Konstantin Gervis has a long running path as a live performer. His approach to electronic music is simplistic and rigorous: regarding synthesizers and drum synthesizers as instruments which have to be learnt and practised over and over are often forgotten nowadays in the fast-paced world of tutorials and demos. This article is based on conversations we started with him at Budapest Music Expo’s Analogue Zone booth where he was demonstrating his Tiptop Audio rack – the brand to which he has been loyal since the introduction of their revolutionary TR-drum modules. Apart from talking of the best features that Tiptop Audio tools offer, he also gave us an eye on what is forthcoming from the manufacturer.
“My involvement with the company began when Gur was designing Station 252, I contacted him begging to make the case hand luggage compatible, sending him various airports and airlines allowances for hand luggage, that I was researching at the time. Also around that time I started getting back into playing techno again after an 8 year long break, I wasn’t happy with the drum sounds I was getting out of my machinedrum even though it was good for various percussion or even melodic sounds it wasn’t cutting it for me for the most important sounds, namely bass drums, hats, cymbals and toms. Basically I wanted a 909 and an 808.”
Konstantin saw the release of drum modules widely available and sounding exactly as – or to some extent even better than – the old Roland drum machines that defined genres as one of the greatest moments in his life. But not only these fantastic drum modules – tailor-made for eurorack modular environments – and their extra functions that had not been available in the originals kept his heart beating: it was Tiptop’s sequencers that completed the drum circle.
“…using single manufacturers’ systems or sub-systems or voices is the best way to use modules, the experience becomes more coherent and thus easier to actually create music as we are talking about musical instruments not some collector’s items after all. (…) What I find extremely fascinating regarding the modular in general is not so much the sound or sound creation possibilities (which is great, but so are many other instruments), but the clocking and sequencing arrangements, where splitting pitch values from triggers and poly rhythms is easily achieved and controlled. That’s where Circadian Rhythms and Trigger Riot are second to none. The Circadian’s timing is phenomenal and the swing is the best I have ever used. It is very easy to use, it is very ergonomic and very playable.”
His live performance rig does not end up at the drum modules and Circadian Rhythms, as the clock is distributed towards the Trigger Riot, a very refreshing concept, propagating towards alternative paths today’s next gen x0x drum sequencers. It is a clock divider multiplier module that works in Matrix or independent mode, hence each change of one beat affects the other outputs as well. (check
out our exclusive video with the module).
“The Trigger Riot is the best clock divider/multiplier there is, and more. The possibilities are just mind blowing. the fact that you can recall complex clocking arrangements is a game changer for me, priceless in a live situation. The latest firmware added some very cool functions.”
As in all modular systems, audio and modulation signals meet at one point. Konstantin is happy to process digital fx on his Z-DSP with his Z3000 oscillator which goes up to 32KHz. But we should not forget, that his Tiptop stack cables are used to connect all the modulation / information in his system. He points out very straighforwardly why these innovations are so brilliant in the eurorack world:
“The Stackables: for me those are the norm, I think multiples belong to the 5U world, but totally counter-productive and very messy in Eurorack. Now we can just relax like all those lucky Banana [cable] lovers, but shielded, so even more relaxed :)”
The MIXZ module add up to the reduction of cables since the audio can be mixed through the bus board while not picking up any unwanted noise. Konstantin mentioned during his stay that the new quantizer module by Tiptop will be able to make a clock / preset change connection between their modules, with the use of just one cable. It will result in more integration and a downsized cable jungle.
However convenience is already unlike anything that he used to experience. It takes the shortest time ever to get their systems set up when they are playing live together as ZV_K. It’s also great how tweakable everything is in a modular system and he hopes to hear more people using it live, jamming electronic dance music, as any other musician would do:
“I really want to hear more people playing with modulars as it really sounds glorious on proper PA systems. You don’t think the BD909 sounds like whatever you want it to sound? just go and test it on a Function One….. ” (…) “I haven’t seen anyone playing pure modular sets except of Martin Dubka, who is vey very good! You can definitely find more courageous musicians playing modulars in the less famous locations. There are at least two event lines that represent modular (mostly) artists with an accent on techno but not elusively: Modulism, run buy Will Rankin with cooperation with TipTop Audio and Clockworks, run by Wouter von Jaspers from Koma Electronic.”
Apart from these tools that Tiptop Audio produced in the last few years or are to be releasing soon, Konstantin had a hard time to think about anything he actually lacks from their current live/studio setup. He says he would never see anything in futuristic eye-candy tools that are not practical:
“I want the people to start writing actual music with what we already have, music that is made by humans and move other humans. Made by playing and not drawing automation curves. It doesn’t matter if it was played with machines or acoustic instruments. I want go to concerts and enjoy the music, enjoy watching people perform. I don’t want to be entertained, i want an experience. As i am myself not and never will be an entertainer, i’m here to give you a never to be repeated musical experience, you either like it and flow with me or not. So no, not interested in gloves, wireless floating in space controllers, million and one buttons futuristically spaced over a cactus. That stuff should be in museums, galleries, art installations. Only interested in Eurorack Modular Systems and modules made by some of the greatest instrument designers of our time – people that I love, respect and trust.”
Konstantin’s recordings from Budapest