Today, I was checking out the new Tape Op website and stumbled onto this interview conducted by A. B. Daniels. The interview with Tom Bugs took place back in 2008. I don’t think this made it into the magazine itself. I think this was a web exclusive. So, here is our attempt to get it some more press, as we’re big Bugbrand fans around here.
Excerpt from Tape Op:
So what exactly is the Weevil?
It’s gone through a lot of mutations but always the same core, lo-fi square wave oscillators running into quasi ring modulators. There are usually some body contact/physical controller points, and I like making use of power starvation techniques.
How does power starving affect the circuit?
It causes the oscillators to inter-modulate in very strange ways, slightly tameable but with a life of their own. The range of sounds it helps to create out of the simple heart of these circuits is quite amazing.
They’re not all stompboxes are they?
No. I began doing Weevils in ornate cigar boxes, very eye catching, and then moved on to more standardised boxes and parts. The PostcardWeevil is the most diminutive member of the family. It’s a circuit with three oscillators, two ring modulators and a little amp/speaker built on a 7 x 8 centimetre PCB [printed circuit board] with a 9-volt battery, dials, body contact points and a mini-jack output.
That sounds like fun. Oscillators in your pocket…
Yeah, I love it. It’s inspired by the wonderful old Cracklebox from STEIM in Amsterdam. I loved how the Cracklebox was such a beautiful object – a simple but effective little wooden box. It’s fun watching people react to the Postcard Weevils – some will switch it on, get confused quite quickly, pull some faces and switch it back off again, while others get sucked in.
How did you go from building little boxes to making modular synthesisers?
Actually the Internet played a large part in me following through on ideas I had. The wealth of information from people that you can access through forums is amazing! Until recently, the modulars have been solely for my own personal music playing and a great way for me to try out new ideas. I’ve learnt a lot of electronics and mechanical skills through building them.
So BugBrand’s advice to those who want to get into audio electronics is “build a modular?”
Well, maybe ease into building modulars! The modular approach is key to many modern systems. Take computer programming: you see modular writing in action – you put the program together using little building blocks. For most applications there’s no point in the user rewiring everything at will – you take a synth and fix its architecture so it becomes something quite immediate, an instrument with its own set of limitations that you learn and play around with. Modulars, by their nature, are much slower to get going but their depth is fantastic.
To read the entire interview with Tom Bugs, go here.