MATRIXSYNTH: Interview with Hexfix93 of VAC

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Interview with Hexfix93 of VAC

The following is an interview I just wrapped up with hexfix93 of Velvet Acid Christ. As you know, this site is about the gear, namely synths, and the gear that helps drive and enhance synths, but ultimately the focus is on synths.

I was chatting a bit with hexfix93 and asked him if he would be interested in a slightly different take on an interview, one focused on synths and their impact to his world. We all have our story regarding how our obsession with synths first started, how we see and approach synths and what they mean to us. I thought it would be interesting to hear his story. The following is the interview.

Before it begins, I want to thank hexfix93 for taking the time out for this. We all have a different approach and a different story when it comes to our synths. This is his. For more of his music check out VAC and don't miss Toxic Coma. Cheers, matrix.


1. What was your first synthesizer, how old were you when you picked it up, and why did you pick it up?

"It was some kind of old yamaha cheap thing. i got it for my atari st, so when i played games like leisure suit larry that the music wouldn't come from the wimpy fm built in sound, but a general midi synth instead. it really didn't sound all that great. i wasn’t really a keyboard player at this point.

The first synth i got as a keyboard player was a roland w30 sampler workstation. And we made like 3 records with that keyboard. i remember gary slaughter an x vac member, spilled orange vodka drink on it. and i had to take it apart and clean every part of it by hand slowly, it took weeks. it was a pure nightmare.

First analog synth was a roland juno 6. This was amazing. i loved the arpeggiator. Oh, the filter sweeps and the chimey leads we would make with it. I loved it so much. we later ended up with a juno 106. which used to be my favorite synth for years and years..."

2. How did the Juno 106 compare to the 6 for what you were doing at the time?

"Well the juno 6 had this great raw warm sound. The envelopes snapped differently, and so the difference was drastic because of that. On the 106, the envelopes were slower, and the only good bass i could get was in gate mode. But man, it worked great for that. Honestly, i did like the way the juno 6 sounded a tad more. But, the 106 had sysex and midi. I could program change in the middle of a sequence. It had memory. and that put it way above in my opinion. The 106 sounded more plastic, and less analog, i don't know why. But i really liked it for bell, pads, strings, and bass and arp lines.

the juno 6 was better at bass, and arp lines. But for leads, for some reason i always went to my mks50, because it had a different lfo for the chorus fx, and the pwm, and the filter. and i could get more interesting tight leads with it. the alpha junos i liked more for strings and leads. juno 6 and 106 more for filter sweeps, bass, and big sounds.."

3. Can you list out what synths you used for each album over time? If not all, what you remember and/or what stood out for certain periods of time. I'm curious how the synth setup evolved over time based on what you were recording.

"from 1990 to 1993: all music with grigory bilham and me oblivion interface and demos: Roland w-30, Yamaha TX81Z. atari st with cubase.

from 1993 to 1994: gary slaughter and me demos beyond the leaves, dimension 8, 27 mips etc: Roland juno 6, Roland juno 106, Roland mks-50, dr 660 drum machine, Peavey dpm 3 workstation. atari st with cubase.

from 1995 to 1996 gary slaughter and chris workman and me fate, pestilence, Neuralblastoma, Between The Eyes Series of releases, Church of Acid: Roland juno 106, Roland mks-50, Peavy dpm3, dr 660, Ensoniq asr 10 sampler, Roland jd-800. atari st with cubase.

1997 gary slaughter, chris workman, and me, Calling ov the Dead: Roland juno 106, Roland mks-50, Peavy dpm3, dr 660, Ensoniq asr 10 sampler, Roland jd-800. atari st with cubase. With the addition of a nord lead 1 expanded, korg trinity, korg prophecy, ensoniq asr-x. PC with cubase 2.8.

