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Materialising ideas: How Stenny made 'Upsurge'

Ilian Tape homeboy Stenny talks us through the making of his debut album

  • Interview: Gavin Herlihy | Photo: NADIA CORTELLESI
  • 19 February 2020

What inspired the album?

I took a lot of inspiration from other musicians, but I tried as much as possible to do my own thing – to sound like Stenny.

Can you describe your approach?

It’s usually very spontaneous, though I always try to start from an idea and materialise it. The idea could eventually morph into something quite different while jamming. Some tracks were born from a drum pattern idea, like ‘BFRB’ and ‘Swordfish’; others were generated primarily by overlaying sound on the harmonic elements.

Read this next: "Connecting the story": How Martyn made ‘B.C.2’

What instruments did you use?

I use the Elektron Analog Rytm for generating analogue and sample-based drums. I also used some field recordings. The drum sounds were routed to the mixer and processed via external compressors, EQ and Overdrive/ Distortions and other effects like the Biscuit. The mixer is recorded eventually via bus mix, or sound by sound, depending on what I’m aiming for. The mixer signal can be sent and processed through external effects. I have three custom pedals, built by a dear friend of mine, and I also used the Jomox T-Resonator as chorus and delay, Strymon Big Sky reverb and some of the FX of the Biscuit. I process sounds more once they’re in the DAW using effects from Native Instruments – especially Molekular and the Replika XT delay unit, and some rather funny M4L Midi Sequencers.

The Digitone is a killer multi-role unit, I use it to create atmospheric elements, textures, drum sounds and polyphonic synth lines, or as a sequencer to control other gear such as a small modular rig based around the SynVoiz. That’s where all the basslines, FM, morphing synths and twisted sounds come from; it’s a powerful semi-modular based on Buchla’s voicing system. Only 10 or 15 were built and hand-assembled in Leipzig. For textures and glitches I used granular sampling and other randomised and probability-ruled sampling techniques, via the Ableton Simpler or Robert Henke’s Granulator.

Read this next: Buchla's LSD time trip

Did you encounter any problems along the way?

The equipment I use is relatively unstable, so sometimes I recorded some great ideas and then realised the recording was noisy or disturbed. Also, my set-up changed quite a lot as I had to sell several pieces of my studio in order to pay bills. Munich is a fairly expensive city which means having one or two jobs besides music, so for certain periods it was hard to maintain a flow.

Read this next: Build something together: 10 years of Ilian Tape

Stenny ‘Upsurge’ is out now on Ilian Tape, buy it here

The contents of Stenny's studio set-up:

1 Modular power supply

2 Leshrac’s Lab SynVoiz

3 Genelec 8040

4 Universal Audio Apollo Twin mk2

5 Macbook Pro 2015

6 Elektron Digitone

7 Elektron Analog Rytm

8 Jomox T-Resonator 2

9 Custom distortion pedal

10 Custom Overdrive pedal

11 Shermann Filterbank 2

12 OTO Machines Biscuit

13 Hill Audio Multimix 16 (modded)

14 Behringer Composer Pro

15 Hill Mixer power supply

16 Moog Matriarch

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