Who we are: Elana
Job title: Destroyer of WorldsWhat’s your backstory? What did you do before NE?
I’ve been a dishwasher, nanny, host, server, studio manager and musician. I still produce, write songs, and tour. Listen to my albums!
Photo by Naz Massaro - Elana performing as Party Nails at Big Adventure Fest with Anna Crane on drums.
How long have you been at NE?
Barely two months. But I’ve loved the company from afar for a few years.
What do you do at NE?
I test our plugins for bugs and basic functionality things. I like to think my main job is to try and bridge the modular brain and plugin brain, so both types of users are able to use our products to create incredible sounds and songs.
What’s your day-to-day like?
I’ll catch up on anything that happened when I wasn’t working by reading through our Slack, and then I’ll usually download the newest build of our installer and plugins. I’ll open whichever DAW needs testing priority—Protools, Ableton, Logic, Bitwig, Reaper and Reason are what I’m currently focusing on—and start to play around and see if anything is off. Sometimes it’s something little like we forgot to capitalize a word, and other times it’s something bigger like a crash. I make note of that and discuss with the team.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I like to work on my music project, Party Nails. I’m always working on new music and love to play shows. When I’m not working on Party Nails or Noise Engineering, I’m probably playing with my dog Snoopy or cooking. He loves fetch and I love spaghetti and meatballs. I also teach a few students and workshops every now and then.
What’s your favorite NE product that you’ve worked on?
I haven’t “worked” on it as in actually built it, but I adore the new plugin Ruina. She’s a woman who runs with the wolves, a true wild goddess, completely powerful and shapeshifting in ways we can barely understand.
What got you started in modular to begin with?
I’m still relatively new to modular, actually. I’m not sure the first time I saw someone do their thing with a case, but it probably was at a show or in a Youtube video of Oni Ayhun or Rex the Dog. It just seemed interesting and I was really drawn to it. I always used computers to make music but loved the rawness of the sounds and the kinetic experience of all the knobs and materials the modules are made out of. I feel like I’m always trying to make my computer production experience more physical, and simultaneously get the physicality of some of these guttural, make-you-want-to-move-your-body sounds onto a record, complete with a hook and an extended version a DJ could drop at midnight.
What was your first synthesizer, modular or otherwise?
My grandpa gave me my first synth ever—I’m not sure I knew what to do with it. It was a Moog Realistic that he’d purchased brand new from Radioshack, and kept in perfect condition until gifted to teenage me. I used it a ton and learned a lot on it, but wasn’t really aware of synthesis concepts (not that anything is properly named on the Realistic anyway). The first synth I ever interacted with extensively was FM8. If you don’t know, FM8 is a software FM synthesizer by Native Instruments. I had no money of course, and was using an old version of Logic 9, Kontakt, FM8, and some Vengeance samples on my 2006 black Macbook Pro. FM8 has an amazing arpeggiator and I would just spend hours playing with my steps in there, as well as the matrix and waveforms. I loved the sounds it could make.
What’s your favorite non-modular instrument?
I love my computer as an instrument. But sometimes I resent it for being so many other things. So guitar is my real favorite. Like a computer, it can play many musical roles. But a guitar cannot also surf the web and notify you it’s time for an OS update, so it’s easier to make music with.
What’s your favorite piece of non-NE gear?
Probably a UA 6176 or a pair of Distressors. Just gorgeous.
How did you get interested in music? What was your musical life before modular?
I heard “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” on the radio in the backseat when I was about four years old, and I sang it to myself while I looked out the window. I saw a parade with bagpipes in it and was enamoured. I saw a Broadway play. I heard “Doo Wah Ditty Ditty” for the first time and then waited for it to come on the radio again so I could record it to a tape cassette. I sang in every choir at school from second grade until I graduated college. My friends and I would write songs to the beats on my Casio keyboard. Finally I started guitar lessons and eventually got involved in production at a friend’s suggestion. Music was always so important to me, and I always wanted to write songs and make records. Before production and after “I Saw Mommy” it was a lot of fingerstyle blues guitar and Americana songwriting.
What kind of music do you like to listen to? Favorite bands? Songs?
I love most genres of music. I listen to SZA, Kacey Musgraves and Robyn almost daily! I love Django Reinhardt for when I’m cooking dinner. Mozart in the mornings. Oliver for the highway. Great Records of All Time In My Opinion include “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, “Juicy” by the Notorious BIG, “Kiss” by Prince, and “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton.
What album could you not stop listening to when you were in high school?
The Milk Eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom.
What would your 18-year-old self think about what you do now?
She would think it was the coolest thing.