One of my most recent discoveries in ambient music is the wonderful Arjen Schat. Creator of exquisite Berlin Style sequences and warm gentle ambient (amongst other things). Having been active since 2002 he has a sizeable body of work under his own name, as Ohrwert (dub techno) and as Minute of Arc (idm). I had the great pleasure of collaborating with him on an album as Network 23 which we did by exchanging files via email. The result - The Clock of Dreams - is available on Bandcamp. This interview is a chance to find out more about this unique artist.
I know you as Arjen Schat, which I assume is your real name, but you also release music under other names. Please introduce yourself.
My real name is indeed Arjen Schat, also known for releasing dub techno as Ohrwert and trying to make a name for myself with electro and idm releases as Minute Of Arc. I’ve been active in the field of electronic music in its broadest sense since the late ‘90s and have been releasing music under various monikers since 2002.
Tell us about your sequence based tracks. How do you go about putting a track together?
I usually start with a phrase or a key I have in mind and dial that in on my Koma Komplex analog step sequencer, or on the Elektron Analog Four’s sequencer. From there I start expanding the sequence and start adding more sequences to it, whilst I’m shaping the sound of the synthesizers I use. Then I add transposition sequences, these sequences transpose the root note of its main sequence and, depending on its complexity, create infinite variations of the initial sequence. Once the sequences are running I’ll add some pads, strings, or soundscapes to it. Either by processing the sequences realtime through Logic, or by adding more synthesizers to the mix. Once everything is in place I start improvising along with my trusty Moog Little Phatty, usually for a few hours prior to recording everything in one take.
You have an interesting collection of synthesisers, sequencers etc. Tell us what devices you're enjoying using these days.
A large part of the collection is currently stored due to a smaller studio space, but I've been using the same equipment selection for a few years now. I very much enjoy using my two Moog Mother-32s with the Koma Komplex, it’s like a melodic sketch board. There’s no menus and everything is tangible so it really speeds up the workflow, it also goes from 0-100 in terms of complexity by adding a few patch cables. As for drum synthesis I enjoy using the Vermona DRM1 MK3, it can really cut through a mix, but it’s basically nine analog synthesizers hardwired to shape drum sounds. Again, no menus and quick results. My favorite piece is still the Moog Little Phatty. I’ve bought two in 2007, one for playing and one for sequencing (this was before the Slim Phatty rack module came out). I feel it has shaped my sound over the years because it has been consistently in every release. I recently bought an expression pedal for it which adds a whole different dimension to playing the instrument.
We have a huge range of devices available these days for music making : vintage analogue, old school digital, VSTs, virtual analogue, new style analogue, modular etc. Do you have a strong view of what you like to use or are you open to everything? Do you prefer to work without a DAW for example? or does each tool have it's place?
There’s a hint of that in my recent albums "Audionautic Research Program" and “SiO2", but there’s definitely more coming.