Daniel Troberg chops it up with BBoyTech about Elektron history, his favs & the future of Elektron!
I goosh over Elektron boxes to Daniel Troberg anyone over at the company that I can get to listen. Elektron has quickly become one of my favorite companies. Their desktop boxes can be found all up and through my studio and many others like mine. Elektron boxes are powerful, portable, creative powerhouses each with their own personality. I’ve owned the Analog Four and I still rock with Analog Rytm, Analog Heat, MachineDrum and, of course, the Digitakt. Although, I’ve never been fortunate enough to own one, the SidStation is my unicorn. I can’t say enough about how dope Elektron boxes are. Once you get your head wrapped around the power of the sequencer, that’s when you unlock the wonders of Parameter Locks, Trig parameters, probability features and the like. Yeah… it gets real then!
So, recently I had the opportunity to catch up with my guy Daniel Troberg from Elektron. Here is how it went down.
For those that may not know, tell us a bit about your role in Elektron.
Hi there! Right now I run the US office of Elektron out of Los Angeles, CA and I have been doing that since 2013. Also, I could tag a whole bunch of other descriptions to my role too. Business Developer, Artist Relations, Product Board Member etc. I have always had quite a heavy address book and I love connecting with people. There also seems to be some confusion about whether I own Elektron or not, but this seems to be a good opportunity to publicly state that I do not have any economic interest in Elektron at all, apart from the fact that I depend on Elektron for my salary, just like pretty much all the rest of us who works here.
Basically, me and my team here represent Elektron for the whole of North and South America and we handle sales, marketing, support and service. Luckily sales takes up most of our time and service takes up the least, so its in that very exact order!
How did you become involved with Elektron?
I became involved with Elektron through the SidStation back in 1999. I saw the webpage for the SidStation a year earlier as I was working in a computer store back on the Åland Islands in Finland and I just knew it was my calling. I had one foot in early 80s computing and the other foot in electronic music. I moved down to Gothenburg in Sweden and basically talked my way in. It’s not been without its bumps and grinds though, but I’m now officially the longest running employee at Elektron.
What’s your earliest memory of wanting to make music?
I got a Yamaha PS-200 in 1984, when I was 6-7 years old. I wasn’t interested in playing melodies, but I was very intrigued by all the different, although very limited, sounds. I also got a computer at the same time and started making noises with that by programming lines of code and also messed around with our reel-to-reel that we had at home. Then I listened to Prince’s Sign “O” The Times on repeat and there was no way back!
How’d you get into music production?
I understood somewhere that I needed to arrange and mix the noises I made. A good friend of mine also kindly let me borrow his turntables and DJ mixer back then and I figured things out from there like arrangement, energy and structure. I did a short stint at SAE in Stockholm in 1995 too.
What’s your favorite bit of gear made by Elektron (either past or present)?
It’s very hard to pick, but the Monomachine and the Octatrack are my absolute top picks no doubt about it. The flexibility and inspiration that those units offer are unsurpassed. However, I also really like the Analog Four and the Machinedrum. I use all of our units though, it just depends on the task at hand.
On what the future holds for Elektron?
“For the future, a wider product assortment and better accessibility to those products are definitely in the plans! You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
What’s your favorite bit of gear NOT made by Elektron?
That’s also very hard to pick, but I am an MPC fan and I still use my MPC4000, it’s just a fantastic solid piece of gear! The grandmaster of music making cashier registers.
I always get the sense that Elektron is very passionate about pushing the boundaries of electronic music instruments. What would you say the goal is when dreaming up a new instrument?
Well we are a very passionate bunch, what can I say? We also care, a lot! Also, purposes change and so does ideas and with that the train of thought. The goal is to make meaningful things. Making meaningless things would kill us. We also approach things with humor, very important indeed. Not taking yourself too seriously is important, we are all just humans in the end. Bending and turning the concepts and reasonings throughout the process and making sure that you really know what you are talking about, is super important. It’s as much looking outside of yourself as it is looking inside of yourself. Sure the end product is important but the trip there is equally important because you learn things that you can apply along the way. Start as you mean to go on.
Recently you all revamped several boxes and called them MKII. The design changes are a clear departure from your classic look and feel. What is the story behind the revamp?
When you make stand alone hardware, you have a lot of things to think about. Everything must be top-notch, from the lines of code in the firmware to the fit of the plastic knob caps going through the face plate to the electrical interference transmitted by the circuit boards inside the unit to safety measures of external power supplies etc. As code needs to be updated and changed due to various reasons, so must hardware be amended from time to time. It could be everything from a component going out of production to revamping the look and feel of a product due to it feeling old or obsolete. Mind, we are people working here, not machines! Obviously, a hardware change is much more visible than a bug fix, because you are seeing it directly. When making changes to the hardware, it also introduces opportunities to enhance the product, and then it’s basically just down to whether it’s economically viable or not to do so.
