Interview with Micah Frank of Puremagnetik

Puremagnetik creates and sells mini monthly sample packs for Ableton, Kontakt & Logic. I recently met Micah Frank at IMSTA FESTA and thought I would follow up with this interview.

I really like your subscription model. Tell Wire to the Ear readers how it works.

Puremagnetik produces a new “Micropak” each month. A Micropak is a small (usually under 600MB) sound set that is very focused on a particular instrument. You can subscribe for $5.75 per month and download the Current Micropak. We keep each Micropak current for 2 months, so there are two Current Micropaks available at all times. You can also buy a full year subscription or buy the entire catalog. Additionally, users can purchase back catalog Micropaks individually – similar to back issues of a magazine.

Tell us about your recording chain. Are there any microphones or outboard processors your in love with?

I mostly program Puremagnetik’s electronic content. I prefer to keep my signal chain as transparent as possible. Good A/D matters most to me. I rarely use compression during tracking but sometimes I like to use my API Lunchbox’s 512C’s as a DI. Our other sound developer Brian produces all of the acoustic stuff in some great studios. He uses all of the Pultecs, Chandlers and Neumanns.

Digital Blasphemy by micahfrank

How do you go about finding the instruments to record? I can’t imagine you own all the toys ToyBox Micropaks!

Sometimes we go shopping (Toys r Us). We also have a great network of studios and synth geeks all up and down the east coast. If I can find a good deal on eBay, I’ll jump on it – Synthi owners speak up! A lot of the stuff I’m working on now is more conceptual so it requires less defined devices.

What percent of your customers would you say subscribe vs just buy a pack they like?

It’s a 50/50 split. Some people like the subscription model. Just as many people are happy grabbing them once they become back catalogued.

What is your most popular Micropak and what are your top 3 personal favorites?

The most popular Micropak is an oldie but goodie – Eight Bit. It is a pack of sounds from a Commodore 64 SID chip.

The Micropaks I like the most are the ones I enjoyed working on the most. I love the ability in Live to reverse engineer the concepts behind some great synths. If you look at Puremagnetik’s Vector, Waveframe and P-50 Linear you will see that I have broken the synths down into their core components and reconstructed them in Live Racks. In Waveframe for instance, I took all of the Fizmo’s wavetable content and reconstructed the whole synth in Live using Ableton Sampler’s modulation functions.

Brian also did the same kind of reverse engineering in this month’s Omnichord inspired pack. In my opinion, this is where Puremagnetik really shines – when we break away from the same old multisampling conventions.

I know you make music yourself. Tell Wire to the Ear readers some of the bands you work or have worked with and some places online they can hear your music.

The only band I have worked with in the past few years is a local artist named Atarah Valentine. I got in touch with him through Ableton and Damian Taylor (Bjork). The highlight of my work with him was this past June when we opened for La Roux at Terminal 5. He’s a very talented singer so I look forward to working with him a lot more in the future.

My big project for the past year is Tectonic. It is a realtime sonification of earthquake data as interpreted by Max and then synthesized by a Kyma/Pacarana system. For the past few years I haven’t really enjoyed making horizontal music. By that, I mean music that is pre-composed in a given timeframe by a horizontally oriented DAW. I am finding it much more gratifying to create a system like Tectonic or just grab my DrumKat and improvise under my alias Kamoni ( You can see and hear all of the other stuff I’m up to at or

What music are you listening to lately?

Tim Hecker, Robert Normandeau, Ben Frost, Alva Noto, Zoot Woman

Here’s a public offer. If you want to make a Micropak out of my Electrocomp-101 (number 521 out of 2000) feel free but you have to come to my place. I’m not lugging that thing to Brooklyn!

