September 1, 2013


by Chris Randall

I have a blessed day off from renovating our new house today. Unfortunately, this wondrous event occurred only because I stepped on some exercise gear in the dark last night, and lacerated my right foot to the point where I can't actually do anything renovation-wise, but must sit around all day convalescing. Those who know me know this is something I find intensely irritating, so I'm sure I'm going to be an utter joy to be around for the next couple days.

We're in the calm before the storm of a new Audio Damage product(s) as well, so the most productive use of my time appears to be trolling YouTube for funny cat videos. Since YouTube knows me so well, it won't let me watch too many of those without offering up something along the lines of this:

This fellow, Wouter van Veldhoven, is a Netherlands-based musician experimenting with ambient, IDM, and minimal techno using reel-to-reel decks, solanoid-triggered electro-acoustic instruments, and modular synth. So, as you can imagine, he and I are very much of a mind about how to make music. I like how he uses the artifacts of tape recording (tape stop, reversing, overdrive) as elements of musical expression. I recommend perusing his YouTube channel for some interesting shit.


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Sep.01.2013 @ 1:09 PM
That's the direction I want to start heading for my more "experimental"/"difficult"/"etc." work. There is a lot of tape machine, bastardized cassette deck, and whatnot buried in various layers on my last album (link []), and more on a project that I'm working on right now. I want to bring the "sound" of the tape more to the fore in the future. My biggest issue is finding equipment that works right out of the box. So much of the equipment I'm looking at hasn't been kept in the best of condition, and I don't know much past the basics of maintenance on a lot of the gear. Also, it's economically taxing to buy so much stuff and find out that it's dead on arrival. It's gotten so bad, that I've actually been drawing up ideas for the perfect tape deck for this kind of work. I just don't know anything about tape heads past cleaning and demagnetizing. I wouldn't know where to begin as far as working out how to implement my design.

- William

Sep.01.2013 @ 2:03 PM
Chris Randall
It's funny you bring that up. I know someone who is actually working on something that kind of aligns with what you're talking about. He's a reader, and it's up to him whether he wants to talk about it here (my understanding is 'not'). But as far as I'm aware, hope is on the horizon in that regard. Or it was last time I checked. Like me, his interests and moods are changeable.

What I found interesting (more obvious in the other videos than this one) is that this fellow has given some of his decks limited control from the modular. If he happens across this discussion, I would hope he could expound on that a bit. That heavily interests me. (I was actually pondering how one might make a little tape looper under full modular control; this is a half-way step to that.)


Sep.01.2013 @ 3:22 PM
Sometimes the actual condition of a particular machine can be used as part of the sound design process. I have 5 or 6 different tape machines in various states of decay. One in particular is in bad shape, heads very worn, valves old and failing. However it can produce a lovely warm, filtered distortion... so I have decided not to fix it. I also have various old home keyboards and electronic toys that are faulty, but can still make noise, albeit distorted or glitchy. Kind of like circuit bending for the lazy...

- Hugo

Sep.01.2013 @ 9:06 PM
Adam Schabtach
This means that 100% of Audio Damage employees have suffered injuries from exercise equipment.

At the next annual meeting, I'm gonna propose a company-wide rule that forbids exercise.


Sep.01.2013 @ 10:28 PM
I was going to say what Hugo said, only he already did, and you know who he is and I'm an anonymous guy on the internet. So listen to Hugo.

Sep.02.2013 @ 3:14 PM
If the deck has a DC based varispeed motor you could add CV control to the speed with a vactrol based circuit and some switching circuitry.

Basic relay hooked to flip-flop would allow you to control switched functions of the deck with triggers.

I blew a channel out of a mixer and fried a Roland System 100 sequencer trying to this. So possible, yet not advisable.

Cheaper and safer to get a Fostex 8 to 1/4 with MMC and converter CV to Midi with something like the ES modules.

And, back to lurking.

Sep.02.2013 @ 4:40 PM
I was thinking of building the whole deck from the ground up. It seems to me that other than the tape heads, the whole thing could just be built from off the shelf tech. Direct drive motors for the transport. Amplifier circuitry can be as minimal or as extravagant as you want it to be (I'm leaning for simple so that the machine could be as general use as possible). I imagine that you could use something like Arduino to control the transport/varispeed duties. That also makes CV control pretty simple to do. The box can be machined just about anywhere. We've got a TechShop here in PGH that could pop out that part in a half hour. It seems so doable, but just outside of my knowledge base. Looks like I get to spend the next year trying to figure out how to manufacture tape heads...

@huggie - Completely agree. I have a track on the project that I'm working on that is 99% the sound of my Juno 106 dying. I multitracked and sliced the hell out of tape of me trying to get it to make sound. It's one of my favorite pieces right now. Having little money, I often have to pick up equipment that is on the dodgy end of the spectrum. I almost always find something fun that half broken equipment can do. I find the process often frustrating, but sometimes enlightening.

- William

Sep.02.2013 @ 7:11 PM
That is just plain fantastic.

Sep.03.2013 @ 11:45 PM
I'm with noisegeek.

Sep.04.2013 @ 7:19 AM
Wow, I just watched this video. That's like something from one of my nightmares in engineering school. Really good, but I'm a little creeped out now.

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