It’s not easy to take a new approach to something done so well by so many, but Ukranian/Russian artist Vlad Kreimer has made it happen with his unique and evolving product line at SOMA labs. Kicked off like many quality-centric outlets, this hardware shop was founded through a musician’s drive to create.
Launched into production with internet interest of Vlad’s LYRA demo, the sound lab has refined their flagship product while adding a few innovative new creations. Instruments like the SOMA Pipe and Ether reimagine how artists collect, create, and play electronic music. Dubbed romantic engineering, Vlad’s stripped down approach to product design is creating something new from an old concept.
While the SOMA lab is still young, their instruments are already making waves in the production world. We reached out to Vlad to hear more about the ‘deep nature’ approach to sound.
Can we start with a bit of background about how you got into making your first instruments and everything that led up to the LYRA demo?
It was that time when the explosion of the internet and cheap laptop digital production changed everything in the music industry. The old world was going to die and I started to search for new ways to save my spirit as a musician. To continue studio work made no sense (I was a studio sound producer before) so I decided to focus my activity on live performances.
As I disliked any kind of playback and prepared sequences on stage, I was in need of finding a new solution on how to keep a solid sound alone. I’m a normal atomized contemporary musician who is traveling alone through the modern gray jungle i.e. has no band. In the instruments market I saw either marketing tricks or gear that didn’t fit the way I perform. So I decided to start making my own instruments. As a result I had built SOUDABO system (you can find some videos on YT) and some other gear. I put some demos on the internet and my mailbox literally blew up by requests to make the same synths for musicians around the world. I then realized it’s a very nice way to continue my music activity, a good business and so decided to start production.
The philosophy of SOMA is deeply rooted in the artist/creator themselves, how has this focus on ‘deep nature’ driven your approach to building hardware?
Deep nature is something opposite to imitation and simulation which we have a lot in gear, technologies and people as well. Deep nature means using deep spontaneous capacity and power of something. I start each new project from research on this natural capacity and power. I asked a musician in myself and around “why do you need a synthesizer?”. Suppose I’ve got the answer “to make a good bass line” but this is not a deep answer as I can ask back “why do you need a good bass line?” “what is a good bass line?”. If you will go honestly through a chain of such questions deeper and deeper you will find these roots, this force that moves you forward and creates pure intentions. If we will lift up back with this understanding up to the technical questions we will have some bright ideas on how to build a good synth or a bass line. And my discovery was that in this way of thinking the focus of what is important significantly shifts away from tech questions (as how many oscillators and filters do we have in this box) where something that is between it all is that much more important.
At it’s core, how do you explain organismic in comparison to other methods of oscillation in synths?
If we have two massive objects (like planets) in space that turn each other in weightlessness we can predict their behavior precisely using simple linear equations. If we add a third object it will become too complex for any kind of equations due to mutual interactions. This principle is used a lot in nature for building complex behavior of different living things. So the secret is not in oscillators themselves as they can be the usual, but open and sensitive enough for modulation. The secret is in the interconnections and interferences. So the resulting oscillation arises from the dynamical balance of all parts of a system. You can analyze work of neurons very precisely but you can’t find your mind there. The mind arises due to interactions between all of them. So organismic synthesis is a synthesis built upon a complex nonlinear dynamic system containing many different feedback and modulation loops.
Your product line has now expanded to a variety of offerings, what is your approach when coming up with new products?
It’s a kind of a free flow. I’m in my exploration of the world, myself, music, self-expression. In this way, I get insights and vibes and then I pack it to hardware and share it with the world. It’s kind of a diary written on semiconductors.
The brand came out of necessity as an artist yourself, how do you continue creating music while balancing product development?
I stopped creating music for now. I feel very satisfied as an artist with what I’m doing. Instead of creating fixed compositions I make landscapes of possibilities like a game where I invite other musicians to explore. But to build a game it’s also an art as games are different and what you will get in the end is different. It’s like an art of making a path. So I still am an artist. Maybe a new type: an artist-engineer 😉
SOMA looks at everything differently, what do you think the audiophile industry as a whole can do to promote innovative thinking in music?
Honestly it’s a very fresh question for me 🙂 I have no ready answer. Maybe to be more open minded with what is a good audio system? In my opinion the best explanation what is the difference between Hi-Fi and Hi-End. Hi-Fi is like a supermodel (fits to some standards very well) Hi-End is like your lovely women, she often doesn’t fit such standards but she touches your heart very deeply. The same with audio. Maybe we need more specific systems devoted to different types of music and different souls? I recall the early history of reggae when people built moving self created sound systems which were very personal, unique and that was the source of the reggae sound later on.
What can we expect from SOMA in the future and how do you plan to keep the brand quality focused?
We will create unusual experimental synths and gear that reflects the modern world while trying to make it better and more interesting. I think it’s better to keep some secrets for the moment 🙂 As for the second question, to remain true to myself and not exchange things that are really important for fast success and easy money.