This is without a doubt my favourite envelope generator. The WMD Multimode Envelope gives you shape control over each stage, loads of different modes such as AD, ADSR, looping, clocking through each stage there’s loads! Check it out in WMD’s own video above. If you’re particular about your envelopes and want say a logarithmic rising attack, exponential decay and a linear release this is the only thing I think that will give you it. I’m not one to sing the praises of a tech / data sheet for the sake of it, this module just always gets me what I want, and quickly.
Here’s the June issue of DivKid’s Month Of Modular. We’re catching with these daily posts now!
Module of the month was the WMD Multimode Envelope – which is ace! News included the Abstract Data Octocontroller, Peter Grenader / EAR, Vintage Synth Lab VCF-74 and Skinnerbox CV4LIVE. The interview was with Datach’i.
Mutable Instruments Branches how I love thee … your colours, your knobs, your little black buttons. Ok my writing doesn’t leave much to be desired and neither do my lame love poetry attempts. But I like being daft (just in case you didn’t realise).
Branches is great! It’s a dual Bernoulli gate which in simple terms is a one input two output device that operates “coin toss” logic. There’s two channels, control over the “weighting” of the outputs and the channels will link. It’s really useful and very fun.
This interview was from Issue 7 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular. Click here for that issue of the magazine. Note this was back in April 2016.
So the reader can get to know you a little … first, what led you to music? And what had you been doing as a hobby or professionally leading up to getting into modular?
I was classically-trained for years as a kid, and went on to take a degree in Popular Music & Sound Recording at the first University to offer it, Salford. After that I had a 10 year career as a recording artist and producer, largely under the name Blue Light Fever. I eventually tired of the continuous see-saw hype train of the music industry and retrained as a teacher, moving from that into college technician work (which I know you’re familiar with! 🙂
That takes us up to you working with modular, what were you using it for at the time and how long was it before you started making audio demos for modules?
I completely gave up music for a while after quitting the industry, but eventually got sucked into giving it one last go – but strictly as a fun hobby. I bought a huge Mac and a ton of software, and that was great for a while – but I hit a wall. I was treading the same creative paths over and over again, and also suffering with RSI from being tied to a mouse constantly. I investigated buying midi controllers for my plugins, but decided that setting them up would suck up too much time & energy. Eventually I decided to take the plunge into modular, and found that I was suddenly bursting with ideas and recordings – and they were happening much, much quicker than in the past. A lot of it may not be particularly mainstream, but it was a lot of fun putting it together. I was putting tracks together, including mixing, over a weekend. If you want to get an idea of the kind of music my modular led me to, check them out at:
After a couple of years I started producing demos for modular manufacturers (Synthetic Sound Labs, WMD, Intellijel, Frequency Central etc..). This happened organically, after I had got involved in suggesting ideas for modules and beta testing them – something that had grown out of long email conversations with manufacturers troubleshooting issues with modules. I did demos in exchange for free modules, but eventually decided that he sheer amount of work I was putting in was not making much sense (as much to do with my own tendency towards perfectionism as anything)
I found you online through those audio demos and we got talking then met in person. You were a great help in me getting into modular myself. Was the position you were in making audio demos and keeping active on the Muff Wiggler forum answering questions / sharing experiences and generally just helping other users a big part of why you decided to open up your shop?
Well many thanks! Yes – I used to be so involved in the scene, and particularly on Muffs, that people started coming to me for advice and help all the time. If I’d bought a new module they’d ask what my feedback was after a week or so. I started to wonder whether there might be some kind of business in advice, or modular tuition…but then started to consider the retail angle.
What was your initial idea for the shop and has your initial plan changed regarding stock and general plans for the future?
My initial idea for the store was to ONLY sell products that I had used for ages, and was particularly passionate about – and which had proved to be reliable. I was also initially concerned that stocking new modules as soon as they were released might result in a myriad of problems with faults and bugs, and this was something I was keen to avoid. However, several people pointed out that this wasn’t exactly the best business move in the world, so I have had to try to combine that idealistic approach with a more realistic one, adding emerging modules to my range when I think they suit my brand. In the end, I have only had a handful of returns out of the hundreds of orders I’ve shipped, so I think it’s safe to say that the quality control in Eurorack has gone up a good few notches of late.
