If you didn’t like our undercover raid into Alessandro’s gear, here is an official walkthrough of his setup.
Heartfelt thanks goes out to Jessica Tomasin of Mountain Oasis festival and Kelly Kelbel of Make Noise for helping facilitate this past weekend. Without these two wonderful women, this would not have been possible.
Carl Oliver’s Set
Timelapse of Synth Meet 13
Grischa took it upon himself to interpret the Workspace and Environment series and approach it in his own way. I encourage this type of behavior.
I would have to tell you, who else? (In english?/ Auf englisch, dieser vermittelnden sprache, wo sich die woerter zu einander verhalten, wie idiosynchratische uebersetzungen von gegenstaenden) Portray gravitational lines, draw (in reverse) the traction of things here: emigrated, emmisive, haunting – where your traces (in me) earthed the appearance of a machine. a strategy, a fetish – tied together by a history of words I raised my habits in. A family, not a pattern.
You would never ask for the determination, as I would never question your strength. You’ve been there, always before me, constantly, prevenient, anterior. I’m building pairs of three, a bundle of scattered references. The deranged double. Irritated look-alikes. ‘you’, you split apart – there is this text and there are the words we have drowned. I have to tell you, tell, recount, report. Is there a single instrument I could use to sing to, still?
You know the pine trees, the lime and all the other plants, where I was hiding away from no matter what. La demeure/demeurer lettre morte – il y a pÈril en la demeure. How could I possibly tell someone else, not you? Just talk sense into the demolished glazed tiles of the corridor and the rudiments we saw of the timbered toilet haven where he was unraveling mysteries we didn’t/don’t know about?
They asked me (I don’t really know why) to tell them about the AK141 philips (tuned bassport) speakers, about the Spirit Folio mixing desk, about Sony’s Sonic Soundforge and all the other things I got used to. Tell them how I would have screamed Soundgarden lyrics towards the speaker’s membrane? Do you remember that they had been on the top of the shelf and I needed to climb up there, standing on a board case, clutch something to not fall off? The tinned voices – a face I stared at, always through the black hole sun of the conical diaphragm. How could I describe it to them?
The potentiometer’s crackled accusation – regardless I am still sitting there in your old studio-den, where you trusted me to live-mix your new impro-band. I messed up every tape. All these things weigh heavier every day, the dust constantly accumulating the lapses, re-recorded sough in signal paths. No, I won’t encourage anyone to prance such disposition, I promise. But I have to tell you.
You taught me to slide the caret over the Soundwave in Soundforge (4.5), you trusted a compression beyond +16db in Sony Acid, you cared about the lines and verses, believed in the absorptional potential of e-minor on a children’s guitar, sprayed blue with stolen can’s. I will have to apologize to print, to show, to tell.
What contamination spread from this unnamed demarcation of subtracting him from this planet? Could you trust these words (oder jene) any longer? No, I have to say, even if it is so unbearable pretentious elaborating this few signs in this foreign language to release them into an inappropriate, indecent, but open space of many eyes, I have to tell you…
Photos by Sarah Ambrosi
If you’ve followed T_A, are familiar with Make Noise Records, any of my past few releases, or Ninja Tune, you might be familiar with Shawn Hatfield of AudibleOddities – the go to Mastering Engineer for any kind of audio. I first learned about Shawn through his musical output, Twerk, and later found out he got into mastering. After having Shawn master something once, I was impressed and every subsequent release has gone through him.
I was born in Hollywood, CA and lived briefly in Southern California until my parents decided to head north, finally settling in the country just outside of Santa Cruz, CA. Being so close to vibrant San Francisco ultimately impelled me to settle in the Bay Area. After about 15 years of living in San Francisco, my wife and I decided to relocate somewhere a little less hectic and with more consistent weather. We ended up in Oakland, where it’s almost always sunny, a lot more laid-back, and there’s endless places to eat, shop, and ride our bikes.
