Steve R Gives Us Monorocket

I noticed Steve R counting down on his twitter as the days went by and when R-Day came we were gifted with news of a line of fully customizable cases: Monorocket! And my initial thoughts were "ABOUT TIME!" - I'm so glad someone is taking it upon themselves to offer alternatives from the portable Doepfer cases and not just any alternative but an intelligent and customizable alternative. Also, who better than someone who's been in the industry for a while! I shot some e-mails back and forth with Steve to ask him how deep this venture goes. If you have some questions for Steve, please let me know - I'll ask and post them up here with his permission.

My primary background is really marketing/sales. I was a factory rep for computer hardware/software companies in the 90's and consumer electronics in this century. For the last 5 years my day job was leading teams of people who build and maintain a lot of what's called "the buying experience" when you go into big box retailers. This would probably a good time to apologize in advance for any buzzwords, marketspeak and hyperbole I may use. Its a language that's been difficult to lose.
My history with synths is actually pretty short. I'm a guitar player - synths were always something someone else had. Specifically, it was my friend Mike Brown (Livewire). He started talking to me about the idea of doing modulars and stuff controlled with CV around 2003. I was around for the launch of Livewire and worked for Mike in the background doing things like building modules, doing deliveries, special projects and booth duty at NAMM. In fact I'm still involved with Livewire and always will be to the extent I'm needed.

Building cases really wasn't an original idea. One of my favorite things about this community is that all the end users will flat out tell you what they want even when there are few working examples to refer to. I'm willing to bet more than a few can actually make the things they buy. I can't think of how many times I saw a post online about the possibilities for a manufacturer to produce alternatives to what was already available. It was probably the community reaction to a custom project Livewire was involved with in 2006 that served as the catalyst for Monorocket.

What do you feel is missing from the market with cases?
Variety in features and pricing. That may sound cold, but this is a normal occurrence in the evolutionary cycle of any market. Apparently I wasn't alone. Monorocket is one of three companies producing cases that launched in June of this year. It was like we all appeared on the same day.I just found out that ModularWorld is already selling out of inventory and - good for them - it's a indication that there's still room for more vendors. Even though Eurorack has seen an explosion of module manufacturers, we've basically had one case manufacturer, with a couple of choices. All someone had to do was listen to the things that end users - like you - were saying (and watching you do things like screwing mults directly into unused space) and make the stuff they wanted.

Do you think changes could still happen after your product launches?
Absolutely - yes. Monorockets current line only deals with "the known" - the things that all modular users say they want. The next step will be to come up with features/options that haven't been imagined yet. We (Monorocket) need to become just as creative as all the new module manufacturers popping up over the last three years. We've tried to go a little beyond what's considered traditional for modulars, but I think all we've done so far is offer "mass customizing" of things that have already been custom built (in most cases by the person who actually uses them).

Can you tell us of some specific features?
(buzzword hyperbole alert) Monorockets features fall into three categories: Individual appearance, Individual Application, Pricing Options.
Individual appearance: 40 plus shades/textures of tolex, ATA cases have a choice of veneers (solid colors, metal flake etc)

Individual Application: we'll vary dimensions to accommodate specific gear set ups, include routed cable channels, create gear mounting solutions, add circuitry and power options (you personally asked about switchable input voltages - 120v vs 240v - it's already being explored)

Pricing Options: more price tiers between bottom and top No wheels on anything yet. But if that's what you want, we can do it.

Can you give me an example of a customization job?
One example would be the Mission line. It would have been simple to take a cue from what's already available in an ATA case and just sell it at a lower price, but my personal approach is more about delivering something that will "make more possible" rather than racing to to the bottom by making something that already exists and pricing it lower until it becomes a loss leader for other things a company sells.

Using the example on the website - Instead of putting in 3 rows of Eurorack - we opted to make it possible to mount non eurorack gear and even take the extra controls resulting from circuit bending and integrate them into the case. We can still give you 3 rows of eurorack if you want, but Mr Doepfers already doing that and - honestly - it would be a better buying decision to purchase something that's already been done by a more reputable company (especially when Doepfer has the distinction of giving us the format to begin with) I'd rather give you reasons to take a chance on Monorocket.

