“My studio is small, clear, straightforward. I switch it on and play.” Frank Bretschneider
For 20 years Berlin-based musician and visual artist Frank Bretschneider has been a figurehead of Europe’s experimental electronic scene, both as a solo artist and co-founder of the lauded Raster-Noton label. As he returns with his new album, Lunik – which blends modular synth textures with Krautrock-inspired rhythms – FM found out more…
When did you start making music?
“The first thing I owned was a secondhand electric guitar, but I actually used it as a sound source to feed a couple of tape machines. So I could alter the sound by speed or delay; or looping tapes to sound more “electronic”. My first “real” instrument was a Korg MS-20 synth. I already had a wide range of influences when I was starting to make music. But I was always fascinated by the experimental and electronic side of music. The actual impulse to make music myself came from artists like Throbbing Gristle, Holger Czukay, Laurie Anderson.”
Tell us about your current setup
“It’s a simple home studio, since 17 years. It’s small, clear, straightforward, everything is connected, I just switch it on and can play, record, work. I should get round to soundproofing it.
“With the exception of my Nord Modular Synth, I almost exclusively used computers and software for a long while; more an act of composing than playing. Over the past years I bought a bit of hardware again: an Elektron Octatrack and a small Eurorack modular system. It’s more spontaneous to work with hardware, to alter a sequence in realtime, to turn a filter knob or suddenly change the speed of the track…”
What DAW do you use, and why?
“I mainly use Logic for composing, arranging, recording, editing; actually since version 2 (Emagic Notator Logic, back then). It was simply the best DAW at the time and still today I like the clarity, the precision, the feel, the freedom to customise the whole lot, window sets, shortcuts etc. It’s fully equipped with basically everthing to record, compose and edit. It includes some great plugins, like the Delay Designer, Space Designer, ES2 synth, Sculpture. The environment offers by far the most sophisticated MIDI functionality. And it’s constantly updated: just recently at NAMM, they released the new Logic 10.4. To a lesser extent I use Ableton Live as a kind of sketchbook, because it’s simple and quick. Often as a ReWire slave within Logic.”
What’s the latest addition to the studio?
“It’s an Erica Octasource Eurorack module. I was looking for a versatile modulation source for my live rack. So it should be not too big, easy and fast to operate, syncable, with enough ouputs. The Octasource meets that requirement. I think I found it on the webpage of Schneidersladen, a video convinced me to buy it and I didn’t regret it. It’s basically eight LFO’s with eight waves: either one different on each output in multi mode, or the same wave shifted by 45 degrees (via CV from 0 to 90 degrees) in single mode. It has a wide range of functionalities to morph, shift and freeze waves. It also has an FM synthesis mode. From a simple square wave up to the most sophisticated and weird modulations, the Octasource delivers. With the three big knobs, the access to the main parameters is super direct – great for live performances.”
When approaching a new track or project, where do you start?
“It depends, sometimes I just switch on my Eurorack, try to find a patch what works and record it. Cutting and editing afterwards, if necessary, and storing it to my archive. For special projects, like recently with some works for multichannel enviroments, I use the Nord Modular. It’s somehow faster to create a patch and I can control and automate allmost all of the parameters via MIDI, partly from Logic, partly from the Octatrack sequencer. And sometimes I just look through my archive for something worth to work on.
“After a couple of years, I now have quite a lot of sketches, improvisations, sessions, fragments – unfinished stuff.”
What are you currently working on?
“We just released a new album Lunik. I’m just finishing work on a mulitchannel/multiscreen installation called ISM Hexadome, consisting of 49 speakers and six screens. The video part is created by Pierce Warnecke and the opening will be in March in Berlin. I’m preparing for a concert at the Monom 4D sound system at Funkhaus, Berlin. I’ve been tasked with curating a 2xEP with some new artists for Raster-Media (the former Raster-Noton label). And I have a couple of collaboration projects ongoing.”