Names: Alain Quême aka Alan Braxe, Stèphane Quême aka DJ Falcon
Nationality: French
Occupation: Producers
Recent release: Braxe & Falcon's Step by Step EP is out via Smugglers Way / Domino.

Tool of Creation #1: Buchla 208 + 200e series
Designed by: Don Buchla
Country of origin: America
Became available in: 1970

Tool of Creation #2: Strymon Magneto Eurorack Tape Delay
Designed by: Strymon
Country of origin: America
Became available in: 2018
Braxe & Falcon use the Buchla 208 + 200e series & Strymon Magneto on: Their recently released track “Step by Step”.

If you enjoyed this interview with Braxe & Falcon about the Buchla 208 + 200e series & Strymon Magneto and would like to explore their work in more depth, visit their respective Facebook pages: Alan Braxe; DJ Falcon.

What was your first encounter with the Buchla 208 + 200e series and the Strymon Magneto?

Falcon started to dig into the modular world maybe 12 years ago, mostly on the eurorack format.

But In 2018 we thought that it would be interesting to discover the Buchla format because it offers a limited but exhaustive environment. The same year, we also discovered the Strymon Magneto.

We first saw it as one side FX among others. But it quickly took a key role in our respective studios.

Just like any other piece of equipment, the Buchla 208 + 200e series has a rich history. Are you interested in it? And if so, what are some of the key points from this history for you personally?

Yes before buying some Buchla modules we’ve tried to understand a bit of what it’s all about, and it included the history of the system since it’s birth.

But we tried to keep our distance from all the myths that have built up around all this. For us, the main point was to keep a very naive approach and  define whether we loved what the system had to offer or not.

What, to you, are some of the most interesting recordings made with the Buchla 208 + 200e series?

Sorry we haven’t gone deep enough to give you some relevant references.

To be honest we could describe the use of the Buchla as something quite selfish! We were just attracted by the system’s layout and functionality more than what other musician did with it.  

Are there other artists working with the Buchla 208 + 200e series as well as the Strymon Magneto whose work you find inspiring? What do you appreciate about their take on them?

Jeanie is doing some very good music with a Buchla and some euroracks systems. We love her music because she has a very melodic approach and she brings her whole modular set up to the next stage in terms of musical results.

Prior to using it for the first time, how did you acquaint yourself with these two tools? Will you usually consult a manual before starting to work with a new device – and what was that like in this case?

Yes usually we check out the manual or some demo videos.

For instance, for the Buchla, Todd Barton did a lot of presentation videos for almost all modules. They are very useful as the official Buchla documentation can be quite esoteric.

Same for the Strymon Magneto. On the company’s website, each of their products is described with very well made videos. It’s a good way to mentally train prior to the gear delivery and the actual usage.

What interests you about the Buchla 208 + 200e series as well as the Strymon Magneto in terms of it contributing to your creative ideals?

It’s good to see the Buchla as a limitless sound generator.

Each time you switch it on, and depending on your mood or ideas in terms of patching, new sounds will be generated. That's very motivating because it helps you to relax and find inspiration. Most of the time you end up with sounds and  sequences you wouldn’t have imagined in the first place. The only thing you have to think about is making sure that you hit record as soon as something sounds good.

With modular synths, it’s easy to find an original sound but just as easy to lose it in just a few seconds. A three hours Buchla session is a phase of constant sound generating. Afterwards, when you listen to the session recordings, you realise that it contains a lot of material, it can be tones, sequences, sound FX and, session after sessio, you can easely build your own sound library.

How do the Buchla 208 + 200e series and the Strymon Magneto interact / complement / conflict with each other?

The Buchla itself can sometimes sound very raw. As soon as you blend it in to the Strymon Magneto, you instantly get a sense of space. It puts the sound into a context.

What are some of the stand-out features from your point of view?

It’s very hard to summarize the Buchla’s sandout features. It all depends on your system’s size. But the main feature is its  global layout. It’s very easy to comprehend, all main funtions are colour coded on the patch points, it’s very pleasant. Sometimes you feel like it’s playing a game.

And time after time you realise that beneath its apparent simplicity, the system is very complex and can be used in multiple ways.

Regarding the Strymon Magneto, the key feature in our opinion is the Pitchshift mode which can produce instant orchestration of a simple musical motive as well as instant harmonic drones using the delay’s feedback.

