Sunday, 30 January 2011

Milton Babbitt Rip

Saw this on Matrixsynth....

Basing Treat

Look at these super-cool pictures of studio one at Basing Street, as it was in the mid-70s. This is the studio set up by Chris Blackwell of Island records, and was home to some of the best recordings of the 70s - Led Zep 4 for example. It evolved into Sarm West at some point and 80s music was born. Here we can see the Helios [not neve as I originally thought] wraparound console that epitomized the big huge sound of the seventies, plus it was painted yellow

UPDATE: Using the magic of google image search, I discovered a scan of the original Basing Street studio brochure on this forum here, and now this post is complete

UPDATE TWO: OK so see the comms for something cool...


Do you ever find yourself with a couple of thousand hours of time to kill? You could do a lot worse than head over to the incredible UBUWEB where you will find hour upon hour of art and experimental video, all archived and sorted and ready to amaze

I have only just dipped my toe into the water there, but already discovered fascinating films I have never seen before about some of my heroes; Don Van Vliet [RIP], Marcel Duchamp, Ivor Cutler, Joseph Beuys, theres so much stuff! But I was overjoyed to discover this film lurking in the shadows - a 1973 film from the amazingly-titled National Center for Experiments in Television featuring an analog video synth and a Buchla 200 modular system. You can watch the whole 30 minute film here but here is the introduction:

UPDATE: I found a couple of pictures, below, of Warner Jepson and the 'Buchla Box' he used in this performance. They are from here

Dead End

Today I took a trip to Southend, Essex's very own French Riviera. Me and Joe took Olly, her 6 year old nephew to see the dazzling sights. Actually it was really cold and out of season and all the fun parks were closed and scoobydoo-ish. There were only tramps and what looked like hookers hanging about, but maybe thats how people dress in Essex when no ones looking. Anyway we spent the entire day inside the few very old fashioned amusement arcades that were open, with names like Las Vegas, New York, etc. As you can see from this pic they still had some charm. I found a 1980s Star Wars fruit machine that took about £8 off me in 2 minutes

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Friday, 28 January 2011

Windows 2011

This year is a fresh start in the studio and I am starting the refurb next week. First thing to do is position the window....

UPDATE: I moved it over a bit:


Having met with Julian the builder and had a think about the logistics of the wall and existing brickwork behind the fabric and soundproofing, it seems this would be a good way to go now. Here's a photoshop version of the idea, compared to the previous idea below it:

Scratching Space

Two videos sent my way by Richard Lee who lives in Silverlake, Debden

No Holes

Have you ever wanted to implement all those great mods to your EMS VCS3 but not wanted to drill holes in the panel? Well this website has the solution!

Here is the introduction:

"Many Synthi users dare not make mods because they're afraid to depreciate their valuable instrument. Is understandable, but is a pity because the mods wonderfully expand the Synthi and open doors to fantastic new sonic worlds

Here's an idea I think is worth to be shared. I'm surprised no one else had it before

I did a few mods on my Synthis A MKI and AKS using push-pull pots instead of switches to avoid drilling holes in the panel

LEDs in the spare anti-rotation holes left by the original pots (push-pull ones are smaller) show that the mod is active when the knob is pulled 

This makes the mods fully reversible and preserves the Synthi's original appearance"

Mods covered:

* Push-pull pots
* Voltage controlled shape on each oscillator
* Hi/lo range switchable oscillators
* Filter 18/24 db
* Filter slew/unslew
* Oscillator synchronization
* Attack and decay time extension

I saw this over on matrixsynth

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Saw this over on Synthtopia

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Three Questions for Me

I've been interviewed about synths over on the excellent ether^ra blog. I've added a permalink to his blog on the right because he regularly posts really interesting experimental music things

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Word of the Week #1

In homage to the excellent Aliens Project close up of the week [i.e. it's a blatant rip-off] I have decided to start a new series called word of the week in which I will attempt to take a picture of an interesting word I see somewhere in the studio each week. OK, here is the first one, any guesses where it's from?


Check out our new Maths Facebook page There is a competition up there to remix one of our tracks, or if you prefer a track by Gary Numan!

If you choose our one you will be able to download the raw audio sounds from the following synths and drum machines and mess them up as much as you like: Arp Odyssey, Korg Monopoly, Simmons SDS5, Moog Modular, Arp Omni, Roland TR808. So dust off your Tascam Portastudio and get remixing!!!!

