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. http://micahfrank.com/tagged/tectonic. 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 (kamoni.net) You can see and hear all of the other stuff I’m up to at micahfrank.com or soundcloud.com/micahfrank.

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

Phase Distortion Micropak from Puremagnetik

Phazeform Vol1 - Puremagnetik

Puremagnetik is a subscription of Ableton Live (and Kontakt/Logic) devices filled with samples and presets around a theme. This past month’s release is based on Casio’s Phase Distortion technology.

“Phase distortion synthesis is a synthesis method introduced in 1984 by Casio in its CZ range of synths, and similar to Frequency modulation synthesis in the sense that they are both built on phase modulation. Basically a sine wave is played, but by modifying the phase angle, the sine wave is bent out of shape.” – Wikipedia.org

Micropaks are $12 al a carte or $60 per year. Some interesting past “paks” include samples from toys, digital drum machines, Atari 2600s, Korg MS20 and vintage organs. More info: http://puremagnetik.com/

Digital 80s drum machines from Puremagnetik.

If I had unlimited cash I would go onto eBay right now and buy every single drum machine I could find. The next best thing is a good sample collection. Puremagnetik has an interesting subscription model that delivers you monthly “Micropaks” of sounds all ready to go in Ableton Live. This month they hit my sweet spot with some nice 80s digital drum machine sets. Here what you get:

Korg DDD-1: A programmable drum machine from 1986. Includes 18 drum sounds with a famous 12-bit crunch. Alesis HR-16: One of Alesis’s first drum machines manufactured in 1987. Includes over 40 unique drum and percussion sounds. Kawai R50: Legendary 12-bit sound from 1988! Includes a selection of over 20 dirty drum and percussion sounds. Sound: A very rare Soviet era drum machine manufactured by Zhitomir electronic factory in 1989. Includes sampled percussion sounds with a tightly compressed flavor. – puremagnetik.com

For more info including a video walkthrough and audio clips: click here