In pictures: Audion's modular-strewn studio
Matthew Dear is something of an electronic renaissance man. DJ, producer, artist and purveyor of eclectic but essential beats and basslines, Dear has seen his star consistently rise with albums such as the triumphant pristine electronic pop of 2007’s Asa Breed and 2012’s superb Beams.
Dear’s skewed electronic songsmithery has earned him plaudits and converts aplenty - not least the support slot on a couple of Depeche Mode tours in the States along with a reputation as a top DJ and remixer par-excellence. Somehow, in between his successful Matthew Dear work, he’s managed to plough a purer Techno furrow under the guise of side-project, Audion.
It’s been some ten years since Audion’s brilliant debut, Suckfish, but thankfully Dear has decided that’s plenty enough time to deprive us of a new Audion album. We were delighted to hook up with Matthew as he put the finishing touches to his custom-built new home studio (the LP itself was fashioned in a loft-space). With the modular-heavy, groove-fest that is Alpha out now, we caught up with the man himself about beats, basslines and being a modular obsessive.
“I’ve got a PolySix that’s still in the set-up but, for the Audion album I got into modular so I’ve been building a modular rig; lots of drum modules as well as synth modules and crazy ring mods and things that can make really zany, wild sounds.
“Of course, I use the Elektron stuff like the Octatrack and the Analog Four. I’m still running everything through Ableton or Logic and putting it all together that way. So, yeah, it’s a big hybrid of digital, analogue and vintage analogue.”
Getting your hands dirty
“A lot of the songs, like There Was a Button, Destroyer and Zunk Synth are examples of me running the modular in real time and recording while I’m slowly turning knobs and letting filters gain, sweep or pass. It’s really just hands-on with the machines as it’s recording, then, after the fact, I’ll take the recording and splice it down into what I think is a song.
“There Was a Button was an entire pass of that early/mid ’90s trance with growing synths that always feel like they’re rising and rising. With the patch I made for that track I really just wanted to make a trance song. In my head I was aiming for that classic hypnotic and repetitive trance state.”
“I’ve got a 1979 Spectrasonics 24-channel recording console that’s pretty awesome. I’d just set up in the barn at the last place when we decided to move so I’m literally, as we speak, setting up the basement, getting it acoustically-treated with bass-traps behind the wall and four-layer walls.
“It’s the first room I’ve ever had that’s been completely designed to be the size of the frequency of my room and I’m really hoping it’s going to sound amazing. As soon as the acoustics work is done we’ll be reconnecting the console. For this Audion album though, nothing really went through the console.”
A date with destiny
“I’m always just trying to keep my own interest piqued enough. Honestly, you might talk to me in about a year and I’ll be like ‘modulars are boring and I’m back doing soft synths!’... It’s wherever my whim takes me at any given moment.
“You have to feel excited and energised about things and, right now, it’s modular where my head’s at. [Laughs] I’m sure, over time, I’ll overdo the modular stuff then maybe I’ll come back to just bass guitar and drums! I’m always rotating and if something gets boring, don’t freak out as there’s always gonna be something else you can get into.”
“I did music for the Delqa interactive project for Microsoft and any time you work for a big company like Microsoft they like to pay you a pretty penny, so I had a nice chunk of money to use for the first step of my modular rig. I knew what modules I wanted and I could also use the modular in this project for Microsoft. [Laughs]
“So, that was a great excuse to invest a couple of thousand dollars so I went for it. I told myself I would fill one case then I’d be done as I didn’t want to go crazy. I’ve already got my third case now and am slowly building different pieces together. I got the bug!
“I’m taking it out live now too. I did an Audion show at Fabric about a month ago where I used a small portion of the modular and that was fun. Just to have it onstage and have that raw power. So, the new Audion live show will definitely have modular in it and I’ve just got another three-rack case for that so I’ll be using as much live modular as I can.”
Mix and match
“It’s all Eurorack and all sorts of different makers. I’ve got some Intellijel stuff; they do an amazing sequencer called Metropolis. I have a lot of the Mutable Instruments stuff too. He’s a zany designer from France who makes brilliant, mind-bending modules. Lots of Make Noise reverbs, delays and sequencers. I try to mix and match a bunch of different things so I’m not stuck to one make or one sound.”