“It’s all about the joy of exploration” Heinali|
Ukrainian composer and producer Oleg Shpudeiko has been attracting a growing following in recent years with his gorgeous ambient synth work and meticulous approach to sound design. As his latest LP,
Iridescent, hits shelves, FM caught up with him to talk life in the studio...
When did you start making music, and how did you first get started?
“August 2003. I had no musical education but, like most teenagers, I listened to a lot of music. I don’t think I even knew the difference between high and low frequencies, but I was pretty good with computers.
“I started with Jeskola Buzz, a tracker that was recommended to me by a friend. It clicked with me, since it didn’t require any musical knowledge to make music.
“I don’t think I tried to write music in a specific genre in Jeskola Buzz, I was just messing around, trying my hand at different things, exploring its features. At least, not until 2004, when I switched to Cubase and somehow started a ten year long period of copying music I loved, before I arrived at something that felt like it was mine.
“As for inspirations, back then it was Coil, Nine Inch Nails, Current 93, Cisfinitum, Akira Yamaoka, t.A.T.u., Reutoff, Sal Solaris and many, many others. I actually recorded an album with Sal Solaris, one of my dark ambient/post-industrial idols, a few years ago. Back in 2003, I would never have thought it could happen.”
Tell us about your studio
“It’s currently my home studio in a one bedroom apartment in Kyiv. I’ve been here since 2016. It’s a very small room with a lot of compromises, since it’s functioning as a living space as well. I tried my best to improve room acoustics with four HOFA bass traps and nine custom-made midrange rockwool absorber panels. They make a huge difference in comparison with an untreated room, but the sound is far from studio-grade flat. But then again, I don’t do mastering and mix only my own music so it’s fine for now.
“As for instruments, I have a Eurorack modular system mostly based on Make Noise modules. I use it a lot, both for sound synthesis and processing and spend more time with it than in my DAW. There’s also a Korg MS20 mini, an all-round workhorse Virus Ti2 Polar and a guitar pedal processing chain.
“The weirdest hardware in my studio is an old post-Soviet digital reverb/chorus/delay unit that I got for 20 bucks, I think. It’s all crackling and glitchy and shitty – absolutely adorable. And it has a special button for a memory loop feature, when it just plays whatever is currently stored in its buffer.”
What DAW (or DAWs) do you use, and why did you choose it?
“Cubase. I think it’s true when they say that a DAW is more about one’s habit than anything else. I started using Cubase in 2004 and still use it. It feels like home, everything is in place and the workflow is smooth and easy.”
What dream bit of gear would you love to have in you studio?
“Thermionic Culture Vulture, a valve distortion unit. It’s not that rare or terribly expensive, but it’s almost impossible to get in Ukraine. I think it has a certain ‘aura’ around it. I love to listen to the distortion, nearly all of our Heinali and Matt Finney stuff is heavily overdriven and distorted, and my previous live drone setup featured distortion in the master signal chain. I would record huge amounts of layers of simple drones at different pitches with the MS20 mini and two loopers, and then slowly explore harmonics with distortion pedals. When I found out about the Culture Vulture it instantly interested me. Anyway, two years ago I had to choose between Culture Vulture and Make Noise System Concrete. You already know what choice I made!”
When approaching a new track or project, where do you start?
“For my personal stuff, it starts with a patch on a modular system. Actually, I’ve recently realised that the thing I love the most about modular synthesis is the same thing I loved about Jeskola Buzz. It’s all about the process of experimentation, connecting stuff, sometimes in unexpected ways that would lead to unexpected results. It’s the joy of exploration, both of yourself and your instrument, and interrelations between the two. That got me into music in the first place.
“Sometimes I don’t even do any edits or additional recording afterwards, so it’s just a raw recording straight from the modular, with just some compression and EQ. A lot of tracks from my Iridescent LP were recorded in this way. It was very different a few years ago; my workflow changed dramatically after I dug into the modular realm.”