How To Score A Cult Classic with Drew Neumann

_Drew Neumann scored Aeon Flux animation series for Liquid Television in the 90s. I once purchased the box set for a now ex-girlfriend who eventually got an Aeon Flux tattoo! Needless to say the series was very influential to many. To recently find out that Drew used a Serge Modular on the score drove me absolutely nuts & I just had to interview him about it.-dmitri-

Drew: Thanks for the kind words! It’s hard to believe it’s already been 24 years since the first shorts, and this Summer is the 20th anniversary of the half hour show.

Dmitri: How did you do it ? Multi tracking ? Midi to CV ?

Drew: I used a Kenton Pro 4 for some of it, but I also just fired up the Serge and noodled sounds off to DAT tapes. Some of those sounds were edited and made into Samplecell sounds, others were just edited and dropped in using audio tracks in Studio Vision Pro.
_Generally, I set up everything to be “live to mix” rather than multi tracking. In animation, you have to keep all the parts flexible until the last minute because you may find that picture has been re-cut. So, I used a brute force method of just having a shitload of gear turned on all the time. The wild stuff from the Serge was usually rhythmic loops, noise bursts or feedback drones. The Wilson Analog Delay and Frequency shifter combination in a feedback loop is a lot of fun and very surreal to listen to.

Dmitri: Can you please explain a typical patch that would have been used in Eye Spy?

Drew: Most of the score for Aeon Flux (which is what Eye Spy is) is sample based. Some of it is field recordings, some of it is messing around with odd instruments and noisemakers in the studio, like cardboard tubes, duster cans, steel chunks, and table lamp springs. The synths were used to glue it all together and make it musical. The lovely thing about any mono synth is that you can get nice legato phrasing out of it, which is hard to do with samples. The fact that it’s an analog machine also adds a layer of chaos, mild drift, de-tuning and warmth that makes the music flow better and more naturally. On the flip side of that, being able to load sampled Serge into the Samplecells made for reliable repeatability for those sounds, and freed up the system to do other things.
A typical Serge patch would be set up to play 3 voices, with pitchbend, vibrato and velocity control coming from the Kenton. I could probably get 4-5 “voices” out of my system, but it would be a stretch. It’s really short on VCAs.

Dmitri: What else have you scored using the Serge?

Drew: The Serge was used on the titles and a lot of the underscore for Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, a recent episode of Bravest Warriors, several episodes of The Wild Thornberrys (that show was more ethnic and orchestral, but there were occasional scenes that needed something otherworldly) and on a recent composer test for Disney. I also used it for the opening to the Animation Celebration back in the mid 90′s. It will probably be used on the rest of season 3 of Bravest Warriors, depending on where the stories wander.

Dmitri: Will you play for us at The Church Of The Super Serge someday ?

Drew: Probably not, at least not with the Serge or Modcan. I am not much of a “live” guy. I am more of a studio rat.
_I would love to make it up to one of your events (the builds are truly intriguing and I wish we had something like that here), but my schedule is often too unpredictable, and I am fairly far away in SoCal. I have to also admit that hauling around $$$$ worth of irreplaceable and fragile gear that I use frequently makes me nervous.
_The other issue is that I usually have to set up the modulars at the start of a new show season and leave them set like that for the entire season for continuity’s sake. Certain signature sounds may evolve during a run of shows, but it’s hard to change patches much under the deadline crunches. It took about 3 days just to set up the Serge and Modcan for the first episode of Bravest Warriors Season 3, and ate all of my banana cables. It’s a rat’s nest…

_It was impressive to see all the systems that made it up there for the 40th anniversary show. I really, really wish I had been able to make it up there for that event. Many of those performers and system owners are old friends of mine.

Dmitri: Is there anything at all that you would like to say to people reading this ?

Drew: I had wanted a Serge ever since arriving at Cal Arts, which is where Serge Tcherepnin started the whole thing. I got there as Serge was transitioning from being “the affordable, people’s synth” (where group builds went on at school) to a real actual company down in North Hollywood. There were catalogs of kits floating around school, and we all knew that the Buchla 100s and 200s were beyond affordability of mere mortals. I actually preferred the Serge to the Buchlas they had at CalArts–it could track volts per octave, and didn’t have the limitation of separating CV and audio path connections. The Serge was also a bit more flexible in that it didn’t dictate or imply a specific musical style. Only a few folks ever tried to do tonal music on a Buchla (Barry Schrader was one of the most successful at it, doing tightly tuned compositions). As it turned out, I couldn’t even afford the Serge kits, so I bought Emu evaluation boards and Paia EKX (Curtis Chip) boards, bought surplus military parts and built a 6 VCO synth.
_I got my first Serge system years later during the mid 90′s, and added on to it as I was able to afford it. Around the same time, I bought a couple of Doepfer A100s. The precision and quality difference was shocking–you could do things on the Serge that really pushed the electronics to the edge, where every module was a multi function Swiss army knife. The Doepfer was a bit more limited in range that way. Euro modular gear has come a long way since the mid 90′s and dominates the market, but the Serge really holds up well against all of it. It’s extremely well-built stuff.

