Q&A With Broken Spindles

Joel Petersen, aka Broken Spindles, is totally frigging busy (which is a really good thing when you're a musician (.

Joel Petersen, aka Broken Spindles, is totally frigging busy (which is a really good thing when you''re a musician). When he''s not rocking some serious-ass bass lines for dance-punk/new-wave darlings The Faint, he''s doing his own one-man show as Broken Spindles, his electro/indie-rock solo effort. His latest album as Broken Spindles, Kiss/Kick (blank.wav, 2009), is an excellent exercise in minimalism—every word and every note is carefully selected and executed to have a precise impact. It''s beautifully sparse while being incredibly catchy. The point is Remix loves it, which leads us to our little interview with Mr. Petersen below. We wanted to talk geek with him, and he was more than happy to oblige. (And that''s probably because The Geeks Were Right. Ha! Get it? Okay, never mind.)

When you write/compose music and lyrics for Broken Spindles, is your mindset different than when you''re working with new music for The Faint?
Absolutely. With Broken Spindles, I try to be true to myself; with The Faint, I try to be true to myself and the other four people in the band. It is a huge difference for me; The Faint is very democratic, and Broken Spindles is a monarchy. I don't really even prefer one method to the other; I think they are both important in my life and even feed off of each other.

You''ve said that Kiss/Kick is a “no eyeliner” record. Can you elaborate on that a bit?
I want Broken Spindles to be true in every way, and things like makeup are there to cover things up—to hide truth. I wanted to make a record that was completely open about its ideas and open lyrically. I guess it is my way of getting to know the real me.

What specifically are your favorite pieces of gear? What can''t you live without in the studio?
In many ways I feel the Doepfer A-100 modular synth has been instrumental in defining what the Broken Spindles sound is, both as a synth and as an outboard effects processor. I try to only use analog synths for Broken Spindles, and all the synths on Kiss/Kick were either that or a Moog Memorymoog. Actually, I just realized I am full of shit. I used a Casio SK-1 on pretty much every song. I love the flute sound on that thing.

What DAW do you use? Why do you like it?
I use Pro Tools. It has treated me well over the years and has always made sense to me. I like feeling it is there to do what I want. In a way, I think it forces me to be more creative with my songs by not having a ton of bells and whistles. I like recording more than playing a video game.

How do you record your vocals? What mics are your favorite and why?
I have used quite a few mics over the years, and my current favorite for my voice is a Sony C 48. It is smooth without adding that weird top end that a lot of current mics seem to impart. I always track vocals in the control room. I am generally the only one present when I sing. I don't think I could find the voice of the song with other people around. It takes me a while to get comfortable with singing a new song.

Do you do your own mixing? Do you have any special tricks/techniques you use when mixing?
Yes, I mix all my own stuff. I suppose I have a lot of tricks. For Broken Spindles, one main thing I try to keep in mind is finding a balance between acoustic and electronic elements, and a lot of times that means trying to put electronic things into the “real” world. I am a huge fan of running stuff through guitar amps and recording a close mic and a room mic. And on the flip side of that, I like to put electronic drum elements with acoustic drums, sometimes just simple doubling up sounds but other times doing some accents and/or fast parts, etc.

What are your favorite preamps? Processors? What do you like about them?
I am a fan of API preamps. I also like the Tube-Tech MP 1A; it has a lot of character and isn't good for everything but when it works, it works. I also like the Manley Variable Mu compressor; it is fairly natural sounding. I tend to shy away from the really compressed sound that is hot right now, and this compressor gives me plenty of smooth gain reduction without getting squishy.

What are your favorite plug-ins? Why?
Honestly, I have been staying away from plug-ins. I feel I hear all the “cool” ones too often, making them much less exciting and inspiring to me. I tend to get things out of the box and use either guitar pedals and/or my Doepfer A-100 modular synth. I custom-built that sucker to basically be a really involved and specific effects processor. But I suppose if I HAD to choose a favorite plug-in, it would be Native Instruments Battery. It is easy to set up custom kits, and it sounds pretty good.

And finally, what are you currently listening to?
I have been enjoying the more droning and ambient side of music. Brian McBride and Eluvium have been getting quite a bit of my attention as of late.

**Bottom photo by Annelies van Dinter.