Atom TM cut back on the gear and wires, opting instead for decoration. The result: warmer visual inspiration, and even a warmer sound.

Operating systems aside, the most important “platform” for your music may be the work environment you create for yourself to produce. Seeing that physical environment for someone else can be an inspiration, and certainly a window into their personality. So, as I look through the workspaces submitted by readers, I asked the terrific blog TRASH_AUDIO to select a few of the favorites from their series, “Workspace and Environment.” Rather than ask the usual, bland music journalistic questions of artists, they explore those artists’ creation spaces, and discuss process through that context. (Eat your heart out, MTV Cribs.)

TRASH_AUDIO also has a new site address, so go enjoy:
http://trashaudio.com/

It’s worth checking out the whole site, but here are their top five favorite workspaces and environments, in no particular order. Some are the tangles of wires you might expect, others more unusual, clean digital environments like the images I chose here (if only because I’m more used to seeing the tangles of wires).

1. Finnish-born Sasu Ripatti of Vladislav Delay and Luomo has found an acoustically-wonderful, isolated environment on an island, an environment surrounded by trees and far from people. On the road, it’s just one laptop, one Korg nanoKEY, and an audio interface, to which he adds Faderfox MIDI controllers, small KAOSS pads, and effects pedals for live gigs.

2. Alec Empire stays true to his Berlin roots with an all-white minimal studio. It’s distraction-free – and having a big, dedicated studio space means no neighbors. Think loud. “Actually you wouldn’t really find much colour in there,” he tells TRASH-AUDIO. “And what surprises visitors is that we have no paintings or posters or anything visual up on the walls. I really find this distracting. Somehow my mind would get off path. The great thing is that we can record whenever we want.” On the road, it’s a Mac and Digidesign gear, but most importantly, a big mobile hard drive, so sounds can come along with him for constant revision. Add to that an iPhone as a musical notebook for sketching ideas.

3. Alessandro Cortini, an Italian-born artist living in the US, focuses on Buchla modular gear as the center of his workspace, with the monome and MLR as the software accompaniment. Corners of the space, he says, are dedicated to different working styles – modular, drum machine, computer – but everything is within reach, which to me is also the epitome of the brilliant Buchla design itself. If you can’t afford a modular (and certainly most of us can’t afford a Buchla 200), perhaps the ergonomics is the single most important lesson to learn here.

4. Mavis Concave, Robert Inhuman and Vankmen of Realicide adapt to a variety of environments – the corner of someone’s room, different homes. As Mavis says, the people in your surroundings often matter more than the architecture: “I need to have enough physical space for my gear and be surrounded by people who encourage the work that I am doing. I can’t be surrounded by people who write off my music production as a nuisance to have in the household. That is probably the biggest creativity/productivity block there is for me.” And for fans of hardware (you’re heard in the poll, don’t worry), that means favorite gear that can go in a car trunk, like the Korg ElecTribe ES-1 (called out by both Mavis and Robert).

5. Atom TM. I just love this, because seeing look-alike studios is boring, because I feel strongly that aesthetics around you can provide visual stimulation for your sonic creativity centers, and because it defies conventional wisdom. So I have to just run the whole quote – decoration instead of gear. (Next – perhaps decorated gear?) Take that, blank white walls of Berlin!

“Decoration instead of gear” became the motto. All my workspaces had to have big windows and if possible a nice view (even though I tend to close the curtains in summer during daytime). I don’t like “studio” atmosphere. I don’t like cables, gear and the entire tech-look. Environments that make me feel well and relaxed are usually of a different type. I like old furniture, warm colours, ornaments and in general everything that does not look contemporary. The contemporary look usually is contaminated with bad taste and pretentious design. Further, the decoration itself helps to absorb reflections and creates a dryer sound. I can say that the decoration itself, that is, obtaining/installing as well as creating amongst it, gives me more satisfaction than obtaining/installing equipment. I can see why “studios” have to look “tech”, that is because the studio owner needs to impress the entirely clueless cast of customers. There is no reason whatever to follow that look, just because it is somewhat implied in the equipment itself. In general I’m very sensible when it comes to “making music”. I find it hard to focus in other studios that don’t fit my aesthetics and sound. I think that my workspace is a perfect combination of the technical-, creative- and aethetic aspects of my work and it has become what it is through a long development of those three components.