Another example would be the Commander. It started out as a guitar pedalboard concept and currently has one row for modules. I made that decision based on what I know could be possible for processing audio signals. Once you consider that it could also be a solution for LivePA, then additional rows for modules doesn't seem like overkill anymore. I also have an audio routing solution that will reduce the cable clutter and still leave the possibility for changing the audio path on the fly.
It's my hope that everyone will look at the units on display at the website and just think of them as a place to start.
It takes very little time and effort to add functionality like mults, audio patching, simple circuits (like inverters, headphone amps, manual triggers, silent switching), etc into the enclosure itself. The more that space is used - the less space it occupies on the rails, leaving more room for complex circuitry represented by the modules. I really can't wait for the first person to order something done in burnt orange tolex : )

Do your products appeal to more than synth users?
It's possible. On one hand, there are plenty of instrumentalists more interested in "sound" than technique (whether they have it or not). Integrating different formats (ie. Eurorack and effect pedals) is a means to that end. One the other hand, if it's conceivable that someone could look at Monorockets stuff and add things, it should be equally conceivable to take things away and/or adapt our processes to produce a piece for something other than Eurorack. I just decided to start here because I was already involved with the Eurorack market.

Are there any base models that beginners can indulge in?
Sure... All the base pricing will be based on what you're probably referring to. But it should also be pointed out that a lot of beginners come into this after seeing performers like you and you're a big part of a pre-purchase education that happens online. They're going to know what they want earlier as beginner than you probably did because of your experience. In the long term - I'd like to see this community to keep customization and individuality as it's primary appeal.

Lexington - available August 2009 pricing tentatively set at $1000
Rack6 - available Sep 2009 pricing tentatively set at $250
Commander - availability TBD pricing tentatively set at $900 (ATA version. Non ATA version in development)
Mission9 - availability TBD pricing tentatively set at $500 (includes 1 12v ps, 3 rows 84hp wide, 2 utility rows of mults, external jacks and IEC connector with fuse)
Eurobuss - available August 2009 pricing tentatively set at $30 (includes power lines attached to female Molex style connector)
(all features subject to change prior to release)

Additional questions:
Stiev A: When building a Eurobuss (nice: the AS-style connections), why repeat the imho error Doepfer made. Why does nobody use framed connectors (hope this is the right word, I'm not a native speaker) that are use e.g. in motherboard-design? The plugs (?) would sit tightly in the right place and no chance of reverse connection and destruction of modules.
Steve: Since an overwelming majority of the eurorack users and manufacturers don't adhere to a standard for keyed connectors we decided that labeling the buss to orient the red band was sufficient.

Expert Sleepers: Silent Way

A smaller company, Expert Sleepers is taking control! They've developed software to control your modular synthesizer by a VST or Audio Unit in both PC and Mac. Motu's Volta is only AU and Mac compatible and requires an iLok dongle, ick. As with most small companies, their prices are more than reasonable: Silent way is $49! I honestly haven't read too much into it yet but these are exciting times to be a modular user. - via Muffwiggler Forum

JazzMutant Interviews Richard Devine

Honestly, I'm receiving a lot of audio news from Twitter and while it may be a fad, its 'working' for me at the moment and since most people have it in our Workspace and Environment series, I suggest you follow them. Anyways, JazzMutant has conducted a series of interviews on how artists use their instruments and since we're mutual fanboys of each other, I'm linking you to the Richard Devine interview Here!

"The fact that you can customize it to the point where you can do pretty much whatever you want really was one of the things that really hit it off for me. Right out of the box, when I tried it with Reaktor I was already getting sounds that I was not able to get using typical CC automation, mouse or other controllers. Having a hardware controller with 8 knobs, and faders was a bit limiting for me. I wanted something that would offer me way more flexibility.

With the Lemur I realized it could go as far as I wanted, or I could create as many graphical controllers as I desired. You can have a ball bouncing around in a room with zero friction and have these automating parameters very quickly. Or it could be doing frequency modulation - you could even have ten of them! I love the idea of this chaotic free-flowing sort of manipulation and connection with the sound. It's really amazing, like having extra hands doing the work for you. "

You can read the rest of the interviews they offer Here


Workspace and Environment: Medusa

I spoiled you people when we first started the blog because we're now definitely dragging our asses on the Workspace and Environment series. I've decided to start brand new and not harass artists that have been 'working' on their interviews for the past year + or so. And with that banter out of the way, I present James Bauman of Medusa/Racebannon...

