Early Review and Interview

I went to College at SUNY Purchase. Today the school has “normaled” out a bit but when I went there it was mostly art students. One of the required courses was called Social Sciences in the Arts. The professor spent a good amount of time explaining there were different types of artists. The curriculum suggested that obviously an artist creates and is heavily inspired by his surrounding. It also suggested that every artist is heavily influenced by his audience. I found that to be the interesting part. I do think of who will be listening when I make music. The professor explained that even artists who are complete hermits, who never show their work in their lifetime create it hoping or knowing someday someone will discover it. Do you agree? Below are some links to an early Italian review of my album and an interview I did with French electronic music photographer/blogger Morganistik:

“Everything is taken, with expansion into the New Wave of Joy Division in the funereal “Love Sick”. Halfway between the Rock and Synth Pop is Joyless Pleasure…” – technodisco.it

Review: technodisco.it
Interview: morganistik.com

They Make Music Interview

I’ve done a quick interview for They Make Music. Everyday readers of this blog will know pretty much what my answers are like. Be sure to spend some time over there checking out some of the other good interviews!

“Make yourself a studio that’s fun to use. It’s important to be able to get your song down very fast without technology getting in the way.” – Me

For more info: theymakemusic.com/interviews/oliver-chesler/

The Horrorist in Partysan Magazine

To coordinate with my New Year’s Eve performance at the Landespavillon in Stuttgart, Partysan Magazine has interviewed me. You click the image above for a readable size or head over to my record label’s website for an English translation: click here

” I played one year for my Birthday. After the show I walked outside of Club Prag and some young German people were leaving and asked me to come with them. I got in their car leaving all my stuff at Prag. A few hours later I was in some other club so trashed I was asking people what they thought of my live show! Everyone in the new club was like, “Who the hell are you?”!” – Oliver Chesler (The Horrorist)

For more info: thingstocome.com

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.” – NPR.org

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.” – Wikipedia.org

The official Gary Numan homepage: http://www.numan.co.uk

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 http://www.percussa.com/artists/

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 createdigitalmusic.com, xlr8r.com, 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: www.percussa.com

Dieter Doepfer Totally Wired


Doepfer Sneak Peek
from niamhguckian on Vimeo.

A wonderful clip from the documentary Totally Wired featuring Dieter Doepfer. It’s nice to know Dieter is listening to his fans on the Doepfer Yahoo Group. We also finally know the reason why Doepfer modules are silver. Check out all the amazing modules from Doepfer at: www.doepfer.de

An interview with the great man himself, taken from the documentary ‘Totally Wired’. Dieter talks about the inspiration for the A100 series, his collaborations with Kraftwerk, and the future of modular. Unmissable! – niamhguckian

For more info: Totally Wired (Amazon link)

In the studio with Bon Harris from Nitzer Ebb.

The always busy James Bernard from Propellerhead Software went to LA to interview Bon Harris one of the founding members of Nitzer Ebb. It doesn’t surprise me to hear he’s using Reason to create the music for the upcoming all new NE album. Reason seems to be a center piece in a lot of EBM bands today. It was a happy surprise to hear the bassline Mr. Harris let us have a sneak peak of because it had an old school Nitzer Ebb feel to it. If Douglas McCarthy can get angry enough to put proper vocals on this remains to be seen. I for one really hope the magic returns.

Keep up with NE here: www.nitzer-ebb.de and  myspace.com/nitzerebbmusic

8bit interview. Music from Brooklyn and Second Life.

8bitCihan Kaan is a Brooklyn native who in the early ninety’s made a ton of underground electronic music under the name 8Bit. In fact as he will tell you he’s the original 8bit. Last week I was chatting with Cihan and he mentioned he recently performed live in the online game Second Life. When he told me he made money I knew I had to interview him for Wire to the Ear.

You grew up in Brooklyn saw the rise of techno take place just blocks away from your house with Frankie Bones, Groove Records and the Storm Raves. Tell us in brief your interaction with the “scene” as it was called! Who were some of your friends and what were you guys all doing?

Yea, everyone lived within a two mile radius of each other, Sheepshead Bay/Canarsie/Marine Park/Avenue U. Lenny Dee of Industrial Strength Records had barbeques at his mom’s place (now a russian health insurance fraud clinic) with all the acts on his label so I was there as much as I could be without being invited, hehehe. Frankie and Adam were over on the west end of Avenue U and I had street beef with the west end Avenue U Boys (AUB) so I couldn’t really stretch over there too much without threat of escalating my beef (in a nutshell, my best friends brother was Avenue U East Side crew leader who was missing so ppl thought I had some connection to that). Heather Heart was making the Under One Sky zine and lived the closest to me and on any day you would see her wandering Neck Road with a tb-303, hunched over walking home. Thats a clear image for me because I was a drugstore delivery boy and I would see Heather all the time walking around with some vintage acid toy. Most of my crew was the “younger” lot of rave kids, so although I was one of the first promoters of Storm Rave I was primarily converting skaters and punks to the new rave scene of the time. There was never a full acceptance into the older generation of techno ppl, most of the kids I brought in were still wide-eyed about techno and there was a sense that this optimism made you less of a hardcore head. I don’t think that was true. After the Storm we all became NASA elite and I remember Moby performing every week. One night me and Moby talked about my new demo I was pimping around on Cassette (the OHMZ cassete) and he wanted to meet 8bit - Liveafter his show, but that night my bag of tapes got stolen so the transfer never happened. Later in the night I was depressed in the chillout room and Ernie (a kid who ran around with an Ernie doll on his neck) found the bag, but it was too late. Around that time I hooked up with Super Mario who was starting a hardcore label with Joey Jupiter of Atomic Babies and put out my first 8Bit record Tweeked, which he took privilege to completely cut apart to make DJ Friendly. That record actually is mostly all that red box you gave me along with the Oberheim you also gave me. The 707 I bought from the buy-n-sell for $50, and the Amiga I used for samples obviously was left over from before the scene. After Tweeked came out (it was a white 7″), Curious George and Deitrich Shoenemann from Prototype 909, hooked me up with job at Moby’s old label Instinct and I packed his records in boxes all summer. I hope that answers your question, I’m really flying over lots of details and probably forgetting lots of people along the way.

