Name: Asa Moto
Members: Oliver Geerts, Gilles Noë
Current Release: Asa Moto's Martino EP is out via Soulwax's label DEEWEE.
Gilles: My personal favourite cheap-find is our Formanta UDS. Used on pretty much every Asa Moto track.
Oliver: Any of those cheap Evans Echopets are worth looking for. If you’re lucky there’s even a spring reverb in there!
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What was your first studio like?
G: It was a little studio in the attic of my old place. Ollie kept bringing more and more machines over from his place (in Antwerp). Once he moved to Ghent we put everything together in that little room and started jamming.
O: I think at that time we were working with our Roland Juno-106, SH-101, SH-2, Korg MS20, Monopoly, Polysix & some outboard effects; mostly cheap BBD-delays and a spring reverb ...
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
O: Our set-up has kept expanding mostly because of an unstoppable urge to check 2nd hand websites and find a nice steal. We’ve definitely added more outboard effects to the setup, and dibbled into the world of Behringer re-issues ...
G: More recently, we’ve been looking into pro-audio gear. Getting decent preamps for instance, was something we never really considered before …
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
G: Because we create mainly with outboard gear, we’re already confining ourselves to the limits of working with just audio, instead of VST-plugins. I think that’s a big part of our creative process: finding the right sound, record it, and move on to the next thing. No endless fiddling around with MIDI-notes and automation!
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
O: We definitely prefer a studio situation that has actual synthesizers, simply because that’s how we’ve always made music. That being said, you can be just as creative with a laptop and earplugs. Having cool machines to work with doesn’t at all mean that you’ll make good music with it. It’s not about the size of your studio, it’s about what you do with it I guess …
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
G: As was said earlier, we’re really into vintage gear. Having a keyboard and/or knobs to play with is what we need to trigger that musical spark.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
G: It’s a love-hate relationship for us. We don’t enjoy comping & clicking about in a DAW all day, therefore the outboard gear. However, all those recorded ideas still get compiled into Ableton Live, where we morph them into a song.
O: That’s why we prefer Ableton over other DAWs. It feels more like an extension of our creativity, where it’s super simple to stretch/pitch/ loop things on the fly. Also makes integrating new music in our live sets way easier!
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
O: We have a fairly organized system of folders, separating useful sessions from endless jams etc. We also keep a folder with sessions that didn’t turn out to be anything, but have a good drum groove for later use.
Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
G: We try to record a couple of rounds of whatever we’re doing, starting with a closed filter and ending all crazy. That way we have the ability to go back in a take and use those parts in breakdowns or so …
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
G: Most of our ideas come to fruition by messing around with our machines. However, during the covid lockdown, we were forced to write from home. That led to more vocal & song structured ideas, something that we’re now exploring further.
How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?
O: We somewhat pride ourselves in doing everything but the mastering. We’ve recently taken on production duties for other bands as well (Altin Gun Yol & Alem), which has given us more insight and appreciation for the craft of “mixing”.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
O: For me personally, the audio to MIDI function in Ableton sometimes blows my mind. The technology isn’t even totally on point yet, but it works so fast and efficiently.
G: The integration of CV/GATE outputs on nearly all new hardware sequencers, as well as the possibility to send out voltages over your interface outputs …
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative process. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
G: You have some really cool Max4Live tools these days, as well as super complex hardware (or Eurorack) sequencer that do some wicked stuff. We rarely use any of these tools, because the amount of possibilities are off putting to us.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artificial Intelligence in your music?
O: For our own productions, I do not believe so. But, I think that the future will be full of incredible software, plug-ins and whatnot! I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an AI created number 1 hit in the next 20 years.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
G: Tough question. Would be nice to have a better video integration in Ableton (like Pro-Tools basically) and maybe some more DMX integration while we’re at it …