Cabin of Synth
March 20, 2010 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Vince Clarke welcomes to his electronic cabin in the woods.

Clarke, formally of Depeche Mode and Yazoo, and currently still working with his Erasure partner, Andy Bell, relocated first to NYC, and then wandered into the Maine wilderness. His workshop is something to behold.
posted by urbanwhaleshark (21 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Q: "Do you consider yourself a gearhound?"
A: "Not so much anymore, I used to..."

Um. I would hate to see HIS idea of a gearhound, because that's pretty much every major piece of synth gear produced between 1970 and 1990 in that cabin. I may have crapped myself when they first showed the inside. Those Roland System 100s he's tooling on for a lot of the video are probably worth 50 grand easy (he has 6 full systems), if not more. I'm not an Erasure fan, but man, I'd pay Vince Clarke a lot of money to just let me play around in his cabin for a while.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:36 PM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Excellent post - thanks. Great insight into the working life of a leader in his field.

Must say he seems like a really nice guy, totally at ease with himself.
posted by therubettes at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2010

Motherboard has a similar interview with Moby, which is also cool. His collection of drum machines is fantastic.
posted by IAmDrWorm at 1:00 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Great post. Thanks!
posted by ericthegardener at 1:03 PM on March 20, 2010

Great stuff, thanks!
In related news, BBC4's wonderful Synth Britannia is repeated tonight at 3am. Last night's Prog Britannia was also pretty bloody good.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 1:12 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I noticed he was more at ease demonstrating the equipment than speaking on camera one-on-one (nervous gulps of water). A great film nonetheless considering he doesn't give them out that often. If only it was longer.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:14 PM on March 20, 2010

Yeah, I just downloaded this and watched it while I was doing laundry, and it's mildly interesting (in the "wow! look at that!" sort of way) ... until the last three minutes. That's when it gets really fun.
posted by koeselitz at 2:02 PM on March 20, 2010

He needs to get a Light Touch and a Skinput. Light Touch instantly turns any flat surface into a touch screen and Skinput can turn your arm into a touchscreen.
posted by netbros at 2:46 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not a huge fan of those bands, but this was super cool. Totally agree with therubettes's assessment - it was really interesting to see the man at work.
posted by evisceratordeath at 2:49 PM on March 20, 2010

That was really cool, thanks.
I loved DM back in the day and even Yazoo to a point but Erasure was a band I just couldn't stomach.
Very interesting guy, though, that Vince Clarke.
posted by chococat at 3:01 PM on March 20, 2010

Honestly, I was more interested in his gear than seeing him working with it. I mean, that was cool too, but my reaction was more like "Oh wow he's got a Synthi VCS! And an OSCar! And check out that MiniMoog!"
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:19 PM on March 20, 2010

I should've never shown this to my husband. He used to drool over me. :(
posted by czechmate at 3:21 PM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Actually his demo was a bit underwhelming, if you're not familiar with synthesis, those drum sounds are some of the most basic sounds you can make - he talks about the complex patches he can make on his modular systems and stuff but doesn't really do anything to show you.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:24 PM on March 20, 2010

"SYNTH BRITANNIA" the BBC documentary includes a look at Clarke's studio (which i believe you could rent for a hefty price) as well as gear demonstrations and interviews with mute records founder/"warm leatherette" composer dan miller, cabaret voltaire, throbbing gristle, new order, depeche mode, human league, OMD, gary neuman...

worth every minute of your time.
posted by Hammond Rye at 3:46 PM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Stuff I wasn't using I got rid of."

Wow. How can he even tell?
posted by ardgedee at 3:48 PM on March 20, 2010

I wonder for systems like that. Couldn't you plug all those cables into one huge computer controlled mixer?
posted by delmoi at 4:39 PM on March 20, 2010

On the path of my musical autodidacticism, I used to look to these sort of wild collections, impossible dreams, and fantasy instruments and sort of daydream, then try to use my own considerably less comprehensive collection of equipment (Ensoniq EPS, then Emulator IV, plus a pile of cheap processors and a few synths on the side, sequenced off a Mac SE/30) to do what those instruments could do.

Oddly, when I failed, I usually produced my most interesting results. My attempt to make the EPS scan wavetables like a PPG Wave produced an amazing beat-slicing glitch machine. Trying to use the software patch cords on my EIV to emulate Eno's Synthi AKS produced whirling, uncontrollable warp machines. Attempts to replicate Laurie Anderson's harmonizer loops just turned into these amazing pieces of self-playing music that grew and mutated as they rolled around.

I pined for this kind of gear, and this kind of amassing of potential, and somewhere along the way, I found that I was doing just fine without it, and that aspiring to have stuff I couldn't have forced me to learn things I wouldn't have learned otherwise, as a sort of attempt to make a side run around my lack of resources.

These days, I don't begrudge these guys a thing, and people like Clarke really worked hard and stuck with their vision to earn the money to buy these collections, but sometimes, listening to what they're doing now, I wish I could hear more of that unbounded possibility in their work. Hans Zimmer's a guy with a wall of Moog modular equipment that could fill a museum, but I just don't hear it in anything he does—like the way Keith Emerson used to travel with literally tons of modular gear that he patched together to work essentially like a clone of the much smaller and simpler Minimoog. Somehow, I wish they'd get out of that zoo of gear what I got out of lusting after it all in the crinkly pages of my Keyboard and Electronic Musician magazines—an impetus to chase after something you can't quite reach.

That said, he looks like a man who's found his bliss, and that's a good thing.
posted by sonascope at 5:13 PM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Couldn't you plug all those cables into one huge computer controlled mixer?

Using this as for a rough estimate, and counting at least 100 patch points is his setup, what does that come to? $400,00?
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:29 PM on March 20, 2010

I wonder for systems like that. Couldn't you plug all those cables into one huge computer controlled mixer?

No. The reason why is sort of involved and beyond the scope of this discussion (the term you want to read up on is "control voltage" if you want to know more), but suffice to say that most of those cables are carrying a different kind of signal than audio.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:54 PM on March 20, 2010

Excellent post, excellent comments. Also seconding the laughter about Clarke not being a gear hound.
posted by immlass at 11:17 AM on March 21, 2010

I really enjoyed that, although it felt more like a tease, as though it was only part one of a multi-part series but with no part 2 to be found. It was just starting to get really good in the last couple of minutes, and then just sort'uv ended abruptly. (sigh)

I'm a huge Erasure fan and would have killed to have seen/heard a better demonstration of what his equipment can do, or a recreation of some of the stuff he has already done. Or at least a better explanation of his process in creating sounds and playing music.

As an aside, I do love that he and Andy compose songs on the guitar first and wish they'd put out an acoustic version of some of their hits. I have a low-quality recording of an acoustic version of Perfect Stranger they did for KROQ - it's a bit melancholy and haunting but beautiful and amazing nonetheless.

Thank you for sharing this!
posted by Davenhill at 1:45 PM on March 22, 2010

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