My involvement with sound goes all the way back to my father and his love for music. A song writer in his earlier years, he played a bit of guitar and gave me a sense early on that music had importance. He also had a nice collection of records and a decent stereo system. Eventually I started messing about with the various knobs and sliders and when I discovered the EQ, it was a deeply profound moment for myself. I spent many hours there as a child fixated on that EQ, tweaking his various records until I thought they sounded better to my ears. Who knew, 30 years later, I’d be doing the same thing for work?
As I got older and exposed to more music, I fell in love with early hip hop and started learning how to mix and scratch records in the late 80’s. In the early 90’s I fell in love with electronic music and spent a few years DJ’ing techno out at local parties. At some point in the mid 90’s I started thinking a lot about the production aspect of music and started things off by buying an EMU ESI-32 sampler and a TR-909. I got the bug pretty bad and before I knew it, I had amassed quite a collection of old synths and drum machines and started cranking out the tunes. A couple of local 12″ releases led to several European contracts resulting in several albums and 12″s on labels like Planet Rhythm, Mille Plateaux, and Force Inc. With a bit of success at that point, I thought I was going to be a musician forever. But after touring through Europe I quickly realized I wasn’t cut out for that lifestyle and returned home disenchanted at the prospects of living off my music. At that point I decided to go back to college and become a nurse. Simultaneously, I was also learning a bit about mastering, as I had grown quite an interest in it after having my own music mastered by the legendary Nilesh Patel. The first time I ever got masters back from him, I was blown away at the difference in quality. It quite literally seemed like magic to me. I started learning as much as I could about mastering. Producer friends would come by with their new songs and we’d sit there with some basic tools, like a dbx 166A and a T.C. Finalizer and I’d “master” the songs as best I could. I’m sure the results were probably pretty poor back then but my friends seemed impressed and eventually I found myself helping my friends so much that I was unable to do both the nursing program, and mastering. Up to that point, I was doing engineering for free just as a hobby on the side, but I had an epiphany in class one day where I realized I was in college to get some arbitrary career, while I should just be focusing on music full time as a mastering engineer and somehow find a way to carve out a living for myself. I asked a few of the friends I’d been helping if they were OK paying up a little cash to continue helping them, and they were all a bit surprised I hadn’t asked sooner. I finished up that current semester as I’d been doing really well in school and didn’t want to drop out halfway through. But once it was over, I told all my friends to tell their friends that I could help them with mastering. Thanks to word of mouth, here I am today.
I stay motivated by absolutely loving my job. There’s really nothing I’d rather be doing. I’m already looking forward to the next day of work, even as I’m finishing up a long day of it. I get up every day excited to go back into the studio. It helps that I get to work for so many talented people from all over the world.
A mastering engineer does as little as possible, and as much as needed, to bend and shape a collection of songs into something that’s cohesive and coherent. We strive to remain transparent, but with just enough process to give the end listener the best possible listening experience on as many different types of playback systems possible. A mastering engineer will correct mix anomalies, improve overall frequency balance, and sometimes add a dash of color that can take a good sounding mix and transform it into a great one. We also handle the lesser exciting technical aspects of each particular format and ensure the music is properly prepared for each, whether it be CD, vinyl, MFiT, or Wave files. Each of these things have limitations and requirements, and it’s important that they’re handled appropriately. As an artist who’s been fortunate to have some of the best mastering engineers in the world work on my music, I’ve come to understand the importance of mastering on a very personal level. Having heard both the unmastered and mastered versions of my own music, it doesn’t even seem optional. Even if I know I’m never going to see a dime from my music, I’ll pay whatever it takes to make sure that what I put out there is the best it can possibly be.
