easy decision to move out of Iran. Couldn’t have picked a more opposite freak show of a town to move to than Orange County. That was 1999. I now reside in Los Angeles.

I’ve played classical piano since I was 5. Became very good at it, but by my late teens it felt more like doing math and/or a meditation exercise than doing something wild and unpredictable. I still love playing classical piano though. It’s very calming. I got really deep into film scores when I was about 21 and that’s all I listened to (besides Eminem). Thats when my interest in creating music began. I crave being completely focused on something. That craving motivates me. What’s special about making music is that I can put headphones on and get lost listening to a beat but still stay fully focused.

Current Favorite Hardware
Dave Smith Instruments’ Poly Evolver. It’s such an intuitive synth and yet so complex. I love all the knobs. I lose interest in sound design quickly if I have to read menu options on a screen for everything instead of turning a knob for every parameter. AND it has pretty blue lights.

Current Favorite Software
-NI’s Massive and Arturia’s Minimoog are my two go to plugins right now. I understand them well and I’d rather use 2 plugins i know than having all the plugins in the world. That stresses me out to even think about.

Workspace and Environment
I like working in small intimate spaces. I can’t work if there’s anybody around. I’ve always worked by myself and will probably continue to do so. People would be scared if they saw me work. lots of dancing around happens. Good lighting is essential to my work flow and it probably serves my work more than any piece of gear.

I know they’re supposed to be important but physically I don’t apply it. I often find myself sitting in awkward positions on a couch with a synth for a long time. Can’t get to anything comfortably, and when i get up my whole body has fallen asleep, but I keep doing the same thing. I have a sickness. I like changing around my studio set up a lot. Having the same gear in the same place all the time freaks me out. Makes it routine like.

Los Angeles probably gets in the way of my output more than it contributes. there’s always a friend playing a show somewhere. I could go out every night and see a show. It’s very distracting. Too much information going in.

Ideal Location
A loft in the middle of a busy city with lots of big windows and skylights. Cats, baby goats and ducklings would live there. Nice places to walk to would be cool. Like a river, museums, etc.

Less is more. No preparation, just execution. Don’t think. Stop thinking. Seriously, stop thinking. Don’t spend too much time on a sound, take a crappy sound and make it work.

Extra Curricular
Outside of my own project Omniflux, I play drums in Sabrosa Purr and Big Black Delta. I’ve scored a couple of short films. I hope to do a lot more scoring in the future.


Cwejman RG-6 Random Voltage Overview

A great and rare overview of the Cwejman’s take on random generation. Cwejman makes some of the best modules on the market: their designs are so well thought out and sound/build quality is so high. Jason Baker does an excellent job explaining its functions and quirks.

Obsolete Technology + Great Taste = Love

Most likely the only example of 303 music I can actually listen to.

4 x 303 and 1 x 606.

– Via Matrixsynth

Workspace and Environment: Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan

Benjamin Weinman and I have been playing tag for a few years. He’ll suddenly materialize out of the sweaty crowds at NAMM where he saves Richard and I from a gut-wrenchingly awkward conversation with Meshuggah, or he’ll come to Chicago and destroy the city with his band but he’s finally managed to spare a few moments before going on tour. So here you have it, Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan.

I was born in Northern NJ about 45 min away from Manhattan NY. I still live in the same neighborhood I grew up in and can see my parents house from my window. I guess I just had too much shit to stay at their house so I moved to a house down the street. I have been banging on stuff for as long as I can remember. I remember going to my friends house when I was a kid he would help me with my homework and I would figure out the melody to any song he called out on his little toy keyboard. That was the trade. That was my training.

I use the crap out of my Universal Audio 6176. It’s very versatile for whatever. Drums, vocals, just banging coffee cups into a room mic. I also, love this little old Moog I found at a pawn shop years ago on tour and my Organ which I put through all kinds of pedals occasionally to spark ideas. It also has a tape recorder built in so sometimes I actually tape sounds and then record them into my computer to get a little tape saturation.

As far as my DAW I’m a Cubase SX kind of guy. I recently acquired SX 6 which just makes sense. The new drum editing features are so quick and user friendly and the built in vari audio, midi detection and export, and transient detection is pretty amazing. The tempo detection helps a great deal with remixes as well. Also, sometimes use FL Studio to change things up. I still think the piano roll just opens up so many rhythmic ideas. As for plugins I have been abusing the Sound Toys stuff a lot lately and Spectrasonics is making some pretty powerful stuff.

Workspace and Environment
It influences me a great deal. I have a basement studio with no light or sound from the outside world. I fully sound proofed my space. Built a floating room. So basically I can bang on drums at 3am in the morning if I want and work until the sun comes up. I couldn’t do that in the past when I was so distracted and limited by my surroundings. Ergonomics are not important and very important. I think Ergonomics effects what you make but certainly does not determine your ability to create. I can’t stand people who complain that they can’t create because they don’t have this or this is not like that or If I only had this or things were like this… blah blah blah. Just make stuff with what you got where you got it!

There isn’t much going on around here so I don’t go out much. I do think that growing with the ability to go to NY where there was a lot of art and culture while still having the ability to go home and jam in a garage or basement had a huge influence on the music I made coming up.

If I could hook a midi keyboard up to my brain while I sleep I’m pretty sure some pretty cool stuff would come out.

I do things in all different ways. I usually can’t think too much. Just have to pick something up and start making noise.

It’s pretty rare that I’ve heard my music publicly but the few times I have I feel pretty embarrassed. Not sure if I am suppose to acknowledge it or pretend it’s no big deal. I feel really uncomfortable honestly.

Extra Curricular
I have done a few things for video games and a bit of commercial work. At the moment I am working on sound design for a horror movie and am also creating and collaborating on Trailer music and orchestrations.

T_A NAMM 2012

Thank you Scott McGrath, our sponsors, the crew behind Wham Bam, and everyone that came to the BBQ. We’ve learned a lot from this experience and hopefully will be able to accommodate everyone we turned away next year. We hope to see both coasts for T_A events in 2012 but more information on that later…

The photo session in the video was run by Sarah Sitkin and her work can be found here: Sarah Sitkin’s Flickr! She’s responsible for the visual glory on To No Avail and a session with Sonoio. You can read an interview with her about her work on To No Avail here: Sarah Sitkin To No Avail Interview. Below are some selects from photoshoots from this past weekend.

Richard Devine

Nayib of Gorillabox

Scott & Julie Jaeger of Harvestman


A Spell To Ward Off Darkness

For the past several months whenever Rob AA Lowe (Lichens) and I met, he has been showing me progress of this film he’s starring in. It first began with productions stills, vague plots and shooting schedules and finally, about a month ago, he showed me this trailer that has been haunting me since. The video went public today.


From pagan re-enactors to Scandinavian communes, black metal concerts to Arctic hermits, and the forever Golden Hour to the Northern Lights, A SPELL TO WARD OFF THE DARKNESS is an inquiry into the possibilities of a spiritual existence within an increasingly secular world.

Starring musician Robert AA Lowe (LICHENS) and co-directed by Ben Rivers (UK) and Ben Russell (USA), A SPELL is a feature-length film that lies between fiction and non-fiction, a record of experience that proposes belief in transcendence as a viable outcome of living in the now.