Welcome to Reasonistas Interviews, episode 4. In this episode, we caught up with Rob of Lectric Panda LLC, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, the birthplace of Bootsy Collins, Steven Spielberg and Charles Manson (what a trio). So, sit back and enjoy Rob’s journey to developing Rack Extensions. Also, there is another Reasonistas exclusive “ReLeak” near the end of the interview. Cheers!
Noel González of Reasonistas
Interviewee: Rob of Lectric Panda, LLC
Rack Extension Developer
Lectric Panda’s Rack Extensions are as unique and playful as their name, ranging from CV modifiers/generators to helpful signal monitors and advanced step sequencers. At the time of our interview, Rob had 9 devices under his belt with a 10th device planned for release in the next few days. The other exciting development was that Reason 9’s "Players" devices will allow users to record the notes from Korde and Propulsion to a sequencer track, making these step sequencers even more useful and powerful for creating music in Reason.
Lectric Panda debuted in October 2014 with Janitor CV Shaper, an elegant and minimal utility device with two independent CV shapers; each having a visual input and output scope.
Next Rob took the Reason community by surprised and released Korde, an advanced sequenced arpeggiator that he personally wanted to see in Reason for as long as he could remember. Korde is an 8 voice arpeggiator sequencer hybrid with a classic matrix style editor where each row is dynamically assigned a note as it is played. Korde has an impressive 4.4 shop rating and is currently on sale for only $29.00 (50% off $59.00).
After getting his feet wet in the cv and step sequencer arena, Rob designed and released Skope Signal Monitor, a real-time viewer for Audio and CV signals with the ability to hold the incoming signal and inspect the waveforms history.
Having covered cv, sequencing and signal monitoring devices in only a few months, Rob changed direction and releases Shape LFO Editor. Shape is a freeform CV editor, looper, recorder, and envelope generator with a magnitude of modification and modulation possibilities. The device includes 5 synchronized and adjustable playheads. The capture mode allows for recording and playback of CV signals. Shape includes over 9,000 preset waveform patches to help you discover new possibilities.
Rob’s 5th device was the MoPol Polyphonic CV Merger. This free device converts 8 CV Gate/Note inputs and merges them into a single CV Gate/Note output. It’s a great companion for any cv and/or sequencing device.
With the success of Skope Signal Monitor, and by popular demand, Rob releases Skope M4 Signal Monitor, four real-time viewers for Audio and CV signals in a single device.
The experience Rob gained from developing Korde allowed him to expand on the idea to develop and release Propulsion, a sophisticated and feature packed 16 track percussion sequencer. This device comes with a classic matrix style editor where each lane has an associated loop length, rate divisor, play direction and offset. Each lane step has a corresponding velocity, gate length, repeat mode and two aux CV values.
Although Reason includes a built in Spectrum Analyzer giving you instant visual feedback on the selected mix channel, mix group or final mix, it lacks certain important control features. So Rob decided to develop Spektrum, a real-time spectrum analyzer for audio signals. Unlike Reason’s Spectrum Analyzer, Lectric Panda’s Spektrum device includes a high resolution view, full range of spectrum and signal magnitude, adjustable peak falloff rate and color, and the ability to pan and zoom horizontally and vertically.
Rob 9th and most recent device was Inspired by popular eurorack modules. The PSQ-1684 is a combination of 16 pulse generators mapped to a grid, 8 analog style sequencers, and 4 CV note quantizers. The Drum pattern source uses a two dimensional, 10 by 10 map of percussion patterns to produce pulses. Each pattern is 32 steps long. The density parameter can be used to increase the number of pulses in the pattern. Patterns can be faded with their neighbor patterns using fractional values.
Now that we’ve covered Lectric Panda’s 9 devices, let’s ask Rob some questions about him, his devices and future plans. As usual, we began our interview by asking Rob about his birthplace, where he spent his childhood and what influence this had on his music career and Rack Extension development.
Rob: Born in a small town, northern Michigan, USA. I spent my first 18 years there, then went further up north for another 5 years to attend college. Snow, so much snow.
Noel: At what age did you discover an interest in music?
Rob: I was probably around 13 or 14 so when I first started discovering electronic music. The local music store had a very limited selection and I had to blindly order from their catalog just based on artist names. I think eventually I got online and found hyperreal.org. That quickly led to finding artists like The Orb, Aphex Twin and Plastikman.
Noel: What role has music played in your life?
