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Who we are: Stephen

Welcome back to the blog! This series is all about the people behind Noise Engineering. We’re a small but dedicated group of primarily awkward nerds, who all share a love for synthesizers, music, and all things Noise.

Name: Stephen McCaul

Job title: Chief Noisemaker

What’s your backstory? What did you do before NE?

I got an undergraduate degree in Math and then eventually wandered into a Masters Certificate program in game design that landed me a job as an audio software engineer in AAA video games. Before that, I worked in miscellaneous systems, database and web programming jobs.

How long have you been at NE?

Longer than it has existed.

What do you do at NE?

Software, Hardware, Design...Anything related to products, tech, or general strategy. And somehow weekly jams lol.

Stephen enjoying some light reading... photo shows a close-up of Stephen chomping on the corner of a book

Stephen enjoying some light... reading?

What’s your day-to-day like?

Often it is just writing and debugging C++ for our products. I do a lot of management of both our technical systems and our other engineers. And I get the stickiest technical issues so I spend a lot of time troubleshooting.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Try to sleep and sometimes even make some music! Kris and I spend a fair bit of time cooking and on related culinary pursuits. And playing board games.

What’s your favorite NE module that you’ve worked on?

Most recently, Desmodus. Desmodus represents years of thinking and playing with bits of things finally put together into a product. I also enjoyed (and sometimes miss) the early years where it really was just me goofing off in a spare bedroom of the house and finding fun things to make music with...but realistically, our products are better as a result of team input.

What got you started in modular to begin with?

Different friends had systems over the years. I was in and out of it but it just kept finding me. It was a natural fit to combine my musical brain with my engineering brain.

What’s your favourite C++ workaround you’ve had to do to get something working?

Syntax error line 1: huh?

What’s your favorite module in your system?

[redacted]

Desert island module?

The desalinator module. We have been unable to bring it to production due to parts shortages.

What was your first synthesizer, modular or otherwise?

Gravis Ultrasound used as a sampler, Paia Fatman was my first standalone synth.

What’s your favorite non-modular instrument?

From an instrument-design perspective, the pipe organ is tough to beat. [Ed note: we are fortunate to live near Disney Hall, home of one of the most impressive pipe organs in the world]

image is a photo of a vintage printed-out photo showing Stephen and another musician very focused on making some jams

What’s your favorite piece of non-NE gear?

Synth: Yamaha FS1-R

How did you get interested in music? What was your musical life before modular?

I had a few years of suzuki piano as a kid and a few more years of less extreme piano lessons (there exist videos of my recitals). In junior high, I got into bass and played in orchestra through high school, and played electric bass for fun. In the late 90s-early 2000’s, I had a MIDI studio in the late 90s and early 2000s that I had a lot of fun with.

What kind of music do you like to listen to? Favorite bands? Songs?

Most of what I listen to these days is ambient music while I work, but it depends on the day.

What’s a module you want that doesn’t exist yet?

More sophisticated pitch-processing modules. And the five modules we are waiting to release but can’t because of parts shortages.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

As a kid Star Wars, as an adult Star Trek. Something about hero’s journey stories getting less interesting as one grows older.

Favorite horror movie?

Alien, The Shining

Favorite pizza toppings?

Either minimal (margarita) or salt bombs (anchovies, olives, capers etc). And yes to pineapple (and fruit in general) on pizza!

What album could you not stop listening to when you were in high school?

FLA: TNI, Parliament: everything i could find, NiN: Pretty Hate Machine, NiN: Broken, Skinny Puppy: Too Dark Park, and, lol Ween: Pure Guava,

What would your 18-year-old self think about what you do now?

I’m sure he would tell me how I am doing it wrong.

Favorite NE memory?

What is yet to come.

STEPHEN'S BANDCAMP
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