Techno on a modular synth performed by HEXMODE

HEXMODE shares his unique insights into his creative process, the equipment he uses, and his strategies for building captivating soundscapes.

Richard Hogben
Cofounder of Piqued // Los Angeles
Techno on a modular synth performed by HEXMODE

Discussing live performance strategies

Welcome to an enlightening conversation between two passionate music aficionados, Korey and HEXMODE. In this in-depth discussion, they dive deep into the artistry and technicality behind creating electronic music. HEXMODE shares his unique insights into his creative process, the equipment he uses, and his strategies for building captivating soundscapes. Korey, an avid music enthusiast and skilled interviewer, guides the conversation, eliciting invaluable knowledge from HEXMODE on the nuances of modular synthesis, the complexities of creating a bass drop with a modular, and the intricacies of creating fluid transitions.

In their discussion about the complexities of creating a bass drop with a modular synthesizer, HEXMODE humorously remarks that it would be much easier if he had six hands to manage all the controls at once. He explains that a partner could make the process of creating impactful drops much smoother, but solo, he can only achieve semi-drops. HEXMODE also shares his strategies for managing these transitions as quickly as possible. With his experience as a DJ and producer, he has a solid understanding of song structures and uses that to his advantage.

Korey interviews HEXMODE

We start off with Korey and HEXMODE reviewing his modular techno setup.

The setup

Tell me a little bit about your setup tonight. What kind of modules are you using over here?

Yeah so, um, a bunch of modules. My set is quite linear. A lot of modular Eurorack stuff. People are actually doing a lot of modulation on their stuff. I'm not really doing that much modulation on mine. I'm trying to keep it somewhat, you know, not too static. But um, I have a sampler that plays all the drums, so I use this Beats Up Pro to trigger all the drums. You can see them being triggered right now. I have some drum patterns already pre-made in there, but I usually add on as the set goes and just kind of build things up and break things down. Then I have a bunch of different oscillators, i.e., synthesizers up here in the top row. There's a sub mixer here on the right side so I actually fade in and out between the different synth voices.

Creating the drop

Really cool man. Yeah, as someone who, I don't play techno, so to me this is really fascinating to hear how you're describing creating a bass drop with a modular which is, I guess, not really how it's usually done.

Yeah, no, it's because it's, I wish I had like six hands. Like you literally need multiple hands to do a drop right. Like I've had a partner with me, we could do sick drops. But I can do semi drops. But yeah, it's a little bit tougher with modular. But I'm trying to be as fast as possible with some of these transitions. I come from, I used to DJ a lot so I sort of know how song structure works and I produce as well so I sort of know like okay if I pull this snare here or I have this one knob here for example just doing snares.

Right, so snare roll, everyone loves a snare roll. So I have one dedicated knob to a snare roll. I have one dedicated knob to just like 16 hi-hats to just keep that like, you know, the high thing. So that's just one knob and this module is called the Grids where it's like, it's a density knob. So the more I turn it, the more dense it gets. And if I have it like halfway, I can just, these white knobs change the sort of pattern of it. You know, you get somewhat unique patterns. One other trick that I do to try to keep it interesting is to, I have like one switch which I can change drum kits on the fly.

Managing drum kits

I see. So, you're tinkering with those different drum kits, you're making it fluid so that you're going from one kit to another while still having that maintained bass line.

Yeah, I press one button. So the kick drum stays the same but the hi-hats and other stuff change. So that way, I can change drum kits which makes it feel like a new song. Right when you hear new drums, you're like, oh this is a new song. And so that way I can have the bass line kind of going, and then change the drum kit, and then take out the bass line and bring in a new bass line. They're like, oh cool, new song. So that's sort of the goal with this, is to try to make like pseudo songs.

I can change the baseline. I have six oscillators, so I have like six synthesizers so I can kind of mutate between them. And, yeah, just try to keep it interesting and do some crazy stuff sometimes. This one module up here, this Shape Shifter, I bought this specifically because a lot of modular, it's like, alright, you turn a few knobs you have like a patch. Right? And so like those knobs are the sound of the synth. With my style, I needed presets because I want to switch from one bass line to the next. So this Shape Shifter, it's a digital oscillator, so I have like, there's like 100 presets in there so I can actually switch between the presets from one song to the next. And then but still do modulation on them.

Piqued 10 YouTube video

Watch HEXMODE's full modular Techno perfomance and interview at Piqued 10.

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