I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and moved to Bloomington to receive a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University. During my time in Bloomington I fell in love with the town, convinced the rest of my band to relocate, and we’re still here. We’ve had our ups and downs in Bloomington, and lately I have felt the urge to move on. We have all discussed the possibility of relocating again many times. But, for now I’m happy enough to stay. I started playing the violin when I was 9 or 10 years old. I sort of wanted to play the drums but my mom wouldn’t let me. Then I switched to the guitar around 14 or so. I didn’t really get started making records until about ’97 or ’98 when Racebannon started happening. But, hearing ‘KISS Alive!’ on vinyl when I was 8 is what really did it for me. That was the moment I realized I wanted to make loud, noisy, feedbackin’ guitar riffs. And, I still do. Damn you KISS. Now, I play guitar in Racebannon and Medusa. Both bands are active and release records with worldwide-distributed labels. Racebannon has been putting out records for over a decade. Medusa just released a debut album and is just starting to really go somewhere. You can find both bands in your favorite record store, hopefully, or on the damn interwebs. Just look ‘em up. Do it. I dare you.

What are your current favorite pieces of hardware?
That’s hard to say. But, I do really like my AKG Perception microphones. They sound so good and I find them useful in just about every setting.

What are some softwares or plugins you prefer?
For multi-tracking/mixing I really like to use Cool Edit Pro 2. It’s a really user-friendly program and I’ve never had any real problems with it.

How does your physical space and surroundings influence your workflow?
Well, I really think a clean space makes it easier for me to focus on what I’m doing. Also, being surrounded by instruments helps me to feel inspired. I have several guitars around me, which makes it hard for me to forget about being creative or wanting to play. Really, an ideal location to me is anywhere that I have everything I need right at my fingertips. However, a one-level underground solar-powered soundproof lair with 30-foot-high ceilings close to the beach would be nice.

What was the first piece of hardware you remember obtaining?
I do remember my oldest brother giving me a huge Peavey mixing board with a Peavey P.A. head and Dr. Fong stage monitors when I was in high school. That helped get me started with my first few bands and I have no idea what happened to any of it. I really wish I still had that mixer. I remember it being pretty awesome.

What does your live setup look like?
I’m pretty pleased with my setup these days. I’m using an Emperor 6x12 cab that sounds pretty damn heavy. I usually only play Gibson SGs live. For Racebannon I play an SG with a Dirty Fingers pickup and for Medusa I play an SG with a Duncan Distortion pickup. I don’t really get into effects pedals much and try to keep a pretty stripped-down sound. Occasionally for Racebannon I will use some sort of random pedal for a few songs or a Digitech rack-mount delay. I’ve always been a fan of the Digitech Delay units and am currently on my fifth one. I guess I get a little too rough with them.

Are you involved in any projects outside of your own music?
Well, most of the time I am working on my own projects. However, I have recorded some local hip-hop over the past few years and soon will be recording a new Kentucky Nightmare (Bloomington band on Standard Recording Co.) album, which should be a good time. Right now, though, I’m trying to finish up the new Medusa recording. Everything has been tracked and there is still some mixing left to do. I’m definitely excited to finish it and release it to the world.

-Medusa Official
-Medusa Myspace

-Racebannon Official
-Racebannon Myspace


Tip Top Audio: Z2040 Self Oscillate

I'm not the most versed person with the history of synths, filters or chips - for instance I have only a slight idea of where the SSM2040 chip comes from, only because I googled it right now. So when a piece of equipment is released that carries a tie to past instruments, it drives fanboys nuts. Case in point: in the Muffwiggler forum, this filter is causing a winded debate about it being a faithful recreation of the original and some other noise but honestly, I'm a user and while I care (to an extent) there is a point where I just don't see the validity on either side of an argument and simply just want to make some noise. What is apparent though, is that this filter is available now and it sounds sick as hell and I'm not even talking about the filtering aspect. I've been excited about this filter for some time and was completely blindsided by what I found to be the most interesting aspect of it, the self oscillation + FM capabilities.

The video
I decided to stay away from simple filter sweeps and all that science for my consciousness' sake. I'm showcasing the Z2040's self oscillation capabilities, there is no signal going into the filter! A Z3000 is providing a Sawtooth into the FM input and the other is providing a Triangle into the VC-FM at around 47 seconds into the video. The modulating that is happening on the Z3000's are the coarse frequency knobs. I finally touch the frequency knob on the Z2040 at 1:25 which creates an array of amazing percussive sounds that I will no doubt sample. If you inject a signal it gets really insane but I'll leave that for another time. I've heard slight variations of the sounds created before - just never from a filter alone. As with the Z3000's FM capabilities, this filter is mental! Watch your speakers...


