Dublin born but Berlin based, Swarm Intelligence’s brutal, distorted, glitchy and granular sound is not for the faint of heart. We asked him to show us around his studio…
Hello Attack. Welcome to my studio…
Bastl Instruments microGranny 2.0
First up is my Bastl Instruments microGranny 2.0.
This is a gloriously lo-fi miniature granular sampler. I used it throughout my “Against the Dying Light” album on Voitax, mainly using the (awesomely) crap in-built microphone to record bits from old horror movies.
My favourite thing about this little box is that you can tempo-sync the grain size and then dial in some very slow movement so that it gradually scans through the sample. This gives some really nice fizzling textures that slowly transform in sync with the beat.
Jomox T-Resonator II
This brute has gotten knocked about over the years!
I generally use it for thickening up pads and leads – all of the cross-modulation and feedback is perfect for this and it’s also great for buildings walls of noise. There are two sets of controls, one for the left and the right input. You can get some really odd stereo widening effects by dialling in opposing settings.
Elektron Analog Ryth MKII
Funnily enough, I tend to use the Elektron Analog Rytm MKII more for my live show than I do in the studio.
I really like the scene and performance controls – they really help you to keep the drums moving. These machines are so deep that I feel I have only scratched the surface of them. There are a lot of tricks I’ve been picking up from various people. Lots more to learn.
I do have a couple of gripes with it though. The file management is a pain in the ass, you have to tread very carefully or you risk destroying all your kits in a project. Also, I was pretty disappointed with the responsiveness of the pads – you basically have to hit them with a hammer to get full velocity. That said, there is nothing like the punch of it on a big system. Makes it all worth it!
I’ve only recently gotten into the modular world.
It’s something I had held at arm’s length for a while, afraid it would take me down the rabbit hole and that I’d never finish a track again. It actually had quite the opposite effect. I ended up coming up with all kinds of wild stuff that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m still figuring out which way I want to take it. I guess that’s the best thing about it – it has a life of its own!
My favourite modules in the rack at the moment are TipTop Audio’s Z-DSP (with the Valhalla and Mariana Trench cards), Noise Engineering’s Basimilus Iteritas Alter and the Transient Plus by Future Retro, which I loaded with my own field recordings and drum samples.
Speaking of Ableton Live, that is realistically where I do 90% of my work.
I am definitely not someone who feels the need to ‘get away from the computer’ when making music – it is where most of the magic happens for me. The machines are there to provide some kind of input, then everything usually gets very heavily processed and edited afterwards.
Live has become an extension of myself at this point. It’s so quick that I can go from the first idea to a fleshed-out arrangement in one session. The hardest part is to stop myself from whittling the track away to nothing. I definitely strive for perfection when sound designing and mixing, but the problem is there is no such thing!
Alongside Live’s native devices, which I use heavily, I have a lot of plug-ins for sound mangling from the likes of Unfiltered Audio, Inear Display and Glitchmachines. I also have a huge amount of mixing tools from Waves, Sonnox and iZotope.
Noise-generating and Recording Devices
I like to keep the studio decluttered and focussed. That said, in a box under my desk is a collection of little noise-generating and recording devices.
Going from left to right is the MASF SCM which is essentially a contact microphone with a spring. Beside that is an EBow. I used the two together to create the grinding lead on ‘Vibrating Wire’ off of my “Rust” album, released on Ad Noiseam.
The purple thing below that is the Elektrosluch 3+ by LOM. This is a cool device that picks up electromagnetic waves. I used these kind of recordings to create my Home Recordings EP on Instruments of Discipline. Above that is SoundSniffer, a three-channel mono preamplifier for a contact mic, a condenser mic and pickup coil – it’s a DIY kit from Soniphorm and it’s lots of fun to feed it into the modular.
Lastly, this weird exposed circuit board is the Mater Lachrymarum by 1010. It’s a kind of granular sampler that you interact with via skin resistance, great for unpredictable glitchy, harsh noise!