Friday, December 19, 2008

Ken Stone Cat Girl Synth (CGS) interview

Over the coming months I will be interviewing people who are involved in the manufacture of modular synthesisers, musicians who have been using modular synthesisers and modular effect unit designers.


Ken Stone is highly regarded in the Modular Synth business. He is also "the guru" of the DIY synth community.

Ken has been involved with many companies throughout the years from Bananalogue, Cyndustries, Elby Design and Metalbox to name a few. He runs his own company Cat Girl Synth (CGS) were you can buy Printed Circuit Boards (PCB)and build up your own system. If you are into modular synths you are sure to have at least one of Ken’s designs in your system.

I caught up with Ken recently at his home, in the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, a place that resembles only what I can only describe as "The Tardis". I went in and time disappeared. You will see modular synths all around the walls at strange angles, vintage oscilloscopes and wires everywhere. I was convinced when I left his home I had indeed been to another galaxy.

Can you tell us what was "that moment" that got you into electronic music?

Hearing the album "Popcorn" by Electric Coconut.

What made you want to DIY a modular synth?

I couldn't afford to buy one, and I liked doing electronics. The solution

seemed obvious!

You have mentioned the Serge Modular is your favourite synth, why?

A number of times after designing what I thought was a new and innovative

module I would discover it had already been done before - by Serge Tcherepnin.

After that I looked closer at them and liked what I saw.

Have you recorded any music or are you happy to just create the electronics?

I used to record a little, but have not done so in a long time. Mostly these

days it is about the electronics. I create the modules -which I am better at

doing than creating music, and leave the music creating to those that are

better at it than me. It's a bonus when they do it using my modules.

You seem to have been involved with many modular synth companies over

the years, Cyndustries, Bananalogue, Elby Design Panther series etc how

did these come about?

These usually started as casual email discussions, or a direct approach by

the other party to me. Elby Design is the exception. Initially I approached

Laurie asking if he would like to sell kits for my designs.

What do you think of the current boom in modular synth interest?

Why do you think it has come around again?

The boom has been fired by several factors.

1) Impressive looking equipment.

2) Better sounds

3) Ease of operation. This might sound odd, considering how complex these

can get, but it is a lot easier to play with knobs and wires than to try to

get a sound right by poking a few buttons while looking at an LCD screen.

4) Retro being in fashion.

You only sell Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) why not your own complete


Stick to what you know best. If you over extend you will most likely fail. I

know selling whole systems is beyond what I am capable of doing alone, and I

have no desire to run a business. The current CGS model has the ability to

survive indefinitely. Even if no one ever bought another board, I would not

be bankrupted as has been the case with many synthesizer manufacturers. It

made more sense to me to allow those who were in a position to build and

sell modules do so, thus the other manufacturers making CGS designs.

Is there anything you are currently working on?

Lets just say that while I have been busy with other things of late, I have
not run out of ideas.

What is your favourite module that you have made?

Possibly the sub-oscillator/harmonic sequencer.

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