Show & Tell is where we get artists to tell us about a piece of gear that they cherish and use as a part of their live or studio setup. This month we chat to Ryan George from Youth Code.
What piece of equipment do you have to show us today?
This is my modular synthesiser. It's pretty unique because each part has its function and has been handpicked and tailored for the sound of our band. We needed something that we could make the gnarliest sounds possible on, from scratch. It literally spits out electricity and you shape the voltage. There's nothing else like it.
How did you come across this particular item?
I've been building this for about two years now, picking up new pieces slowly here and there. I had been interested in modular synthesisers for about ten years, but found them to be incredibly intimidating. Back then there were only a handful of manufacturers and it was extremely boutique. It still is, but there really wasn't a lot of information out there and the information that was around was pretty much like reading another language. I would sit and look at the Doepfer and Wiard pages on the web and try to figure out what everything did and get extremely discouraged. Even the power supplies and cases to house the modules made me scratch my head.
It wasn't until I made friends with some people through Youth Code that I was able get to get my hands on a system and try it out, ask questions, etc. I had picked up a case from a friend second-hand, but it sat empty in our living room for almost a year. I went to the NAMM show, which is a big convention here in LA for music gear, and made friends with this guy Roman who did a company called Sputnik Modular out of Russia and now runs Black Corp in Japan. He was kind enough to give me an oscillator, an envelope and a VCF/VCA to start my system. I couldn't believe it. These things are not cheap, but he told me he'd rather help out someone who is putting out records and touring over a hobbyist. So rad. I had to wait until we were touring again to be able to afford a power supply, but it was worth the wait.
What is it that you like about it so much?
It's like custom building a synthesiser and like I said earlier, each module has been handpicked by me with Youth Code's sound in mind. Pretty much every module serves a unique purpose. I also love that there is absolutely no way to save the sounds that you've created once it's powered down. Every time I sit down and start patching it together, it’s a new journey and discovery.
How do you use it and how has it shaped the way you write music?
I only really use it in our home studio now. I've taken it out on the Code Orange and Chelsea Wolfe tours, but only for a couple baselines and droney atmospheres between songs. It's pretty difficult to use live since our band is pretty traditional in the verse-chorus type of way. It got a little banged up on the road so I decided to have a friend build me a pretty large, modern looking oak case for it to keep at our house. Now it's just a permanent part of our home. Like a couch or something.
I usually just send a clock from Ableton to it and hit record, then go back later and chop up the audio and either work on the computer or dump it in a sampler like the Octatrack to further mangle or sequence beats from the sampled material. It's enabled us to make more unique/fresh sounds instead of having the limitations of a regular synthesiser or relying on sampled sounds that other bands use. It also has a mind of its own a lot of the time and spits out ideas I would never come up with on my own. The trick is to be recording all the time so you can grab those magic moments when they happen.
Tell us a little about what you have coming up.
After Japan and Australia we'll be working on our next LP. We have some fest dates here and there, but we're ready to get this next record done. It's going to be brutal as fuck and we're excited. We've been touring so much that we haven't had time to focus on it, but we're putting the brakes on to make it happen.
Catch Youth Code at the Evelyn Hotel in Melbourne on Saturday April 28. Find your tickets here.