Peter Johnson, founder of One Red Dog, is responsible for developing one of my favorite iOS synths, Arctic Keys. Recently, One Red Dog totally revamped Arctic Keys into a new synth that I’ve come to love as well called Arctic Pro. As I learned more about Arctic Pro at its release I reached out to Peter Johnson to discuss a bit about his background, the company and the new iteration of one of my favorite synths Arctic Pro.
Let’s get into it…
Interview with Peter Johnson of One Red Dog
BBoyTechReport (BTR): Tell us a bit about Peter Johnson and One Red Dog?
Peter Johnson (One Red Dog): I’m an ex-Brit living in Melbourne, Australia. I learnt programming when I was about 9 on the ZX-81 and Spectrum. Graduated with a computing degree in the mid-90’s and over the last 20 years or so I’ve worked in various different software fields. Right now I split my time between contracting as an iOS developer and my company One Red Dog Media.
BTR: Love the name One Red Dog… how’d you come up with that?
One Red Dog: From my actual dog! She’s a red Japanese Shiba Inu. My wife would call her the one red dog, so that became the name.
BTR: How did you get into Synth App design?
One Red Dog: After making the Molten Drum Machine app it seemed like a natural progression. I’ve always loved synthesizers and own several, so I was fascinated with how to make a software synth. I still have my Spectrum 128+3 with the built-in MIDI interface. I’ve always wanted to build real synths.
BTR: So back in January I reviewed Arctic Keys. “Overall Arctic Keys has a great sound. The grit, the grime, the heavy analog like personality and sound of this synth is certainly worth the $5 by far.” Now there is Arctic Pro. What did you set out to improve when you began with Arctic Pro?
One Red Dog: It started as being a 2.0 version of the synth engine. The first major component of that was the vocoder effect. I think that adds such a great dimension to the musical performance and the range of sounds you can make. Then the effects section got fully reworked, dual filters where added, and of course the HyperOscillators. So now it’s not a 2.0 but a whole new synth.
BTR: I understand that you sent Arctic Pro to Jordan Rudess to take it for a ride. How did that connection come about?
One Red Dog: I first spoke with Jordan shortly after I released Molten Drum Machine towards the end of 2010. He posted an iTunes review and I managed to get in touch to ask if I could use that as a quote. During the development of his GeoSynth app we worked on getting Rob Fielding’s excellent MIDI pitch bending technique integrated with Arctic Keys, it’s also in Arctic Pro. There’s a lead patch in Arctic Pro that is perfect with GeoSynth. Since then we occasionally keep in touch
BTR: Nice… Jordan Rudess is a legend. What was his feedback?
One Red Dog: He was very supportive of what I was trying to do. In fact he put me in touch with Skippy who did the sound design for Arctic Pro.
BTR: So you’ve included HyperOscillators in Arctic Pro. Great… Now tell me, what is a HyperOscillator?
One Red Dog: A HyperOscillator is the layering of multiple waves into one oscillator unit. There is a central oscillator that has the pitch of the playing note and several side oscillators that are detuned off centre. For example, the famous Roland SuperSaw from the JP-8000 is 7 layered saw wave: 1 centre and 3 either side. The Korg Radias is 5 and Virus is 9. In Arctic Pro the HyperOscillator has a total of 8 individual oscillators. So Arctic has this unbalanced arrangement that creates an interesting sound. Plus you can layer any selected wave type: saw, square and triangle. There are two controls that dynamically adjust the spread and mix, the amount of detuning of the side oscillators and the levels. This is calculated in real-time using some funky polynomial maths.
BTR: What do you imagine Arctic Pro would be like as a physical synth?
One Red Dog: An Access Virus painted metallic purple.
BTR: Very cool. So its something like having an Access Virus in my iPad. SOLD! Ok… How has it been working with sound designer John ‘Skippy’ Lehmkuhl?
One Red Dog: John is a guru! It’s been amazing. He has such a vast wealth of experience with voice programming and a very deep understanding of how a synthesizer should work. So even though I wrote all the DSP for Arctic, he was able to pick up on things that I missed or that didn’t sound right.
BTR: Do you think Skippy helped really showcase Arctic Pro’s abilities?
One Red Dog: Yes very much so. We worked closely to adjust the DSP and audio engine and mould it more in the direction he thought the sound design should go. Arctic isn’t a vintage synth emulation, there was a lot of creative input into the design of the synthesizer. You can only do that with someone who has a true understanding of synths.
BTR: Is Arctic Pro meant to be a replacement for Arctic Keys or will they coexist?
One Red Dog: For the foreseeable future they will coexist. Arctic Keys is over two years old, which is a lifetime on the App Store. There’s a small long overdue update coming soon that will fix the layout for iPhone 5.
BTR: Are there plans to do in app purchases for new sounds?
One Red Dog: Not at the moment but we should explore that.
BTR: I’ve used sound sets from sunsineaudio.com for Arctic Keys? Are there plans to work on new sound sets with sunsineaudio.com for Arctic Pro?
One Red Dog: I hope so. Sunsine has made some great preset banks for Arctic Keys and the included Sunsine presets for Arctic Pro are fantastic. I’m also lucky enough to own one of their Vanishing Point effect pedals, probably the only one in Australia. It’s a remarkable pedal.
BTR: What are the future plans for One Red Dog?
One Red Dog: I’m working on a synth design that is really cool. I’m also consolidating my technology, making it easier to support different platforms. The bigger picture is to grow One Red Dog so that I can fully step away from the day job. So we’re also looking at diversifying into a different product line. The next 12 months will be very exciting.
BTR: Well thank you so much for allowing us to peep into the world of One Red Dog Media. Please keep us informed of your upcoming products because we love what you are doing. Thank you Peter.
Thanks for reading. Stay Tuned for more great interviews. Be sure to leave feedback below.