I don’t just stock anything that comes out, and only stock things that I think have something really unique to offer. I also tend to specialise in modules that are in that special category, where they are able to produce a wide range of results – whether that be VCOs that can be both precise and unstable; or modulation sources that can turn their hand to any number of tasks. Oddly enough, I am also slightly obsessed with VCAs, which maybe stems from my hi-fi and engineering background. I love to have a range of those, from warm saturating ones (AJH Synth Minimod VCA, WMD/SSF Amplitude) to clean, crisp units and designs that merge flexible mixing into the package (Tangle Quartet, Erica Quad VCA).
I am also very keen to support the brands I stock by trying to keep their older “classic” products in stock. I might only sell a couple of them every few months, but I think it’s important to keep them alive. Recent examples are the Richter Envelator from Malekko, which has never been available in the UK in its current form – something I find hard to believe, as it was a “must have” product when I started out. Another is the “Multimode” collection from WMD – the VCA, Envelope & Expander – some seriously feature-packed designs that are sometime overlooked in favour of their more flagship products.
In addition I am trying to promote UK brands as much as possible, when they fit in with the rest of my range – for example, Expert Sleepers, ALM Busy Circuits and the smaller brands such as Future Sound Systems. I have also been the first UK store to stock Transistor Sound Labs’ wonderful Stepper Acid sequencer. If you’re starting out producing modules in the UK, or moving into that field – get in touch!
Eurorack and the general awareness of modular has grown significantly in the past couple of years. Where do you see it going?
Well, obviously the big boys are getting into the game now, along with a lot of other stores which previously only sold more mainstream music gear. How that will play out is anyone’s guess, but hopefully there will still be a place for the smaller, boutique affairs such as myself as we reflect the DIY ethos that the scene was built on. I actually really like the look of the stuff that the big brands are putting out, but I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense for a store like mine. I have a somewhat “maverick” approach to business that has worked extremely well for me thus far, but may not be completely understood by huge multinational companies! Also, I simply can’t compete with the mainstream retail outfits in terms of purchasing power and logistics – but what I lack in those areas, I make up for with a ridiculous dedication to customer support, flexibility and reliability. I remember from my history as a customer just HOW important it was that the shops I dealt with were friendly, polite and fair, even when things were going wrong – and that is something I really hold onto. I have been incredibly loyal to some of the people I have bought gear off over the years – and often that is down the the person, not the shop.
I will always be looking to stock the “classics”, and to keep my ear to the ground in order to sniff out the most exciting and innovative new products. And trust me, my ear is VERY close to the ground!
Finally, anything you’d like to add?
Thanks to everyone who has supported the store so far, and helped me get off the ground – especially the many loyal, repeat customers. It really does mean a lot 🙂 …and please come and say hello at the various modular meets that take place during the year. Matttech Modular is always in full effect at the regional events (Leeds, Huddersfield, Sines & Squares in Manchester…) and can even be found skulking in more far-flung propositions, such as last year’s “Bells & Whistles” in Peterborough. Hopefully see you at one of these soon!
Here’s the ‘module of the month’ from the April issue of DivKid’s Month of Modular (that issue is HERE – click me you know you want to). The Befaco Rampage is a take on the classic dual slope generator. There’s loads of CV, loads of options and ways to use it so check it out in the video.
