Transcription: 0352 - Tony Rolando

Released: March 28, 2021

Darwin: Okay today, I have the great opportunity to revisit a discussion with a friend. His name is Tony Rolando, you will know him as, the chief designer and bottle washer over at Make Noise Music. I am such a fan of their work. They recently came out with a new product called the Strega, which we are going to talk a little bit about. But, since we last talked the 0-Coast had just been released. And so an awful lot of new things have come out of Make Noise since then. And so we're going to touch base on all of those, as well as talking a little bit about Tony's personal work. So with all that introduction gone, let's say hello to Tony.

Thanks a lot for taking time out of your schedule to have a talk. I am sure you are swamped. You have this new product called the Strega. That's probably just rolling off the production lines now, right? For people who aren't familiar, why don't you give us a quick overview of what the Strega is?

Tony: Ah, okay. Well, the Strega is a small instrument in the same form factor as the 0-Coast that I collaborated, or I should say, Make Noise collaborated with the artist Alessandro Cortini in developing. And the idea was to develop an instrument that was unique within the Make Noise product line. I think because it was developed for Alessandro more than anything else. So there was a certain amount of freedom that came with that because it could kind of stand outside of all the other circuits that we have, and be kind of unique from them. So it was kind of a fun opportunity to explore some things that maybe we wouldn't usually do under the guise of well, "Hey, Alessandro wanted this. So if this is upsetting you, talk to Cortini." Okay.

So it was an incredible experience. I mean, for one, I have been a fan of Cortini's music for a long time. And then additionally I was lucky enough to become friends with him. And so it was cool to just develop something with a friend who also just has such a strong vision for, not just music, but also the instruments that he uses to createn his music with. So yeah, this wasn't a case where we made something and then we said, "Hey, let's get Alessandro to endorse this or put his name on it." It was something where we spent two years going back and forth trying to come up with some kind of a instrument that we could both be excited about. And that also just spoke to his aesthetics, while retaining some Make Noise aesthetics. So a lot of compromises, a lot of deals were struck. A lot of ideas were crushed. Also some ideas were conceived. So it was a long process purely because you had kind of two strong-headed people trying to create something together. It was a very fun process, I would say because he is someone that I really like his music. So I really wanted to make something that he would be excited about.

Darwin: Sure. That had to be a trip to being able to dive into his brain and try and pull out what he wanted for instrumentation. Now, I've watched a number of videos about the Strega so far. And if I were to like categorize, "what is it", I would see that it's kind of a warped filter and effects processor. Is that a fair assessment?

Tony: I think it can be used in that way, for sure. There is an external input. There's also a Strega voice. The tones, Strega tones and tonic controls are so you don't need something external. You don't need an external sound source for it to make noise. It will go on its own. And I think when Alessandro and I were we're working on it the thing that he pushed for over and over again, was that, obviously it's a kind of "echo verb", it's not quite a reverb and definitely not what you would expect from a delay line. So I call it an "echo verb". It kind of, in the vein of some of the early reverbs where they were creating them with multi-tap delay lines and whatnot. What Cortini kept pushing for was for the echo to be a part of the synthesis engine, as opposed to the echo being end of chain on the instrument. As in like, Oh, we have a synthesizer with a delay line at the end of it.

So where the delay line is kind of makes it a little unique in that way. For example, the delay controls are not at the very right most, you know, the very end of the actual instrument interface they're in the center. And then also circuit wise, the delay line is not at the very end of the signal path either, the filter is. Actually, the more think of it there's a lot of things out of order. So typically you would have your VCO/VCF/VCA, and then if you're lucky the delay line, obviously not on the Minimoog, but say something like the Korg DW-8000, VCO/VCF/VCA/delay line. So this would be more like a VCO/VCA/delay line/echo verb/filter. So kind of a strange rearrangement of things. And mostly just for the reason of creating something where the delay line is integral to the synthesis process so much so that the blend knob originally did not go to full dry. And I only changed that after a few people made a little bit of a complaint about it, I still don't know how I feel about it. For me I don't know why you would ever want to run it full dry, but the option is there now. It was not originally though.

