This past Halloween night, the NYMS 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 is with none other than Jon Bohm who performed a Halloween solo set. Be sure to check out his full band’s Instagram to learn more about Saddle Up the Robots.
Modular synths seem to be a pretty specific niche. What draws you into modular vs. standard synths or other options?
It’s inherently momentary and I find that to be fun.
Why do you choose to perform live on what can potentially be a fairly complicated setup?
Because what is life if you don’t bother to challenge yourself?
How long have you been playing on modular?
Couple years. Been doing this electronic music thing for much longer though. Bought my first synth when I was 19.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of modular synths?
Finding time to work on patches. You really do need to put in a lot of hours to make sure a 10 minute performance doesn’t sound like hot garbage.
…though hot garbage doesn’t have a sound.
What type of music (non-modular) do you find inspirational? Artists and/or genres.
Truthfully what I find inspiring varies by the day and mood I am in. I know. Super contrived answer.
My favorite band is Depeche Mode, FWIW.
Can you name a module that inspires you the most?
Far from a unique answer but I think the BIA is just fucking brilliant. It’s rather aggressive but extremely versatile. I love that you can CV the hell out of it and find moments of beauty in between all it’s harshness.
What was the first module you purchased/acquired?
Does the 0-Coast count? That motherfucker is starting to gain a reputation as the gateway drug of eurorack.
If not; Pamela’s New Workout. Opened up so many doors almost immediately and really gets you thinking in a very “non-linear” frame of mind which you need to channel when starting to wrap your head around modular workflows.
What was the last module you purchased/acquired?
Recent acquisitions include a Mimeophon and an Antiphon. I like phon.
Currently, what is your favorite module?
I really love modules which sort of play along with you. Marbles is a great example of that. Producing good results is very much about understanding it’s “rule set”, if you will. Love shit like that.
That said I would probably (definitely) have a different answer if you asked again tomorrow.
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?
While I love to embrace that non-linear which I think breeds a lot of that “weirdness”, I do always try to bring it back to building something that’s inherently “musical”. But even what that means is subjective for each of us, I’d imagine.
Can you give a brief “rig rundown” or “patch notes” from your Halloween performance?
4 synth parts: Cwejman BLD2, NE Sinc Iter, MI Plaits, Super Synthesis 2 OP FM (highly underrated module btw)
4 drum parts: MI Peaks for bass and snare, EMW T-Drum (2x) for hats, BIA for general percussive madness
Fuckton of modulation provided by Maths, Voltage Block, Batumi, Marbles, Clep Diaz, PNW
Spookyness molded by filters and effects WASP filter, SEM filter, Mimeophon, and Disting doing a bit crush thing
Then I also brought along a Yamaha Reface DX for some dissonant FM chords. It was Halloween, afterall.
Follow up Question…I’ve been debating getting an SEM filter. I have the Wasp currently. Which SEM do you have and how would you say it differs from the Wasp?
I love both. Doepfer filters sound so good and are so cheap….it’s hard to avoid buying them. The wasp as you know is very aggressive and gritty the SEM is a bit tamer but definitely has a unique, spooky character all of its own. I think both are great for creating very atmospheric sounds. Like if I were to write a horror movie score SEM would be the opening theme and the the Wasp would be for a scene where someone gets murdered lol
John Carpenter’s early scores were all written and recorded on SEM. The filter is what gives his stuff such a unique (and fucking awesome) sound.
Lastly, how would you describe your Halloween performance to someone unfamiliar with this crazy modular world we live in?
Like if the score to Suspiria and the noises a dial up modem makes had some sort of evil love child.
Thanks Jon!! Looking forward to checking out your next show!