Transcription: 0358 - Alessandro Cortini

Released: June 20, 2021

Darwin: Okay today, I get a chance to talk to someone who's becoming an old friend of mine. We've had a chance to talk over the years in a lot of different situations. We used to be NAMM buddies, we'd see each other at NAMM shows and Music Messe. But a couple of years ago, we talked to him about sort of his work and his background. This time around, we're going to be talking more about both the development of an album and an instrument. Now, if you haven't already read the title of the podcast, I will tell you, we are speaking with Alessandro Cortini, and he has an album that will have just been released when you hear this. It'll have been just released, it's called Scuro Chiaro, and it is a gorgeous album. It combines sort of the sound design and structural elements that I think we are all familiar with from his work with some really interesting sequencing options and sequencing techniques that we're going to dig into a little bit more. So, with no more ado, let's say hello to Alissandro hey man how are You?

Thanks a lot for having this chat. I really appreciate it. And congratulations on your new Album. Can you talk a little bit about what led you to create this particular work?

Alessandro: You know, for a lot of my releases, a lot of them were centered on one instrument for a long time, where I sort of my creativity was sparked by the limitations of the instrument and that worked very well for a long time. And then I'd say that sort of kept me, not kept me but I never really approached the studio as an ensemble of instruments, because I was always very anxious of sort of like having to expand. And so that process was a very, 'get your feet wet' sort of process, and it took a while. The first record where I sort of started doing that where maybe an idea was born on one instrument, and then there were other instruments that were sort of like complimenting it, was Volume Massimo, which came out two years ago. Scuro Chiaro is a continuation of Volume Massimo in the sense that Volume Massimo was born from an array of compositions that I had collected over, I don't even know how many years.

In the sense that I don't keep track of when things get done. I just do music every day. I record every day for myself. And then I go back and 'fish' and these things tend to like cells. Ideas tend to gravitate towards each other, and then they would end up being what you call an album, they make sense together, like a dish, like a good recipe. Volume Massimo was that way. It felt like I had a good vintage wine and a good organic steak, if you eat meat, you know what I mean? Then something else from another area of the world, but it doesn't matter when they were made or where they're from; together, they make sense as a great meal.

So that's how I sort of been approaching records recently, basically Scuro Chiaro is born from two tracks that were part of the lineup, let's say, of Volume Massimo, but it just didn't fit. I made this example before because of the food, but it's like you have a nice steak meal and then you have whipped cream put on. You're not going to put fucking whipped cream on top of it, because it just doesn't work. But that doesn't cut anything from whipped cream, it has its purpose. So the idea was I'd have to create another recipe for those ingredients. And so those tracks were Lo Specchio, basically two tracks that were released first. So it was Lo Specchio and ChiaroScuro. And they were the starting point for the new album. Then basically what happens is that I just collect ideas from my archives that fit that mood.

It's basically just a discovery as I go, I don't know, what's going to end up in it. And it's not a desperate search for things in the sense that, "Oh I've got to find something to fit." No, it's a very fun and I really enjoy it because I have to admit that a lot of the things that I listen to that I've never listened to, that I've made years ago. I don't even remember making, because I made them to entertain myself and feel better. I didn't make them with the thought of them becoming a record. So in a way they're similar to like raw material that you might mine for other reasons. You're not thinking about what it will become because you don't know what will become, you know what I mean? And it doesn't matter because you're truly extracting joy from just mining it. You know what I mean? That's how the last two records were born.

Darwin: That makes a lot of sense. One question though, when you see that this is part of a daily recording practice that you do you're for yourself, you also mentioned that this is part of taking the studio experience, you work on an instrument and it kind of expand it with other instruments. Is that something you did after you chose it to go on? Or is this something that as part of that daily work, you bring all different parts of the studio and you do these fleshed out tracks and the creation of the album?

Alessandro: It's pretty random, for example, on the new record, Scuro Chiaro, there are pieces that are one instrument. Corri and Fiamma are Synthi tracks, just straight, played live, one take and there's nothing added. I just I recorded them. Both of them actually, Corri was recorded with a Zoom. So two tracks were actually direct in, so the left and right of the the Synthi and two tracks were done with the built-in microphone of the Zoom. So I could mix and balanced the "live" sound to the direct, more fuller sound. And then it was just a matter of making it sound as good as possible, but it's a live take. That's a live recording and the same for Fiamma. And then there are things that are a little bit more, they're live, but they have certain nuances or attachments or add-ons.