Eye Spy: Declassified, Freedom Of Information Act can be purchased as a download via Drew’s website & includes A full-sized, high resolution, unedited copy of the original and intended cover art by Peter Chung.
http://droomusic.com/dn_prodmusic.php

More Serge related stuff to listen to from Drew:
https://soundcloud.com/drooo-1/insectinfestedspace

Live noodling on video: (which is also available as a free download at droomusic.com)

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SLOPE114 LIVE! In A Clangorous Side Room

_My DJ friends have all been there more than enough times. You get booked to perform at an amazing event with amazing sound & don’t learn until the night of, that you gotta play “The side room”. You have been duped ! For the uninitiated please allow me to clarify: The side room always sucks because usually you can still hear the music bleeding through from the main room & the sound system is secondary. Everything about the side room is secondary. Its extra & not loved.
_Its extremely worse when the people in the main room play the same kind of music you do & the only reason you have been pushed to the side room is because the people in the main room think that they are special & there is no room for you. What do you do ???
_You play anyway. Especially if you have prepared for the event & have brought a bunch of gear. You just hope that the promoter doesn’t pull the classic. “Hey we can only pay you $60- or $80- bucks total because the people in the main room are way more important than you lousy side room quality chumps.”. This especially sucks when there are more than one of you, you agreed to play short notice & you had to take cabs both ways but hey, we hope for the best.
_So last weekend we played in the clangy hard side room with the speakers on poles, lights on, the uninterested people yelling to talk over us & we Still havn’t yet been paid. Big deal. It wont be a first for either of us.
But we still bump though. We are SLOPE114. No safety laptop for comfort / wubby, no pre recorded backing tracks, nor presets. 100% live improv west coast modular house musix. all real patches, No modular stage props!
_Please download our recordings from the night  & send us some bread if they inspire you because we probably wont make more than $20- for the gig after cab rides, & food.
But we still bump though.
dmitri-

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DIY banana cables

_People always ask me how to get banana cables without paying the full price of Pomonas. Pomonas will cost you $5-$7- each. That adds up quickly.

_I have experimented with every plug & wire that I could find, searching for the cheapest way to DIY some suitable cables for mi self. When I first started they were crap & friends hated them. They would always try to talk me into “Just buying Pomonas” but I learned a bunch along the way.

_Sometimes People contact me repetitiously to ask the same thing (where to buy & what cable parts to buy) which would not be so annoying but. When they contact me again upset because they did not pay attention the first 3 times & purchased the wrong stuff I’m kinda like ¿WTF?. _So here it is in black & white for reference.

_I don’t use Pomona plugs. Sure the cables rule but the plugs cost as much as a patch cable & will only accept 18AWG wire. I want parts that will be cheaper to assemble than just buying new cables so I use other plugs.

My favorite plugs are these Chinese Pomona clones.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/10PC-high-quality-5-color-4mm-Banana-Plug-for-BINDING-POST-Test-Probes-connector/151160777893?_trksid=p2054897.c100204.m3164&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20140407115239%26meid%3D237c1ab355c14caea582e4213ee0ccea%26pid%3D100204%26rk%3D16%26rkt%3D28%26sd%3D271667803425

_The plugs at Tayda are no good. Most people will also use them wrong. They require no solder. Many dudes get them & try to use 18 AWG wire. Only way to make the 18 AWG stay in is to solder it in. This makes for an extremely flimsy piece of flarp. Using 13 AWG test wire with the Tayda plugs would almost be ok. (Some of mine still exist) The wire will stay in because of thickness alone. Its by design but the plastic shell is just too flimsy. Don’t get me wrong. Tayda has good stuff but the plugs don’t last long. My 3 year old nephew tore my 18AWG Tayda situations to shreds & I prefer that he can play freely with my toys, without any worries. After a few pints on a gig I would destroy them too so, Free cable Q.C. thanks Nephew!

_Here is the part that everybody &^%$#up. These plugs (the good Chinese Pomona clones on ebay) will only work with 14 or 13 AWG test wire & that is a good thing. Any other 4mm banana plug you get (except pomonas!) will work with 13 AWG wire. So If you buy these plugs. DONT BUY 18 AWG!
The issue is that the set screw doesn’t go down far enough to lock onto the puny 18 AWG.  *Sure you could bunch up the raw wire under the set screw to fatten it up but its just jenky & wont stay long.*

_AWG represents the gauge/ thickness of the wire. The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire will be. This has been written in black & white. I cannot make it any more clear.

_Best place to get the 13 AWG test cable is Testpath.com. They have a choice between silicone & PVC testwire. the PVC is cheaper, though people say the silicone will last longer, my 30 year old PVC pomonas are working great & the one time I did buy silicone it was on back order.
Remember Only buy the one that says 13 AWG!

http://www.testpath.com/Categories/PVC-Test-Lead-Wire-3082.htm?Brand=2

_The wire must have many fine strands. This is what makes it flexible. The speaker wire at radio shack will not work. You may be able to force it into the plugs but strands are too thick, it will eventually fall out of the plug & the patch cable its self would be too stiff.