Editorial note: In a blinding error of reading on my part, I read the words “Analog Live” as a misprint of “Ableton Live,” as referenced in the original draft of this story. I’ve been looking at software too long. To be clear, this was my inability to read, not a typo on the part of TRASH_AUDIO. I still like the idea of a parody of Ableton’s site redone in analog gear. I will from now on keep that fantasy to myself and stop applying it to the rest of the world.

Whether or not any of these approaches is meaningful to you may vary. But to me, just hearing people make decisions to reorganize their space is refreshing. I find sometimes even an arbitrary change of scenery can help unstop creative juices. Let us know if the same is true for you.

White walls and clean, open spaces, yes, in Alex Empire’s Berlin studio. But the best part of this space? No neighbors to offend.
  • http://nezoomie.wordpress.com/ nezoomie
  • http://darrenhalm.bandcamp.com Darren Halm

    I've often found that moving away from a desk-like studio led to a much more inspirational and creative environment. When I lived in a 10×14 East Village studio apartment, I just had a pull-out couch, with a small table w/ Macbook on it. A long firwire cable ran to my Motu 828 on a wall shelving unit, with speakers and extra FW drives on it. I could run drum machines and effects from the couch rather comfortably. All in all, I was playing and creating to the speakers, allowing me to create music with my ears – the laptop monitor was an afterthought to the process.

  • oivindi

    Fantastic article! More of this, please!

    AtomTM – what a sense of humour that guy has.

  • http://trashaudio.com Surachai

    Peter. Analog Live is not a typo. There is a link after the next sentence of said article to an actual event in LA called Analog Live. At this event our friends used analog instruments. Now, if you'll excuse me. CREATEANALOGMUSIC.COM.

  • http://www.theviirus.com Adam

    The only thing that is sad about the Alec Empire article is how there are no pics of the actual studio. Those can be found in the gallery of the hellish vortex website. Trust me, the studio looks less minimal.

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    I concur with Uwe, interior design is more interesting than tech. I also concur with Alec Empire, no pictures or anything to distract or conceptualize. I like their idea of simpicity, even if they own modular systems or whatever, they focus on one technique, and don't give themselves to much to choose from and ruin their music.

  • Ghost

    I'm a little confused by this post (regarding Sasu's studio) because his studio was one of the most inspiring, gorgeous, pure workspaces I'd ever seen… I would *LIVE* in that studio! If he's moved onward and upward, good for him – but the one he had previously blew the one mentioned here OUT OF THE WATER…

    It was on Native Instruments's site for a while, and featured in WIRE magazine but I'm having trouble finding photos of it now… Clean white walls, built in modular cabinets that surrounded the entire room, a singular memory foam mattress in the middle of the room – every piece of gear was within an arms reach and it gave this feeling of a hidden away space station…

    Here are a few pics, trying to find a few more (if only for my own remembrance/viewing pleasure) it was truly, truly, truly minimalist and awe-inspiring, I wish I could find a pic of the full 360 degrees around the room, man! Anyways here are a few links:

    http://www.thewire.co.uk/issues/288/

    http://musicthing.blogspot.com/2008/06/vladislav-

    http://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog/musicsound-stu

  • Corey

    "What would your ideal workspace look like?

    Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, with a lot of cats."

    -Alessandro Cortini

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    @ghost: exactly!! i was confused too! i had seen his studio and i still think it is the bes studio ever… but those pics in the trashaudio blog don't look like it

  • shim

    i love, love, LOVE posts like this! creative space smackdown, ya'll!!!!

    right now i only have a large-ish closet and it was kinda a problem moving to a DAW workflow (as opposed to huge desks) but now i'm loving it more everyday. just the ability to work FAST has helped by creativity a 1000%.

    small, clean and simple i say. oh, and vodka. ice cold vodka.

    more posts like this!

  • shim

    *my* creativity i meant to say…

    i strive for a mix of sasu ripatti and atom tm. next a sky light and windows, a place to smoke in peace(no neighbours). a body of water would be tight, also.

    never felt "on" in commercial studios and the incessant ticking of that effing clock…

  • Ghost

    @Cooptrol: It's dreamy, right?? :)

    I really wish I could find the more detailed photos, Native Instruments had a full detailed page on it with these great 360 degrees shots… I loved the idea of having just a big memory foam right in the middle of the space and everything at arms length, I've always wanted something like that.

    I also really liked the space age looking consoles he put together, not to mention if you have a look at what's INSIDE those consoles… wow. It's a shame Native Instruments took down that artist profile page because it's truly inspiring, glad you got a chance to see it Coop!