Like for example, the track ChiaroScuro. ChiarScuro is recorded on an old Buchla, they used to call 151, which actually comes from the San Francisco Conservatory. And it's a three rack sort of thing in an old wooden case. It's like an early seventies with a keyboard when it's five step sequencer. And basically there's a five-step sequence that plays the main melody and the bass line. And then the keyboard, I just change the route basically. So the bass line sequence changes, but the bass has changes in four-four, and the melody is five. So wherever those, that melody lands is always different. So it makes it very interesting, you know, and to that I added guitar later, but yeah, it's never like extremely multilayer in the sense that I'd never, probably because of the instruments that I use and how I use them. I feel like it's so much emotionally and sonically out of them when you do one take that I never feel like I have to add that much to it.

You know, if I'd have to the most look at the most complex session that I have, either from the new record or previous record, including... I have 3 sends and returns for effects, which are an AMS RMX 16 reverb, H-3000 Eventide - a 3000 S - and an AMS DMX 15 ADS delay. So those take up three stereo channels. I think the rest was probably 10 other channels. It was five stereo pairs. So it looks like it's a very compact situation. It's just these instruments have such a personality that, to me, it's very easy to fill up space sonically and by consequence emotionally with them, you know what I mean? So then I don't feel the need to have to add a lot of things nor edit, because I've been doing the live, one instrument, thing for so long that I got to a point that when I'm pressing record, I'm not demoing anymore. I know that that will most likely become something one day. So I'm pretty confident of what I'm recording. It's not just a sketch anymore. You know what I mean?

Darwin: Sure, the Other nice thing about that is that you don't end up picking apart your own work. I know, I certainly know this for myself. One of the worst things I can do is take something and decide that I'm going to produce it, you know, with quote marks on it, because, inevitably what I'll do is I'll squeeze all of my enjoyment out of the track too.

Alessandro: I agree. I'm not here to say that all of that is wrong. I think if we approach it in a constructive way, say for example, I worked on this since I was in a certain amount, in a certain way, let me see if I can make it sound better. So it'd be more of an engineer, mix it and do stuff like that but if I make a conscious decision of switching from one position to the other, then the creative part is not going to be as influenced or damaged by the following one, because I'm already approaching another way. But it's tough though, because obviously trying to be a child and making music in a creative way to makes me feel good. Rationality is definitely not the first thing that is next to me. You know, it's definitely not my assistant when I'm making music, you know?

Darwin: So, one of the things that I really appreciated is that all of the tracks here, in this release - all of them kind of feel of a set. So it's kind of interesting to hear that you kind of like pick them from different places. They all kind of feel, of a set though. And to me, the things that are the through-lines are sort of these dark and heavy pads that to me are typical of a lot of your music, but also the use of like really simple sequences as kind of a melody, kind of an ostinato, kind of a hypnotizing factor maybe, even, to the tracks. And I'm curious, you use a wide variety of systems. What are you doing the sequencing on? Is this something that you use just the little sequencers that happened to be built into the Buchla or built into little modular systems? Or do you have a more specific sequencing tool that you tend to use? How do you do part sequencing?

Alessandro: When I write it's usually - when the idea comes, when something comes - it usually comes from the direct relationship, one-on-one with one instrument. So if that instrument has a sequencer, it's usually to built in sequencer. I have a Sequentix Cirklon on that I use as a media interface and as a control for the whole studio. But to be honest, I hardly ever use it as a control when it comes to like sequencing the whole studio with it. Not because I don't like it, it's just because if I had machines that didn't have a sequencer, then yes, I probably would use that exclusively because then you have everything in one place it's very convenient. Each instrument is controlled by the same set of rules, it would make sense. But I think that sequencing and especially in Don's instruments and Buchla instruments and like on the Strega or the 0-Control, they're all implemented so differently that the sequencer itself becomes an instrument within the instrument.