Darwin: So first of all, I would say that maybe one of the reasons why I imagined it as a processor is because - you identified it. I'm so used to seeing things go into a specific left to right order. And seeing that delay knob in the middle makes me say, well, this must be a delay, you know? So making that delay or that echo verb be part of the synth engine, how much are you dependent then on like feedback within all that front-end circuitry in order to make it have the sound it has?

Tony: There's a lot of feedback paths. In fact, one of the biggest struggles in quality control testing for us. With a digital device it's very easy the feedback paths are coded and precise. It's either there or not, either the firmware loaded and it's running or it's not running, but in this case there's any number of components that could be fractures or be placed improperly or something to where you might lose one of the many feedback paths. I think there's about 13, I'd have to go back and count. There was like 13 different feedback paths happening inside there, and some of them are under voltage control with the decay parameter, but not all of them. Some of them are just hard wired and then others are affected by other parameters on the device.

So it is really hard to test them all. And we actually had to develop this kind of weird set of test points, that was quite frustrating. It actually took quite a long time to actually come up with a testing procedure for it. So yeah, it does rely quite a bit on the feedback, now that you mention it. I mean, there's feedback paths that go obviously, all the way around, from almost the output back to the input. But then there's also feedback paths that happened in front of the filter, feedback paths that happened inside the filter. So there's about 13 different ones and they're all in different places and they all kind of have different jobs. Like some of them are what create more discernible repeats, the echos. Others create resonances, like really short delay lines to give the filter comb filtering. It kind of gives it a more smeary, reverberant quality as opposed to just echo.

Darwin: So the process of developing this with Alessandro sounds like it would have been quite a task because what you're talking about really extends a long ways past, can you take this and add this and then put it in a box? It seems like it's a lot. It is sort of almost like classic instrument building. And I'm wondering what was the process? How did you make modules and like have a whole bunch of modules wired together and then use that? Did you mock it up in software? How did you make prototypes that could even test out some of the ideas that you guys were coming up with?

Tony: So the first step was drawing it out just by hand, and we did this while I was in Berlin a few times for Superbooth actually. I would go to Alessandro's apartment. We would hang out and he would draw stuff and I would draw stuff. And we kind of came up with an idea for a layout, like an ideal layout that could fit a form factor that we were happy with. At that point it was very pie-in-the-sky, like anything's possible. And there was a lot of functionalities that didn't make it to the final version. And then there was a point where I just had to kind of jump right in and I used a breadboard, actually several breadboards, it was like three bread boards. And it was just a mess of a jumper wires. I'm sure you're familiar with these, you just plug them in. They're like almost like miniature patch cables, except they don't work as well.

They're very intermittent, you know, you bumped the table and something comes undone. At that point, Alessandro actually came to Asheville. I think it was through either one or two weeks. It might've been like a week and a half and we would literally just sit in my office, and obviously this is well before pandemic times, we would sit in my office and he would play it and he would have comments about the sound or the functionality. He would ask for things to be more or less, brighter or darker, longer or shorter. Then I would go and I would literally be changing resistors and capacitors values, moving feedback loops around in real time. And then he would play it some more and then he would have more comments and I would move stuff around some more.

So that went on for like a week and a half of just breadboarding basically, real-time performance slash breadboarding. We had it hooked up into a set of studio monitors in the office and he would just play it and listen. And tell me what he liked, what he didn't like, what it needed, what it was missing, what it had too much of, all the stuff. There was just a very short distance between his feedback and the changes because we could both be in the same room and it was on a breadboard. Breadboards are awful things obviously, but they're also amazing thing.

So after that period of development, we were pretty close. I mean we had something - there was enough there that I could commit it to a printed circuit board. And so I like to move as fast as possible from breadboard to printed circuit board for analog designs, just for the reasons mentioned. You can't really move them around too easily. So things like, "Hey, what does this sound like if we run it through this other thing?" "Well, we'll have to bring that other thing here because I'm not going to put this to the car and drive to my friend's house because it won't work when we get there." So we committed as quickly as possible to print a circuit board. And at that point we could start mailing stuff back and forth between Berlin and Asheville. Which takes a little longer, but has the advantage of him being able to use it in his studio with all his other instruments and over his monitoring system that he's accustomed to.