In the March issue of DivKid’s Month Of Modular I spoke to Hannes aka “Papernoise”. If you haven’t heard of him you’ve no doubt seen his work with a range of modular companies for promotional graphics, panel designs and it looks ace! I’m definitely a big fan so was happy to have an opportunity to ask him some questions. Check out his work and website for more. http://www.papernoise.net/
This month (well over the past couple of months really) I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Hannes Pasqualini aka “Papernoise”. We’ve got a few things “in the works” as it were but for the benefit of everyone reading I thought an interview would be great to get an insight into how he became “the guy” for eurorack panel design. As you’ll see, I’ve spread plenty of pictures across the next few pages so show off his brilliant design work. So Hannes, clearly design work came first but how did you first come to work with modular synthesizer companies. Was it very much a “by chance” stumble into it through friends or were you actively aiming to work within this community?
As you say! It really was a thing that happened by chance, or better as the result of a peculiar chain of events. If you had asked me 5 years ago about getting into modulars I would have said: “no way man!” I’m not going to buy into that money-eating habit!” (laughs). I was more interested in chiptune stuff (C64s and Game Boys), circuit bending, DIY and in building small desktop synths. Through my engagement with the chiptune community I first learned about Olivier Gillet’s Shruti-1 DIY synth (the predecessor of the Shruthi, notice the lack of the “h”). I had to email Olivier a couple of times, convincing him that I had a great idea for an enclosure, until he finally sold me one of the few kits he had made. The
Shruti-1 was one of my first proper DIY projects, after the SammichSID and a couple of Atari Punk Consoles. From there I got more of his synths and started to regularly post and comment on his online forums. As a graphic designer I come from illustration and comics. I had posted some of my works on the Mutable forums and apparently Olivier was aware of them. When he got the idea to make the 4-Pole Mission Shruthi he asked me to work on a movie-poster-like promo postcard. The 4-Pole Mission was a morphing filter and the name was inspired by the movie The Thing (the Carpenter remake). From there we kept working together on several other things: we did the Yellow Magic Shruthi, which featured an illustrated sticker and PCB graphics by me and my wife Elizabeth, various graphics for the Anushri and Ambika synths and redesigned the Mutable Instruments logo, visual identity and website (together with fellow graphic designer Patricia Plangger, who was a co-worker of mine at the time) Then, as we all know, Olivier got interested in modular synths, and developed his first 4 modules (Braids, Peaks, Grids and Edges) and since we were already working together he asked me to take care of the graphics. When he asked me if I was interested in working on something like this, I immediately said: “hell yeah!”, even though I didn’t even have a modular synth at home. Given that I couldn’t possibly design anything for a system I didn’t know much about, I borrowed a couple of modules from friends to learn more about it (Olivier also sent me a bunch of things he wasn’t using at the time), my bandmate Michele sold me his old case (which was basically a Doepfer DIY kit and a couple of wooden planks, held together by tape). That was how I started my journey into modulars.
Who was the first company you designed panel graphics for?
Definitely Mutable Instruments, though Hexinverter followed shortly after. A friend told me that Stacy had was looking for somebody to design a logo for Hexinverter and I immediately contacted him. For some time these were my only clients in the modular community. I was lucky to start with them, since they really make amazing modules, which of course helped a lot in spreading my work as well.
Do you get involved beyond the design stages? Working alongside companies with module ideas, helping them get started etc?
It’s really hard not to do that! The thing is: often new clients approach me asking for a combination of panel, logo and visual identity. In these cases it’s often small makers, just starting out. To be able to create a good logo I need to get pretty deep into what people do, why they do it, who they are, what their motivation is, etc. Often these things aren’t fully conceptualized, so I end up helping them to get started in some ways, defining their identity beyond just the logo. Another thing that might happen is that somebody has a new idea for a module and just wants to see how it would work as a panel, or needs feedback on the functionality. In these cases I get involved in the design stage pretty early and sometimes even get to shape the functionality. Lately this happens more frequently, for example, for Black Market’s upcoming Colour Palette Standalone Edition (the pedal), I was part of the core design team from the very beginning. It’s really exciting for me to work like this!
Your designs have something unifying about them, I can tell when I see something from Papernoise, but I can’t put my finger on what that is. Each module company has distinct and varied themes running through them. What’s your approach to creating something unifying both for the company and regarding your ‘style’ … if you’d say you had a style.