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    @ghost; yeah i saw it and i shared it and i think lots of people have seen it. hope someone reads this and uploads the photos. even mr. ripatti, are you there?

  • http://www.myspace.com/casimirsblake Casimir's Blake

    Keep in mind Atom TM is the same guy that gave us Señor Coconut! Wow, check out the upholstery!

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    I have a friend who knows him well, and says it's all bullshit, he has a massive studio filled with his old analogue gear plus lots of new stuff, and this matches the idea I had of Atom and some interiews I read years ago where he spoke about his stuff. Now I'm convinced that what he says in this article about his studio being minimal is not the truth.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    The way I'm reading it, the images of Alec Empire's studio are sort of the anterooms around the actual studio space. Still worth a look at the interview, though.

    @cooptrol: You mean ATOM TM?

    I don't necessarily see these things in conflict. It's usually the guys who *do* have these insane, packed studios who set aside somewhere else that doesn't have that vibe. I was talking to Richard Devine about that, about getting out of his main space and into his kitchen/dining room. I wish I had a big studio full of gear to escape, but even without one, I like the occasional change of scenery.

  • cloudburst

    i knew it! i knew those were Meyer nearfields on Atom's little table.. severe gear envy going on here.. damn.

    i mean, what else do you need? ;) you just turn those guys on and think about music, they do all the work..

  • Machines

    As someone who does most of my stuff 'in the box' I've never been much about the gear look either. I've spent a lot of time (probably to the detriment of actually getting stuff done musically) to creating a space that 'feels right.' As someone who's also a designer – color choices, flooring materials, lighting and artwork all play a role in how productive I can be when sitting at my desk. I think I'd lose my mind Alec Empire's studio.

  • http://www.theviirus.com Adam

    @ Peter Kim and Machines.

    Seriously, go to the hellish vortex website gallery. The gear room looks nothing like the office room or the lounge room.

    In other news of studios, I recommend looking at phoenecia's too. Theirs is chock full of gear and nice studio furniture. Well laid out.

    I also second further research into V. Delay's studio. He had some choice niche gear which this interview seems to have completely missed.

  • http://trashaudio.com Justin McGrath

    Hey, Justin From T_A here. About Vladislav Delay / Sasu Ripatti's studio. I know exactly what you guys are talking about and I have the issue of Wire that shows his awesomely designed, white, pristine studio. When we caught up with him he had just moved into a new place and has specifically said that the overall look is not quite to the point that he wants it. We will certainly get back in contact with him once his studio is more built up though.

    Also, on our site, be sure to check out the on the left sidebar the other sixty or so artists we've interviewed. We're also open to suggestions for future articles, so let us know you'd you like to see.

  • Ghost

    Hey Justin, thanks for the update!

    I'd love to see what Sasu comes up with for his new space, definitely do a follow up if you get the chance. I realized after a re-read that he specifically chose this new space for it's acoustics and amenities (near the airport, etc) but I was like, "MAN.. Why would he ever leave the other space, I would fucking *live* in there – acoustics be damned!"

    I bookmarked T_A and will keep an eye out, I really enjoy the breakdown articles on these artist's spaces/choices and it's a real treat to see what inspires them in their workspaces, keep it comin!

  • Ben_P

    I love Trash Audio's Workspace series. Besides those listed here, I love the setups of Jeswa and Deru:

    http://trashaudio.com/?p=58 http://trashaudio.com/?p=70

    I also rather like Proem's setup:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/proem/sets/720575940

    And I wish I could find more pictures of Arksun's setup:

    http://www.myspace.com/arksun/photos/2970520

    The AtomTM setup is just a joke? I hope not. I found that article a good while ago and that interview changed the way I look at studios. It changed where my gear lust was. No longer was I lusting after stacks and stacks of synths and effects, I now lust after big custom speakers and a Herman Miller (or similar) chair. It's now about doing things with the least amount of gear possible. It's about creating the lightest and smallest studio setup so that everything can be taken with me wherever I go. I want a home studio that looks more like a graphic artist's workstation or like a home theater rather than a 'normal' studio. Reading the above comments, seems I might not be alone.

  • Jacoby

    Wow! Great to see Robert Inhuman and the Realicide crew recognized here. Those are some amazing artists and individuals! Buy up what ever you can find of theirs and definitely catch them on tour! Those guys are touring machines.