Thanks Oliver! That would be totally awesome. You have just been inducted into PECSGN (Puremagnetik East Coast Synth Geek Network).

photo credit: Rachel Papo

IMSTA FESTA Panel Review

I had a great time speaking on the “Geek Out” panel at this weekends IMSTA FESTA. The event put on by Shocklee has pro-audio companies show their stuff in different recording studios at SAE Manhattan. As I approached the street entrance a young guy stopped me and asked if I would buy one of his hip-hop CDs. I was surprised because I didn’t think I looked like a good target audience for him. I asked if he was coming inside and I was surprised again when he told me he had no idea what I was talking about. I let him know he should come up and there would be producers, djs and lots of stuff to check out. He looked a bit afraid and I got the idea he was probably 15 years old or so. Anyway I went in without him and wondered if there was anything at all on the CDs he was trying to sell.

On the 9th floor of SAE there were about 10 security guards in the halls. Once I meandered into the recording studios I knew why: there was lots of nice equipment inside! Immediately I ran into Fady Hayek who is the National Sales Manager for SSL. I was a regular at the Club Cubase meeting he ran when he worked for Steinberg in the 90s. James Bernard had a nice audience watching him go through some amazing tricks and tips with Reason and Record. I love watching him demo stuff. He really gets the software, knows the shortcuts and makes you want to run home and do it yourself.

In the VIP room I met Peter Kirn (Create Digital Music) for the first time face to face. We spent some time thumbing through the latest Keyboard Magazine where Peter wrote the lead story about Moog. We instantly got into the Voyager XL and how it doesn’t make any sense and how awesome it is. I met the Micah Frank from Puremagnetik who apparently I had some emails correspondence with in the past but forgot. Sorry Micah! I briefly met Julie Covello (DJ Shakey) from Warper and we moved to the panel room. We decided to each chat about the one thing that’s blowing us away these days. Peter chose Pure Data and explained in other words it’s the code he’s got a passion for. That it can be on his old desktop machine or his phone and it’s been with him a long time. He’s pure geek for sure! Julie picked SoundCloud and YouTube. I didn’t even consider a non-tangible object so props to her because I think we all spend more time in Social Media than making music (shame on all of us!). I thought her pick was a right on. Micah picked Renoise the old school Tracker that was recently updated. I made the obvious choice to everyone that knows me… iPad! What was unexpected is upon polling the crowd we found that only two people there owned iPads besides me. I showed off iElectribe, SynthPond and SoundPrism. We had a short Q&A where we learned Micah translates earthquake data into sample packs. Yep… he’s a geek too. Propellerheads let me give a few shirts and hats away and it was a wrap. Thank you Jo-Anne for inviting me I enjoyed it greatly!

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I will be speaking on a panel with Peter Kirn (Create Digital Music), Micah Frank aka Kamoni (Sound Designer & Founder of Puremagnetik), and Julie Covello aka DJ Shakey (DJ, Creator & Promoter of the Warper Party, Music Collector) on Saturday, September 25 at the SAE, 1293 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York NY 10001.

The IMSTA FESTA is free and should be good fun and of great interest to anyone who reads this blog. It’s a pro-audio manufacturer get together and panel series. It’s from 11:00AM – 7:00PM. Some of the exhibitors include Ableton, Arturia, Bias, SSL, Celemony, IK Multimedia, Image Line, Native Instruments, Pianoteq, Propellerhead, Rob Papen, Steinberg and Waves.

UPDATE: Over 1,000 people are registered. Come on down!

“IMSTA FESTA, a celebration of music software is coming to the heart of New York City. The First IMSTA FESTA started in Japan where it was highly successful for technology companies, producers and hobbyists alike. IMSTA FESTA brings a collection of the top audio technology companies together in an environment where they can interact with music makers face-to-face. If you use music software you will benefit from this event in a number of ways.” –

For more info:

How to Wreck a Nice Beach

NPR has posted an audio story on the history of the Vocoder. They interview Dave Tompkins who recently wrote a book called How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder From World War II to Hip-Hop. Grab the book from Amazon (about $20): click here

“If you’ve listened to pop music in the past 40 years, you’ve probably heard more than a few songs with a robotic sound. That’s thanks to the vocoder, a device invented by Bell Labs, the research division of AT&T. Though the vocoder has found its way into music, the machine was never intended for that function. Rather, it was developed to decrease the cost of long-distance calls and has taken on numerous other uses since.” –

To listen to the audio story on NPR: click here

Gary Numan Interview

Gary Numan In Conversation from Machine Music on Vimeo.