Rob: Electronic music has always been the soundtrack to whatever has been going on. In college it led me to hosting a radio show and learning to DJ. Then buying up a ton of gear, getting into production, and doing a few live shows. After college, moving to Detroit for the techno scene.
Noel: Do you have traditional music training?
Rob: Nothing traditional.
Noel: And, programming? When did you start with that?
Rob: I think I downloaded my first C tutorial and a copy of Turbo C++ 3.0 back when I was around 14. I wanted to make demoscene demos. Eventually that led to getting a degree in computer science.
Noel: Do you remember your first music related application?
Noel: How did you learn about Reason and what was your first version?
Rob: I was a huge fan of ReBirth 338 so when they came out with Reason 1, I was probably downloading it that night.
Noel: What are your top three favorite Reason features?
The whole user experience. Modeling the workflow after having real gear, the rack, the mixer, I just love it.
CV Control. Modulate everything.
Rock solid stability.I haven’t played with 9 yet, but I think the bounce clip in place might be my fourth.
Noel: What are the top 3 features you wish Propellerhead would add to Reason?
Sample loading in Rack Extensions. Please.
A Super Combinator, Just give me 2-3 times everything in the normal Combinator.
Sample loading in Rack Extensions. Again, Please.
Noel: What made you decide to develop Rack Extensions?
Rob: Korde was the rack extension I wanted. I tried some others that were similar but they just didn’t cut it. So I decided to roll my own. Then they just kept rolling.
Noel: What is unique about your background that defines the Rack Extensions that you develop?
Rob: It’s an excellent combination of all my interests. Electronic music production mixed with coding mixed with DSP mixed with digital art and design. It all comes together in these things. I’m not sure that’s unique though.
Noel: What was the genesis of your first Rack Extension?
Noel: How do you go about creating the GUI of your devices? Do you have a process that you go through?
Rob: Always start on paper. I have a notebook full of REs that will never exist. Then I do a bunch of mockups in photoshop. Usually after that I start digging into what DSP code I need.
Noel: What studio gear and hardware synthesizers would you like to see in the Reason Rack and why?
Rob: All these devices in my notebook. I just need more hours in the day...
Noel: Are you able to give us a sneak peek into your next Rack Extension or future Re plans?
Rob: I have an update to the PSQ1684 coming up soon, first look here! It includes a new shift register mixed with a Klee Sequencer mode. This is going to be awesome when mixed with the new Reason 9 Players. There is also a synth in the pipeline, but everyone will have to wait a little bit longer to see that one! After those, we are going crazy with granular!
Reasonistas' Exclusive ReLeak of Lectric Panda's PSQ1684 v 2.0
Note to the reader: There is another brand new Lectric Panda device coming out in the next few days, but we agreed not to "leak' that device at this time, as there will be other surprises announced when that device is released.
Noel: Do you have any plans to port your Rack Extensions over to other platforms (i.e. iOS, VST, AU, etc.)
Rob: No plans at this time, but you never know, the code is all portable, so it wouldn’t be too difficult.
Noel: Any words of advice for people interested in kick starting their own Rack Extension company?
Rob: If you have an idea for something you want, others probably want it as well.
Noel: Anything else you would like readers to know about you or your products?
Rob: All our products are made with 100% natural electrons.
Noel: Rob, thank you for this interview. Your devices are unique, useful and a pleasure to work with. I'm personally looking forward to checking out PSQ1684 v 2.0 and seeing people's reaction to your brand new device coming out in the next few days. I wish you continued success with all your future plans and look forward to seeing more quality devices coming from you.
Rob: Thanks Noel! I love the Reasonistas new Rack View.
Alright fellow Reasonistas there you have it! Another insightful interview with Rob of Lectric Panda LLC. As always, feel free to comment below if you have any questions for me or Rob. You can also find out more about Lectric Panda’s Rack Extension devices at the following:
@Lectric Panda LLC Website: http://lectricpanda.com/
Letric Panda’s Device Rack: http://reasonistas.wix.com/reasonistas#!lectric-panda-llc/mq07u Letric Panda’s Dedicated Forum: http://reasonistas.81288.x6.nabble.com/Lectric-Panda-LLC-f348.html
@Propellerhead Software AB
Letric Panda’s Shop Page: https://shop.propellerheads.se/browse/?q=&developer=Lectric+Panda+LLC&view=list
Until next time, happy music making and keep it Reason-able!