Tip Top Audio: Z2040

Guess what today is? Tis the day Tip Top Audio is officially releasing its Z2040 filter modeled with the SSM2040 filter chip whatever the hell that means. All I know is that I've heard samples and the capabilities make the filter sound SAF (sick as fuck for those who don't know internet lingo that I make up on the spot). To shoot out a few blanket adjectives that I'm sure people will be using are: rich, crunchy, creamy..... wait this is making me hungry...
Visit Tip Top Audio around noon pacific time for the details on 'the best low pass filter' created.


Video_Output - Oraison

Rarely can I say that a modular composition is beautiful but Richard has been the sole exception for quite some time. Polyphony on a modular soothes this murderous rage into a horny rabbit.

Oraison, composed by Olivier Messiaen in 1937 for six Ondes Martenot, transcribed for Buchla 200e synthesizer and Haken Continuum Fingerboard controller and performed by Richard Lainhart in 2009.

From the time I first touched the Haken Continuum, I'd wanted to use it to play a composition by Olivier Messiaen called "Oraison". I first heard "Oraison" years ago as a student of electronic music, and had fallen in love with its simple, beautiful harmonies and profound sense of mystery.

"Oraison" is not only a lovely piece of music, but has historical interest too - it may be the first piece of purely electronic music written expressly for live performance. Also of note is that Messiaen re-arranged "Oraison" for cello and piano and used it for the fifth movement of "Quartet for the End of Time", which he composed in a German prisoner-of-war camp in 1941; the "Quartet" is one of the great classics of 20th-century music.

"Oraison" ("prayer") is from a suite of pieces for six Ondes Martenot called "Fete des Belles Eaux" ("Celebration of the Beautiful Waters"), composed for the Paris International Exposition in 1937. The Ondes Martenot was among the first electronic instruments, and is still among the most expressive. The Continuum's own expressive qualities seemed at least the equal of the Ondes Martenot's, while allowing for polyphony and the possibility of performance of the work by a single player. I transcribed "Oraison" for my Buchla 200e/Continuum system, programmed the modern system in homage to the sound of the Ondes Martenot, and now offer this performance to you.

Video_Output - Sequencing Distortion

I've been messing with my Machinedrum for a few weeks and think its excellent on all levels except distortion/heaviness, oh and lack of triplets. While this video predominantly showcases the sequencer as a live performance tool, I feel like the sound quality is what should receive focus as these sounds are a step outside of the Machinedrum distortion and sample rate reduction. The 'kick' is a weird Cwejman waveform being processed by the overdrive-esk Flight of Harmony Plague Bearer, the snare is being twisted by sample rate reducing The Harvestman Malgorithm and there are several other things going where the Tip Top Audio Z3000 are the sources. Of course I could've achieved these sounds in about 4 seconds on my computer or perhaps couple minutes on the Machinedrum but that wouldn't really justify why I've wasted my life and money on a modular system would it?

Gathering: BBQ

If you are in Chicago tomorrow: Wednesday, June 17 come to my place for a bbq with the infamous Muffwiggler! If the evening will be anything like his forum, it'll be largely diplomatic with random assholes coming in to say we, too, are assholes while I sit in the background browsing for things I randomly recall seeing at people's houses.
Send an e-mail to the address listed to the right and I'll reply with details and the data that you'll have to upload to your usb key to be let in.


Remixes of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto #1 by Electronic Artists Live @ Millenium Park

Chicago: Monday, 6.15.09 @ 6:30pm

The New Millennium Orchestra of Chicago and Chicago Symphony cellist Katinka Kleijn performs remixes of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto #1 by three electronic artists: The Abominable Twitch (Max Glascott), The Flashbulb (Benn Jordan) and EVAC (Jeremy Goldstein). The evening is rounded out with performances by Accessible Contemporary Music's Palomar Quartet and percussion quartet, Third Coast Percussion.

Basically, each of us (Flashbulb, Abominable Twitch, EVAC) reworked one movement from Shostakovich's Concerto #1 (for Cello) and The New Millennium Orchestra will be performing each of the pieces live on June 15th @ 6:30pm in Millennium Park. It should be fantastic, so please turn up if you can! - Jeremy (EVAC)

- Details

I'll be going, use that email on the right if you are too, maybe I'll share some cheese with you. (@surachi, you going?)


Show This Thursday

Justin and I are on a lineup on Thursday in Chicago. Come miss our sets, hang out, watch people get drunk and complain about things. Can't go wrong with a party that has an end time labeled 'cops'!

7:00 PM
3703 W Irving Park No 2, @ Castle Tacoskull in Chicago, IL, Illinois 60618
7pm - cops / $5