Members: Sammy Goossens, Pascal Hetzel
Occupation: Producers, performers
Current release: CYRK have two new releases out: First, their debut album Escaping Earth, a crystalline vision of classic electro and retrovisionary berlin school pulsations, shot through the lense of analogue sound synthesis, cosmic knob twiddling, and the 21st century's wormhole of influences and inspirations - available via Childhood. Second, their Out of the Pink EP on Folklor Nation, which features remixes by Prins Thomas, among others. This isn't a tribute. It's a spiritual mind connection, unrestricted by time and space, haunting, beautiful, propulsive and mesmerising.
Equipment recommendations: The Nord Modular G2 is a very powerful tool that can do a lot and always sounds fantastic. The Monomachine sounds very special and has a few unique features like the arpegiator, effects and LFOs.
If you enjoyed this interview with CYRK and would like to stay up to date on their music, visit their official homepage. Or head over to their accounts on Facebook, and Soundcloud.
What was your first studio like?
Pascal: for me it was just a Pentium 4 PC tower with Fruity Loops with a hi-fi system and a small midi keyboard.
Sam: for me it was an Atari 1040 with an Emax SE sampler, a 909 and a Prophet 600 and a cassette deck.
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?
The setup evolves with the money we have: when we can afford a piece, we buy it. We swapped a lot of gear over the years (some we regret).
We use the TR8s and the Analog Rythm a lot, the Bassimilus Iteritas Alter combined with Voltage Blocks and the Analog Drive to fatten the drums. The rest varies a lot, depending on the mood.
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?
As far as "digital" goes, we mix in the box. We prefer things that way as there is an endless array of quality plug ins that allow us to shape the sound the way we want.
We usuallly use the same plugins for mixing, lately we got the Arturia suite and they made it to the family as they sound fantastic. For sound source, we usually go for hardware, even if we also use the Arturia by Native Instruments Synths for extra layers.
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?
If we could afford it, we would go for the huge expensive studios. At the moment, we are somewhere "in between". The most important thing is a goood sounding room and good monitors - which we have.
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?
We don´t really use any controllers except a midi keyboard, as most of our sounds come from hardware. If we really need to control a plug-in, we have a few mappable knobs on the keyboard. But we hardly use it.
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?
A new piece of gear can always be inspiring. Technology can lead the creative process, for instance with a modualr synthesizer where trial and error can define the direction of a track. Historically speaking, there is also specific gear which created a "wave" of music. The Electribes contributed to minimal, Ableton live also shaped the sound of electronic music, most recently the Elektron devices defined a specific techno aethetic. At the moment the Monomachine gets crazy expensive as Sophie used it intensively to create her signature sound.
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.
We have a lot of "unfinished" projects. We rarely go back to them (even if we should), we somehow always want to start fresh.
We always finish a project when we think it is worth finishing. But this is not set in stone, we also go back to unfinished tracks and try to find the missing elements.
We have a lot of beats and sequences in the machines we program for live use that we finish later.
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?
The modular rig always surprises us, we very often come up with unpredictable sounds and sequences. This is something which rarely happens inside a computer where everything is more controlled.
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?
50/50. Sometimes we enter the studio with a precise idea and try to make it happen. Sometimes we just jam with the gear and see what comes out.
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?
We do everything ourselves. We very very rarely use samples for instance (as it is a talent to find the right ones).
We have nothing against presets, we program our sounds but not always. We always mix our music ourselves (except for one specific project where we asked Luis Flores to do it for us).
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Not really, the last big game changer was Ableton Live.
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?
We never tried AI, not sure we will ever do. Technology could probably develop some kind of creativity we believe. We are not sure if we could talk about co-authorship as we still control the machines.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artifical Intelligence in your music?
So far we haven't even thought about it. We are pretty "old school" when it comes to making music.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
Everything we can think of exists already. Sometimes a developer comes up with a new tool we didn´t know we needed - but becomes essential.