Talking Modular with Nasty Nachos

Working at WMD, Performing with Modular, and New Album

Perfect Circuit · 04/24/20

If you ever visited music gear trade shows like Superbooth or NAMM, you've probably seen Alex Anderson at and around the WMD booth talking to folks, and showcasing the company's latest modules. Of course, like many synth developers Alex also produces music, so once the job for the day at WMD is done, he takes the modules for a ride in his studio producing electro and pop tracks or takes them to a gig where he performs a hybrid of precomposed and improvisational jams—all under the artist name Nasty Nachos.

Our hosts Trevor, Trovarsi, and BBoy Tech Report got Alex to perform his blend of pulsating grooves and funky basslines for our online audience, and chatted with him about the process of product development at WMD, his approach to patching modular synthesizers, and his latest album.

Patch Break Down

Nasty Nachos uses a hybrid setup equally utilizing his Eurorack modular system, synthesizers, and Ableton Live. A combination of the Expert Sleepers ES-8 module and Ableton's CV Tools package ensures the total synchronicity, and also allows for seamless bidirectional flow of control voltages between software and hardware. Alex employs Novation's Launchpad Pro MK3 for clip launching within Live. Ableton is also used to control the WMD/SSF Monolith keyboard patched up as a three-oscillator bass voice, as well as Roland JU-06. Furthermore, Live's Operator instrument served as an additional polysynth.

On the Eurorack side, the Metron, Voltera, and Arpitecht combo take the role of the main control station. Synchrodyne + expander, ADSRVCA, PDO, noise from Modbox, Aperture, Triple Bipolar VCA, MMF, and Chronoblob all play a significant part in Alex's approach to crafting basslines and melodies. Furthermore, Nasty Nachos engages Rossum's power-sampler Assimil8or as an additional bass voice. Sampling waveforms and sounds from the stuff you already have is a great way to eliminate the need for installing additional oscillators into the system, and with eight channels the Assimil8or offers you can effectively use it as a polyphonic synth.

Overall, Alex's setup demonstrates a very modern configuration of electronic music setup, where hardware and software does not simply coexist, but rather complement one another, allowing the producer/composer to use the best of both worlds at any given moment.

WMD—the Good Kind

Eurorack as a format is a very interesting socio-cultural phenomena. It emerged not from a calculated strategic planning, but from passion, creativity and curiosity bursting from the musicians, engineers, and musician-engineers. Although every manufacturer uses the same size of input and output jacks, and voltage standards, every modular company is effectively a universe of its own, with its unique rules, aesthetics, and vision. Some brands keep carrying the torch of the Moog-inspired east coast synthesis, some delve deep inside the luminous wells of west-coast synthesis defined by Bucha and Serge, and then there are companies like WMD, who take inspirations from all the corners of the world of electronic music, and then mix and molds them in their own quirky way.

In our chat, Alex described the brand's motto as simply as "to make dope stuff". As such, it feels that functionality is a much stronger drive in WMD's designs than a particular method of synthesis. Need a pingable analog filter? Here is an MMF. How about some percussion modules? Well, there are Fracture, which are based on granular sampling, as well as Crucible, which delivers amazingly realistic cymbal sounds achieved by means of digital waveguide synthesis. If you crave something that can satisfy your noise and drone buds—PDO, Synchrodyne, or th uHadron-Collider will bring up an additional meaning to the brand's name (the first one, of course, being William Mathewson Devices). You can even find a DJ-mixer inspired stereo filter, the Overseer, in the WMD line of modules. With such a variety, it is evident that the brand has something to offer for any particular sonic paradigm.

Always Looking Into the Future

When discussing WMD's process for developing new products, Alex mentions that they try to learn something with the development of each new product and then improve on it in future designs. They also try to think ahead of time, and implement some elements into the designs that will allow for integration of that module with the ones that will be developed in the future. Such were expansion ports on the performance mixer. They were already added to the product, even before the ideas for future expanders were conceived. Similarly, the Select Bus functionality on the Metron has enabled the addition of two expanders—the CV-enabling chainable Voltera, and the most recent AXXENT, which provides sixteen additional accent outputs.

This approach not only helps the company define its release trajectory for the coming future, but also ensures the users that whatever they are getting will only get more and more useful as time progresses.

Nasty Nachos "Getaway" / Modules in Context

It is one thing to hear modules individually, and yet a completely different experience to hear them used in musical context. Gladly, with the growing popularity of modular synthesizers this gets easier, and easier, albeit unless you know what artist is using, it is quite difficult to tell which modules are used exactly.

Thanks to our recent chat with Nasty Nachos, you get an opportunity to hear an artist speak directly about what equipment he used on his latest record, as well as when and how. Composed mostly while on vacation in Norway, Alex relied on a minimal setup of a laptop running Ableton Live and a Launchpad to write down all the MIDI sequences. Upon his return, he re-recorded all the drums using WMD modules, and added more layers of harmonies, and melodies from his own private collection, as well as from the LA vintage synth studio Rosen Sound. Anyway, instead of listening to me talk about it, hear Alex tell you a story behind his upcoming album himself in the video above. Also check out the main single here.

Stay safe and keep patching!