You know? So the way it, within those modules or within that set of elements in an instrument makes it one with the instrument itself. I think it's very important for me to do that. Like for example, the Synthi, the EMS, the AKS, the "K" (is) the keyboard sequencer, that one is a really kooky sequencer in the sense that, it's basically a memory recorder, it has a certain amount, I think it's 256 steps. You don't hear them, you can just choose the tempo, but you don't hear that. And then you record something, you press play and you play back that phrase, but it's very hard to make something in time. There'll always be something that is either galloping and that's the cool thing about it. The sequence in that case allows you to create voices that are very different than if you would just have a 16 step sequencer, that just goes to a clock. Same thing with MC-202 by Roland, it's definitely not the sequencer that I use when I'm thinking "I have a sequence in my head and I want to get it down...", which hardly ever happens.

I just do octaves. I literally mashed the buttons, randomly, the octave and the slides. And that's how the a record like Sonno came to be. It was the quirkiness of the input method of the instrument that shaped the note output, and I liked that because we talked about this, it's a chess game with the machine. I think the machine really becomes the grammar that I utilized to speak my language, essentially.

Darwin: It also does kind of throw back to what you said in our previous interview where, working on systems from a developer, it makes sense to you because it makes sense as an instrument, it makes sense as an environment to embed yourself into.

Alessandro: Yeah, exactly. And I totally respect people that have much more complex systems where they enjoy adding things and just going down a path of adding things that have more complex things. I just never been, I mean arguably, if some people would look at my systems and think there are complex as well, but what I'm saying is, I usually stop very early in the process when it comes to being satisfied with what I do. I hardly ever come up with a patch that is very intricate. It might be several voices or several parts, but so as a whole it might be considered an intricate patch, but in general, to me it's very simple.

Darwin: The other thing that to me is sort of a hallmark of your sound is really creative use of effects and of audio processing. This album, again, features a heavy and distorted sound a lot, particularly on pad sounds; again, something I think that people kind of recognize a little bit as your sound, right. What is the mechanism that you use to do that? Do you have external boxes? Do you use like guitar pedals and stuff to do that? Or do you find ways to overdrive it within the systems, do you like overdrive your recorder? How do you get to that sound?

Alessandro: All three things that you just mentioned at different times? I would think that the overdrive is, I think for the most part, is part of the instrument. So something like the Synthi, for example, each stage can be overdriven, the output of the oscillator into the filter, the filter into the amp, the amp into the reverb, all those stages. If you go to 10 with the knob it's overdriven, so that adds different kind of vibe to everything it's not necessarily distorted, but it's definitely saturation. You know what I mean? And so that becomes part of the patch, part of the sound for me, I haven't really used guitar pedals for distortion as much as I used to. I use a module made by a company called Overstayer. It's a rack unit, and it's called the Modular Channel, which is a stereo mic pre/line processing compressor/EQ filter like Korg MS-20 style, high pass, low pass filter. It's just very creative. It's a very creative box. I use it a lot, both for clean things. And for distorted things like there's a piece on the Volume Massimo called Sabbia, which is basically just a live performance in the studio that then I processed in real time on that box, basically. But yet for the most part, I say the machines that I use tend to have that character. That's sort of like, I'm old, just leave me alone, I'm a little broken.

Darwin: But the other thing that I'll notice that, and you can tell me where this comes from is that, I'm listening to digital copies of stuff and there's a noise floor to your recordings. And it's something that we're not used to now in like quote, modern recording that stuff is like scrubbed out. And, that seems to be very much a part of what you did as part of the development of the release. Is that some natural part of your recording system or is that something that you add as kind of glue to work across tracks out where's that noise floor come from, because I'll tell you a lot of times I'm listening to the digital recordings, and it sounds like I'm listening to a cassette release. It's got that kind of character to it.

Alessandro: I grew up with that, it's a sound I'm really attached to. Remembering the thump of pressing play, it's something that will never go away. And I think it's emotionally linked or tied to the way that I enjoy music. Luckily all the machines that I have already have their own like noise floor. So I hardly ever feel have the need to inject it, but like in a track like ChiaroScuro, there is noise that starts the whole piece basically, which is through a bandpass filter. I think noise is very important as glue, as basically a way to unify everything. It's one of those things that generally speaking in a track you wouldn't realize it's there unless mute it and you go, well, something's missing now, you know? To be honest, I mean, I grew up with noise obviously because of the medium that I was using to enjoy music for the most part of my youth.

