Current Release: Artche's new single "Waves" is out via Yusual.
Equipment Recommendations: For me I’d definitely recommend my Korg MS-20 as you can really create some interesting tones with the patch bay especially. And of course my go to soft synth which is Xfer Records Serum - simply because the modulation options are endless
If you enjoyed this interview with Artche and would like to find out more, visit his profiles on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
What was your first studio like?
My first studio, if you could even call it a studio, was literally just my laptop, 2 krk rockit 5’s and the worst sound card ever made which had plenty of hiss. But you have to make do with what you’ve got sometimes.
I had that set up for quite a few years till I was able to upgrade to what I have today.
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Well firstly I now have a sound card that doesn’t pump out loud volumes of white noise which is great. But seriously I’ve always been into hardware synths ever since I started out learning sound design because of the unrivalled sound they give which for me software synths just can’t match. So naturally I wanted to build a decent enough set up to accommodate using analog gear. I’ve now got a studio I’m happy with and that works me. But there are definitely additions that I want to make in the near future.
As far as the most important gear, I have to say the Korg MS-20 is up there as I use it for most of my bass sounds, the spl crimson 3, my Native Instruments Machine for messing about with grooves and generating quick drum loops, and last but not least my 30 year old tape deck for giving those digital elements an analog feel.
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
I do use a lot of software plugins in my music so it’s great to have so much choice with the thousands of different options. But at the same time I’m very selective of what I use.
So for instance with soft synths I use maybe 3 in all my productions which are serum, diva & mini v3. I think it’s important to focus on 2-3 and learn them inside and out instead of having a bunch that you aren’t that familiar with. I particularly like serum and diva for the amount of modulation and routing options you have so they’re great for creating really interesting and versatile sounds.
For effects units it’s the same philosophy of keeping it simple. So I generally stick to the waves, fab filter and Valhalla plugins. Waves more for vocal processing and compression, fab filter for eqing and saturation and finally Valhalla for reverbs.
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
I’ve always had a pretty minimalistic set up. Even now the set up I have is pretty modest. But like I said before it works for me. Some days I sit on the sofa making tracks with just my headphones and laptop and others I’m in a studio either working with others or in my own set up so it really depends.
Neither is better or worse but I will say that 90% of my initial ideas come from lounging about on the sofa and then finishing them off in the studio.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
Like I’ve mentioned before I am a big fan of hardware synths because I love being hands on, creating something from scratch without the luxury of selecting a preset instantly, unlike a software plugin where for me its more mundane.
I'd say my NI Machine in particular is great for being able to create grooves on the fly that maybe wouldn’t happen if I’m just using Ableton's sampler, programming each drum hit, for example.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
I think because technology is so versatile these days with the endless possibilities to constantly create new and exciting sounds it’s easy to be creative especially when you mix analog with digital.
For example with my latest track "Waves" I put a few of the pads and drums through my tape deck and layered them on top of the original recording which added a new element to the track. These small additions and processes really add that extra 10% which for me is what makes a track unique.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
I’m constantly writing ideas every day which has its pros and cons. The pros being I always have plenty of ideas to revisit when i’m not feeling particularly creative. But also the flip side of that is I have a lot of ideas that I work on for a day, which then may not get touched for weeks or months and occasionally they do get lost. That’s something I do have to get better at, being more organised with ideas that have legs, especially vocals and lyrics.
But maybe subconsciously there’s a reason they get lost.
Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
With my music in particular I think the way I am able to keep my own unique signature sound would be with my vocals as I am able to break away from the more conventional processes. Everybody can buy the same synths, plugins etc but each person's voice is unique. That goes for writing, too, as everyone has different experiences to convey into lyrics.
Technologies play a big part in the processing of my vocals as I love to create different tones, styles in each of my tracks with the use of things like pitching, reverbs, chorus’, vocoding and exaggerating these to create a different style every time. Which is why my vocals often don’t sound like it’s the same singer.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
I’d say it’s 50/50 as far as having an idea before I go into the studio and start jotting down ideas. Some days I have a clear vision of what I want to create and others I just choose a synth and start moulding a sound that will then give me an idea to continue from.
I record vocal melodies all the time onto my phone which I then use as a starting points when composing music. I feel this process has been a really important tool in remembering hooks that I otherwise would have forgotten by the time I’m in the studio.
How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?
For sound design I personally create every sound from scratch. I'm not really a fan of presets as everyone who owns the specific synths has access to the in house presets. So I much prefer to make my own which is always better for creating music that has more of your own personal touches to it.
The same goes for programming drums and mixing. I prefer to create my own grooves than using set loops from sample packs which again everyone has access to.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
To be honest nothing springs to mind where a specific tool has had that much of an affect on my musical processes because like I mentioned before I have a pretty minimalistic set up: I use what I know inside out and that’s the way it works for me.
I think the closest example would be when I bought my Korg MS-20 and I had to modulate the parameters on the fly while recording in to the DAW which I do with pretty much all my sounds now. This always gives a humanistic feel to modulation instead of drawing in set points using the automation tools.
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative process. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I’m definitely on the side of avoiding any sort of AI to help me create music. Even using midi generators to create chords, I’d much rather develop my own as I personally think there’s more satisfaction in creating something completely your own work.
There are obviously tools available now that make complete progressions or sounds but they aren’t for me.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
I feel vocal effect plugins have a long way to go in terms of hardware compared to software. Hardware wise you have the likes of the TC Helicon VocalLive but for me software plugins are lacking in the versatility that the hardware units have.
Maybe they have been developed and I’ve missed them. But I’ve used an array of software plugins and I’m yet to discover one that comes anywhere close to the units that are available for live performance.