The Band Velvet Acid christ

Interview: Scott Jaeger aka The Harvestman by Bryan Erickson.

April 29th, 2008 by Hexfix93


Let me start by saying I love my polivoks filter and my malgorithm bit crusher. The Harvestman makes really unique analog and digital modules for the doepfer eurorack modular format. I could not live with out either of these, In fact when I was freaking out over the unstable tracking on my oscillators, I was going to sell my modular system, But I kept going, what would I do with out my custom faceplated Malgorithm and the brutal resonance of the Polivoks filter? Die I think. The Harvestman gave me the real reason to keep my modular, so I could make mean evil sounds, and skin peeling resonant acid sounds(Not to mention he is a totally cool guy to talk to, and yeah, I think he will get his guitar pedals out before Gun’s and Roses gets their new LP out). LOL. I really appreciate that Scott took the time to answer my silly questions.

BE: What is the modus operandi of your company?

Harvestman: Pretending like semiconductor technology advanced along the same timeline where Biff Tannen owns a casino. Recognizing the total disaster of raising a generation of programmers to worship high-level language instead of the silicon that makes it real. Designing electronic music devices with these awarenesses in mind.

BE: What got you interested in making modules?

Harvestman: I wanted a nice bitcrusher module for my modular system but there wasn’t one in active development when I first started playing with patchcords. Around this time I fortunately forgot most of what I knew about software development, starting over with a focus on embedded DSP. I’ve been writing exclusively in assembly for the last two years and my brain is ruined in the best way possible.

BE: Before you did harvestman, did you do anything else with electronics, and what age did you start tinkering?

Harvestman: I circuit bent (casio sk1s exclusively) starting in high school, and years later my work started incorporating patchable external control and explorations into a more fluent reverse-engineering of the instrument. Around this time I stopped the bending and started thinking about standalone devices to continue my work. At the time I was heavily studying music technology in an academic setting, but I wasn’t able to take engineering classes for credit. Now that I look back on it, those two years were sort of like buying time to teach myself enough discipline to produce working circuits, seasoned with some awesomely informative high-level signal processing lectures.

BE: What do you think separates you from the other boutique module manufacturers?

Harvestman: A focus on digital techniques and a healthy dose of iconoclasm? I think all of the designers have something resembling a common goal in that we work to bring new capabilities to a decades-old performance interface. And what awesome work it is. My modular setup that I use for composition and performance contains devices from a half-dozen designers and all those different design laws combine to form a really flexible instrument. There’s no better time to be a modular synthesist, I think.

BE: What void are you filling in with your products?

Harvestman: If there was ever a need for modular devices purpose-built for garbage audio manipulation, I guess I’ve got my slurry nozzle wedged in the void. I’m a discrete-time sleaze vendor.

BE: What is your favorite old school synth?

Harvestman: Probably the ARP 2600, everything you really needed in that decade except for the tape machine. The ultimate suitcase weapon for space jazz freakout. I’d love to try a black and orange one someday, I’ve only had the chance to play with a really beat up grey one. My favorite 80s synth (not counting the SK-1) is the MC-202… it’s like a calculator with a curtis chip inside… amazing industrial design with a good cv/gate interface that’s the perfect companion to a Eurorack system. I don’t have too much experience with vintage gear… too much awesome new boutique stuff out there these days keeps my attention. I’d say that the Buchla 200 series is among my favorites, but the new 200e is really where it’s at.

BE: What was your favorite video game console sound chip?

Harvestman: It’s a tough choice between the Atari POKEY and the Nintendo’s 2A03. I like the former for its unique shift register-based tone generation (the Harvestman Zorlon Cannon uses this technique as well), but the 2A03 has a ton of character packed into its five channels. The pitch glide, 4-bit triangle, “looped noise” mode, and delta-modulation sampling have a very unique sound compared to other game chips, and “real” synthesizers too. Check out the TIA (atari 2600 chip), it’s pretty fun. Like the POKEY’s hydrocephalic little brother. 5 bit frequency register (can’t even get an octave of pitches in tune), and the rest of the chip wrangles a single line of video at a time. Programming the thing to get post-Activision style results is kind of like trying to pull off the solo at the end of “Five Magics”.

BE: What do you think of the psp and nitendo DS music program things?

Harvestman: I have no experience with them, but I think they’re a great ideas (especially the korg thing). I’ve only ever played around with the old music sequencer on the game boy camera cartridge years ago. Klangstabil did a good 12″ using only that.

BE: Most of your modules are indeed digital, however, the polivoks is pure analog, and I must say it is my favorite thing from your company, don’t get me wrong, I love the Malgorithm bit crusher. But honestly what is your attraction to the lofi digital sound?

