Sunday, December 28, 2008
The Harvestman interview
Scott Jaeger interview.
The Harvestman is one of the most unique euro modular companies out there today. Expect the unexpected seems to be the rule , be it the Tyme Sefari, a bendable loop sampler/delay, the Zorlon Cannon an Atari style noise generator with random gates, or the Malgorithm the world's first voltage-controlled bitcrusher and much more.
I fired questions his way.....
Tell us about yourself
Born on a toilet in Redmond, Washington 1981. Finally back in the area after 20 years. Endured stomach paralysis for some time in 2003-4. Two cycles through the academic tumbler and glad to be free. Greatly dislike being told how to think or feel. Natividad del escusado.
The Harvestman modules are quite different to other companies. Yours are digital and based around circuit bent sounds and vintage computer 8 bit sounds. What made you decide to make these sounds for modules?
Those sounds are what I first heard when being introduced to electronically generated sounds at a young age. Atari 5200 and a Casio SK-1 with one of the batteries put in backwards... combined with my brother's Synsonics drums this formed a great timbral influence. It was certainly more influential than the sounds that the polysynth mob were making those days.
Does noise appeal to you?
Throwing a brick into the face of orthodoxy? Sign me up! I think a lot about power electronics and death industrial when considering system-level modular configurations, and to some degree individual module designs. It pleases me to hear them used in that context more than a lot of other things. I'm coming up on a decade as an enthusiastic listener and occasional composer and performer in related styles, and this appeal does find its way into my collection of instrument design ideas. I don't put much effort into anything unless there's a good amount of defiance involved, so I guess there's a parallel between noise actions and the design of my modules. That's not saying much, though. In these days of ideological cowardice, self-confidence is itself a socially transgressive act.
What got you interested in electronics?
I was reading encyclopedias as a kid and thought that schematic symbols and radio assembly instructions were very interesting. I butchered a ton of electronics after that and didn't really come up with anything that worked right for a few years. In 1998 I read Ghazala's "Escapist Sample Shuttle", an excessively flowery text about modifying my dear Casio SK-1, and I was changed. Probably the closest I'll ever come to a shift in identity. In the meantime I did a bunch of dangerous, irresponsible stuff in my high school electronics class, but once I got that out of my system some more disciplined activities took shape.
Was there a moment that made you think, this is my destiny?
Even though I've been fairly passionate about the exploration of music technology since reading the Ghazala, I didn't have any feelings of destination in the field until fall 2006 when I suddenly gathered enough skill in basic embedded electronics design to realize the "Malgorithm". This repeated itself a few times as I designed new stuff like the Tyme Sefari, enough that the challenge of starting a business manufacturing these designs was not a difficult transition to make. After seeing what joyful lives my brothers have lived through career defiance, I refuse to spend my useful years doing otherwise.
You are moving into foot pedals/ stomp boxes . Will this mean we will have a choice of all modules in either format?
There will be a little bit of overlap, but new designs will be specifically adapted to their format. For example, modular designs will have a full set of CV I/O, and guitar pedals will have their own internal control generators where appropriate, like the Empty Quiver's multi-waveform LFO/random source. Floor effects are also a great forum for things that might not make the greatest amount of sense as a single synthesizer module, like "fuzz" or "overdrive" stuff. Even if there's any functional overlap between pedal and module designs, I don't consider them to be the same thing at all. An Empty Quiver is not a Malgorithm, and so on...
Then there's the whole set of problems that the idea of other "non-modular electronic music instrumentation" introduces, but I look forward to solving them with the potential for great personal satisfaction.
Where do you get the names for your modules?
From interesting personal experiences or underrated historical events. I suppose you could get more meaning from the model numbers rather than the names. Russell Means curling one out atop Mt. Rushmore. A forest of cherry-pickers piloted by fanatic hangmen. The pinnacle of New Jack Swing and Rust In Peace.
Is the Hertz Donut your take on a Buchla 259e? Will this be analog or digital?
It accepts analog CVs and emits analog voltages at the outputs, but anything past that isn't guaranteed analog-OK. The degree of precision and elective stability one can achieve with expo conversion and sine shaping in the digital domain is astonishing.
The 259e is my favorite "oscillator" module of any era, and the idea of two fully-featured generators in one box with internal modulation bus is an influence. Other than that, the character of the Donut design is unique, developed completely in-house with the desire to imitate nothing. Tradition only continues to exist if it's allowed to do so.
Will you remain in the digital domain?
I'm not really entirely digital to begin with. Designs such as the Russian adaptations and feedback console (typically all designs with an even-numbered HP width measurement) are entirely analog, and I deploy techniques from each domain as necessary in my development work. Whatever makes the most (or least) sensible implementation of a given concept. Whatever offends enthusiasts of signal-domain dogmatism or aesthetic xenophobia in the gravest manner possible, while remaining playable to musicians.