1998 chris workman and me, Fun With Knives (our biggest seller), remix wars strike 4: nord lead 1 expanded, korg trinity, korg prophecy, ensoniq asr-x, Virus A, Waldorf Pulse +, yamaha fs1r, Roland jp8080, Roland xp-50, emu e6400 sampler, waldorf microwave 2. PC with cubase 2.8.

1999 to 2000: Me, Twisted Thought Generator(2nd best selling): Roland sh09, Roland sh-101, Roland mks-30, Roland Juno 106, Novation Supernova, Yahmana fs1r, Korg ms2000, Emu e6400 sampler, Roland Jd-990, Roland Jupiter 6. PC cubase 2.8.

2000 to 2003: Me, Hex Angel: Roland sh2, Moog Micromoog modified, Alesis Andromeda a6 (I hated this thing, big let down), Waldorf Micro q, Akai s5000 sampler, Software absynth, reaktor, kontakt, and battery, cubase sx 2(awful midi timing).

2003 to 2006: todd loomis and me: Roland jupiter 8, Roland sh2, Moog Micromoog modified, Roland juno 106, Roland mks-50, Roland Jp8080, Software: battery, kontakt, atmosphere, trilogy. Cubase sx 2 and 3, still awful midi timing with my hardware.

2006 and 2007 now: Me, Future Retro revolution, jomox xbase 09, dr 880 drum machine, roland sh2, moog little phatty, custom doepfer eurorack with plan b and live wire modules, Roland jp8080, Roland jd-990. will not use software (i hate it). plan on buying a hardware sampler again."

4. That's quite a list. What were your top 3 and why?

"Analog PolySynths: The juno 106: was the bread and butter of my sound for years, and it really allowed us to tweak things real time. it gave us the bass we liked, pads that were haunting, chimey type sounds, and leads we loved. It had midi and just worked out great for us for years. Roland Jupiter 8: Amazing, but didn't have a sub osc so it could not do that juno bass well, there was a trick to use the env to mod osc 2 down below to 32, but if the synth wasn't perfectly calibrated, it wasn't that reliable to do, every note would be different in a bad way. But it's discrete oscillators really sounded so much better than the dcos in the junos and cem stuff in the jup 6. It was like having sh2 oscillators that couldn't go down to 32. the filter in 12db could make these rubbery bass sounds and cutting leads. in 24db it was a smoother synth that was less aggressive. I had a juno 6, and it didn't sound like a jupiter 8 like everyone says. I love the resonance of these two poly synths the most by far, even more than the old moogs. Jupiter 8 in unison, there is nothing on earth like this, and no software can come close. it's simply amazing. Those are my top two analog Poly synths.

Digital Polysynths: The Roland jp8080: for the pads and strings and leads. It did this trance stuff that no analog could, and still had decent tone that would fill in the cracks of a mix very very well. i love it to this day still. The interface was kick ass as well. It was by far my favorite virtual analog. It was so pretty and aggressive. The nord lead was cool, but not as cool. 8080 for bass is not so great but usable still. Roland jd990: with the vocal or vintage synth card is amazing for long evolving textures and pads and strings. i like the piano and cello in this thing too. By far my favorite rompler, i did like the trinity a lot to, way more than the triton, but i prefer the chimey roland sound over all. It's close though. i wish i had my trinity back, i sold it to buy a triton, and that was a huge mistake. i think the filters on the trinity were way better. It's a tie for me between the 990 and the trinity. in fact, i want a trinity back. i will probably buy one again... it was my favorite controller as well. Roland Jd990 and korg trinity are my favorite digital polysynths for breathy new agey type sounds, layered strings and pads. My favorite digital polys are the 990 and 8080..

Monosynths: Roland sh09 for that acid sound, kick drums, leads, bass, bounce, bonk, punch. Not super fat like a moog, but man it fits in great with a big 808 or 909 style kick. and made some fun fx too. And my new Little Phatty. Filter fm, fat huge bass, kick as evil sync sound, snappy envs, big warm sound. midi. wow. affordable, memory, good interface with no stepping. Real time tweaking is nice. I will mention the future retro revolution, but it’s a 2 trick pony, but i do love it. But honestly, an sh09, and a moog little phatty, and you are set for mono leads and bass that will kick, thump, stomp, punch and rip your face off.

