Name: Bag Raiders
Members: Jack Glass, Chris Stracey
Interviewee: Jack Glass
Occupation: Multi-instrumentalists, producers
Nationality: Australian
Recent Release: The new Bag Raiders single "UR Heart" is out via their very own new label Broken Heart.

If you enjoyed this interview with Bag Raiders, visit their official website for more information. They're also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.

What was your first encounter with modular synths?

The first time I saw a modular setup was in Schneiders Buero in Berlin. Needless to say I had no idea what I was looking at!

Just like any other piece of equipment, modular synths have a rich history. Are you interested in it? And if so, what are some of the key points from this history for you personally?

I find the Buchla stuff pretty interesting. But as a whole I look more to modular as a way to find completely new sounds rather than recreating the history of synthesis.

To that end I’ve been getting more and more into strange oscillators and samplers and moving away from the more classic synth components

What, to you, are some of the most interesting recordings made with modular synths?

I love Caterina Barbieri and Alessandro Cortini - both for their simplicity. M Geddes Gengras is also great. And I love the way Colloboh injects a lot of rhythm into modular which isn’t always there (and isn’t easy!).

[Read our Alessandro Cortini interview]
[Read our Colloboh interview]

What interests you about modular synths in terms of them contributing to your creative ideals?

For me modular is the ultimate starting point. A kind of limitless inspiration source.

Its very nature (“modular”) means there are infinite combinations and ways to set things up. Every patch is different. And beyond that you can always rearrange your case, throw a new module in the mix etc etc.

I often find it to be the most inspiring piece of gear in my studio. It encourages me to search for new sounds and that’s a big part of my creativity.

What are some of the stand-out features of the modular synths you're working with from your point of view?

There are two features I love. The completely limitless sound palette on one side of the coin and its hands on nature on the other.

It’s easy to get stuck inside the box when you make electronic music. Modular is a nice way to get outside that, use your ears instead of your eyes, experiment and see what comes.

What was your first modular synth and how did you acquaint yourself with it? Will you usually consult a manual before starting to work with a new device – and what was that like in this case?

I bought a small skiff and a few modules, quickly filled it and realised I needed a bigger case. (laughs) It’s a common problem. I love reading noobs on forums talking about how their setup is “complete”. THERE IS NO END!

Whether I read the manual or not depends on the module. I mean, it’s never a bad idea, but sometimes it’s fun to just plug something in and try and figure it out under your own steam

Tell me a bit about the interface of your favourite modular synths – what does playing them feel like, what do you enjoy about them, compared to some of your other instruments?

I love how no patch will ever be the same. Sometimes it’s even difficult to get to a point you were at 2 minutes earlier! It makes playing a modular feel kind of vital and ephemeral.

Also as a keys player it’s quite nice to “play” something with no keys. There are so many different ways to perform music

How would you describe the sonic potential of modular synths?

Honestly more than any other piece of gear it feels limitless!

In which way does working with modular synths influence musical results and what kind of compositions do they encourage / foster?

I think it depends how you use it.

If you’re a purist and you want to do everything on the modular that’s very different to how I use it (in conjunction with Ableton, for specific things I know I can’t really do with anything else, and as a starting point or inspiration source).

But in general I think modular setups encourage a lot of musical movement. Whether it’s LFOs and envelopes or through old fashioned knob twiddling, there’s always an impulse to patch this here and patch that there and to me it ends up quite satisfying in a musical way as you tend to generate ideas that goes for 2, 5 or 10 minutes rather than a 2 bar loop.

More generally, how do you see the relationship between your instruments and the music you make?

Either as tools to realise the sounds I hear in my head or as ways to find completely new sounds.

When it comes to electronic music, instruments and equipment have always been key. Experimenting with gear, pushing boundaries - I’m thinking here of people like Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Juan Atkins - that’s a big part of what it means to be creative as an electronic musician and it remains that way today.

Could you describe working with some of your modular synths on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

In our latest single UR Heart the main chord riff is all from the modular. It was the germ of the song, everything else came after that

How do modular synths interact with some of the other tools in your studio?

My modular is always synced to Ableton which is the DAW I use. In this way it’s always ready to go, purring away, when I need it.

Apart from that I often feed the modular through guitar pedals and other hardware FX as a way to “grit” up the sound

Are there other artists working with modular synths whose work you find inspiring? What do you appreciate about their take on it?

I love how pure Caterina Barbieri’s music is. And how expressive it can be. I saw her play live and I was blown away by the feeling she got from her setup. She seemed at one with her skiff! I appreciate that as there’s an impulse with modular to get more modules, use more modules, do more patching in every patch.

It’s nice when you feel like someone has really got to know their setup and knows how to extract every bit of musicality and feeling from it.

In the light of picking your tools, how would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I’m interested in a music of the future for sure.

And I think the idea of perfection in music is a strange one. Nothing will ever be perfect and that’s a good thing! More and more I think about ways to make machines and computers less perfect, whether that’s injecting human feel and performance or degenerating the sound in some way.