Modal Electronics Backstage:
At the cusp of releasing her latest album “Pax Aurora” on Nous’Klaer we talk influences, creative processes, communicating through music and routing focus in a DAWless setup for maximum creative inspiration!
So, tell us who you are, where you’re from etc?
Hey! 👋 My name is Nadia Struiwigh and I’m originally from The Netherlands. I lived in Rotterdam for a long time, which I see as my hometown. Creativity is something which is very important to me. When I was 20 years old I discovered the world of Electronic music and it became my lifestyle. Music is my main language and it makes me feel alive. My main focus is Ambient and Experimental music, but I also love to play Techno sets. As a DJ/ Live act I have played some awesome festivals like Dekmantel, ADE, Wildeburg, Draaimantel, and clubs like Tresor and De School. My music is released by amazing labels like CPU, Denovali, Clone, Nous’Klaer and more, and I am sponsored by some established gear brands, which I am very grateful for. It’s been an incredible journey so far!
What’s on your playlist at the moment?
My playlist is filled with loads of different genres! I love to hear different music for different moods. These days I love to listen to music with a bit more soul in it. Break beat and Drum & Bass are also personal favourites at this particular moment with artists like DJ Shadow, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Ernest Ranglin, Gasoline and Ott. My love for Ambient/ Experimental pops up now and again, with specific artists including Echoes, Amon Tobin, Losil and Clark – his new album is so good!
For me it’s very hard to describe my emotions with words, so listening
to music makes me feel at ease. I feel and see everything in melodies and rhythms…
Has Music always been a part of your life? Was Music a big part of your childhood? What did you listen to back then?
Yes, music has been in my life since I was a small child. I was very bad at communication when I was little, and I think I still am sometimes. For me it’s very hard to describe my emotions with words, so listening to music makes me feel at ease. I feel and see everything in melodies and rhythms. When I was young I was always watching music on TV, TMF or MTV. Michael Jackson, Aliyah, Alicia Keys, TLC, and later on Eminem and ColdPlay. And then a big turning point with Sensation, which opened up a whole new spectrum of Electronic music. From this point onwards, I was destined to be a raver, or a musician – or both 😉
What inspires you musically?
Life. Everywhere I walk, every experience I have, inspires me instantly. I create music that’s pure to my heart, without thinking about the practical aspects. Also, all my gear inspires me to create. I could describe my music as my diary.
What has made you choose the DAWless route from a creative standpoint – where does the digital audio workstation come in during your creative process?
I never really thought about choosing DAWless, or moving that direction. I know that I always had a big love for knobs, faders and lights. When I was a child I had many gadgets, and I loved to be in my bubble and create art. So it went pretty organically. I got my first synth when I was 24, and I was hooked. It is so awesome to work intuitively with these devices and free myself of any restrictions. To work with a DAW is distracting for me. It makes me feel that I should create within a format, but music is nothing like that. I still combine Ableton together with gear and I mostly use it to arrange a track, or to use VST effects. I like to tweak my effects after my recording is complete. Also, Ableton is great for creating a digital liveset – my hardware liveset is 30KG, so sometimes it’s great to use some MIDI controllers and Ableton!
I do love my Modal SKULPTs though,
they are so playful, and the sound is really amazing. If I combine this with the Strymon Big Sky reverb, I am seriously on a different planet
What is your current DAWless setup at the moment?
This changes a lot! Basically I have a rack with many synths and drum computers, which I can swap out with devices on my desk. I do love my Modal SKULPTs though, they are so playful, and the sound is really amazing. If I combine this with the Strymon Big Sky reverb, I am seriously on a different planet (ha ha). The Korg Electribes (the old versions) are one of my favourites too. I have three of them, basically because they have so much character in sound and always add to the dynamics & emotion I flow with. Oh! And my Moog Sub37!
So, you are a Dutch native living in sunny Sydney – how has this move impacted your music making?
Yes, I am super Dutch! Sydney has been great. I moved here because I met the love of my life. However, It had a big impact on me, especially during Covid. My idea was to come back to The Netherlands to do my tour, but that never happened. To be honest, I was totally lost. Now, 1.5 years later I can say that this really made me a better person. I really had to move, and I had to step out of the European music scene. In doing so, I got so much clarity concerning my music path, and I connected with amazing people from Europe online – one of them is Modal Electronics! I saw that I was not forgotten, and my music profile got even stronger. I work online now with a few gear brands which is heaps of fun! My love for gear has finally found a place. I released my third Album on Nous’Klaer and I moved to a bigger agency called LittleBig agency, and there is a tour in the works!
[Music] starts for me with an emotion, but my gear inspires me and provides me the sound I need. I love to jam, and I love to make music without having any expectations
When you start creating a synth sound, how do you approach the process – do you already have an idea in your head before you start tweaking knobs?
