Few musicians can coax unique tones from hardware as skilfully as Atlanta-based producer and sound designer Richard Devine. We caught up with him at this year’s Superbooth show in Berlin to get a walkthrough of his current Eurorack-centric, all-hardware live rig. For more on performing live using only hardware, check out the August 2018 edition of Future Music.
“When I work on my shows, I typically try to play nine to ten songs in one hour from my system,” Richard tells us. “I try to have as much variety and sound change as possible. I don’t just want to do a 30 or 40 minute set and just do the same thing. Really, I’m just trying to challenge myself to come up with new creative ways to transition and play around with sounds.
“I really like working with a smaller setup, as you find all these cool things accidentally. You have to think how you can get around problems, and you discover things that way.”
Underpinning Richard’s current live setup is the Nord Drum 2, which provides synthetic drums that pair well with Eurorack percussive sounds. “Before, I was taking up a lot of space in my rig with percussion modules,” he tells us. “Wasting one case for just percussion. I still use some drum modules, but this is a good chunk of what’s going on.”
Alongside this sits a sequencing rig, with TipTop Audio’s Circadian Rhythms module as a base. This sends gate triggers to the Nord Drum, as well as feeding into Skipmin probability trigger modules, which allow Richard to control the length of the incoming gates. “It’s like generating new rhythms on the fly, based on the patterns going on in the Circadian Rhythms,” he explains.
A rotating clock divider and various randomisation modules come next, to further allow Richard to vary his rhythms. The rack also features several mixers, as well as the Erica Pico DSP module, used here to process kick drums, and the WMD MSCL compressor, for punching up drums. The rack also features Make Noise’s Phonogene module, loaded with customised firmware to add glitch effects to the Nord Drum.
The signal is then split out to add further processing to the drum sounds. “I like to run some of the percussion through several different effects modules. I have a few different layers, then I mix between those to get more animation going on. It just sounds more interesting.”
Richard uses Polyend’s Seq as his master clock, combined with the Poly module for incorporating it with the Eurorack setup. “You can do a lot with the Polyend, you have pitch outputs, gate outputs, and USB. For this setup I use gates and then trigger other sequencers. I can also run at double or half time at the push of a button… a free jazz approach.”
Another rack features percussion modules to add to the Nord sounds. Here he uses kick and hi-hat sounds from 2HP, alongside WMD’s Chimera percussion synth. He also uses WMD’s Fracture with its granular approach to snares and claps.
His melodies are produced by a four-part system using three microBraids modules - paired with MMF filters - and a Shapeshifter from Intellijel, used for bass textures and wave-folding sounds. On top of this, he uses sampler modules for FX sounds and interesting textures.
Elsewhere, his live rig includes the Modcan Quad LFO, the Transient percussion module from Future Retro, and Erica Synths’ Graphic VCO, for drones and textures. Finally, there’s the ER-301 Sound Computer from Orthogonal Devices, with its four independent sample channels, and 12 inputs, freely assignable to CV or gate. “It can do very, very complex things. You could do a whole show with just that.”