So once we got him actual working units, we sent him those units and he could actually play them in his studio, in his actual process. And then it comes time to thank FedEx basically for doing overnight shipping from Berlin to Asheville. Where he would say, "Okay, this and this, and this are great, but there's this problem with the external input." And we would say, "Great, we'll figure it out" and overnight him a modified circuit. He would overnight us the other prototype back. We've modified that one begin the whole process again. So there was a lot of FedEx overnight shipping at that point.

Darwin: Well, that's an interesting and amazing story. I was gonna say initially that it's a break from how you work, except it's not, because this sort of collaborative thing is what you've been doing with Tom Erbe for quite a while. And so this is just sort of like extending it a little bit and maybe letting somebody else in the design room, I guess. Right?

Tony: Yeah, absolutely. Tom is a wonderful collaborator. And the process is not really that different because like Alessandro, Tom has strong aesthetics. Tom has strong ideas about how things sound, or should sound, or how he will make them sound. And so there is a lot of, it's not just us saying, "Tom, do this." It's us saying, "Tom, do this" and him saying, "That's not how I would quite want to do that. Let me tell you how I would like to do that." He has wonderful aesthetics. So the end results are great.

Darwin: I was just going to say, when you see the results it makes it pretty easy to trust his vision, right?

Tony: One hundred percent, yeah. The only thing I ever would fault Tom for is he always pushes everything to the upper limits. So any technology that we're using, if it can go to 110 he's at 109.9 at all times. He just pushes everything to the absolute maximum capabilities, he doesn't leave any window. It's funny because every year new technology comes out and we'll adapt it from time to time. And then I'll always think we have more power for now, once he gets this in his hands, we'll be waiting for the next bump.

Darwin: In talking about Tom, some of the stuff that he came up with since the last time we talked, key among them is the Morphagene. Which is kind of at the heart of an awful lot of people's modular studios now It kind of extends the aesthetic of like the tape music culture, and music contrete stuff. You kind of started with the Phonogene, but we actually discussed as part of our previous conversation that finding information about the old tape studios and music concrete was something that you ran across in the New York libraries and was really influential to you. Now you're at the point where you're actually making systems that are sort of like tape music studios in a box. How does that feel? And how does that kind of aesthetic drive some of your design decisions?

Tony: Well it feels awesome because it's something that I was excited about. And interestingly enough, I recently returned to actual tape loops briefly. I would say while it is incredibly fun and tactile to actually cut a loop and to mark stuff up with grease pencils and then live with the happy accidents that occurred from time to time. But the whole process takes so much longer, what you can do with something like a tape or micro sound, or for that matter, countless Max devices is just incredible. And so to have something that's physical, that has like the tactile feel of cutting loops on a tape machine. Just because it is physical and there's buttons you can press and so on, but has also some of the benefits of digital sound manipulation, it's a great thing.

It was definitely a goal of mine to create something like that. I didn't think I'd ever actually be able to do it, but it's great to have it. And it's just fun to play with. Even if you're not creating music that you're going to try to release into the world you're just having fun cutting up YouTube clips that you've sampled. I spent so much time just sampling the President or something and just patching around and having fun with that. So it feels wonderful, and as far as like design aesthetics in future designs, I think that's a harder one. I feel like modular informed so much about, obviously, something like the Tape and Microsound, or the Morphagene, or the Phonogene, there was this idea. Obviously granular synthesis has existed in computer format for so long, but one of the things I always felt was, I could achieve really interesting results, but I always felt like there was something between myself and the digital audio.

I always wanted to just kind of reach in and make something happen, but it was never quite as easy as that. And so I think modular kind of lends itself to that like really direct input from the human. This needs to be slower. Like, okay, you reach in there, grab the varispeed knob and slow it down. And so I think modular, like analog modular, informs things more than anything in what we do and what I think most of our contemporaries in Eurorack do just because that's what makes it special, having all those patch points and the knobs and buttons and making something very direct and fully able to be implemented by the human in real time. As opposed to something that has to be kind of pre-programmed or, I guess something that lives behind that wall that is the computer screen. Not that there's anything wrong with that, because obviously computers can do a great bit more than any modular synthesizer system, but there's always still that wall. And you have to either embrace it and live with it, or you have to walk away from it and get in front of a modular or something like that.

