I often get asked how long I’ve been making electronic music. The answer is – probably most of my life! My dad was a TV engineer in the 60s and 70s, so he had allsorts of circuit testers and oscilloscopes and other bits of junk that I could mess around round and make odd bleeps and sinewave wails! My dad also had an old valve stereo radio and I used to tune it in to all sorts of weird and wonderful Eastern European radio stations on Short-Wave, and made crazy frequency sweeps. I even hooked up a model train transformer to the radio’s input socket and made wacky noises. I moved on to buying a cheap stereo reel-to-reel in a wooden box and recorded tunes I made on an old electronic organ that worked by blowing air from a fan. The first “proper” song I made was called “The Car Park”, and then something called “Do you know Mister Wall?” (anyone spot where I got that title from?). I used to try making “musique concrete” tunes by cutting up my tapes, but I didn’t have the right gear to join them up again, and made a horrible mess of the tape heads!
I got my first synth in about 1980 – a Casio MT31, followed by a Kay Memory Rhythm, and then a Jen SX1000. Not much, I know, but it was all I could afford and it allowed me to make tunes for all the lyrics I’d been writing about teenage angst and life in general. I recorded everything onto a Phillips hi-fi system (with adjustable Left and Right mic inputs!) bounced down with a Phillips portable cassette player and a home-made 4-input mixer (in a small tin box!). Most of the parts were pretty much played live, then bounced down and things like the synth solos and vocals were played over the top.
I made about 5 cassette tapes full on songs around that time, and they all survive to this day. The only one I’ve copied to CD so far is the first one, called “Ultraviolent Light”. Listening to them now makes me think of the songs of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, who still use similar gear as I used. One of the tracks from this “album” is called “This is the Mood (I’m in) and is here for you to listen to in all it’s glory. Bear in mind that it’s from a cassette tape that’s nearly 30 years old and I haven’t used any noise removal equipment….. it sounds quite a quirky little song….see what you think!
This is the Mood (I’m in) – 4’40”