Well, CDs were just as long, but I have to say that part of it was definitely inspired by Trent's work on the Downward Spiral or things like that. When I got a chance to take a look at the sessions, there were full tracks of noise that would go through through the whole song but, you didn't know that, like, I wouldn't know that listening to the record, but when I look at the tracks, I realized that they were there. And it was very inspiring because you realize the relationship of noise within sound, and how it is part of it. I mean, it's crazy how on one end, we're trying... And I do too, because, you know, I'm quite an audiophile when it comes to listening to music. So I enjoy devices that allow me to enjoy music at its purest, but when I make it it's kind of the opposite. So it's kind of a weird situation.

Darwin: Yeah. I get it while at the same time being purposeful about your noise floor, it's one of those things that becomes kind of a sonic signature too. So I think that there's a lot of importantce and a lot of value in that now. One of the things I think a lot of people will know about you is that you are a pretty adept guitar player as well. But one of the things I would say this release, especially you mentioned already that there was some guitar work in there. I wouldn't be able to tell you where - I have no idea how guitar fits into this kind of sonic landscape. How do you approach using a guitar in something that is kind of a, what I would see as a synth record?

Alessandro: Well, you know I started as a guitar player and, I was really infatuated and inspired by the metal, hard rock, shred scene growing up. I was really into fast guitar playing and to a certain extent even though I enjoy it, it's sort of also prevented me - and this is a personal thing - prevented me from developing a personal dialogue with the instrument because you're so inspired by certain musicians that you think that's what you need to be or how you need to play. And I think I took that the wrong way and it made my development a lot slower. Until I realized that guitar wasn't my main instrument. I wasn't sound linked to one instrument exclusively. So the last few years, especially since, I would say 2017, since I joined Nine Inch Nails really, but more like in the last few years when I've done more bass and guitar for them live, I've sort of rekindled my love with my old guitars and the old idols and the old things, and I've tried to integrate guitar in a way that it's not that, not that there's anything bad, but you know, I can't be shredding over this.

That was just doesn't work. It's just not that kind of music. In order for it not to be oil and water, because that's how it feels when it's something that I learned to play in a certain way for so long, it's a DNA level. That's what guitar is. I pick it up, I just starting noodling. You know what I mean? And so it's taking a while to make it fit with the, the "new me", the current me that does electronic music. But I think it's getting there because I feel like I'm able to make them dialogue in a way where as you say, sometimes you don't know which one is which, because guitar might become a third voice of a two voice synth sequence but it's recorded and shaped sonically to be part of it.

So it's not imitating, but it's in the same realm. You know what I mean? So it's effected and processed in a way where it feels good. A big inspiration for guitar tones in this world was a band called Belong from, New Orleans. And their album, October Language was was a seminal when it comes to approach and think of guitar in different terms. There's a little bit, well, maybe they would say a lot, but there's a little bit of My Bloody Valentine guitar approach, you know, which is more of a cloud where you can't really hear the picking. And it's more about an entity which is made by a guitar and it's just moving towards you. And so that was a little bit eye-opening and helped me to step away from my idea at the time of guitar playing.

Darwin: That's really interesting, but it also makes perfect sense and it. This idea of guitar having the potential of being oil and water and these kinds of things, I mean, that really resonates with me. Mostly because I was a guitar player initially too, and it's been very hard for me to find a way to make that fit because it's so easy to fall into everything I did when I was a guitar player to be like the people that I idolized and so that makes an awful lot of sense.

Alessandro: Exactly. It's a pitfall, but it's inevitable because I also don't want to sound like I'm talking trash about guitar. I love guitar, and it's such a unique instrument that is so natural to come up with that sort of voice on the instrument. So when you're trying to adapt it, I don't think that electronic music with guitar on top sounds good. It's not my thing. You know, I just think they're fighting and also culturally, you're never going to get electronic music people, not that it matters, but people who enjoy guitar music and vice versa, guitarists are very narrow-minded. I'm sorry to say, but you know what I mean? It's all about the amp and there's not much. There's pedals of course nowadays, but you know what I mean? It's a very, very closed universe.

Darwin: I'm telling you... When I sort of started getting tired of guitar was actually in kind of the late eighties, early nineties, when what you kind of saw was all the keyboard players are trying to sound like guitar players and all of the guitar players who were trying to sound really robotic, like keyboard players. I was like, everyone's lost the picture.

