Pro Audio

Cracked logic and working from bed: going against the grain with Buzz Kull

Marc Dwyer is Sydney’s darkwave prince. The man behind Buzz Kull, he has been lurking around for a number of years now, releasing his own music, collaborating with other artists and spinning his gothic web around other bands’ tracks. He’s also spent a fair bit of time in Europe, where he’s been garnering his fair share of attention – unsurprising considering the stark, industrial nature of his music.

After a long string of releases tracing back to 2014’s I Disappear, Buzz Kull finally released his (excellent) debut LP, Chroma, last year. An accumulation of at least three years of material, the album is a haunting collection of inky-black electronica. Strewn with industrial drum machines, delightfully monotonous vocals, new wave synths and post-punk attitude, Chroma most definitely lived up to the expectations that had been developing around Buzz Kull since 2014.

Not one to rest on his laurels though, Dwyer has been busy writing and recording a follow-up. In the midst of it all, we caught up with him to see how it’s progressing, what gear he’s been working on, and find out why working from bed is surprisingly productive.

Buzz Kull interview gear

Chatting layered drum machines, iPhone headphone mics and making the most out of being different with Sydney’s darkwave prince Marc Dwyer – aka Buzz Kull.

Hey Marc, how’s it going? What are you up to at the moment?

Things are good, although it’s reaching the point of chaos. 2018 took off really fast and I’m still trying to catch up to everything that’s taking place and keeping my head above water financially. I am sure everyone who works full time and has any creative project on their hands understands where I stand. At the current moment I am finalising the design of a European tour poster that begins in May and keeping a close eye on the time before I have to head to (normal) work.

Is been almost a year since you released Chroma – have you got something new in the works?

I really wanted to keep the momentum going after Chroma, I began recording new material straight away, the support and kind words kept me driven and committed to making something above the standards that Chroma held.

After some near-death experiences during my 2017 European tour, that was the final push for completion, my writing got darker and more consistent, I was able to create a larger mass of material and push myself after this occurred. I am now working on the production and mixing process with Jonathan Schenke who worked on the last record and is due for release in October/November.

Tell us a bit about how you record? Is it all a very DIY/home studio kind of vibe? If so, tell us about your space? Any studio gear you really dig?

My recording process is very straightforward as is my home studio set up. Sydney is not the kind of city you can provide space to store hardware, let alone afford it. I share a small room with my partner inside our home. One half is mine that has my desk, speakers and some hardware.

As my alternate option, as bad as it is for my wellbeing, I will work from my laptop on the bed or couch with headphones, that is where I can accomplish some of my best work, it’s a very unprofessional environment. My outlook is not to overthink anything and just get it done, there is plenty of time along the way to make adjustments but if you are on a roll, just power on through and rinse the moment for all it has to offer.

Are you still doing vocal takes on iPhone headphones?

Yeah, I still use them, more than I probably should, if a regular studio mic does not suit the track and needs more grit. The mic on those headphones is an easy way to dirty up a vocal take.

Buzz Kull’s live set-up, Amsterdam, 2017

Your drum samples are often rough – very industrial. Is there a plugin, sample set or drum machine you often find yourself coming back to for that aesthetic?

I have a few go-to drum machines that I store samples of set aside in folders, I tend to make these tracks that are something you could call a percussion vultron; it’s where I layer a few different drum hits over each other to find the right tone and action that I am looking for. I then apply different plugins to each drum sample depending on how heavy I need it to feel. I really enjoy using the JJP Drums on the Waves pack for these tracks.

A lot of your songs feature a simple arpeggiator with a really juicy tone. Is this often a starting point for you?

The starting point is always a bass or a simple beat for the foundation of a track. I enjoy a lot of arp patterns for lead or bass parts as they can be so erratic and become so mathematical and complex without barely lifting a finger. A detuned chorus or a wobbly tremolo is fun to experiment with as far as effects go.

How do you know when one of these lines is ‘ready’?

I try not over think it too much, if I feel it sounds ok, I will move on and maybe come back to it later. But I won’t spend too much time on one track as that’s where reality kicks in and you end up spending too much time on particular tracks and get nowhere at the end of the day. It becomes disheartening and your confidence eventually dries up.

What synths/controllers are you currently playing on?

My hardware, I use an Arturia Minibrute and an old 80’s Yamaha synth for some nice string presets. I have these going through a few different pedals that change often but at the moment I am using a Death By Audio Ghost Delay, Mr Black Supermoon and a Mackie mixer which surprisingly has some great build in effects, especially the chorus/reverb combo.

What was the first synth you bought?

The first synth I purchased was a second hand Roland Alpha Juno 2 back in 2004 from my friend Trad. He was playing keys in a Sydney punk band called The Scare at the time and then went on to join The Amity Affliction.

I had no idea how to use it, I sat in my room a lot playing it through headphones and trying to figure out how to use it with my cracked version of Fruity Loops. That was my first attempt at recording and I got nowhere. After that I bought a giant upright organ that had a drum machine built in and experimented a lot with that.

Do guitars make their way into your workflow at all?

Not really, I went through a guitar phase during my teens and taught myself how to play Metallica songs at home and that’s as far as I went with that journey. I am curious to try and introduce more into Buzz Kull. The recent collaboration track that was released with Minor Crime is the first recorded song with guitar parts that Dave tracked when we were recording together in his studio.
Something to think about for the future perhaps; synthesisers are such a large distraction for me.

What’s the cheapest piece of gear you feel like you’ve gotten the best value out of?

I think a cracked version of Logic was the item that put me where I am now and built my path for production and sound, or just the general feeling of breaking out of the safe direction that people feel are ideal for radio. Going against the grain does not cost you anything.

Buzz Kull’s home set-up

Do you use both hardware and software? Is there one format you prefer?

I use both, but mostly software, a lot of people are against it and I understand why, but I do not have the money or connections to gain access to that kind of gear. I just want to write and record with the resources I have in front of me, I am sure that in the future, when I have the space and perhaps the money, I will try and build a collection of physical items myself.

Is there anything you’re really hanging out to buy at the moment?

There are a lot of Korg, Moog and Dave Smith products I want to be able to work with in the future. I have been borrowing a MS-20 from David from Minor Crime when I play sometimes in Europe, its so powerful! I really enjoy using it as its a lot more complex than the Arturia I am currently using. Perhaps a Prophet 12 or even a 6 for in the studio. Most of my finances go towards touring and production at the moment, so I can only dream.

Check out Buzz Kull on Bandcamp and buy his stuff so you can make his gear dreams come true.