Modular: so far, i like my custom eurorack doepfer with the livewire multimode filter, and plan b oscillators."

5. So, why do you hate the Andromeda A6?

"The envelops sucked, not snappy, kinda oogy. the modulations were slow and bogged and slowed down when there was a lot of stress on the processor. I could not get that super mean aggressive lead sound out of it, it wasn't fat like it was advertised.. It doesn't sound like any vintage moog i ever played like it was hyped to be. It was the end all be all synth, well that is how it was advertised. NOT. for bass and leads, yuck. just not right. not punchy. the main outputs sounded kind of lo fi, but the voice outs sounded much better. the fx were totally bs, the distortion sucked. I sold my jupiter 6, pro one, sh 09, sh101, and jp8080 for the a6. It was the biggest studio blunder i ever made, because i was lead to believe that it would replace all of that gear. it didn't. What did i like about the a6? it did good pads and strings, but they were to fat for my tastes. some sound fx were cool too. but i hated the menus for modulation, a big pain in the ass. Sure they updated the os, and allowed for optimizations, but it was a sacrifice thing, you'd ask for a better sounding osc at the expense of modulation speed, and modulation speed for the quality of the osc and env. I just didn't like that. it was how do you say, mickey mouse.. they just didn't make it right. it sounded like chips, more cem like to me than anything. And for the money, 3 grand when i bought it.

Honestly, if it was 8 voices, 8 timbers, faster processor, better outputs, no built in fx with snappy envs, it would of been amazing. if it was say 1500. It's an ok synth. for slow big strings, sound fx. don't like it at all of leads, arps and bass. Give me a juno 106, jp8080, and a little phatty over this thing any day of the week."

6. So what do you think about old vs. new gear?

"Old gear is special, like old cars. In that it is old. And a lot of that stuff was hand built in the 70, all the best things in cars usually are hand built too. like the top of the line euro cars. yeah. Discrete vintage electronics have an aged drifty sound that new gear can never give you. It is more wild sounding, the arp 2500, the minimoog, the original modulars. Huge sound, and super high-fi. wild. as chips were put into gear, the sound became more tame. On tone a lone, old gear is simply the best, the cs80, jupiter 8, minimoog, arp 2500, i mean, synths like that can never be emulated. never. It’s funny, because i read once that this guys moog modular power supply went belly up, he put a new modern one in as a replacement, and then the sound was totally different and not vintage anymore. one thing can change and ruin the vintage sound. I think that is strange.

New gear, well some of it is great, like the voyager the future retro stuff, the little phatty. Decent tone, not as wild. But all the modern midi and cc and sysex stuff that makes sequencing so much easier. I'm not purely an analog freak. I mean i do like some digital synths a lot, i love the yamaha fs1r, the korg trinity, and the roland jd800/jd990. But i use the digital synths for back ground sounds and modern sounds. For bass and leads i always go analog. For pads and strings, i go digital or VA. because i prefer the sound for pads and strings to be thinner so i can stack a ton of them together. Can’t pull that off with vintage gear as easily and with good
results.. you can, but i prefer the digital stacking. it leaves more room for bass and leads and drums."




7. What are typical sessions like for you? By sessions I mean taking time out of the day to play a synth, either to explore it or to compose a track. Do you find sound exploration drives the basis of tracks, do tracks drive sound creation or is it a mix of both?