Alessandro: Yeah. But that's sort of like what's happening now with modular. I think, to a certain extent. I mean, I always compare the current modular scene to the shred scene of the nineties where it all started with iconic players - one iconic player, Edward van Halen, it was seminal in the technique and the playing, but let's not forget they wrote hit after hit, after hit, after hit as a band. So, yes, he was an incredibly innovative guitar player that inspired tons of people, but also he also revolutionized songwriting, Van Halen was a undoubtebly one of the biggest US song-writing bands, but what happened is just tons of clones came out. People that took whatever he was doing and did it faster, did it louder. I mean, I remember seeing guitar magazines where they were selling picks, that would make you pick faster or things to exercise your fingers, you know what I mean?

Things like, eight finger tapping, taking it to an extreme, which was interesting, but also didn't have any of the soul or the direct dialogue with the listener that Edward Van Halen had. The same thing is happening now with Eurorack, to me and that sort of world, because we're going from trying to establish a dialogue with a limited set of tools to just going from module to module, just exploring a little bit here and there. It's just like there's so many things to keep us interested in that world. At the end of the day you kind of lose track of what you're doing is just a ton of sounds and not much of a common thread between them. You know what I mean? That's my opinion.

It might be I'm an old man, you know, I am an old man, but what I mean is I do believe that the amount of tools get in the way of the ability for musicians, no matter what the instrument, in this case we're talking about synthesizes and modules, it gets in the way of musician to be able to create their own voice. Cause their own voice comes from learning on an instrument, a limited set of tools. I remember you would buy something used or whatever, because you read something about it in a magazine, you bought it. First of all, you read about it or maybe there was an album where you thought that's what they were playing. There weren't a thousand videos on YouTube that already kind of sucked the soul out of it.

And by the time you get it, you already what it sounds like. I mean maybe the unboxing is, exciting, but there's not any of the, I remember buying my first Microwave. I mean the Waldorf, like I don't think anybody remembers their first microwave oven, you know? And I remember not really knowing what was happening, cause I kind of have an idea of what it was, but it was such a new thing. It wasn't like, oh, let me check a video. You know? And I'm guilty of the same thing. Like right now I explore a lot of videos and you know, what happened is it sucks even more is that you get the thing, you open it, play with it a little bit and then you go back to watching videos about it.

It's almost like we're addicted to this world of snacks where there's infinite things, infinite content, but there's never a chance to establish a deeper dialogue and can get more nutrition for one single element. Like the album, buying a record, the idea of being able to buy something and have it. You bought it with your friends and one bought the cassette. If you put more money, you kept your original cassette and then the others would copy it and make a photocopy of the cover. And then you've listened to it. And it was so so, but then it was stuck in your car stereo for the whole summer. So if I listened to that now, I remember everything about that summer songs. Songs bring me back in a certain to a certain time, that doesn't exist anymore because you don't have to, there's always something new that you can skip to, whether it's a video on YouTube, whether it's a song on the streaming services or whether it's an instrument or a module. And I think it's limiting instead of being what people think it is, which is freeing and endless possibility. I think it's very limited because it avoids and prevents you from tapping your real creativity, finding your real voice.

Darwin: So now one of the things that is actually though part of this album is maybe the ultimate of tweaking your way into understanding an instrument. And if that's your development of the Strega instrument with Make Noise - a couple of weeks ago, we talked with Tony and he talked about his side of the building process, but I'm curious to hear what it was like for you. What did the process feel like for you and what did you feel like you were trying to accomplish and building your own instrument?

Alessandro: Well, the process was a three-year long incredible relationship. We were friends already, Tony and I and Kelly. And so I was part of the Make Noise clan. And I had been for quite a while and there was already an affinity, both as friends, and also when it comes to the world of instruments. On top of it, Tony and I have always improvise with ideas, whether it was something that ended up being an instrument, but it could be anything like we would joke and we'd go on. We really liked to talk to each other, which I think is essential for us to be having been able to do what we did. The concept behind it was that Tony was always interested in how I make music and how I get whatever I get out of specific instruments.

So to me, obviously, it would have been ideal to create an instrument that was a representation of my sonic aesthetic. That would allow me to be quicker at creating statements that I felt were more in line with what I feel without having to dig too hard and other machines, and the Strega ended up being that. Now key to that is a process and it really applies to everything. It applies to what I just said about finding your own voice as a musician and being inspired, instead of emulating others, the same thing applied to making an instrument, then example that I make is something like if you remember Analogue Systems, when they came out with those modules that were inspired, there were modules taken from the Synthi.