Darwin: Well, I think there's actually a little bit to a difference in physics too, right? I mean a feedback loop in the analog world is just simply different than feedback in the digital world. And so from that standpoint there are differences that will always exist and will make, I think, analog always be an important part of music making in studios. Now, you are in the kind of unique position, I think certainly from our listeners' standpoint, you are in a completely unique position in probably being able to have as large of a Make Noise modular system as you would like. But, I'm curious, you kind of dropped a little hint there about cutting up tapes and stuff. Obviously you're not just a pure electronics designer, you're a musician too. You bring the musician aesthetic to the design that you make. What is music making like for you? What's your studio setup like? Tell me a little bit about the music you make and how you do it.

Tony: I do obviously have a Make Noise system in there. I have a shared system and then I have another case that's like a 7u case that has a bunch of the stuff its not in a shared system, Quad Multimodal Gate, Rxmx and MMG, a few other things. And so that's like in one corner right now. That's, that's in one corner with an ARP 2600 behind it. I really liked the sound of the ARP. It has wonderful sounding, really snappy envelopes that I think pair well with the Make Noise system and with a lot of other modular sounds. Just such beautiful snappy envelopes, and then I also love the dual spring tank that's in that machine, it's just a wonderful thing that honestly, a lot of patches are just running out of Make Noise system into that ARP to get that spring reverb sometimes even like Erbeverb into spring reverb.

Tony: So that's one little corner right now. And then, on the other wall, I have polysynths. I got back into those last year and, I did a whole record that has a ton of Polysynths on it. One of my favorite ones is the Oberheim OB-8 that I really like, and I haven't really ever found another one that I've played that has quite the drifty quality that that has. And I kind of just play it like a piano, not well, but like a piano. I just liked playing chords on it. I don't program it a whole lot. I have basically just the panel is always just live. I think it's called "manual". You hit the manual button and then the knobs are live and it's kind of always on the same basic setup. It's just kind of like an analog, a bad analog synth emulation of a piano. It's real drifty and the sustain is long. So I really love that one. And then other stuff that I use, a lot of stuff just comes and goes. I'm trying to think of what else is in there.

Darwin: Well, other than your experiments with tape loops, do you use tape at all or do you, are you well-integrated into digital recording?

Tony: I fully subscribed to the DAW. As of last year I started actually recording again and I hadn't really made music in over a decade, probably about 12, 13 years. So I was really far behind and where DAWs had gone to. Like the DAW to me was like a very primitive version of Cubase and then followed by of course Pro Yools because that's just what everyone used in the nineties and the early two thousands. And so Pro Tools is it's a defined way to record, but it's kind of just a digital tape machine. And I'd heard from our customers about Ableton Live quite a bit. All of our, so many of our customers use Ableton Live.

And I was able to, because Ableton likes Make Noise, they had given us some installs to use for videos and stuff. And I got one of those installs and started learning about Ableton and I kind of fell in love with it. It's such a wonderful software because it's sort of like a DAW that's designed like a synthesizer. If that makes sense. It's very fun to play. I don't really use any of the software synths or anything. I'm mostly just used the arrangement view, the window where you can see the linear view. I don't really ever use the other view. I only use the linear view, but I just find once you capture things. There's so much fun that can be had with them, with what you capture from the analog world inside the digital world using Ableton. I've started to explore Max for Live as well, which is like this incredible alternate universe.

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Tony: I had like this crazy idea one day to hook up, I thought it was crazy, I wanted to play a stack of four, Zero Coast. You talked about being an owner of Make Noise, I can have as much Make Noise as I'd like. So I borrowed four, Zero Coast and I wanted to play them polyphonically and I thought, I wonder if anyone's made a device that would let me do that with ease. I go search on the Max for Live library and sure enough, there's a device. It's like $5, and it lets you set up basically like Round Robin voice sharing amongst multiple midi devices. And I created a polyphonic Zero Coast.

Tony: It was like the monopod, in that you had independent controls for each voice and they all could make them sound different. So each note would play differently. But that's just kind of the wonderful thing about Ableton and Max for Live, just being able to have some kind of crazy idea. And then there's almost like the software is out there to kind of help you achieve these crazy ideas. They might end up not really being good ideas, but at least you got to explore them.

Darwin: Right. As opposed to, you mentioned that for you, Ableton feels like kind of like a synth. I feel like they've done something in their design where everybody feels a connection to some part of the software. So some people say, I come from using loopers and there's a part of it that really feels like it was influenced by loopers, and others will say it about synths or other people say about different functions. I think it's really neat how it's the kind of a canvas that people can really take their experiences and kind of project it on there.