I’ve always thought Gary Numan was highly underrated. Go back today and listen through his albums and see if you don’t agree. Honest loud real analog synths and interesting vocals. They don’t make them like they used to.

“Gary Numan (born Gary Webb on 8 March 1958) is an English singer, composer, and musician, most widely known for his chart-topping 1979 hits “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” (with Tubeway Army) and “Cars”. One of the first musicians to use electronic synthesizers successfully in rock music, his signature sound consisted of heavy synthesizer hooks fed through guitar effects pedals. Commercially unsuccessful for many years of his career, Numan is nevertheless considered a pioneer of commercial electronic music. His use of themes from science fiction, and his combination of aggressive punk energy with electronics, have since been widely imitated.” –

The official Gary Numan homepage:

Front 242 at the RedBull Music Academy

I once also owned every single Front 242 record. I wish they still made song structured songs with Jean Luc DeMeyer on lead vocals. Even still, I am glad for the amazing albums they gave us such as Official Version and Front by Front. I saw them perform at the Palidium in the late 80s. It was awesome.

“Belgian industrial group Front 242 were at the crest of the Electronic Body Music wave, carrying the baton from groups like Throbbing Gristle and Caberet Voltaire, combining their post-punk aesthetic with strong backbeats, slices, samples, and ominous vocals. Their raw sound is married with strong militaristic imagery, chopped-up scenes from television, and even evangelical leanings.” –

For more info:

Electric Independence: Gavin Russom

Like myself Gavin returned from Berlin back to the states. Hip Hop, psychedelic music to homebrew analog synths it’s always good to peak into other’s likes and studios!

“Gavin Russom is a wizard, and not just because his long red flowing mane is reminiscent of a medieval alchemist or because he was once a stage magician. The composer and former engineer for dance label DFA (where he earned the “Wizard” moniker) has been making and unmaking synths since a young age. Gavin thinks of the analog machines as works of art in their own right, blending the aural, visual, and the sculptural.” –

For more info:

Steinberg Museum

If you read this blog you would believe I’m a Ableton Live fanatic. That is true however I once loved another. After my early days with Dr. T’s KCS on Ataris and Amigas I went Mac and Cubase VST. Cubase VST was the biggest revolution in music tech that mattered to me personally. It enabled me to start recording vocals direct to hard drive. It’s the reason in 1996 I start my own record label Things to Come Records. With VST (Virtual Studio Technology) I was able to create what I thought was fairly new and unique at the time: techno electronic mixed with 80s style New Wave and EBM.

Enter the 00s and Cubase became too buggy for me to use. It got to the point I was hitting save after each change I made. I was also rendering “safety” versions of songs in case project files would stop loading. Once Ableton Live came out it was over for my friend from Hamburg. That all said, I have friends that use Cubase today and they tell me it’s more stable. I also give credit where do and Steinberg brought so many innovations to the space it’s really amazing. Most importantly I wrote mountains of music using Cubase.

Steinberg has put up an interesting website called Steinberg Museum where you can see the history of the company. There are some tasty flashbacks in the building. Screenshots, interviews and old adverts are all fun for sequencer geeks like me. Check it out now:

“Come in and tour this virtual museum which documents the story of Steinberg from its beginnings in the early 1980s.” –

Are you or were you ever a Cubase user?

