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Boy Meets Synth

I've been bitten by the synth bug. Although this is not my first time to collect synthesizers, I have never been so enthusiastic about acquiring them before. I spend quite a bit of my spare time checking auction listings, watching synth demos on YouTube, and mentally mapping out how that new piece of gear is going to fit into my already crowded studio. I have also taken up electronics repair as a way to care for my own gear, and so I think about synth repair almost as much as buying. And then of course there's selling gear to support buying more. It's a never-ending spiral of obsession and I love it.

I'm also a musician and despite what you just read, I do actually make music with the gear I acquire. I started making electronic music when I was 12, when my parents bought me a Korg Poly-800. I have made experimental and industrial, acid house and breaks, techno and ambient, and lately dream pop and krautrock. Like many others, there was a time when I worked entirely inside the box. But after picking up a Korg MS-20 Mini a few years back, I found myself drawn back into the world of hardware synthesizers.

One of the main reasons for this is I live in Japan, where the cost of second-hand items is significantly lower than in other countries. There are a number of explanations for this blessing, including small market size and lack of international participation due to the language barrier. But another reason, I believe, is because Japanese people tend to like their electronics to be cosmetically and functionally perfect, complete with instruction manual and original box. If a piece of gear doesn't have these things, or the pots are noisy, or maybe there's one dead key, the price will be significantly reduced.

So I've found myself with a ton of less-than-perfect gear that just needs a little cleaning, or maybe a key needs to be changed or a few contact switches cleaned. Perhaps there are some LEDs that don't work, or maybe the internal battery has died. Or perhaps they're just not your Jupiter 8’s or Mono/Poly’s, and so they're severely undervalued despite having lots of life left in them.

I have a few new pieces of gear, and I enjoy them immensely, but my heart belongs to odd vintage synths that don't work 100% correctly. Instead of lamenting their shortcomings, I embrace them. It really does feel like they have a soul, sometimes.

This blog will be a space for me to write about my relationship with these quirky instruments, how we get along (and sometimes don't). I'm going to also try and document any work I do on them as well, although I'm no expert. I'll also post videos and music where appropriate.

Thanks in advance for reading and listening.


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