Tony: Yeah. I think you're right. I have another friend locally here who is a jazz kind of a jazz saxophone player, but he loves loopers and he has this whole Ableton set that he's developed, or I guess it would be session. I can never remember the proper terminology. But it's like when he brings up Ableton, he has this whole set of like crazy complicated Loopers. But I mean, when you see him recording with it, it works perfectly for him as like a ***rack of loopers*** in front of him, but it's just on his laptop. It works very well for him. I think Ableton kind of sparked me in a way and I just have a lot of fun being able to capture things from the modular or from whatever synthesizer or whatever instruments I have that are inspiring me at the moment.

Tony: I'd like to change things up. So while the Make Noise system, I also have a tape and ***micro sound*** system in there. And then of course I have the Strega, Zero Coast or control that sits on the right side of my desk. Some things don't change, but other things kind of come and go. There was a ***DX7*** in there for a while. I got some other modules that come and go, right now I'm really enjoying the ***Noise Engineering Reverb***. And I'm not going to try to remember the name of it.

Tony: That reverb sounds wonderful, so I have an enjoying that right now. There's also a in there, which I really like. I've been enjoying that one quite a bit, I don't use it as like a groove box as much a just like a synthesizer. And it always gets run out of the ***Digi Tone*** and into the modular or into the ARP. It sounds great running it into the ARP, through the filters and the reverbs. This is going to be super nerdy I had previously avoided it, but I got really into compression. So I've been experimenting a lot with different analog compressors. The difference between like outboard, like analog compression and doing compression inside of Ableton is pretty profound. And also I think recording with it in chain is kind of incredible.

Tony: It makes you play the instruments a little differently and you can really kind of focus on elements of the sound that you maybe wouldn't have noticed or would have been kind of lost previously. So I have have some different compressors, like a ***fat compressor*** and I've got a dial bridge compressor that's really cool sounding. And so those things have kind of opened up the synthesizer sounds even more, and I think recording something like a ***Digi Tone*** into an ***herb verb*** into like an ARP 2,600 filter followed by a spring reverb into like a ***fat compressor*** it kind of starts to really get you sparked and like excited about the quality of the sound as well as the notes that you've chosen to play.

Darwin: Well, you bring up an interesting point too. Which is compression is one of those things where, I think compression after the DAC is so much different than before the DAC. And I think when I talk to people and they're like, yeah, I want to put together a studio, you know. And I want to do it all in a box. I'm like, for the most part, you'll probably do fine, but you know, there are some thing that you're going to miss out on and the kind of ***tweaky mic pre-IND compare compressor*** things can really make an extraordinary difference in the quality of recording.

Tony: Yeah, and it can just excite you. It can be like in recording studios, a lot of times I think like they'll record a vocal dry, obviously, but in the vocalist headphone mix they'll put like a nice reverb or an echo on it. And it can kind of change how the singer will approach it. I kind of feel like that the same is true of recording synthesizers. If you get a sound and it's good, and then you make it even better before you record it, you might play it a little differently, do something differently, or push the levels and push the envelop a little bit more. The first record that I finished, which I think will be coming out in March, but I haven't really heard anything from the label in a minute. So I should probably check in with them for that one it was all in the box. I didn't have any of these wonderful analog processors. But I did have lots of wonderful analog synthesizers around and it was still extremely fun to make. And then I have a second one that's coming out this fall that I'm maybe a little more excited about, but just because it's like the more recent one, you know?

Tony: I'm like, yeah, that first record's terrible. I don't even want it to come out anymore. This one? That's the good one. But then you record something three days later. You're like, no, this is good. All that other stuff is trash I should just wipe my hard drive clean. This one track, this is the best thing ever. But the one that's coming out this fall was a lot of shared system and ARP, the one that's coming out, hopefully this spring. But we'll see. That's the one that has a lot of that ***Oberheim OB eight*** on it.

Darwin: What label is going to be releasing them.