Good question. I believe designers shouldn’t try to be artists. Being an artists is all about expressing yourself, being a designer is all about turning form into function and function into form. So what I try to do with each new client is to create a visual style that matches that their identity, help modular users in using and understanding a module’s functionality and in general doing my part in creating great, playable and enjoyable instruments. But of course there’s two factors that still contribute to a style of some sort: first of all, no matter how hard you try, there will always be your personality in anything you make… you just can’t help it, and I admit that I’m not really trying that hard to suppress that either (laughs). The other thing is that people contact me because they have seen my work and like it. That’s great since I want people to work with me precisely because we feel the same about the style and the approach to visual design, not because they need a random guy to “do the graphics”. I should mention that I often work together with my wife who is also part of Papernoise. Some of the designs we made in the last years, like the Alright Chronoblob or the Sonic Potions modules, are really a combination of our respective approaches. She has a more handmade, cute and cartoonesque style (she also works as an illustrator for school and children books), which is often a great counterpart to my own style. Then it also depends if we’re talking about graphic design, or illustration. As an illustrator I pursue two distinct but very defined styles. One with my “real name” and one as Poka Bjorn. The first style is what you can see in the Hexinverter promo stuff, it’s inspired by retro sci-fi and horror illustration and in general is a bit more realistic and detailed. Stuff that would go well with a John Carpenter soundtrack. My Poka Bjorn stuff is more colourful, whimsical and cartoony, I like to think of it as going well with uplifting chiptune tracks, or Solvent. You can spot one or the other approach in my graphic design work as well, even where you wouldn’t expect it. If you look really close, the Indian decorations I make for Olivier’s modules share the same linework style as my Poka Bjorn illustrations, though admittedly the end result is very different.
Do you like to be left to ‘run wild’ with ideas or revamping existing branding and working alongside the companies?
The projects I like most are the ones where somebody just comes to me with a vague set of features and I can go crazy coming up with ideas! This can happen with redesigns as well as with from-scratch projects. In the end I always work alongside with the companies, since as I said, it’s all about turning their identity into visual material or their ideas into a usable interface. But of course some are more strict and others leave more space for me to “run wild”.
Finally, can you tell us about anything you’re working on to be released this year? Obliviously not sharing private company secrets but is it safe to assume most of the people you work with have new designs in the works?
Right now I don’t have many secrets to keep. Some of what I’m working on has already been announced at NAMM: The previously mentioned Black Market Standalone Edition Colour Palette is one big project I’m fully immersed in right now and another one is the faceplate for WMD’s Performance Mixer Other things will be presented soon at Superbooth, among these check out the new panels I’ve made for Sonic Potions and Frap Tools. There’s some older project, which are still going on. The Soviet-space-race-inspired modules from Tsyklon should land sometime this year (some of these can already be pre-ordered from their website: http://tsyklon.com/) and Rabid Elephant, another new face on the market, also should have their first module coming. Of course both Mutable Instruments and Hexinverter are currently very busy coming up with new designs and ideas, which keeps me pretty busy as well. On the non-modular front, I have been working with Japanese developer Ju-X on a new freezer plugin called Frosting (which should hit the web soon) and am tweaking graphics for Fxpansion’s upcoming sampling drum machine app/plugin Geist 2, which is currently in Beta stage. With Ju-X we also have a bigger project in the works, a multi-track looper called The Cake, once we get Frosting out, that will get some updates as well.
A huge thanks to Hannes for his time letting us get to know him and his work. Be sure to head to http://www.papernoise.net/ to check out his work as well the Horizontal Pitch site here – http://www.horizontalpitch.com/
This is still a much loved module that’s ace with a range of sources for creating beats. My preferred use is to have it clocked in time with more static beats and then to use random fluctuating voltages to pull out gates random rhythms. These tend to overlap nicely depending on what the input CV source is. You can pull gates out of noise and audio rate stuff too.
There’s a great video here from Voltage Control Lab explaining ‘Binary Beats’ too.