We speak to Zack, maker of the pikocore, an insanely intense lo-fi beat mangler, suited to breakcore and ‘IDM’ with it’s a ability to live-generate tracker-style ratchet sequences. We chat about how this instrument came about and his other projects. You can find more about him and order his devices here.
Interview With Zack from Pikocore
Thanks for taking the time out to speak to us…
Can you tell us about yourself, how did you get to the place where you’re making an instrument like the pikocore?
I’ve been making music and software most of my life, all for fun. When I was younger, I played the piano and did circuit bending of McDonald’s toys (before I knew it was called “circuit bending”). When I got older, I got into jazz and started playing around with Raspberry Pi computers and designing specialized software to improvise with jazz piano. In college, I got to take a single class on electronics, and it was my favorite. However, I never pursued it beyond messing up guitar pedals and blowing out earphones with DIY audio amps. Then, about three years ago, I went down the synthesizer wormhole and learned about SuperCollider and C++. I started tinkering with sound synthesis. And finally, in the last year, I merged my audio journeys and electronic journeys into one by creating a “nyblcore” from scratch, and eventually the pikocore.
Can you tell us more about the pikocore and what it does and who its aimed at?
The pikocore is a lo-fi sample mangler. You load samples into it and mash the buttons to skip around the sample in a fun way. If you press more buttons at once you get some automated and stochastic retriggering effects.
And about the nyblcore too?
The nyblcore is a even lower-fi sample mangler. You can load only about 1 second of a sample onto it and adjust probabilities to mangle the sample. I also made an alternative firmware for it so you can mangle bytebeats (so it actually does some primordial sound synthesis).
You had something to do with the Norns, is that right?
Yes – I wrote scripts for the norns sound computer. I can’t recommend this device enough – the tutorials to get into coding and music are sublime. Of course it can be used as a blackbox that has effects / synthesizers, but it can really easily be programmed to be the device of your dreams.
What gave you the idea to make the pikocore?
I’ve found sample mangling to be really rewarding – you can get hours of enjoyment from just a few seconds of audio when you have tools to chop it and splice and it rearrange it. The pikocore is designed to be a simple interface to messing up samples – just a few buttons and knobs. And most of the parameters can be controlled by probabilities allowing for some generative type amusement.
What tips would you give someone just starting out with It? Where/how should they start? Any tips?!
I am a SuperCollider evangelist. There is a learning curve, but nowadays there are more and more resources to help you get started. SuperCollider gives you the elementary building blocks for audio synthesis and sampling, so you can prototype and build things there. Its ideas can be applied in many places.
Have you got anything else planned?
Yes! A eurorack module and maybe something more 🙂
Anything else you’d like to say about the product or anything coming up?
Yes – the devices I’m making I’m trying to make as open-source as possible. It means the hardware can be created to do something else if it is ever wanted.
You can find more about the Zak and buy his devices here.
You can find all our other interviews here.