Tony: The one that's this spring is supposed to be coming out on ***Aventures***, which is an imprint that's run by our good friend, ***Robert AA-lo*** and he's also a wonderful musician himself and a synthesizer wizard. And then this fall, it's an EP coming out on Important Records. The one this spring is called Multiple Futures and then one, this fall is called Break-in is a Memory. And that was just supposed to be under my own name. I tried to come up with like a cool artist name. It's just so hard, I had so many bad ones and I'm thinking about it, but in the end, ***Rob Lowe*** is like, why wouldn't you just use your own name? Right. Because it sounds a lot like Tony Orlando.

Darwin: Yeah, you're going to have to have two backup singers. Then that would be a mess. So in making your music who are like your musical influences, who are the people that you draw from for musical inspiration?

Tony: It would probably be really obvious when people listen to it. I mean, I'm a massive fan of more modern artists. Obviously ***Alessandro Cortini*** and ***Catarina***, who is the Patterns of Consciousness Record. I can still remember that first time I heard like the first four notes of that. It just my ears perked up. And it just captured my interest in such a powerful way. I have to confess I'm a massive fan of everything that ***Daniel lopatent*** has done. One of the folks at Make Noise, ***Jake Pugh*** who's on our production crew. He kind of turned me on to ***One Oh-tricks***, Point Never. And I remember I had seen them at a ***Moogfest*** or something was one of those. If it wasn't ***Moogfest*** it might've been the other thing that happened that year after ***Moogfest***, that only lasted for one year, but it doesn't matter.

Tony: I remember seeing them and I just did not get it like it. This was like four years ago or something, I just did not understand it. I was like, why are people like this? I don't get it. And then ***Jake Donmere*** of ***Mirror Record***, I think it's ***R + 7***. And it's just so good. Then I just get a whole catalog. It's one of those things where I was like, who's this guy. Ended up listening to like the entire catalog and like over the course of like two weeks, which I guess there's kind of a unique opportunity of our modern times that you can find an artist you'd like, and then somehow be able to listen to their entire catalog immediately.

Darwin: I know it's hilarious you say that because my recollection of when I was in my teens is, that I would get on somebody. And then it was a process of scouring my little corner of the world, looking for the rest of their things. And it was hard sometimes even finding out what were the releases that people did. Now you can just go to a streaming service and not only find out what they did, but hear it all immediately. It's really weird.

Tony: Yeah. You didn't even know how many records of particular artists might've made. You might be surprised when you walked into a record store, you might find something that you need to know existed. Like, Oh, they made this ever even seen this before.

Darwin: So getting back to the modular business, I'm a little curious about talking about your design process. I am fascinated by people's stories about how they do design and stuff like that. You've been really open about it, but one of the things that I went and listened to before our interview, I went and listened to the interview we did in 2016. And one of the things that you talked a lot about was the influence of ***booklet and booklet design, and book ideas, getting pictures of the booklet modules*** and like pouring over them and imagining in your head what the must sound like. Now you have to be fishing beyond that. I mean, the Strega is a clear example. There, there is no parallel of that in the ***Buka*** world at all. And frankly, a number of the things I can ***Morphagene in the mimicry, Mimi font*** and stuff like that. There's no equivalent. So you're obviously stretching beyond what you poured over in ***bookclub*** documentation. Right? What is it now that you find inspiring? What are the things that you use to stimulate ideas to get your kind of juices flowing, to get you revved up about the idea of doing a design?

Tony: Well, I think that was for the Strega was ***Allesandro***. It was Cortini. And I think that he and I have discussed doing another project together and that'll probably be the next project that I work on, will be another project with him. I guess, yeah. I mean, it's interesting because you're what you're saying is that initially it was non-available hardware, legendary mysterious hardware. And it was, and I don't think I was unique in that way. I think a lot of us were pouring over these pictures. I know, I know ***Scott Jaeger*** over at, Industrial Music Electronics, AKA, Harvest Man. He did the same thing. I mean we would talk about it. We would talk about what do you think there's ***Boka module D***. There was no videos, there was no manuals. Those things look incredible. You know, you see a picture of it and your heart starts beating faster.

Tony: You know, the blue knobs, the fonts, everything about it just gorgeous. So you're like, Oh, but you've never used it, you never even stood in the same room as it, so it had this mystery to it. And now of course you can own a ***Marc clone*** that's pretty close to the original and you can play one. I've actually had the opportunity to play some of the originals, thanks to ***Allesandro***. Letting me hang out in his studio and play with an original music easel or an original 200 system. And so I'm not looking to obscure hardware anymore. I think I'm looking to someone like an artist. Like ***Allesandro***, in some ways I think Tom and I are kind of trying to figure out where we going to go next? Where we're going to seek inspiration from. It's a long process with him and I, especially right now. I think because he's quite busy at school due to the pandemic. I think a lot of responsibilities fell on him as far as like getting remote learning set up.