Ethan Winer’s Audio Myths Workshop

Ethan Winer from RealTraps grabs a panel of knowledgeable people at AES to show you what you think you hear may not be reality. Ethan makes some respected sound treatment products in Connecticut. You can download the non-YouTube compressed audio files to go along with this video here:

“This is a video version of my Audio Myths workshop from the October 2009 AES show in New York City. In this video you will hear what phase shift sounds like, compare high- and low-end converters, learn about proper test methods, understand why hearing is not as reliable as test gear, and much more.” – EthanWiner

So what do you think? Is it real or is it Memorex?

via Miro Pajic

Interview with Bert Schiettecatte of Percussa

Bert Schiettecatte

I am pleased to give you another exclusive Wire to the Ear interview. This time I chat with Bert Schiettecatte of Percussa.

Briefly explain what Percussa AudioCubes are.

AudioCubes are a hardware platform for audiovisual creation. For the hardware there exists a number of software applications and development kits. Each of these integrates perfectly with the hardware, and lets you use AudioCubes in different situations. For example:

LoopShaper – a VST host that runs without needing other software – it lets you use 2 audiocubes for sound design. you can use hand gestures with the audiocubes. per cube up to 4 parameters can be controlled. The software records your interactions in a loop, and you can output the results as WAV files which you can use in your favourite DAW. It’s a very powerful application because it gives you access to a parameter space of your plugins which is hard to reach using knob boxes (try turning 4 knobs simultaneously!) The software works with professional audio interfaces through ASIO or CoreAudio. LoopShaper was made specifically for people who make sounds or loops.

MIDIBridge – our original software to use audiocubes with MIDI compatible instruments and software, for example, Ableton Live, FL Studio, Propellerheads Reason, EnergyXT2, Cubase, Logic, etc… The software lets you generate MIDI triggers and controllers based on interaction between cubes and your hands. You can use it to trigger clips or control FX parameters in Live, for example. At the same time you can control the full colour RGB LEDs in the cubes, so you can create visuals tightly synced to the audio clips in Live. Of course you can save your setup in presets. The app is perfect for live performers.

PluginWrapper – this is a great little VST instrument/FX plugin that hosts other instruments or plugins, and communicates directly with audiocubes. it automatically maps cube sensors to plugin or instrument paramters. You can drop it on a track in Ableton Live for example, select your plugin inside the PluginWrapper, connect a cube, and you’re ready to control parameters of the instrument or FX. You an use multiple PluginWrappers. You can also control colours of the cube using MIDI CCs or notes (one colour per note).  PluginWrapper is perfect for music production people or live performers, or even for vocal performers who just want to apply some VST FX to their voice and at the same time control the FX using their hands and a single audiocube.

AudioCubes Box

DeckaBridge – this is a variation of MIDIBridge to use audiocubes with Deckadance, DJ software made by Image Line here in Belgium. Deckadance is great DJ software with unique features, like beat slicing, VST hosting, MIDI clip playback, DMX features, vinyl and MIDI controller support, etc. We decided to make a special app to use AudioCubes with Deckadance, because this way people don’t have to MIDI-map anything. They can start the app, select MIDI ports, load the preset file in Deckadance and it works. Cubes can be used in pairs to control the relooper beat slicer, or to control the EQ section, CUE/seek functions, or X-Y FX control. DeckaBridge was made for new skool digital DJs who do more than pressing “play” and actually want to put on a real and challenging performance.

Modulor – this is the most recent application we made and was in development for more than a year. We developed new firmware for the cubes that let you detect any kind of network configuration of AudioCubes. the cubes can detect each other and communicate wirelessly, and forward their info in their own network and to the computer. The computer can also send info in the other direction, to control colours for example. Modulor takes advantage of this new functionality, it’s a VST host application with MIDI effects and sequencing features. You can connect your ASIO or CoreAudio interface to it, connect your favourite MIDI keyboard or other controller, host your VST instruments in a rack, and you can then record and play loops onto AudioCubes, and put the loops together simply by putting physical cubes together. At the same time you can route MIDI within the wireless cube network, and set a MIDI effect per AudioCube, and create processing chains, e.g. MIDI input => transpose => arpeggiate => make chords => VST rack.  Modulor is basically a very minimal but powerful sequencer, focused on musical idea development and improvisation. What’s great about it is that you can physically touch and manipulate loops through physical objects on your table, so you listen more and explore more, and pay less attention to the computer.