"Well, on vintage gear it's what you see is what you get, so when i use my synths without memory, i do a custom patch for each song i make. But usually, i buy a bunch of gear, then program on them for months, learn them inside and out, make my own presets and fx patches. usually about 40 on each, then that is my pre production work. like on my moog phatty, i spent a week making about 35 presets for my new lp. But i also experiment with gear, like plug this synth into these fx, or that fx. this compressor or that compressor. etc.. try to mix and match what i like before. so when i'm writing i don't have to sit there and guess. On average it takes about 8 hrs to make a new song, but that is only because i spend months of doing pre production and learn the new gear's sweet spots. Most people don't bother. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have many different compressors, for drums alone i find i need 3 different type of compressors to pull of decent drum production."

8. Where do you see yourself going gear wise in the future? I noticed your enthusiasm for your new modular in this post. Do you see yourself progressively moving towards modulars?


"Well, yes. I plan on buying at least 3 modular systems. 3 racks full, 2 euro rack, and 1 modcan. This will take me a few years i think. But it won't be the back bone of my sound, it’s the icing on the cake for me. The back bone will always be a drum machine, a workstations like the jd990 or trinity, and a few analog mono synths like the revolution and sh2. But after using this modular, wow, i used to use absynth for sound scapes. now i just make weird fx on my ksp8, and run the modular into that and just make messed up drones and sound fx. so much better than any software i used to use. and of course, i will buy all most all my future gear from http://www.analoghaven.com/...

Right now, i want to buy a korg TR rack, for live. I will layer my jd990, jp8080, and tr rack to make huge string patches that will totally sound huge and impressively animated. i find layering many synths to be key in making great pad type sound scapes. and digitals are so thin that you can really stack up together nice."

9. pc vs mac?

"i spent years on the pc pulling my hair out, ever since cubase with audio in it, midi has sucked on the pc. cubase 2.8 was the last tight midi i ever got on a pc. i tried everything. and always got jitter of about 13 ms with even steinberg’s midi interface on external midi synths and drum machines. It was an evil battle. i spent years trying to figure it out. no go. I came from the Atari st with notator and cubase. this was super tight and ultra responsive. nothing on the pc came close for midi. let’s not even get me started on how bad cubase sums and mixes digital signals. sonar 6 and saw studio kick the crap out of cubase for audio summing.

finally got a mac with an amt8 midi. running logic express. WOW 3ms of jitter, just like cubase on the atari. it records me perfectly, something the pc could never do, especially when i was playing fast.. Logic is not much better at summing, but it records better, and i mix outboard now anyhow so. still saw and sonar 6 are king for digital summing and mixing. But for midi, its logic all the way. it’s tight. cubase is not.

So i am happy to say, that the mac does its job right. it’s tight, and it never crashes. i love it. tight midi, finally. leaving the atari was hard, but now. with logic. i'm finally set.."

10. Where do you see yourself going musically in the future? Any chance we'll see another Toxic Coma or any other direction?

"Yeah, toxic coma will always come out. It is a big part of my life like velvet acid christ is. I am trying some new stuff i don't want to talk about. like fusing bjork and death in june together. Also doing stuff like astral projection too. trying to find good female vocalists to work with. I see a lot of that in my future, i loved the remix we did for emily autumn, that turned out so great. you can listen to that here: http://vampirefreaks.com/Velvet-Acid-Christ ...i love that remix we did. I mean i want so bad to do more music like that. dead is the new alive is one of the best things we have done in a while.. i'm proud of that. I hope to collaborate with a lot of new artists, remixes etc.. i really loved doing it when i like the music."

11. Thanks again for taking the time out for this. Before we conclude, Is there anything else you want to add? Any insights you want to share about synths in general, the synth community, or other?

