with the Engineer
Tell me about your engineering background. How does it connect to making synths?
I grew up in an engineering environment because my father is an electrical engineer. He had an electronics lab in the basement when I was little and was always showing and teaching me things. I also had a passion for playing music since I was young. First playing classical music in elementary and middle school, and then playing in a rock band in high school. When I began college classes for electrical engineering along with a part-time engineering job, I started to see a connection between electronics and music. I started exploring synthesizers and quickly realized that I could use my electrical knowledge to come up with different ways to generate sounds.
How did you get into making modular synths? What got you interested in it? How did it all start?
It was a couple of years after I began working on different ways to control sound that I first came across a modular synthesizer. I was instantly fascinated! There were knobs and LEDs blinking all over this thing! And what were all of these cords dangling and plugged into random jacks everywhere? And the noises it was producing, it seemed out of this world! That’s when I found out there is a whole community of like-minded people trying to come up with new sounds, and new ways to control the sounds.
Then I started learning more about the origins of the synthesizer. Typically when someone thinks “synthesizer,” they imagine a standard keyboard synth with piano-style keys. But that is not the way it began. Synthesizers first started with knobs and sliders and it was just about making sound. The piano keyboard was introduced later as a more familiar way to control the sound, and it really caught on. I agree that the keyboard is a nicely organized and easy way to control the sounds, but it is limited. By patching and passing electrical signals between different synth modules, you can come up with customized sounds and sequences. Modular synthesizers really allow you to expand your musical experience.
What were your first modular synth models like? Where do you get the inspiration for each instrument?
There are so many different kinds of modules in the modular synthesizer community, it is actually very overwhelming. And I am overwhelmed with ideas about different modules that I would like to design. So, I decided to start off simple. I needed something to generate noise so I came up with the squarewave oscillator. I needed a way to control it so I made a keyboard module and I’m currently designing a sequencer. My next plan is to begin working on ways to filter the sound. I’m just taking it one step at a time and I plan on adding more and more features to each new module. I’m inspired by the musicians that are using these things. I love hearing all of the different sounds that people are making and hearing the ideas that they have about customizing their sound even further.
Why do you make synths? What does it mean to you?
I make synths because I enjoy coming up with new ways to make music. A musical instrument is just a tool that allows you to use a motion to make sound. Making my own synths means I get to come up with my own way to create sound.
What do you enjoy most about making synths?
The thing I enjoy most about making synths is watching other people make music with the instruments I've created. When I see how happy it makes them, it's a really good feeling. I also get to connect with synth enthusiasts all around the world.
Tell me a bit about the modular synth community, and how you are a part of it.
It seems like the modular synth community is growing at a rapid pace. It is full of very creative people who are very interested in making new and different sounds. I am fairly new to the community, but I feel like I fit in perfectly. These are really great people, a lot of intelligent minds.
How did you come up with the idea for MAZZATRON Synths?
I was just having some fun, figuring out different ways to make sounds, and when I let my good friend Dave try one of my instruments he asked, "what do you call this thing?". I told him I didn't know, and he said, "It's a Mazzatron!" I guess that's how it started.
What makes MAZZATRON Synths different from the other modular synth makers out there?
I think a lot of Eurorack modules seem over-complicated and difficult to understand. I like to keep things simple, intuitive, and easy to use. That's how MAZZATRON Synths stands out from the rest.
What do you look forward to in the future for MAZZATRON Synths?