This past Halloween, New York Modular Society invaded The East Village Playhouse for one hell of a show! Sounds of Horror!
NYMS members Dysonant, Jon Bohm (one half of Saddle Up the Robots), DJ Cherishtheluv, Crew Called Self, This Digital Landscape and Ben The Glorious Bastard took the stage for a night of bleeps, bloops and frights. I had the opportunity to virtually sit down with each of the performers and ask a few question about their individual modular philosophies and performance setups.
This week’s interview will be with Ben the Glorious Bastard. Be sure to check out his Instagram to see what else he has going on.
Ben the glorious bastard
Modular synths seem to be a pretty specific niche. What draws you into modular vs. standard synths or other options?
I guess I felt like I explored all the other options? Haha! Actually, I always wanted to have a modular but for the longest time it was pretty expensive with quite few options. When Eurorack developed, modules became more affordable and lots of interesting things popped up. The 0-Coast has been my gateway into the modular world. From then, I was down the rabbit hole!
Why do you choose to perform live on what can potentially be a fairly complicated setup?
Cause it’s fun! A live patch is only as complicated as you make it so I think it’s always doable to do something that stays fun to play and, hopefully, fun to listen to.
How long have you been playing on modular?
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of modular synths?
The price. Other than that, it depends how you look at it. Sometimes I’m bothered by the lack of standards in Eurorack, like what’s 0-5V, -5/+5V, 0/10V, 0/8V, etc. I’d say that poses a challenge to the user. Another challenge is, once a patch is gone, it’s gone. It’s pretty difficult to take accurate and exhaustive notes and exactly replicate a patch.
What type of music (non-modular) do you find inspirational? Artists and/or genres.
I started playing the modular with mostly Terry Riley in mind, precisely A Rainbow Over Curved Air. The sounds on this record come from an organ and tapes but it has that modular vibe to it. All of of his work is a major inspiration. Other artists like Sun Ra, Giorgio Moroder, Parliament, Lee Perry, RZA, Ennio Morricone, Megadeth, lots of different genres.
Can you name a module that inspires you the most?
It would go between the Verbos Harmonic Oscillator and Mannequins Just Friends. One classic and one modern. Both outstanding modules. So many possibilities and sounds.
What was the first module you purchased/acquired?
Maths because otherwise you cannot tell people you have a modular and the Random*Source Serge Triple+ Waveshaper. The latter is truly a fantastic sounding module I can’t recommend enough.
What was the last module you purchased/acquired?
Hex Inverter Mutant Brain, incredible MIDI to CV module, entirely and easily configurable.
Currently, what is your favorite module?
Just Friends. I mostly used it as a modulation source for more than a year and now I use it as an oscillator. It’s so good, so many possibilities and incredible sounds. 6 oscillators with FM and mind-blowing controls.
How do you prioritize musicality vs. the “weirdness” that modular offers? For example, are there times when you abandon harmony in favor of weird and interesting patches and vice versa?
Yes. I totally separate the patch sessions. There are times I’m specifically focusing on a technique or on doing something musical or on going fully weird and outside of the box in any possible way. I think it’s important to have clear times for each. If I remember correctly, Devarahi says something like that in his classic book. To each their own though, as long as you have fun.
Can you give a brief “rig rundown” or “patch notes” from your Halloween performance?
Pretty simple 3-voice rig controlled by a Stillson Hammer MkII driving an Harmonic Oscillator, Just Friends and a Mangrove modulated by Sisters, Maths and Cold Mac.
Lastly, how would you describe your Halloween performance to someone unfamiliar with this crazy modular world we live in?
Put into words it’s kinda like Hip-Hop beats mixed with modular and I try my best to keep it entertaining.
Thanks Ben!! Keep up the good work…and I can’t wait to check out your next performance!