Talking tech with Cignol

Cignol jamming with his machines

Techno and Electro artist Cignol talks tech and reveals his 5 favourite studio items

For fans of machine laden jams and intergalatic grooves, Cignol is one of those artists whose music you can’t help but being drawn to, time and time again. With an ear for whistful melodics and introspectively etched grooves via releases on Lunar Disco, ACR, Alphabet Set and Furthur Electronix. He has consistently delivered a balanced spectrum of sounds that range from acid-tinged techno, braindance infused electronica to star gazing electro over the last decade.

A faithful practitioner of hardware based jams, he originally hails from Gravesend (UK) but has long since been based in Dublin via a stint living the Netherlands. Having grown up in the 80s when hip hop and electro funk exploded, he professes to have tried to breakdance like every other kid at the time, fully finding his feet by the time he got into electronic music in the early 90s. He learned how to DJ and was part of a soundsystem with friends, letting lose at the weekend and playing at lots of free parties. After a few years, bitten by the bug he bought his first synth and drum machine in 95, which he happily tinkered around with for a few years until his move to Holland. Where he bought a computer and learned how to sequence using Cubase, Reason, Fruity Loops and Reaktor. 

Although he was more focused on making IDM, he has always liked to bring melody to the fore and tinge things with an acidic outlook, eventually progressing to making Electro as he got sick of working on a laptop. Having since bought more hardware as he’s veered into the zone of step squencers and midi.  As he puts it, “the workflow of using hardware is far better for creativity in my opinion, I love just switching the machines on and seeing what happens.”

We tracked him down for our latest edition of Talking Tech to dig deeper into his ways of working and find out more about his favourite bits of kit:

Who were your biggest influences on you way back when?

“I grew up in the 80s and I loved the hip hop and electro funk music that was just coming out then, but just as a causal listener really. The early Warp IDM releases were the real catalyst that got me into electronic music, Aphex Twin’s ‘Selected Ambient Works Vol 1’,  the first Warp “Artificial Intelligence” compilation blew my mind and led me on to investigate every artist on there: B12, Black Dog, Autechre etc which then led on to other techno stuff from the likes of Luke Slater, Dave Clark, Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin under his FUSE alias…”

How would you describe your musical philosophy?

“I guess I generally work to the less is more philosophy.  I used to try and cram too many ideas into one song, I try to let the elements breath a bit more these days. Most of my favorite tracks from other producers are the simplest ones with core elements that you could just listen to forever.  James Stinson and Gerald Donald are masters of this…”

Magic vs Accident – where does one start and the other finish?

“For me the magic normally happens when I’m messing about with chords on the Juno 60 while I’m waiting for something to render on the DAW! I love the happy accidents when writing, like when you choose the wrong sound for a midi part and it fires off a load of new ideas.  I don’t think there is a start and finish, they just happen and compliment each other.”

What was the first studio set up you had?

“Juno 60, TR606 and a Yamaha FX500 multi fx unit. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I bought that lot, I just knew I wanted an analogue synth and a drum machine.  I wanted to make banging techno at the time so the 606 didn’t really do it for me! 🙂  Even so, I had a lot of fun just messing around with the 606 triggering the Juno and learning a what reverb, delay, phaser and flange is!”

How has it evolved since?

“Well the Juno 60 is still key to my studio setup, I still use occasionally the 606, the fx unit is battered so that’s stored away somewhere. My setup now consists of Juno 60, x0xb0x, Miami drum machine, JU-06, Sh01a, SP-08 and 707 all going into an ancient Mackie VLZ 1402 then into the DAW.  I have a keystep too which I need to use more because I love it, it’s so good for jamming out ideas.”

Is there anything you desperately want to acquire at the moment?

“I need a new DAW!  I’m currently running a PC with core 2 due processor, 4gb of RAM and Windows XP! I don’t use too many virtual instruments and plugin fx so it actually all runs pretty well, but it’s time for an upgrade.  It’s just a lot of work making sure I get all my projects transferred over.  I really need to do it soon though, I bought a new copy of Ableton the other day which I can’t use.”

What item do you regret selling the most?

“Many years ago I bought a Roland 202 off some chap at work for 20 quid. I played around with it for a bit but found the sequencer confusing. I was also more into DJing at the time so didn’t use it that much.  Some lad in the record shop heard I had one and offered me 200 quid for it. 200 quid buys a lot of records so I sold it to him. I kind of regret that, but I have the SH-01a now which I really love.” 

Talk us through your 5 favourite studio items (at present):

5) Innerclock Systems – Sync-Lock

“Absolute rock solid sync for outboard gear, the sync is generated via an audio signal rather than midi clock etc. I always use it for my Miami and x0x, and also for the SH-01a sometimes.”

4) x0xb0x

“What can I say, I love acid and I love my x0x. I love it’s sound and the sequencer on it with the way you can jam out ideas on the fly (I hate the original tb303 sequencer, it’s a total pain in the arse). Thanks to Safetyboy for building mine!  You’ll find it in this track, along with everything else on this list.”   

3) SH-01a

“My favorite of the boutiques I’ve used, sounds great, sequencer is fun, has poly and chord mode too, which kind of turns it into a little Juno 🙂 It features heavily on this one that’s out on further electronix soon.”  

2) Miami Drum machine

“This 808 clone from Acid Lab has been on nearly every track I’ve made since I bought it. It features on this track, along with my 707.”   

1) Juno 60

“My first synth and still my favorite, I love its sound and versatility, arpeggiator, trigger in, simple synthesis and DCOs.Lots of my early tracks were made with this synth only, like this one for example

Last but not least, what have you got lined up in terms of releases next then?

“There’s 2 EPs coming up on Furthur Electronix and  an ep coming out on Orson Records at some stage. I’m working on 4 other EPs at the moment too, god knows when they will be done, you can’t rush these things.