The trapizioid, they had the envelope, they had the filter, they have the VCOs, and they were interesting because they sort of showed you a look of what those instruments have, but the magic of the Synthi is not the trapizioid. It's not the filter, it's not the oscillator, it's them together within that world. The crappy knobs, built-in speakers, it's the whole. So early on we understood that it wasn't about, alright, let me take this element from the Easel, let me take this element from the Synthi, let me take this element from the Buchla 200 and put them together, so it's a Frankenstein, the version of the instruments that I liked the most. But what is it about the Easel that makes me come out with these things, with these ideas? What is it about the Synthi that makes me come out with the sound?

It was extrapolating the reason behind the process more than extrapolating the technical aspect of the machine. So, it was a wider research, but also once we understood that that was the process was a much more successful harvest in the sense that we were able to understand what was happening. For example, the Synthi, as I said, one of the main things was overdrive. The overdriving of the stages, which has been implemented. People might not think about it, but on different stages on the Strega as well. So, there's a lot of that that is at the core of the Strega sound and, the noise, the noise that comes from that specific delay chip that we've used that sort of like adds that noise, whether you like it or not, it's just there, you know what I mean?

It took a while, obviously it's not like we came out with this design and boom, it was like that three years later there were different iterations. And we did spend a week together in person in Asheville in 2018 where we prototyped and went back and forth. And actually, I just told Tony the other day that I found some sketches of printouts of what we thought about. And it was just funny to look at those things now and go, wow. I mean moral of the stories that I got the prototype right in the middle of working on the record, or compiling the record. So it was very easy for me to integrate it both as a processing device, because the whole idea behind Strega was - and I say this also on the manual - it's the equivalent of leaving something under the sea for 30 years and then picking it up, if you leave like a spoon or a piece of metal or something, when you find it years later, it's not even about the rust.

It's more about the waves of, some of the sharp corners now are curves and there's a patina on it and it's not necessarily bit-reduced or crushed. It's not about that. It's giving a personality and a story to things that might have a different story to begin with. So I've simple sequence where a guitar part, all of a sudden, are putting on this new suit, this new dress, and I think it's just as good as that as it is that creating sound from scratch, obviously, because it has a built-in oscillator, obviously that allows you to use it as a source.

Darwin: Right now. The thing is that was, it was also fit into the form factor that the 0-Coast and the 0-Control fit into, was that a natural fit, or did you find that stuff had to be like squeezed or the UI changed? Because to me a instrument like that, the layout of the knobs is just as important as what's going on with the circuitry, because that's the human-machine interaction. That's kind of critical. When you talk about Buchla, you very seldom talk about the circuitry. You almost always talk about how it feels, how you manipulate it and how it kind of manipulates you.

Alessandro: Does the child care about how the toy was made? No, they only care about interactivity. And that's exactly what Don was thinking about. And I think Tony does that too, to a certain extent, he thinks first about the way it's going to look, or early on, to go back to your question, from a complex prototype of wanting to have a touch plate and maybe a sequencer and record your sequences and whatnot. We started thinking, hold on a second, this is not just me and you creating something; this is a Make Noise instrument. It's a collaboration so why don't we take advantage of what's there already? So we will need a sequencer. I knew at the time that he was working on, we knew that he was working on 0-Control. So we knew that we could count on that form factor for that. So at that point, it made sense.

It's like, wait, but then there's no MIDI to put on it. Well, hold on a second. Well, then if we don't need MIDI and we don't need, there'll be another control, then I think it's realistic to expand and have the less stuff laid out in a more natural way. So you don't have to be all tiny with your fingers trying to move stuff and boom, the patch is gone, right. And just delegate, take advantage of those features that are already in other parts of this family, this format. So you can also expand if you want to. I mean, I think the Strega is a great standalone system, but you know, if you can actually come up with something like this, a little modular search style case where it has all three, where you have 0-Control, the Strega and 0-Coast.

Now all of a sudden you have a system with MIDI, a sequencer, and an extra oscillator, and an extra envelope, it's a much more complex system than it was before. So early on, we started taking advantage of that way of thinking. And I think it was liberating because it made it easier to feel more satisfied about the standalone factor of the Strega within that environment. It would have been silly not to do it that way, to be honest. It just, it made more sense because I also want it to be battery powered, but then it made more sense to think about a way to power two modules and then have a battery pack if you need to, as opposed to have a battery pack inside the instrument. But I think it's all things that develop through dialogue.