Harvestman: It’s a unique class of sounds that can’t really be reached through purely analog techniques. I’m a big fan of distortion and other means of severely corrupting a signal, and simple digital processing methods have produced some of the most savage noises I have ever heard. It’s also a really straightforward way to get aggressive and offensive sounds that are at home in outlaw electronic styles like power electronics, the second wave of rhythmic noise, and low-art identity enforcement, all traditionally achieving their ugliness though misapplications of analog amplification. Throwing some digital sacrilege into the mix just makes the ears hurt more and I’m happy to work to put these devices into such hands.

BE: What gave you the idea to turn digital strangeness into CV controllable Frankenstein monsters?

Harvestman: Two things: when I started incorporating gate inputs on some of my bent SK-1s, and also watching an engineer friend work on a project that turned a 2A03 chip into a MIDI sound module. While observing him I learned a bit about microprocessor programming, and how inexpensive ADCs can be used to give digital processors smooth, analog-like control behavior with the correct user interface. Once I acquired some engineering skills I was able to start designing modules that filled large functional holes in my personal system (bitcrusher, loop sampler, etc). Since going into business in fall 2007, my engineering chops have improved but my taste has not.

BE: What are you planning for the future?

Harvestman: Next month I’m moving to Seattle and hiring some help so I can deliver more modules on time. That gives me more time to design new devices, and get these guitar pedals out the door… the second half of the year will be very busy for me. At least 5 new modules coming out this year!

BE: Any new modules you can give us a heads up on?

Harvestman: First of all I’m doing a fully-featured bitcrusher pedal sort of like the Malgorithm. Then, a 4-channel guitar pedal adaptor module (to incorporate pedals into a modular system) with the ability to easily make feedback loops. I’ve also had a neat digital oscillator design near completion for a while, I need to spend a weekend writing some better code for it. I am working with more advanced DSPs for really weird effects you’ve never seen in a hardware modular before. The cooperation with Vladimir Kuzmin will also continue, with interesting Russian synth modules released that defy vintage Western circuit design conventions.

If you want products that mangle sound and get mean and have edge and get really filthy dirty check out just about anything by The Harvestman: http://www.theharvestman.org/. If you want to buy any of this stuff, head over to http://www.analoguehaven.com. In particular the the Harvestman section of AH. AND PLEASE, Tell Analog Haven that you found out about it from Velvet Acid Christ and make him feel guilty for not giving me better deals on stuff, JUST KIDDING. LOL.
Below is the video that got me to buy the malgorithm:

Category: 08-Synth Reviews!, Interviewing Others | Comments Off on Interview: Scott Jaeger aka The Harvestman by Bryan Erickson.

Interviews: Wowa Cwejman by Bryan Erickson.

April 28th, 2008 by Hexfix93

I took it upon myself to interview Cwejman because I need a little bit more information about his products. Well, that was one of the reasons. The other reasons were that I felt that there is not enough coverage about these products and their creators. There are a lot of synth companies out there now making new and interesting analog synthesizers that have their own sound and bring something new to the table. Cwejman makes a full synth and Modules for the Eurorack(doepfer) modular systems. I wanted to pick his brain on a few subjects regarding his products. I seriously am fed up with most magazines that cover this gear. I wanted an even more in depth form of covering and asking questions about this gear that true synth-nerds will understand. I cannot thank him enough for answering my questions.

BE: What sets your oscillators apart from the others?
Wowa Cwejman: I don’t know. It’s actually up to users opinion. My constructions are not “copy and paste” from older products (more about it later).



BE:What are the main differences between the Vco-6 and the VCO-2RM.
Wowa Cwejman: All my oscillators (S1 MK2, VCO-2RM and VCO-6, so far) have the same stable oscillator core. The VCO-2RM is more a standard oscillator (OK, two in one module + a ring modulator). The VCO-6 has a very different solution for the sine wave (much cleaner as result) and different set of PW modulated waveforms: PWM saw tooth gives a true dual saw detuned effect (for low speed modulation) and a ring modulated effect with modulation with another oscillator in audio range. Pulses are symmetrical in the whole range of pulse width and they are different from the “classic” variable pulse whichis asymmetrical when the pulse width is not equal to 50% (square waveform). The Pulse1 contain more even harmonics (as saw tooth waveform) and the Pulse2 contain more even harmonics (as square waveform) which results in different sounding signals.
PWM pulse 1 with even content of harmonics
PWM pulse 2 with odd content of harmonics (like square wave and even with very narrow pulse width, my favorite) ..and, of course a regular saw tooth and triangle.

BE:Do they sound similar or are they completely different?
Wowa Cwejman: I already answered to this question…and yes, the VCO-6 sounds very different (sine wave + all PWM waveforms).