Strawberry Mixer

Here is an amazing clip of Martin Hannett in the studio in 1980. I saw this over on Member D's excellent blog and it made me very happy indeed

The mixing desk is a Helios wraparound affair, and is referred to as the '10CC console'. See this and this post over on my other blog, especially the comments in the last link. Note that the desk is now located at the Audities Foundation in Calgary Canada, who also have an incredible analog synth collection

Friday, 21 January 2011

East Coast, Meet West

I got back from my holiday and JOY! the Cynthia lowpass gate arrived from America that I bought on the bay. This is a very special module, and I have been on the lookout for one for quite some time, in the Moog format. I was hoping that it would do what it does and joy upon joy it does. It is a quad vactrol-based circuit based on an original design by west coast synth pioneer Don Buchla in the 1970s, and was a big part of the Buchla sound. Here is his lovely panel, the original Buchla 292

As far as I understand it, vactrols are a special electronic circuit based around a tiny lamp that is enclosed along with a light sensor, and when it recieves a signal the light comes on and the sensor translates it into a control for other circuits. Because there is a time delay when the light goes off it produces a very natural and organic sounding decay which is very useful in electronic music. This module uses the vactrol to control two elements; firstly an audio amp and secondly a low pass filter, which has the effect of decreasing the harmonic content of the input. You can also select to have both being gated at the same time. The net result is a very natural and organic sounding module, and having four in one is really useful, as you can use them in parallel or series. One way of using it is to send it a complex audio signal, such as noise or FM oscillator, and trigger the vactrol with a very short spike and you get wonderfully enveloped percussive sounds

I had to connect up the Dotcom power supply to the Cynthia module which meant I had to 'phone a friend' [Big Al] quite late last night, but he talked me through it, and made sure I had the polarity right. Here is the inside of it. The vactrols are the black squares with 3 legs

The front panel is really well made and printed [by STG] - apart from the fact that each of the 4 sections are labeled 'channel one'!

Here is the patch in the video. Theres a Moog 901 VCO being FM'ed by another 901 which is being FM'ed by the 960 sequencer. The main VCO pitch is being controlled by a random signal via a sample and hold. A COTK VCO is triggering the lowpass gate described above, and the frequency of the trigger is being controlled by a Dotcom 119 sequencer




Holiday Snaps

Io Town

Ive just got back from a trip to the French Alps skiing with Pete. We found this amazing little town called Avoriaz 1800 [that's how high it is in meters] which is a skiing only town. It's got no roads - only ski runs! The really cool thing is it was built in the 1960s and 70s [actually there's still buildings going up now but using the same crazy designs] and its like being in a 1970s sci-fi film set on the innermost of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter

Heres a little film I made on one of the lifts. The music is from a 70s library album, a track called 'Pulsion' by John Saunders

Monday, 17 January 2011

Monday, 10 January 2011

Craig is a Liar

I know everyone says Craigslist is full of scams, but sometimes I like to check out what amazing bargains he's got going just for fun. Today you can buy all the lovely things pictured below for about 1/10th their normal value! So I decided to contact all the sellers and guess what? They all live on Shetland [the UK's most remote Island]!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Wasting Electricity

Emerson Lake and Palmer were once famously described by John Peel as 'a waste of electricity'. However, that was one thing I didn't agree with him about because when I was 11 years old they were my favorite band. I still know every word, keyboard part and drum fill on every album off by heart. So I was watching a short film about their first ever gig at the IOW festival in 1970 today on Sky Arts, and there was this new clip of Keithy-boy that I had not seen before. So I recorded it on my iphone (sorry for rubbish quality)

Saturday, 8 January 2011


Look at this cute little item on ebay US today - a very early product by Yamaha called the EM-90A. Its a 6 channel mixer with a built in drum machine and spring reverb! I would definitely brighten my tonsillitis-gloom by buying this for £50 if it was in the UK...

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Interplay Time

We finally have a release date for The Maths album - 21st March 2011, on Metamatic Records.

Above is the final artwork for the cover, designed by Jonathan Barnbrook

As this is my official studio blog and I like lists, here is a list of the equipment we used on the record:

Arp Odyssey
Arp Omni
Arp Sequencer
Crumar Bit 01
Crumar Multiman
Crumar Roadrunner
DBX 119 compressor
EMT plate 140
Fairlight CMI
Formant Modular
Hohner Pianet T
Ibanez AD80
Korg Monopoly
Korg MS20
Korg PS3100
Lexicon 224
Linn LM1
MCI 416b console
Moog Minimoog
Moog Modular
Moog Polymoog
MXR flanger/doubler
Oberheim Xpander
Paia Phlanger
Roland 100M
Roland CR78
Roland RS202
Roland SH101
Roland space echo 201
Roland TR808
Roland VP330
Sequential T8
Sequential VS
Serge Modular
Simmons SDS5
Studer 900 series console
Ursa Major delay
Yamaha CS30
Yamaha CS80
Yamaha Rev1

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Blair House Project

Here is a beautiful hillside residence, in Hollywood just above Mullholland Drive. A steal at around £450K. From this website