"I love music. And i love electronics. I'm very picky about gear too. A lot of people think i'm nuts. But keep in mind, all of this is about my personal tastes and history. I'm not the authority on music production or synths. I really appreciate what you do on your blog. It keeps my eyes open. I love learning about new things, and old gear. In fact your blog has really gotten me into filming my studio sessions and posting them in the future. Just for your blog :) And i appreciate all the synth geeks on analog heaven archives too. Your blog, and that email list have been life savers for me. Not to mention good old shawn over at the music store analog haven! wow. I owe you guys. Thank all of you!

closing comments:
these are just my opinions. all based on the last 20 years of working on gear. It's all opinions. don't hate if you don't agree. it's like arguing that you like apples better than oranges. I'm not trying to tell anyone how to work or what to buy. I'm just talking about my own personal tastes and likes and dislikes. I don't work for any company, i give my honest opinion about things. and I am not trying to sell products. and hell, i make industrial techno dance goth rock metal trip hop you name it, but all in my own style. it's not for everyone. but i do have a strong fan base who does support me hardcore. So i know i am not a complete failure :) but i don't claim to be some sort of genius who knows it all. i'm just some gear junkie who makes dark edgy music and is mostly electronic. I love synths, even if I didn't make music i would love to just sit around and mess with these things till i die..

ps: i love my plan b oscillator in my modular, peter just told me how to get hard sync by soldering a new thing on. so happy. gunna give that a shot! thanks peter!"

20 comments:

  1. Wonderful. This guy really cares about what he does. Others should follow this example!

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  2. awww that's it I quit this blog.

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  3. hey there is a lot more to this blog than the few things i am in on here. and i am not the highlight at all.

    seriously. this is the best net source for synths out there.. hands down..

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  4. That was a nice read. Thanks for that Matrix/HexFix! Anything that sheds a light into other musician's creations is of great value to me.

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  5. Thanks. It's about the synths and VAC is definitely about synths. Whether you like his music or not, it's a fascinating read on someone into synths. When your read it, think about your approach on synthesis and playing music with synths. Whether or not you agree with his approach and perspective, you do have one thing in common - you are both into synths. Take it for what it is, take what you want out of it, and move on.

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  6. "awww that's it I quit this blog."

    What are you in the fifth grade?

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  7. nice hawk, lemme guess.. gelatin

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  8. ahahahah no super glue.. lol

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  9. i thought this was a site for synths and serious or innovative electronic music artists? ..and uber dork bonus points for the guy posting about his feature...

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  10. superglue or woodglue?
    pro's use woodglue.

    I was about to make a comment about the total lack of hair comments, but I can't now..

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  11. i quite enjoyed reading this, not that i was ever a big fan of VAC even when i was listening to way too much industrial music. strangely i noticed some gear parallels. mainly that around the same time the band i was in was trying so hard to sound like Skinny Puppy with Fast Tracker and a Peavey DPM3 it seems that VAC were using that hulking best of a keyboard. every trip to rehearsals was a strain on our car's suspension. and also with the FS1r, that was where i went aswell.

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  12. A friend of mine once used wood lacquer. For about a month he could only sleep sideways.

    I never had the hawk, but I did have the bird's nest - jet black. The daily routine was shower, dry hair into a nest by shaking vigorously. Apply Aquanet Extra Super Hold (pink and white can). Shake dry. Aply more, shake dry. Blow dry the sides up with more and done. Probably killed my lungs more than smoking back then. A crow once tried to grab a piece thinking it was a branch. No joke. Now I'm old and boring. : ) Cheers to hexfix93 for keeping it going.

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  13. funny thing is, i don't really put my hair up any more, these days, i haven't done much for the band image. i have long hair, i look more like a black metal industrial guy if you saw me walking down the street. :)

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  14. Great interview!

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  15. Nice gear list, plan b and jp8080 rock. U sound like keanu reaves hahahaha

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  16. like his music? i absolutely adore it!!!

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  17. crazy shit for the razy sit.

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  18. Well, it may be belated but I obviously never quit this blog and I'd like to withdraw my comment.

    whatever stick was up my ass has thankfully been removed apparently

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  19. not a fan of his music but i am a fan of cubase 2.8
    if you are looking for cubase 2.8 visit this link
    http://www.oldschooldaw.com/forums/index.php?topic=1294.msg1366#msg1366
    files inside the zip are from may 1996

    ReplyDelete

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