BE:How do the Cwejman Eurorock modules compare in sound and function to your S1 MK2?
My ambition was (and still is) to make modules as a compliment to the S1 MK2 (no exact copy of different modules inside the S1). The cores of oscillators are the same (for tracking and stability reason). Filters have also the same “engine”. However, the complexity of my two (so far) filter modules offer much more functions and patching (modulation) possibilities. The transient generators are very different (solution for electronic circuits). Voltage controlled amps are also different; all my vca modules are build around “the-state-of-the-art” integrated circuits for very low noise (dynamics) , low distortion (THD) and almost non-existing DC offset. All vcas are also DC coupled for controlling of DC and audio signals. Below the list of modules where I used those circuits:
VCA-2P
VCA-4MX
INS-2MX
MX-4S
RES-4
VC-FC
and soon VC-FCS (stereo version of VC-FC) and VCEQ-4.

BE:Did you make your systems and modules to cover all the analog ground from the strange sci-fi sound fx to bread and butter synth bass and leads?

Wowa Cwejman: I don’t know exactly how to answer. My ambition is to offer the best I can make and with no focus on a specific “sound”. I’ll here quote Gordon Read from Sound-On-Sound magazine and what he wrote and what also reflect my concept; “The difference is hard to quantify, but seems to me to be one of precision. This is a weird concept, and hard to put into words, but the S1 does exactly what you ask of it, neither coloring nor enhancing the sound beyond what you ask it to do. Curiously, this means that it is equally at home producing the sounds of a vintage American synth as it is the fizzy, squelchy sounds of many Japanese instruments.”
BE:I have read that your oscillators track the best for true analog modules. What is your take on this?
Wowa Cwejman: All my products/concepts are simulated in computer simulation software. Already om this early stage I can predict the performance of circuits, such as temperature stability, waveforms shapes, frequency, amplitudes..and all other qualities. I usually don’t make any breadboard but “jump” directly to production units. Exception are S1s oscillators; I tested/confirmed the stability in my climate oven from -10degC to +60 degC and which confirmed the result of my simulated temperature behavior of oscillators. The tracking (and especially in the high region of frequency) is a result of a careful calibration and nothing else. I’m a perfectionist and I strive to make perfect calibrated products.

BE:What is your favorite old school synthesizer?
Wowa Cwejman: Moog modular, at least back in the 70-th. They are so musical.

BE:Who do you admire most in the synth industry past and present?
Wowa Cwejman: Bob Moog (of course) and Wendy Carlos, as his musical adviser back in the 60-th. I’ve no prefered synth-maker right now…well, maybe Modcan guy.

BE:Where do you see the future of analog synthesizers heading?
Wowa Cwejman: Integration between analogue and digital (DSP) techniques but still with “analogue” interface. We can already see this process..and MIDI should be replaced by other control interface.

BE:I have been struggling with oscillators in the eurorack format. My main gripe is tracking stability, and tuning stability. I still want growly animated oscillators, but I want them in key and musical as well. I use a kenton pro solo, will these work with the Cwejman oscillators well? Have you tried these, and what do you recommend for midi to CV? I sequence with computers. (I have done extensive midi timing test on PCs and macs and have found that Logic 8 with a AMT8 has the least amount of midi jitter, as you might tell, I am a bit OCD about calibration and tightness as well).

Wowa Cwejman: I’m not an expert in MIDI matters but Kenton products should make the perfect job, as long all gears match (1 Volt/octave). I don’t own any MIDI to CV converter. I use my own from S1 for calibration. I’ve no experience with computer based MIDI stuff, sorry.

BE:What old gear do you own, You spoke so highly of the old moog modulars, Do you have one?
Wowa Cwejman: Nothing! I even don’t have my own gear because all I produce is ordered. I’m not a musician.

BE:So, for a Cwejman marketing slogan, would this be a good way to sum up what your company and your products are about? “Stability, Calibration, Perfection” ?
Wowa Cwejman: I’ve already one; sound for demanding musicians.

with best regards
Wowa

I suggest, if this is new to you and you are in the market for a new synth go check out http://www.cwejman.net. There are sound examples of the s1 mk2. I think it sounds pretty cool and unique. He also has many great modules in the doepfer a-100 modular format. Check it out. If you want to buy any of this stuff, head over to http://www.analoguehaven.com. In particular the Cwejman Section of AH. AND PLEASE, Tell Analog Haven that you found out about it from Velvet Acid Christ and make him feel guilty for not giving me better deals, JUST KIDDING. LOL. To listen to the sound of Cwejman Click Here.

Category: 08-Synth Reviews!, Interviewing Others | Comments Off on Interviews: Wowa Cwejman by Bryan Erickson.