105 - KAOS
Artist Interviews 🎶 Studio Tours 🎛
Hello music people 👋
Today in the spotlight, KAOS
She began her musical journey with the flute and harp, but her passion for EDM led her to explore music production, particularly in bass music and modular synthesis. In the interview she tells us how she creates these out-of-this-world sounds and how to use randomness as a tool 🎶
Native Instruments - Komplete Kontrol S88
Native Instruments - Maschine
Pioneer - DJM V10
Moog - Minitaur
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Who are you and what is your relationship with music?
I am KAOS, AKA Kayla Black and music is and always has been everything to me. Music is in my opinion the most powerful thing in this world. It makes life more enjoyable, it makes the tough times more bearable, it makes you feel deeper than you thought you ever could, makes you feel feelings you never knew you could feel! Music makes me feel truly alive and for me, it saved my life.
I started playing the flute in grade school and continued on into marching band in high school. I also started playing the harp about 4 years ago. I’m located in St. Louis. I’ve been deep in the EDM scene since 2010 and have messed around making party mixes in the past. I have a couple friends that started producing music and it gave me the itch to do it myself. I learned almost everything about music production, sound design, drum programming, and how to use Ableton on Udemy at the end of 2021. Highly recommend! I learned everything for under $100 watching videos by Jason Allen, who is so fabulous by the way.
Basically I started making bass music in Ableton with Serum and found myself wanting a hardware synthesizer. Welp there isn’t one that makes those types of sounds. Basically I went down a Reddit rabbithole and discovered the world of modular synthesis which allows you to build your own custom synthesizer to do whatever you want it to! And here I am. It has been about a year and a half since I got into modular.
For a living, I sell insurance, which is what has allowed me to fund the whole project. The goal is to transition into making music a full time career! I’m only just getting started!
Which piece of equipment in your studio is essential to your production process?
My modular synth!
But to be specific, I have to give a big shout out to my Stochastic Inspiration Generator, it really is the whole brains behind the operation. I control almost my whole rack with it! It is a random sequencer so I can just set the key and note lengths I want and it starts spewing out random amazingness which creates an ever evolving, never repeating performance. I use one track to create a random envelope generator which I use to modulate lots of different parameters throughout my rack! It’s almost effortless on my part and makes me look like I’m doing so much teehee!
What is the least expensive piece of gear that gave you the most results?
Arturia Microfreak was the best $349 I’ve ever spent!
In my opinion, it’s the best eurorack controller because you can control not just the notes and gates but also the keyboard is touch sensitive and there is an output for pressure! This is super fun because you can control things like a filter cutoff or amount of distortion all with the touch of a finger! Also the arpeggiator has some really nice options and there are some “spice” and “dice” features that let you manipulate the arpeggiator pattern. Neat!!!! It also doubles as a sound source just as an added plus and it looks super cool.
Walk us through your process for creating and producing music.
I don’t use a lot of traditional synthesis techniques. I prefer to work with complex oscillators (the more complex the better!) so I can utilize them for their specifically unique timbres. I use a lot of random sequencing and random/complex modulation to get the craziest sounds I possibly can. The Acid Rain Maestro chain LFO function is perfect for making evolving complex LFO’s of varying wave shapes and clock divisions. I have 14 oscillators and I pretty much like to pump every parameter full of crazy modulation to see what kind of things happen. I call myself the oscillator abuser! It’s very experimental and I pretty much live on happy accidents. It’s my sonic playground!
I like to toggle between different clock divisions/multipliers which changes the movement and adds nice variation. I’m also a big fan of sequential switches to switch modulation sources on the fly for wild changes or also switch between a gated and triggered pattern which creates nice grooves. I can control whatever I want with my joystick (Intellijel Planar) and I have motion sensor bracelets (2.4SINK by Instruments of Things) as well so it’s pretty much a party all the time.
I like to make things I can replicate easily so I can play it live. Therefore it’s important to take a lot of detailed patch notes. I even print out little pictures of my modules and draw in parameters for easy access. When I come up with a cool sound, I set out to make complimentary sounds on some of my other voices. When I come up with several parts I think go great together, I record each voice for about 5 minutes. That way I have enough spare material to choose from when crafting the song.
What is a production technique that you always come back to?
Physical modeling synthesis ran through granular processing and a reverb is a constant go to for me (Rings into Beads). I love reverse grains and grains pitched up really high that sound like little fairy twinklies.
How would you describe your style?
Whimsical! Flamboyant! Psychedelic!
My style is aesthetic and experimental, combining wonky nasty face melting bass with beautiful organic orchestral like tones, sprinkled with hints of glitch, psychedelic, and tribal flavors.
What is a big challenge you have as an artist?
I’m gearing up to play live and I’ll be in a genre full of DJs with a rather simple set up where they just plug in their USB and mix their tracks on a deck. I will be doing a fully live performance on my modular synth, not queuing samples live, I’m talking live sound generation coming out of my 14 oscillators.
My performance style will be different than everyone else in the genre where they play songs back to back and mix them together and can play many songs in a short amount of time. I will play slightly less songs and it will be one song at a time because I’m actually playing the song live. Just a different style, so I am a bit nervous trying to be industry standard with these DJs when I’m not a DJ.
Has building a hardware setup changed your perspective on music or life in general?
To be honest, building my set up has changed everything for me.
I had no idea I would end up here, I never set out to get into modular. I literally just started working in the computer and found myself wanting something I could play with my hands, I just wanted to break out of the box so bad.
Fast forward now I’m here.
I’ve found my life’s purpose! I am completely fulfilled and in love with what I do. Now I can’t wait to take it to the stage! It is a big deal because no one in this genre plays truly live music. I’m going to show people that this type of music can be played live on hardware, a first ever. And I’d love to inspire a whole new generation of artists also looking to play real live EDM.
One tip on how to spark creativity?
Randomness is a great way to spark creativity!
Sometimes I look up musical keys by mood and pick a key based on a mood I’m feeling or want to convey then I generate a random sequence in that key.
Rings is my main melody voice so once it’s playing a sequence, I then modulate all of its parameters with random modulation. Change modulation speeds and clock divisions until you find something you like. Run that through some effects! My best advice is to break out of your typical habits, break free from the norm and conventional methods. I consider my patching methods to be rather audacious. I’m pretty much setting out to push the limits past any boundary of anything anyone has ever done. Not so methodical and definitely not subtle.
Break the rules. Cause some KAOS.
A book, movie, article, or album that has inspired you?
I am inspired by a lot of various artists and types of music but if I had to pinpoint one, I’d have to say the Golden Tremendous by Freddy Todd is definitely my favorite electronic album of all time.
The vast array of sounds used from varying genres and flavors all concocted in such a flamboyant and fabulous manner! The artistry is truly mind-blowing!!! I really love utterly disgusting alienesque bass sounds but I also really love beautiful lush twinkly fairy sounds as well so it is my goal to seamlessly combine the two as flawlessly as Freddy wove together the Golden Tremendous.
Where can people find more of your music and connect with you online
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