Tell me a bit about the interface of the Buchla 208 + 200e series and the Strymon Magneto repsectively – what does playing it feel like, what do you enjoy about it, compared to some of your other instruments?

Playing with both is a bit like walking in a city or the countryside with no maps or specific direction in mind. You just hangout, ready to discover.

So what’s pleasant about it, is just to start from scratch, and slowly build sounds, adding patch points, controls,  and listen to how each parameter interacts with its counterparts.

Most of the time it’s just endless happy accidents. Once again, in a single session you can obtain dozens of sounds which  you can use afterward.

How would you describe the sonic potential of the Buchla 208 + 200e series and the Strymon Magneto?

It’s just endless, no limits as long as you think in a monophonic mode which can sometime be a bit frustrating. Howeve,r with 2 or three oscillators you can start to build very complex motifs.

Another good thing to do is to multi sample some Buchla sounds in any sampler and play them polyphonically afterwards. Then you enter another endless world, adding the sampler functionality.

In which way does these tools influence musical results and what kind of compositions do they encourage / foster?

Let’s say that these instruments help to free the mind from conventions and pre conceived ideas. For people like us who are not good at all in musical theory that's a real bonus. Of course, by definition it’s going to foster electronic music but the palette can be super wide, from very soft to super hard and everything in between. Once again it’s just endless.

The ultimate goal is to build a patch wich results in playing a quite complex and multitimbral motif by the simple press a single key.

Back to your first question. Some people would say that the sonic palette of a Buchla oscillator is unmatchable which is probably true. However, the whole way of thinking, and building patches is duplicable on a computer. Softube for instance offers a modular environment which is really creative and for a portion of the hardware equivalent’s price.

So maybe you can’t get the same sound as a Buchla system on a computer. But you can for sure obtain good results and moreover stimulate your inspiration which is, we believe, the most important point.  

More generally, how do you see the relationship between your instruments and the music you make?

This relationship is crucial, for us it’s good when it’s simple, when you can interact immediately with the instruments without entering sub menus and too much complexity.

Maybe the best example would be the good old mpc 3000 which offers a limited environment with almost instant access to all funtions through the use of your fingers. It gives you the feeling of «touching» the sound and shaping it to your own taste in a very instinctive manner.

Some see instruments and equipment as far less important than actual creativity, others feel they go hand in hand. What's your take on that?

We feel like the instrument by definition has a crucial impact on creativity. If you decide to make a song with just your voice and an electric guitar you’ve already defined a frame which will impact your creativity.

If, suddenly,  you add a distortion to your guitar, some new idea will probably appear, same with a delay, reverb and so on. Each time you alter the sound, you have new feelings and different ideas might appear.
As long as instruments and gear help to create and stimulate imagination, everything is fine, the problem starts when you enter a constant quest for a / the new piece of gear which is supposed to solve everything. It can be an endless quest, so it’s better in our opinion to focus and keep it simple on some key gear that you easily interact with because you kow it well.  

Could you describe working with the Buchla 208 + 200e series and the Strymon Magneto on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

We’ve just released the song “Step by Step” a few weeks ago. It’s full of Buchla and Strymon Magneto. We’ve added all these Buchla layers in the final phase of the production, it’s all submixed elements which helps to build an atmosphere on top of the main chords.

On the opposite, there is a Braxe track “Spacer” which was built with the Buchla only, from scratch, all processed through the Strymon Magneto. If the Magneto would be bypassed, the track would not be of interest as it’s just a very simple melody played with a sine wave. But as mentioned above the Magneto gave it a whole new orchestration on top.

In the light of picking your tools, how would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

It’s very linked to the previous question.

We feel like the starting and crucial  point is the state of mind. First, you have to be relaxed enough, with no specific expectations. Then, you can interact with an instrument and when an idea appears, keep in mind that the priority is to record it before it disappear.

When the very first  idea appears, it’s most of the time very sincere, it triggers emotions, and this is what makes it hopefully timeless and original. Afterwards, you might find that it contains some imperfections and you try to make it sound better. Which can be a very dangerous process because it goes against spontaneity and sincerity.

Perfection is a very relative notion, it  won’t take the same form in a song by The Clash or Michael Jackson. Maybe it’s more safe to aim for cohesion in between a song’s elements.