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Modular Profile: Max Ravitz

Modular Profile: Max Ravitz

Having joined the team at Moog Music back in 2015, product strategist Max Ravitz cut his teeth as both a musician and synthesist in NYC’s independent synth boutique Control while playing transcendent electronica as Patricia. A key player in the development of the widely lauded Moog Mother‑32, you may well have spotted Ravitz demonstrating its sonic capabilities as well as those of the Moog Matriarch and formidable Model 15 system.

On his entry into modular

I started dipping my toes into modular synthesis in 2012. I met this guy named Daren Ho, who was the co‑owner of a modular synth shop that had just opened in New York, called Control. Soon after meeting him I started visiting Control and bought my first two modules, which were an original ALM Pamela’s Workout and an original Make Noise Optomix. I became fast friends with the two owners of Control, and eventually started working there. I really owe a lot to those guys! They were incredibly supportive of my music career, and were amazingly flexible about accommodating my touring schedule, not to mention my gear collecting habits. I got to work with a lot of incredible musicians on staff there, plus it was great to be able to try so many modules. I have a lot of love for Control.

On his go‑to modules

Interestingly enough, Pamela’s Workout and Optomix were my first modules and neither have ever left my case, although I’ve upgraded both to the current versions. Pamela’s is never not useful, and the new Pro version just takes the flexibility to a whole new level. Optomix is my go‑to low‑pass gate, and I love the little tweaks they added from the original. For sequencing I use the Winter Modular Eloquencer constantly. I love Eloi who started Winter Modular, and that sequencer has cemented itself in my studio. For effects, the 4MS DLD [Dual Looping Delay] has lived in my case since it was released. The Lexicon PCM‑42 is one of my favourite digital delays of all time, and it was designed by Gary Hall who also worked on the DLD. The guy really seems to know how to make a beautiful digital delay! Beyond those, I’ve really been digging the recent Bastl modules like the Pizza, Ikarie, Basil and Aikido. I love the Bastl vibe, their idiosyncratic approach.

On playing as Patricia

I started working on the Patricia project around 2008, but didn’t get any traction until around 2013. I was living in New York at the time and did a random Craigslist trade with a local musician named Jan Woo. I traded him my Moog Prodigy for his Korg Polysix, and then sent him a song I made with the Polysix a few days later — an ‘it went to a good home’ kind of vibe. Jan liked the song, and invited me to perform at a venue he and a group of friends had opened called The Body Actualized Center For Cosmic Living — R.I.P. That was the first Patricia live show I ever played, and it was with a few artists on the label L.I.E.S. That was a huge turning point for me because I got to meet a lot of hardware producers working in a similar zone to me, and it allowed me to tap into a much larger pool of inspiration than I ever had before. I learned so much around that time, especially from musicians like Arp, Terekke, Jahiliyya Fields, Steve Summers and Bookworms. During that period my music found its way into Stephen Bishop’s ears from Opal Tapes and he put out my first proper release, then everything developed from there.

On working with Moog

I started working with Moog around 2015 on the relaunch of their 5U modular systems. They initially hired me as an artist to perform in that launch video. Around that time they were also developing the Mother‑32, and since I was a budding Eurorack nerd, they asked for feedback during the development process. I then ended up in the Mother‑32 and Matriarch launch videos, and just kept working with Moog more and more as time passed. I even remember Mike Adams jokingly threatening to give me a job at one point because I was freelancing for them so much. Then around the end of 2019 that actually happened, and I moved from NYC to Asheville [North Carolina] to start working for them, full‑time. Now I’m the product strategist at the company, and I work with the product development team on instrument designs and broader product strategy.

On the culture of modular

This is a bit of a tricky one for me. I love modular synthesizers for their flexibility, and one of the things I would always tell customers at Control is that modular synthesis is amazing for building an instrument around your musical practice. When you buy a hard‑wired instrument, the manufacturer has made all the decisions around how it works and sounds, and you have to adapt your musical practice to those decisions. You might also be paying for features that you don’t like and never use, whereas modular synths avoid that pitfall because you can simply remove modules if you decide they’re not what you want and rearrange your system to your heart’s content.

This is a double‑edged sword, however, because the ability to constantly reconfigure can distract from the ultimate goal of making music, and it can create the same type of decision paralysis that led me away from computer production. Of course, there are some people buying modular synths to explore sound and tinker, which I think is totally admirable and valid, but my personal goal is to make music. With that in mind I try to limit my modular case, which I’ve gotten better about now that I don’t work in modular synthesizer retail! I find modular culture can be too centred on the fetishisation of the latest and greatest, and that can really reinforce the feeling that your case will never reach its final form. Lately I’ve been trying to just focus on creatively using the modules I have for what I need to do, rather than the untapped potential of what I could do with something else. I’m still occasionally lured into buying new modules, though, because most of the innovation in synthesis is coming out of the modular world, and I always want to try new approaches when it makes sense for my music.