Hello! Yes, I'm still alive and still working hard behind the scenes at Marmot Audio. The last few months have been an absolute blur of projects and some awesome personal changes (more on that later) and it was only the other day I looked on the blog and realised it's been 5 months since I last updated it! Where does the time go?!
Elektron stands are still as popular as ever and a few months ago I got an order for two sets of two-tier stands in Fluorescent Orange. Nothing out of the ordinary there. However, the order was from Stephen Morris. Yes, THAT Stephen Morris of Joy Division and New Order fame! I had to send him an embarrassing fan-boy email as those two bands were part of the soundtrack of my youth and I consider them to be a massive influence on me getting into making electronic music. Here's Stephen loving his new stands!
Twins seem to be the flavour of the month around here. And who doesn't love twins! I thought it would be funny to find some images of musical twins as a lead up to the point of this part but it's not quite as easy as you'd think.
See what I mean!
Anyway, that tenuously links to recent projects for me where I seem to be making everything in pairs. First off a pair of NV73 Classic Preamps. These two beauties were built for Tony Doogan at Castle of Doom Studios (producer for Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub etc.) from one of the Don's Neve clone kits which I don't think are available any longer. First time I've built anything in 500 format and it was a pleasure to work on them.
Next up was a pair of Buchla 258 oscillators. Based on Stroh Modular's clone and built in MOTM format. This was part of a clutch of jobs for producer Dom Morley (Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Grindjrman, I Am Kloot, etc.). Lovely sounding VCOs, the square output on them is one of the best I've heard. In addition to the 'standard' build I added modification for switching between the Square and Saw wave shapes (it's normal to build them for one or the other), a switch to switch between linear and exponential FM (with the FM level pot changed to a dual pot to control the levels to the linear and exponential connections on the circuit - quite chuffed with that little solution!) At Dom's request I also added a little header section where you can 'normalise' the 1V/Oct CV input to the second oscillator so you can control two or more with one CV input. Works like a charm!
Custom Euro 'Skiff'
Here's a little one I'm really proud of. A client came to me to build him a custom Euro modular rack: two rows of 42 HP (it was to house 6 Synthesis Technology modules), made from pure white acrylic and built-in power. The case itself is only 80mm deep and can be used both vertically or laid flat. The power is via one of Frequency Central's DIY power PCBs and the distributed by a CGS Euro power distribution board. At 12V it's good for about 450-500ma per rail using a 1A AC supply.
I put a huge amount of work getting the case just right, especially as the client didn't want those 'typical' notched joints that you see on many acrylic cases so the whole thing is bonded together and then finely hand-finished to smooth out all of the joins. It's a work of art!
However, the clients requirements changed and so I decided to keep the case: I've needed a little Euro setup for testing for sometime and this is much safer than having modules hanging out of power supplies all over my work bench! If anyone is interested in it to buy then drop me a line.
Custom M-Class Serge-ish Panel
This was another cracking project to do. Based on a commission from Glasgow-based, Turner Prize nominated media artist Luke Fowler, I had to design a Serge-style half panel (M-Class) incorporating a curious brew of modules: comparators, fuzzy logic, phaser and and input output section to handle line and instrument level connections.
I designed the layout and the graphics for the front panel which took quite a while but helped us both visualise and debug the design before committing it to metal and parts:
And from there we commissioned Ben at Re:Synthesis to make the aluminium panel and then I set to work building the individual sections and wiring it all together.
Ask anyone that knows me and they'll tell you that I've been obsessed with bird of prey since I was a young boy. A few years back, after a chance meeting and a desire to do something different, I decided to look into getting practical and theoretical education on how to look after, train and hunt with birds of prey. I found a British Falconry Club approved course for which I studied with a local falconer and worked towards getting accredited with the newly launched LANTRA qualification, aimed at bringing some education and standards to the purchase and welfare of raptors. I passed the course with flying colours (sorry!) and then for years after it dwindled away into history.
I mean, I never imagined I would realistically own a bird of prey. The money, the time, the dedication, feeding, flying, hunting. The list of reasons not to own one is a pretty strong one.
Fast-forward to the middle of last year and one of those chance meetings again with someone from my falconry study past. We had some builders come around to do some work on the house and one of them I recognised as a guy that had spent some time as an instructor on my course doing lure work with some of his smaller falcons. Also turns out he only bloody lives in our village and keeps over a dozen falcons which he flies regularly on local land. Amazing what goes on under your nose sometimes!
So we got around to the course I did and he asked the million dollar question: "If you've done all that theory and practical study, how come you've never had a bird?" So I started trotting out all of those reasons. However for each reason, he had an answer:
"What about places to fly one (always the biggest consideration as you need permission from private land owners)?"
"I have access to loads of land you can go on"
"What about buying a bird?"
"I have loads of contacts and I can help you buy one."
"What about housing the bird and feed?"
"I can help you design and build house and feed is no problem I can get you as much as you need?"
And so the conversation went on and then he left and I spent a night with my head spinning. If I was to ever have the experience of owning and hunting with a bird of prey, having a falconer of 20+ years experience be willing (and local) to help me do that is a once-in-a-lifeimte opportunity! A few conversations and many weeks later I became the owner of a 4 year-old female Harris's Hawk.
Here she is: she's called Eva.
It's been such a thrilling and life-changing few months. You think when you get the other other side of 40 that your boyhood dreams will forever remain that: just dreams. Here's some proof that if you want something enough and are prepared to dive in and have a go (with a caution about doing anything remotely like this, to approach it with with a lot of common sense and not to take it on lightly!) then you can do it!
And with that, the wind has dropped and the sleeting rain has died off. I'm hitting "Publish" and then putting Eva in the car for a few hours flying!
Here's a classic New Order track to play us out!
Peace and love.
electronics audio build Elektron euro modular Serge Neve MOTM New Order bird