Of course, all software is free and runs on both Mac and windows, without needing drivers. We use the high speed USB HID protocol, so speed and resolution are better than MIDI.

For developers and hackers we have a C/C++ library available, so you can make your own software that works with AudioCubes. If you are a Max/MSP or PD user you can use the kit we have for those applications. Finally, if you prefer to use OSC (OpenSoundControl), we have a max patch for that and are developing a standalone software app for OSC.

Richard Devine - AudioCubes

Are there any famous artists using the AudioCubes?

Richard Devine, Nortec Collective (latin grammy award nominees), … see

Did you own a Litebright and play with Legos when you were a child?

I don’t know about Lite-Brite .. I don’t think it was in the toy stores here in Belgium. I did have a very big lego collection, I was primarily interested in the Technics series.

I used to get all the technics kits for my birthday as a kid, especially the very complicated ones, like the computer controller plotter kit. I didn’t care so much for the lego cities or trains.

Do you find artists using AudioCubes in the studio or are they solely for a live performance situation?

Up to now artists have been mostly using them Live I believe, but now there are more and more people using them for various applications, because we’ve released all this new software for the hardware, so the applications are now really wide and people are really enthusiastic about it.

Can you pick up an AudioCube and throw it? I could use a studded black leather AudioCube in my show maybe? Imagine if I lift it up and it triggers a sample that screams “hit me hit me!” or “watch out!”.

Not really, because AudioCubes were not made to throw around. Also, they’re not a gadget, but more like an integrated hardware-software solution to use in your workflow, whether live or in your studio…

Percussa AudioCubes

I am really enjoying the music apps on my iPhone and am looking forward to an Apple Tablet. What do you think of multi-touch touch screen technology?

I think it’s great technology and a big and important step in user interface innovation. Many companies have been working on multi-touch technology over the past years. I don’t think Apple is the only company that should get credit for multi-touch, as many came before that made important contributions. However, I do believe Apple is one of the first that made it work well enough that it would be generally accepted and used …  I have to say though that some user interface tasks are not ideal to perform with multi-touch technology. I got this iPhone a while ago, and I’m not convinced about sending SMSes using the multi-touch keypad. Also, dialing numbers when you’re in a hurry is also not that easy. If the screen is smudged it becomes harder to use the interface, etc. And then there is the fact that the screen is fragile. However, it does have its advantages, like navigating with gestures, or zooming in and out. I guess it depends on what you like to use it for.

What’s next? AudioSpheres? Something else?

That’s top secret :-) I think right now we’re focused on developing more software and perhaps a few hardware addons for AudioCubes too. We’d also like to get more open source developers involved from non-music areas, maybe visual artists or game developers.

New Percussa AudioCubes

What are a few websites you visit regularly?

I’m on Facebook quite a lot these days.  I do like to visit,, cycling 74’s website, lifehacker, rhizome, soundcloud, …

What is a typical Belgian dinner like? What food and drinks are on the table?

There are a few typical belgian dishes, like steak and fries … or mussles with fries..  there are also some desserts, like chocolate. waffles is not very much a breakfast or dinner thing, you eat them in the afternoon maybe around 4pm or so. of course, lunch or dinner should be with a belgian beer, like Leffe or Duvel.

Do you make music yourself? If yes where can we hear it?

I was making music when  I was about 16-17 years old. I was into ambient music quite a lot, listening to Biosphere, etc. I had a Korg wavestation, Akai sampler, etc. I have a classic music education, unfortunately the jazz and pop schools developed after I got into university and by then I had little time to continue playing  or making music. Also, the gear was super expensive, you could not get anything done if you didn’t have 10,000 EUR to buy all the gear for a home studio. By the time I got into university I was also very much interested in music technology itself and developing software and hardware. Lately I’m getting back into it though, I think the development of computer hardware and availability of software these days has made it easier to make music.

Big thanks Bert! We are looking forward to all the new toys you make. For more info: