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czwartek, 23 kwietnia 2020

Per Salzwedel- Flame Instruments Interview ''Many new impulses and ideas for interesting electronic instruments came and come from the Berlin techno scene''


Flame_SB18 left Per right Sebastian

Flame Instruments is a company from Berlin in Germany founded by Per Salzwedel that has many Eurorack modules and so far one of the flagship desktop synths MÄANDER.
Eurorack modules offer modules such as 4 VOX -Quad wavetable oscillator - Quad LFO - MIDI wavetable expander or the amazing CURVES "12 band analog filter bank & sequencer, plus two Joysticks, several of the latest CV / Crossmix / Panning recorders and many other modules .
I had the pleasure to talk to Per owner of Flame Instrumenst about all these modules and ideas and his inspirations.

Hello, Per.
Can you approximate the history of your company?

Hello .
Thank you very much for your interest. I would like to answer your questions with this.
Flame has been my label for electronic music projects since the late 90's. I think I built the first devices under this name in 1997. These were mostly very special MIDI sequencers or sensors that generate MIDI data.
These were always unique for your own music projects or for friends of your friends. Sometimes there were requests from other bands, such as "Herr Blum" or "Chicks on Speed" ... It was only later that small series were made.
But I've been building electronic devices for music since the late 1970s. When I was at school I built a large stereo mixer for a friend, he was "Diskjokey" (that was the name at the time;) Later in the 80s, many experimental instruments at the time,
e.g. an analog drum looper based on self-made shellac discs (with incised notches) and an equalizer for filtering the beats - this would be used more for NOISE projects today;)



You are currently not alone in your company.
can you tell who is responsible for what and what does it do?

I usually run the company on my own and occasionally hire people for certain tasks. I am currently working with Sebastian Preller, who has programmed the 4VOX module and the analog-digital hybrid synthesizer "MÄANDER", for example.
Sebastian originally worked for Schneidersladen, but later also for ERM, MFB and others ... With Max (from ERM and KORG) we would be at a booth at the Superbooth in Berlin last years and again this year.
Smaller modules, such as the mixer recorder last year or now developing the MIDI modules, I program, build and build myself. The boards and front panels are made by companies in Germany, with whom I have been working for several years.
The synthesizer "MÄANDER" and the filterbank "CURVES", for example, are manufactured entirely in the Berlin area.

In Berlin, due to the large presence of techno, electronics such as your instruments are widely known?

Many new impulses and ideas for interesting electronic instruments came and come from the Berlin techno scene. There is a lively exchange between the producers, technicians and musicians.
There are a number of musicians in Berlin who have been using our instruments for years. We are always very happy about that.



It looks like your company has a short start, but on your YouTube chanell are Flame instruments from over 10 years ago already shown?
can you tell something more about it?

The first instrument I made in small series was the MIDI Talking Synth in 2007. At the 2007 NAMM Show, Shawn Cleary from ANALOGUEHAVEN presented the device at the booth. It was he who encouraged me to do the series. Around that time I used my YouTube channel more for short videos with the devices.
During that time, I also had to deal with another project in India and it was quite exciting and complicated to communicate with customers, distributors and companies in internet cafes ... hot, loud and slow! That was before the smartphone era :)
After that it went on with desktop sequencers: "CLOCKWORK", "ECHOMETER" and "SIX-IN-A-ROW". Andreas Schneider from "Schneidersladen" sold the first two "CLOCKWORK" to the "Chemical Brothers", some devices were also used by "Nine Inch Nails", "Depeche Mode" and "Messive Attack", which of course makes me very happy.

What was your first module you released?

When the small desktop sequencer "CLOCKWORK" was sold, many requests came to get this device out as a Eurorack module. That was my first module in this format. There was a lively global exchange via email with many interested parties.
At the end of 2009 came the "TAME MACHINE", the first quantizer / scaler module with 1 octave keyboard and user scales that could be saved as euro rack modules. At the time there was nothing comparable on the market. So it started.



Let's start with the modules jak great Curves Filter , it's 12 band analog filter bank & sequencer.
What can you say about its creation?

I'm a big fan of analog filter sounds. The filter bank is an attempt to better control the analog part through digital control. This is relatively complex, but it is worth it because you can still get the sound in pure analogue. And that is completely difficult to achieve completely digitally.
The starting point was actually a vocoder project (there was also a prototype of a small, compact vocoder in Eurorack format). But it was not planned to make a series out of it, but maybe it will happen again.
The "MÄANDER" then became an extension of the filter bank with a wavetable oscillator and sequencer as a desktop instrument.



Visually is similar to Buchla old resonance filters, but what is his inspiration?
So you definitely wanted to bet on good analog sound but also to extend patchable options?

Yes exactly! In terms of sound, I wanted more resonance filters with warm sound. The Moogerfooger "MuRF" (from Robert Moog) inspired me more. For a vocoder you need very strongly resonating filter bands. This is important for analyzing human voices or drums. But at unfavorable frequencies in the source material, this can be annoying. Softer filters are more suitable for a "normal" filter bank.
The patch options are of course important for the modular system. So you can control the filter channels with analog CV sources (like LFOs) independently of the preset sequencer.






FLAME "4VOX" is Quad wavetable oscillator - Quad LFO - MIDI wavetable expander, is a powerful module, why did you decide on a Polyphonic wavetable oscillator?
was that what you missed in eurorack?

Really, the wavetable oscillator "4VOX" has become very powerful.
In 2009/2010 - I had built the first polyphonic digital VCO with 8bit DA output (prototypes only), which already had a graphic display with waveform display. The quality was not enough for me. In addition, there were no polyphonic wavetable VCOs at the time.
That is why the "4VOX" was born. It offers many possibilities: 39 interchangeable wavetables (via MIDI Sysex), 4 independent VCOs (each up to four voices), LFO mode, full MIDI implementation, storability and more ...



It's up to 4 voices in one module with a CV for midi.
did you want to combine both cv / midi worlds in one module?

The module should be controllable analog, but due to the many possibilities it should also be completely controllable via MIDI. This means that the module can also be used as a sound expander with computers.
Each VCO can have up to four voices, but they are routed on a common audio output (the module has 4 such VCOs). But there is an additional polyphonic MIDI mode, in which each VCO works like a voice, which can consist of up to four voices. The module has a total of 16 votes!
Which is a lot of fun because each voice can also be assigned to a different wavetable!
All settings on the module can be saved in a patch. There are 32 memory locations available, which can be given a name. This is very helpful because you can really change a lot of different parameters. For example, the four voices of a VCO can travel through another area within the wavetable !!

You have 4 VCOs here, each oscillator has 4 voices and each voice has 64 presets and each preset has a total of 64 wavetables?

Not quite right: Yes, every VCO has up to 4 voices. There are 4 similar VCOs (A-D).
The module is a maximum of 16 voices!
Each VCO can use one wavetable. There are global a total of 39 wavetables to choose from.
The settings of all VCOs (for example for the wavetable, detune, octave, assignment of the rulerss and CV inputs ...) are saved in a Patch. There are 32 patch locations.







For this you also made X-4 "poly envelope vca - quad vca basically a dedicated envelope for this oscillator, but it's an envelope in the style of the West Coast synthesis, not a 4-step ADSR.
Does it have special use for 4 VOX?

Yes ok - the "X-4" module with four envelopes and VCA is a good extension for the "4VOX". But I wanted to have a universal module that combines four times VCA and envelopes in one small, compact module. Some musicians do not have as much space in their rack, hence this variant.


Your offer looks like it created one big ecosystem, you added 2 Joystick to it.
One is JOYSTICK RECORDER 2-axis Joystick - CV recorder - CV source and MEMORY JOYSTICK 2-axis Joystick - Stepsequencer - Dual CV source.
Can you describe the differences between them and how they have better use?

Well - the "Memory joystick" can save x-y values in 8 memory locations and then play them in a variety of ways (manually or by clock). This is basically an simply 8-step sequencer with two connected tracks x and y.
The "Joystick recorder" works more as a recorder for joystick movements over a longer period of time.

Are they good for your 4 VOX again to move wavetable?

Yes - this works very well, since you can use X and Y to control different parameters simultaneously, e.g. run through the wavetable with the X axis and change detune with the Y axis, or run through the wavetable of two VCOs with X and Y ... there are a lot of possibilities.


If we are talking about the Movement, this year you have added 4 modules recording the modulation movement.
They are memory-based, but each one has different functions like AUTOMIX-3-to-1 mixer recorder, CROSSMIX-dual crossfader mix recorder, PANMIX-dual panning mix recorder and XPANMIX-x-fader panning mix recorder.
can you tell us about their use?

You cannot have enough modulation sources in the modular system. But, the mixer-recorder modules are not only a source of modulation, they also contain the VCAs, so that you can directly modulate (or mix) the audio material.
The modules have different configurations: mixer, panning, crossfading. With the crossfader you can also do sound synthesis by mixing, driving, modulating of two waveforms ...







Great, but previously you had in the offer recorders like C3 MK2 KNOBREKORDER -knob recorder - cv recorder and QUAD CV RECORDER-4 track CV recorder - lofi sampler?

Yes, these modules lack the VCAs and are therefore purely CV sources - the "C3 Knobrecorder" then became the "AUTOMIX" recorder with the VCA extension. The mentioned 4-track CV recorder has a much higher resolution (16bit DA converter) for absolutely clean CV voltages.

QUAD CV RECORDER is also a sampler?

You can also use it to record audio (that's just a voltage with a higher frequency), but the sample rate is not enough for CD quality :) But for Lofi sounds that is enough and you can create pretty trashy sounds :)

DUALKEY "key trigger - pingable AR envelope - trigger delay is also a crazy multi-functional module.
can you bring it closer?

I had built the module for a friend who needed a trigger button with adjustable output voltage, and the length of the GATE signal generated should also be adjustable.
I then built a triggerable AR envelope with additional trigger outputs for the start and end point of the wave. You can also loop the wave. The module contains two identical function blocks that can now be patched as desired. This is really interesting for people who experiment a lot and love unexpected results :)



You also didn't resist introducing effects to this silver-red system.
The FX16-CV module is a multi effect with 16 effects based on DSP 24 bit.
What can you say about him?

That was a while ago - three modules with the Effect DSP were created: FX-6, FX-16, FX-16CV. All three modules are based on the DSP chip FV-1 from SpinSemi, which was developed by Alesis founder Keith Barr, who unfortunately passed away much too early. Originally intended for inexpensive guitar effects, the chip is of course very well suited for the modular system to implement inexpensive small modules. This chip was also used by "TipTop Audio" and later by "Erica Synths".




CHORD MACHINE 2 is - Chord generator - Arpeggiator - Keyboard-Bidirectional quantizer.
Can you tell why the name has '' 2 '' how the first version was created and what has changed in the second?

The "CHORD MACHINE 2" is a heavily modified version. The first version had all parameters in direct access and you could patch more, but it couldn't save your own chords. That changed in the second version.
There you can not only use chords, but also scales and playlists (with root, chord etc.). The module can also be used as a quantizer and arpeggiator. The quantizer is programmable and has a rather interesting unique selling point: namely, it can have two different scales, one acting when increasing the voltage to be quantized and the other acting when reducing the voltage. Example: With a voltage generated by a potentiometer it would be like this: Turning to the left creates C major and turning to the right creates F sharp minor.



Now let's move to FLAME "MÄANDER" desktop synthesizer & live sequencer that looks like your eurorack system moved to desktop synthesizer?
What was the idea and what inspired you to create a compact version of the synthesizer?

Modular systems are very flexible and offer a lot of space for experiments, but sometimes the limitation to essential functions is good so as not to get lost in the possibilities, and especially for live music, desktop devices have many advantages. Both worlds are of course justified and I like them too :)
The "MÄANDER" combines digital wavetable synthesis with an analog filter bank, so that you get an analog sound despite the digital oscillator. Wavetables have many overtones that can be wonderfully modulated with a filter bank. The noise of the analog filters also enriches the sound. This together in one device is a lot of fun.



The structure is similar but is there anything that makes it stand out?

For one thing, there is very rarely a synthesizer with an integrated analog 12-channel filter bank. On the other hand, the internal sequencer is relatively unusual because it is designed like a looper. You can play the filter tapes like a drum module and let them loop. There is a REPEAT control, which turns down a little so that the loop becomes quieter like an echo device and you can jam over the sequence again and again. I had already used the same principle in the small MIDI / Analog Desktop Sequencer "ECHOMETER" (in 2008).



Prefer to just have the desktop version, or patch the one called Flame System?

Is this an alternative version of the possibilities that your modules give?

I think that this is not an alternative to modules, but simply supplements them. And it depends on what you want right now! For example, sometimes I prefer to use modules and their crazy combinations, sometimes I prefer desktop instruments.
The "MÄANDER" in its current design is very difficult to recreate with modules. If you combine the modules "4VOX" and "CURVES", you don't get a "MÄANDER".
However, the two modules offer completely different possibilities that the "MÄANDER" does not have. In reverse, the "MÄANDER" can always produce very unusual sounds that would be difficult to reproduce with the modules.



It looks like you can't sleep, for 2020 you have also announced the four compact midi modules for eurorack series.I mean µQMCV -4 voices MIDI to CV, µ16MCV-MIDI CC & NT to CV, µMCCGT-MIDI CC & gate, µMCLK-MIDI clock divider.
Can you tell about this idea?

I wanted to have the first MIDI modules ready in 2019 before the Superbooth in Berlin, but unfortunately I didn't get them until this year. I wanted to have small, narrow modules with MIDI-to-CV functions that could also be combined. And above all with some new functions.
The first module in the series was the "µMCLK" MIDI-CLOCK-DIVIDER. Incidentally, this can also be triggered with an analog clock and then works as an analog divider. What I always missed about dividers is the ability to create the divided sequence in the offbeat. This module can. In addition to straight duoles, triplets and dotted note lengths are also available.
The "µQMCV" is a quad polyphonic MIDI-to-CV interface. To my knowledge, it is currently the smallest (only 5HP) on the market. This module is very diverse because you can use the individual voices on different MIDI channels. For example, you can have 4 independent monophonic CV interfaces, or maybe two duophones (on two midi channels). All modules in the range are programmable via SYSEX. Therefore there may be an editor for it.
I am currently working on a fifth MIDI module: "µMLFO" MIDI LFO - this module will have 14 synchronized LFO outputs ...

Is Flame going more towards Eurorack or are there any other plans for 2020 with more desktop synthesizers?

The next projects are more modules, as well as a firmware update from "MÄANDER". This also gets FM sound synthesis and a second wavetable bank with storage space for 39 further wavetables ...



More info about modules Flame Instruments here : 
http://www.flame-instruments.de














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