Meet the Sound Design Avantgarde
In this interview, we asked UJAM founder Peter Gorges and MOK founder Taiho Yamada to share their thoughts on Finisher NEO and Waverazor. Both companies joined forces for an exclusive bundle offer which expired!
MAY 7TH, 2020
Read the interview below to learn how the Waverazor synth engine came together and why everyone needs a sophisticated Instagram filter for sound like Finisher NEO.
First up, Taiho tells us how he admired the synth sounds of the 60s and 70s and how new forms of synthesis inspired the team at MOK.
Taiho, you did the “The Synthesis Principal” by Alpha Quadrant remix. Based on your experience, let us know how Finisher NEO and Waverazor can help producers in their creative process?
The Synthesis Principal was originally composed by Alpha Quadrant using only Waverazor sounds, and in several cases all I had to do in order to completely transform a track for the remix was to just run it through Finisher NEO. There are several presets that add wonderful space and motion, while others apply cool gating and granular effects that chop up the audio in extremely musical ways. NEO's three simple controls for tweaking make tailoring your sound quick and easy. It was really inspiring to take advantage of all the new Waverazor presets in the ]Peter:H[ and Mark Hoffmann sound banks, and then as I applied NEO, it took those sounds to the next level.
Speaking of Waverazor, can you explain to us how you came up with this inspiring soft synth? And how did you build the plug-in?
MOK co-founder, Rob Rampley, is the superstar coder and DSP engineer who came up with the patented wave-slicing oscillator concept that forms the basis of the Waverazor synth engine. When I first heard the strange new sounds coming out of the prototype, I knew we had to make a synth out of it. From there, I started designing the GUI, which was heavily influenced by the movie Tron, and science fiction in general. (Who else offers a Klingon language setting in their software?) Meanwhile, Rob built our complex DSP and application framework. Along the way, we refined the wave-slicing idea together, and proceeded to make Waverazor one of the most powerful synths either of us had ever worked on as developers. With the possibility of three oscillators running through up to 24 filters and 48 effects, being modulated by up to 128 LFOs and Envelopes, Waverazor is capable of becoming as epic a synthesizer as your imagination can make it.
Tell us something about the idea behind Waverazor, what was your inspiration?
When synthesizers first appeared in the 60s and 70s, they were making sounds that people had never heard before. We tend to forget what that was like. Everyone at MOK is inspired by the excitement we felt at the debut of each new form of synthesis, from analog to FM and sampling, onward through physical modeling and granular. We are constantly on a quest for new synthesis techniques and discoveries, and that creates an atmosphere of experimentation, which is an integral part of driving innovation. We hope that Waverazor is the first synth in a long line of innovative MOK instruments.
What do you think makes a good synthesizer?
For me, a great synthesizer is one that makes it as easy as possible for you to get the exact sound you need. However, that sound can be vastly different under different circumstances. One of my favorite synths is the Minimoog Model D because it immediately sounds like a record, and it has a great balance between sonic power and ease of use. With its classic front panel design, you can very quickly dial in any analog lead or bass sound you want. But if I want to really experiment, and perhaps find a sound that no one has ever heard before, I head to Waverazor and begin exploring its new frontiers. That is definitely a different experience, but it can be just as rewarding.
Peter has a vivid history with synthesizers himself, so it seems just right to listen to his thoughts on the creative opportunities of a NEO and Waverazor alliance.
Peter, all UJAM plug-ins are easy-to-use while being useful for pro-users alike – in your opinion: What do you think makes a good effect plug-in in 2020?
I think it depends on your production situation. As a songwriter, arranger or even producer I’m looking for quick inspiration, whereas as an engineer I need detailed tools so I can take time making very distinct changes. The world of effect plug-ins has always been a world made by and for engineers - I mean I can find hundreds of tools claiming to attenuate 2 kHz differently from each other. Whereas on the inspiration end, the world’s my oyster. The Finisher series is based on the idea that people have a track going and are looking for something that takes it from “yeh it’s got the musical information” to “wow this is incredible”, without requiring them to spend an hour setting up and programming 10 plugins. So, certainly for UJAM, the answer is a Finisher - a plug-in that lets me try and explore complex effects very quickly and adjust them to my taste or situation, and move on.
Tell us something about the idea behind the Finisher plug-ins, especially Finisher NEO?
We introduced it with Virtual Guitarist Carbon - a hard-core sound design guitar tool - and to our (positive) surprise most support emails were about “when can I get this as a separate plug-in”. The reason it’s called Finisher is because Carbon had this aggressive, vicious charme to it, we named the sections on the UI accordingly - Rage, Aggressor, Finisher (as in finish it). The idea was to let the user create 50 entirely different types of sound - from brutally distorted to space-radio to psychedelic and so on - from one single source: The guitar. We made it a selector for the effect combinaton and a knob that can be automated to create performances - and it just worked and people loved it. So we decided to make it a whole series of separate effect plug-ins, and NEO is the first title.
Based on your experience, let us know how NEO and Waverazor can help producers in their creative process?
When I tried NEO with WaveRazor for the first time, I felt like “Wow, they multiply each other”. They’re both rather sci-fi, and I found that you could combine almost every WaveRazor preset with every Finisher NEO preset and find a new sound. If I were looking for fresh, inspiring sounds for electronic, cinematic or even pop music, I think both could prevent me from running out of fresh ideas for a long time. The raw quality of WaveRazors sounds combined with NEOs widening, whirling, crushing treatments is a really good match.
Finisher NEO is more of a Jack of all Trades than a highly complex single-purpose effect, who do you think benefits the most from plug-ins like NEO?
People looking for fresh sounds that they can tweak without spending a day reading manuals and setting up gear. So, as said above: Songwriters, arrangers, musicians, producers, also sound designers. NEO is agnostic of instrument or sound type. NEO - like any Finisher - is like a more sophisticated Instagram filter for sound, so like an Instagram Filter can be interesting every time with a million different images, so can a Finisher be with millions of different things you feed it.
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