When people submit projects to us, the first thing I do is open them up in an editor and look for headroom. Ten years ago, just about every project coming in was a solid block of audio maxing out at 0dBFS. There’s next to nothing I can do in situations like this so I ask if it’s possible to get new versions with some peak headroom. When I get those files, I give them a listen and check to see how they sound on my system. As a mastering engineer, I don’t feel it’s my job to overly critique a mix beyond things that just seem absurdly out of whack, like when your client’s mixed Trap music in headphones, and the low end tries to rip apart my woofers. But if things sound generally within the large range of what is commonly acceptable, I assume the person handing the files off to me did the best they could to get them sounding as close to what they wanted as possible. So I try to respect that while mastering and do as much as I can to both maintain the artistic intent, and maximize the sonic potential of the recording. It can be a delicate balance to strike and it’s a skill that can take decades to master.
Right now it’s a couple of different things, but really, the thing that’s my most favorite right now isn’t so much a piece of gear, but rather my current chain of gear. I’ve chosen pieces of gear that create synergy as a whole and it’s taken many years to find the right combination of pieces that fits my workflow and aesthetic.
But, within that chain, I am currently loving a pair of Dave Hill Titans. Dave Hill is the genius behind Crane Song equipment and the designer of the coveted HEDD192 A/D D/A convertor. His approach to designing equipment is very unique, and it’s obvious he has a deep fascination with distortion and harmonics and how they can be used to musically enhance program material. The Titan is essentially a very flexible VCA compressor that can be incredibly pristine and transparent, but also with some added options to dial in older vintage styled VCA sounds, as well as a very interesting feature that enhances transients through some form of harmonics applied just to the transient section of the signal. Combine those with the built-in parallel mix feature, and you have yourself quite a beast of color options. At the opposite end of its cleanest settings, it’s really quite dirty and dark. I’m finding it pairs up really well with another VCA compressor made by Roger Foote, called the Foote Control Systems P3S ME. Together, there’s very little I can’t do in terms of dynamics.
The other current fave is my Buzz Audio REQ 2.2 ME with Elma switches. It’s almost always the thing I start with. It’s got an uncanny way of rebalancing elements in a mix without affecting too much else. It’s very transparent and open sounding, and it’s as surgical as it is broad brush strokes. Tim Farrant, the designer, is a lvl70 wizard as far as I’m concerned because there’s some magic in this EQ, and hearing is believing. The other interesting aspect of this particular EQ is in employing a pair of steel core transformers that can be put into the signal path which adds harmonic distortion of varying degrees, chosen with a 6 position switch. It can really beef up the low end on material that feels weak. There’s been quite a few times where this sounded a lot better than trying to EQ the lows.
In mastering, my basic philosophy is “do no harm”, and typically that means doing as little as possible, while doing just enough to accomplish the task. It’s an art in subtlety. The most important part of my job is listening, not processing. And sometimes the best thing is nothing. Knowing when to do nothing is important. Just because I have nice tools, doesn’t mean they’re always needed. But because I know my tools so well, when I hear what needs to be done, I know immediately what to do.
I’ve been using Max/Msp for nearly 12 years. I started using Max when I needed a way to travel and do live music overseas without hauling all of my equipment with me. And it quickly became invaluable in the studio as a signal processor and sequencer. I mostly create algorithmic sequencers based on all sorts of wacky ideas I have that I can’t accomplish in a typical DAW. Mooquencer is an algorithmic sequencer I developed years ago that I’m always modifying and tweaking and its core functions have found their way into a lot of my music. I prefer working in Max for the flexibility of tailoring the software to exactly my needs at any given moment, and for its ability to realize a concept with just a few sleepless nights. Daily, it serves as the backbone for logging all the equipment settings for my analog mastering chain.
I’m not so into the plug-in thing, not because I don’t think they sound good, because they really do, but they don’t inspire fun the way hardware does. And when I’m having fun, it influences my decisions. You can hear that it in my work. Plug-ins are very clinical in use, and I think you can hear that in the way that you use them. But I still value them greatly, and they do get used on practically every project in some way, even if just as a final brick-wall limiting stage. Sometimes I’ll need to really dig deep with a parametric EQ to remove some errant frequency and that’s when I reach for DMG Equilibrium or FabFilter Pro-Q.