And on one end, you add me, as I said, like a child just being very excited and coming up with things, and on the other hand, you have someone that has done this for a long time like Tony. Being able to sort of filter what I was saying and telling me we can do this, or we can't do that. Or we can do this, but this way, I mean, it got frustrating at times I would think. But I mean, I think it was more him frustrated with sometimes I would say things that were completely out of this world. I would always try to make sure it's like Tony, I'm sorry if I'm saying this, this up so excited. But I mean, I can't tell you how much of a different feeling it is to release something like this. I mean, I'm lucky that I have a very strong connection with people who listen to my music because I know that being instrumental, they're able to sort of project their own emotional response to it, as opposed to like say a song that has lyrics, which has a content, a more marked subject. Now releasing an instrument, it's almost like there's an extra layer because obviously the instrument is part of me, but to be tagged and seeing all these people on Instagram or YouTube coming up with their own thing or like people like Sarah Bella Reed that did a whole EP with it, she was inspired to write with it.

And then they will be next month an album, in July of artists that made music exclusively with the Strega. That integrated in there, there'll be Ben Frost, Katerina Barbieri, Marta Salogni, Rob Lowe. Moe Espinosa, known as Drumcell, it was a little bit of a problem at the beginning, beause I'm thinking it's such a personal instrument. I hope it won't be like a "me in a box" where people are just going to do whatever and they'll come out with like a four note sequence that they won't be able to switch off, and go on forever.

Or something that is too noisy. Cause I mean, from the beginning Tony looked at me and looks like, you know what? This is a very noisy instrument. So we kind of early had to decide, are we going through with this or not? Within the spectrum of what Make Noise was offering, it did make sense because there was nothing that did that. So if someone, rightly so, might say this rig is too noisy for what I like doing like no problem, there's the 0-Coast. So there's modules in their world, which are less noisy. So there was that fear, but, and I think that can really be planned in a sense that we couldn't really sit down and design something that would sell well. I mean, unless we would have put wooden sides on it, cause then, you know.

This was Grant Richter. I remember Grant, at the time when I was designing an instrument that never came out, with Tony and Scott Yeager, I was talking to Grant because Grant told me. My first Easel and Grant told me if you want it to sell, just put wooden sides on it. Just make sure you put some wooden solid woods sides of it because you remember even when Dawn released the Buchla 200, he got so many people complain about the fact that he was putting nautical-grade plywood, which arguably it's stronger and lighter because he thought people are going to tour with this to play shows. They want it to be lighter frame, it made sense. You know what I mean? There was a reason it wasn't cheap. You know, it wasn't because it was cheap. But I remember Sound on Sound and others complaining about, well it costs 20 grand and it's plywood.

Darwin: It is plywood on it, Right. Well, it's funny because I always joke that, if you made a plugin and you wanted to sell it, put wood sides on your plugin.

Alessandro: So there's a Peter Blasser would you know, I don't know if you've ever seen this stuff. The Chat-Lombarde stuff its all wood, and that's actually all Peter is one of those individuals to me that follows Don's steps, like he's extremely unique in his designs. And it just stands on its own. Doesn't really look like he cares much about whatever is going on. I have some of the stuff, I've used it for a long time. It's sort of like, it was a very intense and emotive relationship. So like everything that ends quicker than other things.

It's one of the few instruments that they're obviously used in the stuff that I've done with Nine Inch Nails. There's a track called The Eater of Dreams that opens hesitation marks. And it's the introduction. And it's done with a Plumbutter and a running Trent's vocals through a Cocoquantus. So that's all it is. Those two instruments, that's it

Darwin: Thats wild. Well Alessandro our time is up, but this is a fascinating view at both the making of an album, the making of an instrument. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to have this discussion.

Alessandro: Thank you so much for having me again. Hopefully next time we'll talk in two years, the last year would have been just a memory, a distant memory.

Darwin: Yeah. That sounds like a plan. I like the idea of that. It'd be nice for me to be able to say something like I caught you while you were on tour, you know? Right now none of those words make sense, but maybe that's coming back, right?

Copyright 2021 by Darwin Grosse. All right reserved.