Tell us a few of the most memorable events (dare I say Raves?) or nightclubs from back then.

The Storm Rave in ’93 the warehouse in Shaolin was like the Thunderdome scene in Mad Max; burning cars, people dancing on rusty metal barrels. It’s a root memory I have I always mine from when I’m making a track. Frankie screaming into the mic that we were future. Never seen party like that since. Also, remember we had no style back than, so for the most part it was a diverse set of kids (not yet called ravers) all gathered listening to this new future music. It wasn’t a poseur thing at all — in all these academic papers on the rave scene I read about, people seem to forget that techno really emerged as a movement, not a style. It was Dinkins’ New York when you were still allowed to break in to places and bring in Speakers and equipment. Storm raves were always great parties but other events that stood out were the outlaw parties thrown around the neighborhood, the Gerritsen Beach swamp parties were nuts, not only could i ride my bike to the party, but everyone would be there and the music was insane, all in a swamp marsh. I tried to recreate that in the scene in “Refuse to Fight”8bit - Logo when the crew is staring into the fire, the video I directed for Frankie. Seems like parties were all over back than, under the highway, under the bridge, whereever we had access to a dark spot with concrete around.

Darker memories come later when I was too hopped up on psycedelics particularly at NASA, one night I lost my mind and the beats sounded like machinations from Hell and I thought the dancefloor was a shark infested pool. I actually leapt into my boy Evan’s chest trying to get some of his positive “E” vibes. Of course that didnt work and I quickly fell into a fear and loathing type of head and pulled a blade out on the guards who were trying to quell me (I was trying to jump into Dante’s chest, Scotto’s chest, etc). They threw me out and all i remember from there is walking around in the winter on the west side of manhattan with my clothes ripped off.

Since this interview is for a music tech blog let’s talk gear. Compare how you made music in 1994 to 2007. What was your computer set up then vs. now? Continue reading →

Interview with Eskil Simonsson of Covenant.

Eskil Simonsson

Covenant is one of the best known electronic bands from Sweden. Since the early 1990s they have sold a huge amount albums. I recently caught up with the lead singer Eskil in Berlin and asked him a few questions about songwriting, studio techniques, fashion and gear.

When you write a song do you work on the lyrics or music first?

Neither! We usually start with a sound, noise or the idea of a song. Then the melodies pop up as I start working on it while Joakim is starting up his lyrics engine.

Do you have any preferences when it come to a microphone and mic-pre for your voice?

Yes. When we did “Northern light” with long-time Rammstein producer Jacob Hellner we tried a bunch of different microphones and pre-amps, Neumann and stuff, but what we finally picked was a copy by Soundelux Inc of an all time classic: Telefunken Ela-M 251. The Universal Audio 6175 is a good companion and pre-amp.

Eskil SimonssonIs there any software, plug-ins or special effects you particularly like on your voice?

I used to love to put a subtle chorus from an old Roland unit but these days I try more to get the sound directly from my vocals and the mic rather than tweaking it.

How about sequencing? Ableton Live? Pro-tools? Or something else?

Yeah, we’re Steinberg users since Atari 1040ST. Before that we had a sequencer and before that we played everything manually, even live! So we have earned our sequencer so to speak. We were 5 guys and having fun.

I know you own a Moog Voyager. What other key hardware pieces do you use and enjoy?

Hm, I like my microphone, but the Waldorfs (Q, XT & Pulse) still sound like friends I like to know. And Joakim likes to surround himself with red synthesizers from that Swedish company. I love the computer.

What is the secret to writing a great song?

There is no secret, just listen to yourself. Some basic knowledge of structure helps but actually I sometimes feel the music is just passing through me and its up to me to use my craftsmanship to make the best of it. Maybe as a musician you are more of a talented receiver picking up signals than the creator of them. But I also devour popular culture output, maybe that helps.

You are always dressed quite well! Do you have a favorite fashion designer?

I like shoes, with decent shoes you could even wear jeans (I dont have any) but no shorts please. And I like hats. Church’s and Borsalino, way to go.

What is some music your are currently listening to?

Field recordings and drones without rhythm or melodies. This is a gem caught in the web: www.touchradio.org.uk

What are 3 great websites you check often?

BBC, wiki, industrial.org and whc.unesco.org as a bonus site.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We just completed one of the greatest DVDs known to the industrialized mankind. Do us a favor and check it up: In Transit by Covenant. See you around, take care and control. Eskil: www.covenant.se