Workspace and Environment
First and foremost, my workspace must be perfectly in order. I can’t get down to business if there’s a mess in the studio. I know that works for some people, but I’m not one of them. I keep the studio pared down to just the essentials. If I don’t often need it, it gets put out of sight, in a closet or a drawer. I try to be as minimal as possible as I find clutter distracting and annoying. I also hate dusty gear and start each day by vacuuming and dusting the studio.
Another importance is natural diffused light. My mastering room has two windows that have an opaque thin material that lets a lot of light in, but can’t be seen through. And it’s great when the space has a good view of something. My last two rooms have had really great views of the city and surrounding mountains and it’s great to take breaks and look out upon the world.
Ergonomics are incredibly important. Having a Sterling Modular desk vastly improves my workflow by putting all the important equipment front and center so I can stay in the sweet spot when making critical decisions. I’m always moving gear around in the desk in an effort to perfect the location of each piece and how I find myself interacting when them as a whole. It’s a constant evolution. If I find myself hindered by something on a consistent basis, I make changes. Right now I feel like it’s about as good as it can get, but I’m about to add another piece of equipment to the mastering chain, and I have a feeling that’s going to throw things way off for a little bit!
When I was living in San Francisco, I felt more stressed, more uptight. I could feel the pressure of the city and I’m certain that influences the work directly. In order to get the best out of myself in the studio, I need to be relaxed. Living in Oakland turned the stress factor down quite a bit, and that lets me focus more on the love of what I do.
I’d love to have a studio out along the rugged coast of Northern California where the redwoods meet the ocean. That’s my dream location. I just hope I can figure out a solid Internet connection when that happens. I move an unbelievable amount of data back and forth every month!
Honestly, after a full day of work, the thing I want to hear most is silence. Working on music for eight to twelve hours a day leaves little energy left for other music, so I have to be very thankful that much of the music that comes in for mastering is enjoyable to listen to. I actually feel incredibly lucky to work for the artists that I do and I’m continually amazed at the music they make. It’s also important to give my ears a break after a full day so I can come back in the following day with fresh ears and a fresh perspective. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t listen to anything else ever. I have so many friends that make music, I’m usually just checking out their SoundCloud pages when I can find the time.
I can and do listen to Mp3’s but there’s something that bothers me about them when compared to Apple’s AAC format. Mp3, even when encoded with the best codecs, still has a perceptible loss in imaging and depth, as well as a softer high-end. Sometimes, in rare cases, the softening of highs can help an overly bright song, but it’s a terrible way to balance things since so much else is compromised. Sadly, whatever Mp3 codec and settings SoundCloud uses for streaming sounds the absolute worst to me. If I’m going to listen to lossy formats, I prefer them to be AAC, and especially MFiT AAC, which is Apple’s new “Mastered For iTunes” format, and isn’t just a bunch of marketing hype. It’s a real effective way of eliminating distortion from clipping at the decoding stage. You end up losing about a dB of overall level, but the fidelity is greatly increased and it’s completely worth it in every way to me. I really just wish we were all listening to uncompressed music, but I think that’s still a ways off due to the incredible bandwidth needed for streaming raw audio.
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.
Richard Devine recently hung out with Future Music where they conducted an interview, took pictures of his studio, and talked about modular synthesis at length. Make Noise Records, approaches to film/music, influences, and much more are covered. Read the full interview through the link below!
A previous interviewee of the Workspace and Environment series, Vladislav Delay has a new studio.
Vladislav Delay has been searching for the better and more personal sound since he started producing records in 1997. Through several studios (two in Helsinki, one in Berlin) his experience and the collection of equipment has grown and his current Shark Reef studio in Hailuoto, Finland is a testimony of that development.
My parents are originally from Barbados, West Indies. They came to England in the 60’s, They lived in West Kensington London, I was born at Westminster Hospital in 1985, then my parents moved to the Borough of Ealing where I currently live.
My Biological father, he was a vinyl junkie, his friend Bobby and himself use to take me to every record store in London and they would be in there for hours, he also owns a akai reel to reel, the generation of today is very lucky with technology because in my father days when he wanted to listen to one of his favourite tunes he would have to fast forward or rewind the tape in order to find it, so one day he sat me in the corner with my fisher price turntable and he tracked down every song he wanted, he started cutting and splicing until he ended up with his very own mix tape. He passed away when I was 8 years old and my Step Dad Kenneth Knight came into my life when I was 10 years old.
He got me in the music orchestra in primary school, the clarinet was my weapon of choice, I did many solo performances at school plays, In 97 was first time I witness The Come to Daddy Music Video by Aphex Twin, I told my mom the following day that I wanted music from him, so she went to HMV and purchased the EP which I still have to this day. I was also getting into Hip Hop at the time and one of my best mate played to me Delarosa and Asora: Sleep Method Suite, I also came across Autechre: Chiastic Slide, my mind was blown.
As years went by I got into Japanese Animation, Classics like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost In The Shell, Paprika and etc, I always based my music around the concept of Anime. One of my best friends from Australia (Daniel Lambert) influence through out the years.
My Technics turntables. I got into Scratching before I got into production, I still dab into scratching because It’s one of of my favourite pass time and I love the Rane mixers, I also hang out with The Community Skratch Games Crew in Ireland and Brighton. I recently purchased a Binaural Microphones / Earphones by Roland, A japanese friend of mine told me about the experience of capturing audio in 3D, I take those and my portable recorder everywhere I go and record random stuff.
I use FL Studio from the get go back in 97 and 16 years on i’m still using it because it was the only program that I could afford at that time and I just grew with it, many people were shocked to know that I use that DAW but I made projects such as my first album Digital Ninja Lp (Global Vortex Records), Tales from A Gameboi EP (Briefcase Rockers), Subliminal Arrangements 12″ (Alkalinear Recordings), Sky Open to Those Who Have Wings LP and Unseen Intruders collab with Qebrus (Bedroom Research), a tape release along side ilkae (Onibaba Records), Fallen Innocence (Bunkai – Kei Records), Biomorph Demo for Glitchmachines, Remix Richard Devine track from Risp and A Fatherless Child EP 12″ dedicated to step dad who passed away last year (Detund).
I also have an iPad, a portable recorder and some of my father’s vinyl for samples.
Workspace and Environment
I mainly make all of my music in my bedroom or walking around my area recording sounds on the go. Where I live in Ealing is a very mysterious and quiet place, it’s like the whispers is louder than the shadows at times so I add that element to my music. My ideal creative location would be a japanese garden where I can capture a lot of inspiration with all the surroundings or hi jacking Ivo Ivanov aka Glitchmachines music gear :P.
I am a strong believer of the term less is more so I make everything in FL Studio, I gather a lot of sounds through my portable recorder as well as improv session with mom in Native Instruments Reaktor, she’s becoming a boss cat now as when she hears the slightest sounds she’ll be like valance get your recorder and iPad ha ha
I did a remix for a mate in Birmingham: Defunkt Dialekt, I’m also going to working on a EP with 3x World DJ Champion: Tigerstyle, Working on some tunes with Enabl.ed from Cyuild Apo, working on remixes for Detund and carry on Beta Testing for Inear Display (France) Mitchell Nordine (Australia) and VI-Sounds (Netherlands)
I’ll be debuting at The Community Skratch Games in Galway Ireland at the end of March and will be showcasing in Leeds with The Tomorrow People. I’m planning to make a trip to the states next year.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve been making music on my own since I was around 16. I had always seen bands I adored in pictures on the internet, and wanted to become as cool as they were. I didn’t really know what that meant, but the initial thing that wowed me was stage presence and live shows. Seeing people really dominate in a live setting and command a crowd was something I was into. Very vain of me. Once I started actually creating music, I found the most rewarding thing was the actual creative process. Making something from nothing, something that I had never heard before, and that I could enjoy listening to, became the ultimate goal. I would sit for hours with my first synthesizer and just drone tweaking a patch, learning the ins and outs of sound design, and hearing sounds which at the time I thought had never been made before. I played in various bands throughout high school, and in college I sought to finally start a project of my own.
What is the name you work under and where can we find your work?
I work under the name BLUSH RESPONSE. My official website is http://wearereplicants.com – that is the portal to everything I do, and all the various social networks I participate in. I’ve been making music under this name since 2009.
The first BLUSH RESPONSE album, WE ARE REPLICANTS, was released in May 2010. Since then I’ve released a few EPs, and two singles leading up to the second album TENSION STRATEGIES. The second album will be released March 05, 2013, on Tundra. Two singles have been released so far, AMERICA, and VOICES (with it’s accompanying video).
What is your current favorite piece of hardware?
My Eurorack modular is the most inspiring tool I’ve ever used. Limitless sound uninhibited by interface. Using modular gear has made me realize the limitations present in something like a traditional black and white keyboard. When you use an instrument like a guitar, for example, every touch you make is visceral and reactive. The string vibration and sound is something directly affected by so many variables. Hand pressure, picking, angle of picking, speed, air pressure, body movement, etc… All of these directly connect you to the raw sound of your guitar oscillator in a way that black and white keyed synthesizers simply do not. You at most have pitch bend, mod wheel, aftertouch, and whatever knobs the synthesizer gives you, but these offer no direct connection to bend the circuits at will.
With a modular synth, you have something that is infinitely more direct, and more similar to the dynamic approach found with a guitar. First off, you don’t need to use a keyboard. You can just open up a VCA (or not even use one), and drone! I find cv to be much more “alive” than midi, and the results you can get with similar patches on a modular versus a non modular synth are much more dynamic. Plus, the interface encourages experimentation. I’ve had cool patches by just messing with the ground on patch cables. Tripping sequencers by touching one cable end to a conductor, jamming audio sources into cv inputs, etc… It really is a life changing thing. I don’t know if I could ever go back to the regular approach. It seems so archaic. It would be like trying to play a guitar by guiding somebody else’s hands.
My euro is mainly made up of modules from Make Noise, The Harvestman, WMD, and Intellijel, but there are some other great pieces in there. Favorite modules at the moment are the Schippmann CS-8, Harvestman Tyme Sefari II, Make Noise DPO, Echophon, WMD Synchrodyne, and Intellijel Rubicon.
What is your current favorite software or plugin? What makes this your favorite?
I’ve recently switched DAWs to Ableton Live, and I feel that Ableton is a party I should have attended years ago. The interface and workflow are simply unrivaled. Even basic stuff like audio editing in the arrange window is a million times smoother and more intelligently implemented than my last DAW (logic pro). I can’t believe I didn’t use this before. I had some concerns about the quality of the mix engine, but I just mixed a song with the Ableton 9 beta, and I think it sounds just as good as any other DAW out there. Much improved.
There are also several new plugins that have come out that I am blown away by. Off the top of my head – Eventide H3000 Factory, Sonic Charge Permut8, Izotope Iris and Trash 2, the Soundhack Suite, and several others. Plugins have finally (IMO) reached a point where they are powerful enough to explore new concepts in sound that do not imitate existing hardware, without faltering due to CPU overuse or bad implementation of concepts. That is incredibly exciting to me. I enjoy combining these esoteric sound shaping tools with hardware to create entirely new sounds that were simply unavailable before.
How does your physical space and surroundings influence your workflow?
My studio is set up so everything can be on and recording all at once. I don’t want to have to worry about things being plugged in or having to set up a piece of gear just to use it. I make sure everything has a dedicated channel that can be armed and recorded at a moment’s notice. This allows me to have one man “jams” where everything is going at once and evolving organically while I flesh out raw output to later be shaped into a proper song.
I live in New York City, and my output is a direct result of my existence here. The concrete jungle is filled with noise at all times. All of these sounds bounce around in my mind subliminally and influence the types of sounds I create when I am in my workspace. I spend a lot of time sampling things I hear around the city. It could be anything, from noisy construction site sounds to overheard conversation or subway preachers. My phone is one of the most useful pieces of gear I have in this respect – I can pull it out and record sound at a moment’s notice and archive it for later use.
As I mentioned before, I like having everything set up to be able to record at a moment’s notice. Vocals, guitars, synthesizers, drums, etc. They all have their own dedicated channel ready to go with whatever plugins I need on them to sound the way I like.
Physically, every gear is in a sort of “station”. My desk has my computer and all my drum sources on it. To my immediate left is a keyboard stand with my Virus and Poly Evolver, and to my right is my modular and FX rack. All of this stuff can be routed into each other with the click of a mouse, and it’s all set up to be within reach so I can just go with no stopping, and without having to mess with the computer that much.
What is your ideal location for a studio?
I’m pretty satisfied with the location I have now, but I definitely would like something a bit bigger and a properly treated room. Also a live room so I could sample acoustic instruments and mess with miccing samples and creating weird impulse responses.
Are you involved in any music/sound work outside of your own projects?
I have been doing a lot of sound design and engineering work for other artists as of late.
I contributed sound design/programming and a remix to the most recent FEAR FACTORY album THE INDUSTRIALIST. It was an amazing opportunity and a lot of fun to do. I was given free reign to fill their songs with whatever sounds I saw fit, and they would pick and choose the parts they liked. It ended up that I am on nearly every track on the album, and the remix I did turned out pretty cool and was included as a bonus track.
The offshoot of this is I was able to work with Rhys Fulber (FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, CONJURE ONE, DELERIUM), who produced the album, and I’ve done a bit of production work for him here and there, which has also been a great opportunity.
I also contributed some synth work to Tyler Burns’ most recent release VULGARIS, and helped co produce and write for Tom Napack’s project VANITY POLICE. I wrote the lead single THINGS YOU DON’T MEAN with him, and co produced several of the tracks on his upcoming release(s).
How would you describe your work ethic?
My music writing generally has two phases. First there is the “jam” phase. This phase generally revolves around the idea of playing with raw sound until I’ve created a large section of audio that I can later mess with/edit/warp/turn into a more structured skeleton for a song.
This jam phase can be anything from tweaking a modular patch, a raw oscillator output, or a full fledged beat with drum machines, basslines, and other ideas. I try to work in a way that is fueled by immediacy. If I don’t have something cool coming out of a piece of gear within 5 minutes I switch to something different and continue on. I don’t like to be stymied by frustration with one sound that simply isn’t working, and I also believe every piece of gear can be used well in some way. I don’t like comparisons, I think everything has a role, and that role can always change dependent on what you are going for – or not going for. Happy accidents are beautiful.
The second phase involves taking the raw audio and editing down and cutting the coolest parts into useful segments. Sometimes they don’t even make it into proper song structure, sometimes they just get thrown into a sample folder. What matters is having this audio, and being able to draw from it when it is time to move into structural thinking. I guess this falls under sound collage, but it feels much more organic to me. Ableton Live is a big help in this process – the liberties it allows you to take with audio are simply mind blowing.
What was the first piece of hardware you remember obtaining? What’s your newest?
My first piece of gear was a Microkorg. I found it to be a pretty solid synth, but a pain to learn on. Soon after I got a Virus B for very cheap, and was able to teach myself the basics of subtractive synthesis on that. I also had downlaoded Fruity Loops (to use as a drum machine) and Sony Acid Pro so I used all this stuff in tandem to teach myself the most basic forms of audio production.