Darwin: Every academic I talked to is like stressed out of their gourds right now because of that.

Tony: Yeah. You know, he's a smart guy and I think probably some people are relying on him to make stuff work at times, that's my guess. I think that's a really interesting question because I can't give you a 100% certain answer, I think I am currently searching. And I think part of that search has been returning to the actual music making process that brought me to modular in the first place. I record almost every day now, whereas prior to that, I didn't even have an audio interface in my room. I just didn't record. Making music was something I would do in my office while I was developing a new product.

Tony: And I did it often. I'm always making sound, I'm always making noise in the office, but there's a difference. There's a difference between staying up until 2:00 AM trying to capture the perfect take of some sound that you created on a synthesizer and hanging out in your office trying to make a circuit work as well as possible. They're both musical, they're both musical endeavors, but I feel like our customer base and people who are using Make Noise are probably more likely to be up until 2:00 AM trying to figure out how to get the perfect capturing of that sound they created. And that's why they bought their Make Noise in the first place. That's why they bought the synthesizer in the first place. So I'm kind of returning to that, and I'm finding that's kind of guiding me quite a bit and I'm borrowing every instrument that I can.

Tony: I just borrowed from a friend of mine. I'm lucky enough to have a lot of friends in music. We do swaps a friend of mine up the road. He has a studio in town. It's a wonderful studio called ***Drop a Son***. He's actually recording, well, actually I probably shouldn't say what he's recording right now, I'm not supposed to. But we always exchange stuff, so right now he has my ***PPG*** and I have his ***Moog one***. So I'm exploring a ***Moog one***. We do fun stuff like that, and I find that that's kind of going at things from a musician perspective. Once again it's kind of rekindling my interest in a big way. And I also just want to work with some more musicians. I want to work some more with Cortini and I have ideas for other people that I wanna work with and they don't know it yet, but, yeah.

Tony: Well, I like to move on things when I feel like they can actually be moved on. One thing I was a little concerned about when I was working with Cortini, is that it took a long time. And I was always concerned throughout the whole process that at some point I was going to call him on the phone. And he was going to say, you know, Tony, it's done you're taken too long.

Tony: Because it was taking so damn long. The cool thing is that he didn't say that, he was committed to seeing it through. I think it was probably hard for him because I think he probably learned a lot about just how many steps go into bringing an instrument to the market. When you're on the receiving end, you're like, Oh, this wonderful thing has arrived. I know it's the same with, with software when the new version comes out, everyone goes in, immediately downloads it and loves it. And you're thinking they don't know about the months and years potentially that went into bringing that to that page where they can click and install.

Darwin: Well, it's interesting though, because Alessandro is pretty particular about who he supports and who he backs up. And he has been very open and very noisy about how much he loves both this instrument and how much he loved this collaboration with you. So it was clearly a fantastic experience for him as well.

Tony: Yeah. I'm glad to hear that. Like I said, I was worried at times it's a different place for a musician to be in the world of design and manufacturer. It's a very different place. There can be some moments that are crushing. When you have to tell someone, if we do this, it has to be twice as big and twice as expensive. We don't want it to be twice as big and twice as expensive, you know. There's a lot of times where you have to think about things in a way that's just not as fun. It's not as beautiful and practicalities come into play. And as much as I would like to ignore those things, I think at the end of the day the people who like Make Noise, the customers, the artists that use it are going to appreciate it. Even if they don't know about it they will appreciate it because it's the whole reason why it ends up landing in their studios a lot of times. Is that the practicalities that we take into account in order for something to actually be available?

Darwin: Well, man, I blew past our tiny window. I could do this about like five hours longer. So we've just really started but, I'm going to have to wrap it up. Hopefully it's not going to be another five years before we talk again for Christ's sake, but it's it was so good to talk to you. Thanks a lot, man.

Tony: Yeah. It's good to chat with you, always fun.

Darwin: Well talk to you later then. Bye.

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