Overbridge is something of a technological marvel. Why was it important to create something like that?
We wanted to bridge the gap between hardware and software. Basically, it was our way in to the computer music market, if that was not obvious enough. It was an excellent opportunity to introduce Elektron to people who were working in the box. The ability to remote control a true analog synthesizer through a VST plugin and making it feel like a plugin, is pretty fantastic in my humble opinion. Its like the best plugin ever.
Many folks say that the Elektron OS and Sequencer is complicated but the payoff is huge when you surmount the learning curve. Why do you think Elektron is perceived as complicated?
I actually have no idea. Maybe it’s because of the times we live in? Or at least lived in. Back in 2001 when the Machinedrum came out, music production on computers was in its sort of heyday and people probably adapted to that and then there was a gradual swing back to hardware a couple of years later and people went huh? And now people are starting off with iPhones and iPad and then get tired of that and want hardware and then have to re-adapt to this new, old, workflow again. New territory for them! I could name tons of gear that I think is way harder to use, but then its all subjective any way isn’t it? Whether its hard or easy to use is not really important, the important thing is whether it evokes feelings or not. You always hear and read negative things, especially online, because that is just human nature, but people who are super happy with something never really go on and talk or write about that as much.
What would you say to the beatmaker MPC / Maschine head and Elektron newb wondering if they should take the dive into Elektron instruments?
I don’t think its wise to claim that “this can replace that” or whatever. I love the MPC concept and I think Maschine is fantastic. What I hope is that people are open to try new and different things. Elektron gear does not replace anything. It just adds to the experience and it of course also brings some specific functionality to the table, which might be hard or even impossible to achieve with other pieces of gear! Banging on my MPC4000 pads is, ahem, a different experience than banging on my Rytm pads. But they also offer different functionality, so its unfair to even compare them. I just hope that there are enough forward thinking musicians, producers and artists out there who dare to be different. We need this now, especially as all music tends to start to sound the same due to the same tools and sound packs being used and all over. We bring mad drama!
So, your sampler, Octatrack, is one of the most beloved electronic instruments / samplers on the market why do you think it has such a cult following?
Because it offers something nothing else offers, simple as that. It fills a functional gap. It’s also seems to have a reputation of being hard to operate, which seems to create this mystique around it, like “I know this box and you don’t and therefore I’m a genius”. It can play long stems, it does realtime time-stretch, it samples, it allows the user to customize the effects chain per track, it has the fader for DJ style manipulation of parameters, its small enough to fit in a backpack and the power supply is switching so you can go anywhere in the world with it and not really have to care about voltage conversion. It also does not dictate what type of music you can create with it and that’s very important. Its everything and its nothing. And it does not have Facebook. It allows the user to always be in the zone with it. Lost in the groove. Its like the most perfect computer ever built.
I own both the Machinedrum and the Rytm. I absolutely love them both. In an interview speaking about drum machines Tony Rolando of Make Noise said “Elektron nailed it! Then they nailed it again. And they’ll probably nail it again in 2 more years.” Why do you think this is a common sentiment?
I’m happy you like them! They are great units indeed! As for mr Rolando’s quotes, I am of course flattered to read this but explaining why it is this way is hard. Maybe it’s because we are perfectionist? That we really absolutely care about our products? In either case its great free marketing indeed!
This question is a very personal one for me lol… What are the odds of bringing back the Sidstation even if in limited quantity (with a special one shipped to my address)?
I hate to say it, but that’s not gonna happen. Sorry! I can probably source one for you though, but its gonna be at 2017 pricing.
LOL well it was worth a try… The SidStation is the instrument that introduced me to Elektron but it was a bit later in the game. Ok, resetting… How many SidStations were made and why were they discontinued?
Not many enough apparently! Mind, they got extremely popular the minute we discontinued them. Same with the Monomachine Keyboard. SidStation was discontinued because it wasn’t economically viable to base a product around obsolete technology. The SID chips that we used were all new-old-stock, tested and adjusted by hand one by one and sourced from all over the world. I have personally sourced many SidStations to quite famous artists and musicians through the years after its discontinuation.
I love what you guys brought to market with the Digitakt. It seems to signal a new direction or at least an opening up to a wider market for Elektron. What’s the future hold for Elektron instruments?
Thank you! We knew that the Digitakt would receive a great response because everyone was asking about a more affordable Elektron product and we finally delivered. For the future, a wider product assortment and better accessibility to those products are definitely in the plans! You ain’t seen nothing yet!