I most recently picked up the Elektron Analog Four. I haven’t come to a conclusion on it yet. I feel that it has a lot of very cool ideas with sequencing analog sound that are limited by the sound engine. I would have liked stuff like linear FM, waveshaping, and perhaps a digital oscillator or two to be implemented to really flesh out the sound. The analog engine is beautifully implemented and sounds great, but I’ve always felt there is only so much you can do with an analog oscillator and filter.
I need FM, I need wavetables or shaping, and I need esoteric sound sources to use with the sequencer. Perhaps an Octatrack would be more up my alley, but I am trying to give the A4 it’s proper due before I make my final verdict. I love the parameter locking and micro timing stuff in the sequencer.
What is on your current ‘wish list’ for new hardware or software?
I would love to have a Buchla 200e system. I was lucky enough to use one recently and it was simply beautiful. It has actually re-informed my approach to my eurorack system because of the limitations implied by the format. With Buchla, you only get one selection of modules and a sparing choice of third party manufacturers, which forces you to make the most out of your system configuration. Eurorack is a format that is booming and has so many different choices that you can often become overwhelmed and overbuy or end up with stuff that is cool in theory but you never end up fully maximizing. Using the Buchla made me reconsider the idea of building a system for a certain purpose, and not moving from there. Limitations force you to be creative in ways you wouldn’t otherwise if you were inundated with options. They force you to explore every inch of one tool, rather than small portions of several.
I’d love to see some more innovation with sampling in modular systems, going into spectral morphing type of stuff like Izotope Iris. Also perhaps more esoteric digital modules exploring concepts like additive synthesis, and more alternative control interfaces. Control surfaces like the Haken Continuum and Buchla 222e really redefine interaction with sound, and allow you to be expressive in a way you would never achieve with a black and white keyboard – all while remaining “musical”. You can have a million sound sources, but the way you interact with them is what makes them really come alive.
Do you have a mobile studio setup?
My mobile setup consists of Ableton Live, a Teenage Engineering OP-1, and a huge bank of samples from all my various synthesizers that I can throw in and mess with. With this in mind, I generally don’t get much work done on the road as I feel confined by the lack of hands on control. Working on software is tiring for me a lot of the time.
Do you have a setup for live performances?
My live setup is revolved around the idea of reproducing studio tracks while being able to riff on them and take them into new performative places mid song. The last few shows with the live band have seen us transition from a straight playing back approach to improvising and branching out with different approaches to the songs. This means adding new sounds that weren’t present, and playing off of each other so it’s a little bit different every time.
On stage I will sing and play with my modular system, or sometimes the OP1. I have two other members. Brendan handles drums, and Spssky changes from guitar to synth to drum triggers dependent on the song. Each song requires a different approach, so sometimes I will just sing, sometimes I’ll be sequencing with the modular – either by sending midi out or using the rene, or sometimes I’ll play a keyboard.
The goal now is to be able to change up songs on the fly, and not just by improvising new parts, but fundamentally changing the structure, build up tracks from nothing, and play around with them realtime. This will require a reworking and stripping down of a lot of the material, but I think it will make for a much more dynamic live show. The other goal is to have the sound never stop, so that there is no lull between songs.
Have you ever heard your music being played at a random/public place?
I’ve walked into a few clubs here in NYC and heard some of my songs playing, and it’s really a surreal experience. One side of you is beaming with excitement and wants to tell everybody, and the other side wants to analyze the crowd and see their reactions. I try to keep my cool though, because either approach can be maddening if you think about it for too long. I tend to just appreciate that it is even happening and continue doing what I am doing.
All of the sudden and without warning I feel like I have a little bit in common with Matthew Dear. I admit, I haven’t heard too much of his music aside from random tracks on a few Ghostly comps. This is a short video, more like a commercial, but it’s quite beautiful anyway.
“Shot on location in Williamsburg, the black-and-white short features a potpourri of city and studio imagery as Dear narrates his first experiences with electronic-based music and becoming a performer. “Her Fantasy,” the celebratory lead single from Beams, serves as a suitably optimistic backing track for the video.”