_These plugs require no solder. All you need to assemble them is wire strippers & a really small flat head screw driver.

_Ultimately using these plugs with this wire will cost you half of what pomona cables cost. BUT only for cables 12″ & under! A 4 foot patch cable costs the same as a 1′ patch cable on testpath.com so If all you need is really long cables, just buy em! If you would like to make really neat patches using only the exact length of patch cable needed for every connection DIY is the way.

PS: if you just want to buy pomonas they can be purchased also at Testpath.com. Please don’t look at the numbers here & ask me to make your patch cables for you, thinking that you can get them cheaper that way, because that would just be mean.
_I will make the occasional custom format change cable on request though I usually find adapter panels or boxes more versatile, easier to make & easier to find when needed.
dmitri-

PSS: Thats a joke! ^^^ you wont need any friggin mults at all!

***Disclaimer: Yes I have abandoned the Serge Patch Cable color standard for length & have done so at my own peril. ***

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NCS1BTO

NCS1= New Compact System module#1
Serge Precision Oscillator x2
Serge Wave Multipliers
Serge Smooth & Stepped Function Generator
Serge Dual Transient Generator
Serge Variable Q VCF
Dual Audio Mixer
Serge Dual VCA
On panel Adapter
Comes standard in 3″ deep boat with 4 pin molex power connector
=============================+++++++++++++++++++++++++
Potential Mods:
Will add inputs to DTG no extra charge.
Additional Noise Module with Sample & Hold (5 additional jacks total)
VCFX toggle switch can be added to VCFQ
Input attenuators on Wave Multipliers.
PushPull Pots on Dual VCA to switch between gating of AC & DC signals.(this mod requires 3″ boat or could be done using toggles in order to fit 2″)
Panel can be assembled to fit & ship in 2″ deep boat. (please notify prior to assembly)
=============================== = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Though there are only two dedicated Oscillators. There are actually 6 oscillators on this one. The Smooth Function Generator provides audible Triangle & Square waves. The DTGs can both be patch programmed to self oscillate providing a triangle wave. The VCF-Q Can also be patch programmed to self oscillate & will provide a sign wave. All can be voltage controlled.
The Smooth Function Gen & DTGs can also be used to filter audio.
With VCFX mod VCF-Q can be used as both Quadrature LFO & VC resonant filter for low frequency control voltages.
===========================================================
Limited edition late 70s style factory produced, laser etched & anodized Serge Modular panel. 100% legit. Royalties paid to Serge. Hand assembled with love in San Francisco, California. Contact dmitri for one Built To Order. dankedout415 at gmail dot com

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Serge Modular Tutorial Videos

Todd Barton’s Serge DSG demoes Playlist on youtube
I must have overlooked Todd’s channel. We all know he is the man for Buchla Demoes & consultation BUT to quote Todd from just before his performance at the Serge 40th reunion Concert He “Got this Serge From Serge in 1979 & Its still Cookin’!”
Some are patch explanations. Some are just wonderful sounding demoes.

Another playlist from Todd with some patch explanations & some great sounding demoes.
Todd Barton’s Serge Explorations Playlist on youtube

Doug Lynner’s Patch Of The Week youtube playlist
Doug has documented a whole series of patch tutorials using the very first Serge Modular ever sold commercially. The Mystery Serge was recently totally restored by Kevin Braheny Fortune & contains many hidden mods. Hence the name ‘Mystery Serge’. Have no fear though because Doug gives clear explanations for every patch. The Synthesizer Man claims that these patches can be done on almost any modular but good luck with that! “Yer gonna need a lot a MULTS!” HAHAHA. All jokes aside this playlist is pure gold for any paperface owner & also for anyone who has the recent 1973 Serge re-issue PCBs.

Some silly videos that I made to help explain things to friends.

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Serge Modular 40 year reunion photos

More photos from the Serge Modular 40th reunion Concert. These ones captured by Richard Driskell.

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Serge Modular 40 year reunion concert

The reunion concert was a smashing success ! In-case you missed the barrage of social media following the 7th. Here are some photos captured by Sophia Hernandez.

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WIN A SERGE MODULAR!!

We are going to raffle off TWO assembled Serge panels!
The winners will be selected at the Serge Modular 40 year reunion concert party in San Francisco 2/7/15!

One Serge Panel will go to a raffle winner at the party & one Serge panel will go to an online participant.

You do not need to be in attendance to win a Serge!

Runner up prizes will include, T shirts, records & Tapes.

3 video demos of one of the panels to be raffled:


Please no more than 1 ticket per person. Ticket sales will go towards space rental for the Serge Modular 40th year reunion party.
Thank you for your support!
dmitri-

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SLOPE114 Sentimental Journey

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