It always starts for me with an emotion, but my gear inspires me and provides me the sound I need. I love to jam, and I love to make music without having any expectations. Having expectations makes me less creative, and puts me under pressure.
We have watched some great livestreams – how do you begin preparing for one of these and how scripted / rehearsed is the set?
Ah, thank you! It is so much fun! I love to connect with everyone around the globe, the internet is pretty sick. I never really prepare for this, only when I have to set up my cameras or to do a sound check or something like that. I really feel it is my second nature to sit behind the camera whilst making music and chat with people.
Who are your biggest influences on your production?
Boards of Canada, Tycho, Ludovico Einaudi, The Cinematic Orchestra. They just have so much emotional depth, great compositions, and the mix always sounds bliss.
How does a track start for you – what is the spark that kicks off the rest of your production?
Synths and melodies. It is quite funny, because if I start my music with beats, I leave my desk after 30 min out of frustration. For me it is very limiting to work like that, because I need space to create. Pads and strings will give me that 🙂
Synth music is malleable,
it feels that it’s always changing and never the same,
every hit on the keys seems different.
Do you ever suffer creative blocks? What is your coping mechanism?
Yes I surely have, but I try not to see it as blocks. The moment we expect things from music, or we get the feeling that we need to create, is really against human nature. Sometimes we need to accept that there are different priorities, or that we just don’t feel like making music, and that’s okay. I would say, never force something, it’s not needed. Our creative brain sometimes needs rest and no goals. When this happens, I mostly do something else, or set a date in my agenda when I will start making music again – I give myself a break so I can really let go.
How does technology impact your creative process?
A lot! I really love to be online and do research. Not only that, connecting with other people is also something I need for my creative process. However, my creative brain is never quiet. If there was less technology, I would probably find something else to create my ideas.
ALWAYS follow your gut, and ALWAYS trust your own beliefs. It is very important to listen to your inner voice, because you are the only one who knows you best.
What has your experience of the industry been like thus far and what advice would you give to anyone just starting out?
My music career has been an awesome roller coaster for the last 12 years. Amazing times, but also very confronting sometimes. Every emotion was involved, and it does take a lot of commitment and dedication. I gave up many things in my life to live my biggest dream and follow my passion. The music scene showed me a lot about myself, others and life in general. One thing I learnt deeply: ALWAYS follow your gut, and ALWAYS trust your own beliefs. It is very important to listen to your inner voice, because you are the only one who knows you best. Also never let someone, or something, discourage you. You may live your dreams, and your voice is valid. Living your dream is possible, it may take a lot of work, but it is so rewarding. Get yourself a great positive network as well, it is very important to have people around you who are uplifting and who are supporting you no matter what! Shout out to DJ Estroe – Esther Roozendaal who has been a rock to me for many years.
What are you working on at the moment? We hear a new Album has just been released – tell us more!
Ah yes! I just released my new Album called “Pax Aurora” on Nous’Klaer. It’s been so much fun working on that album, because I just arrived here in Australia and created half of the tracks at a kitchen table. We lived in a small studio space, so it challenged me to improvise. I am planning to launch a Remix contest in the coming 2 months, which is very exciting. I have never done this before, so I can’t wait! I think it will be great to give others an opportunity to create a remix and release it on vinyl, and win some awesome prices! A lot of tracks are made with the Modal SKULPT, so working with these stems will be fun!
I totally underestimated the sound of the CRAFT. When I got into it, I was amazed by the sound and what it does, and it’s just a little box
So we hear you have the Creator suite in the studio at the moment – what’s your impressions on the CRAFT and SKULPT SE?
YES! I LOVE THEM. I actually swapped out another synth for my SKULPT as it’s super intuitive. Fun fact, the work flow is actually like many other synths I have, so it fits perfectly in my studio. There are many functions on the SKULPT and CRAFT, which you can enable by pressing a few buttons at the same time, so you never get bored. And I must be honest, I totally underestimated the sound of the CRAFT. When I got into it, I was amazed by the sound and what it does, and it’s just a little box. These synths are easy to bring along to a gig, and I am totally a fan of the Sequencer and the Spread parameter on the SKULPT. It is polyphonic too, which means you can layer sounds, and in my kind of work flow this is very much a necessity. Anyhow, I can write about this for hours, as it’s one of my main devices in my setup!
Nadia STRUIWIGH Signature Sound Pack
ULFOFI for CREATOR Series
Attention DAWless Jammers! Seeking some inspiring sounds for the CREATOR Series, Modal Electronics artist Nadia Struiwigh has just what the doctor ordered with her preset pack ULFOFI – take your production “out-the-box” and take your production elsewhere with this latest addition to our artist series packs!