Who are you and what do you do?

I am Misha Mross. Starfawn is composed of myself (Synths/Production) and Amber Schaefer (Vocals). We are from south-east Vermont and are now based in Brooklyn NY and Brattleboro VT. I have been making music with software and synths for about 10 years. For about a year now Amber and I have been throwing around ideas for a collab, and when Amber came to me with the lyrics for Greenlight and we wrote that song, it really started to come together into what is now called Starfawn. We are currently working on recording some more material for a release this summer, and preparing our live set, which will focus on improvisation and realtime control of synthesis. We want our shows to be an experience that is distinctly separate from listening to our recordings, and that is unique each time.

I have an engineering and physics background, I currently work in ultra-precision optical metrology. I actually got into electrical engineering as a result of my love for electronic music and synthesizers years ago, and at this point I use my engineering skills towards music by designing and building my own MIDI controllers and other A/V hardware with my friend and co-worker Aidan O'Donnell, and writing custom production and performance software in various programming languages and environments.

What hardware are you using?

Synths: Moog Slim Phatty, Dave Smith Mopho, Korg EX-800, Korg MS2000R, Yamaha DX-7, and Midines.

I use the Moog for bass sounds. So far, I have been able to get the best bass sounds I have ever made out of it in my opinion. I was using the Mopho for bass previously, and it is still a great synth that I use for leads and other sounds, but the Moog has a particularly full and clean bass sound, yet has the ability to get real nasty as well. The Korg EX-800 is a rack-mount analog poly synth from the 80's with a particularly sticky human interface that is all numbers and buttons and 7-segment numeric displays. This makes it an interesting synth to program, and one that lends itself much more to recording than manipulating live, but I like its dirty noisy chorusy detuned sound. I am in love with my MS2000R. It is an analog modeling synth that I learned synth programming on ten years ago. It sounds really good and lends itself very well to automation and control. The DX7 I rarely use, but every now and then it fits perfectly into a track. Once I get around to finding a software editor for it I will probably make more sounds with it. The Midines is pretty cool. One day many years ago I wondered to myself, does anyone make a MIDI cable that turns into a NES cartridge and controls the synth chip in the NES? And it turned out that someone did, so I was pretty psyched about that.

I use MIDI controllers all the time. Real-time control of synths and samplers is very important to me. I do use hand written automation as well, but recording knob tweaks, and playing keyboards/drumpads etc. gives the music a much more dynamic and human feel, and improvising with synth parameters is always a huge part of what I do live. I have been designing and building my own MIDI controllers for a while now, I currently use one that I built with Aidan that has a neat infrared proximity sensor, and some pretty back-lit buttons and some knobs, and I am working on an MPC style pad controller with some knobs and joysticks. I plan to use it to control the Izotope Stutter Edit software that I got recently. Sometimes I do stuff like building a controller out of a beachball with a bluetooth accelerometer in it and throwing it into the audience so they can hit it around and play notes. I like to build my own controllers because it is satisfying intellectually on an engineering level, and I can design interfaces specific to my application instead of adapting someone else's interface to my needs. We just got some tools for making our own PCBs and soldering surface mount devices. Previously, we were doing everything through hole which was messy and time consuming, so we should be able to make controllers much more efficiently now. I also use a UC-33e and some kind of Korg MIDI keyboard. Other than that I use a PC laptop, audio/MIDI I/O, mixer, microphones, etc.

What software are you using?

Of course the cornerstone is Ableton Live. I have been using it ever since Live 4 came out about seven years ago and introduced MIDI capabilities. Before that, I had no use for it. I've looked at Logic, Pro Tools etc. and I am aware of what they can do, but I have never been even slightly interested in using them. The soft-synths and samplers that come with Live are pretty good too. I really like the Operator, which is my frequency modulation synth of choice right now. I use the Ableton samplers to make more natural sounding synths out of grains of recorded vocals and other sounds. I often use software synths to make drum sounds. Recently I have been using the Sonic Charge μTonic, which is a really great drum synthesizer with plenty of fun parameters to tweak and a versatile sound palette.

I use Max for Live extensively, mostly to set up live control schemes and automate external synths. In the past I have used things like Pure Data and SuperCollider to write various synths and other little programs I call “Audio Games”, but recently I have been trying to spend more time making music than programming. One thing I did that was cool was to write a song in Ableton for which many of the parameters were controlled via MIDI by outputs from a video game I programmed in PD. The game tracked a flashlight that was held by the user and changed the music based on how well the user was able to follow a circle that moved around on the screen. If they did well, the music got fast and bright; if they did badly, the music got slow, atonal, and generally fell into disarray. If I didn't have an engineering job I would probably do more of that kind of stuff. At this point, it's hard enough just to work on electronic music after doing electrical engineering and programming all day at work. I would still love to work with some game developers though. I think that incorporating real-time reactive synthesis into video games would be amazing.

What would be your dream setup?

Read this: – Moog describes visiting Raymond Scott's studio/workshop. That is what I want.

Any production tips & tricks you'd like to share?

Learn about electrical engineering, programming, and signal processing. Every part of electronic music is deeply intertwined with these subjects. Some physics and math is good too.

Where can we find you on the web?

Starfawn / SoundCloud / Facebook / Twitter /