Livewire Electronics modules give the overall impression that you have discovered abandoned 50’s alien test equipment.
With this in mind, I had to interview Mike and see what made this mad scientist tick.
Mike tell us a little about yourself.
This is the one I usually dread... (I'm not one for talking about
myself much) but how about this:
Played in a few bands during the '80s & '90s... if anyone
remembers Cafe'Noire, Aura Circuit, or my solo project,
Electronium (probably not... haha)
Studied electronic music at Cal State University San Bernardino
under Dr.Raymond Torre-Santos (now at Hunter College in New
York). At the time they did not have an electronic music
program, so when I showed up for recitals with my reels
of tape music... the jury of music dept. administrators
threw me out... haha...2 years later they had a full blown
electronic music major program. figures.
I had always wanted a modular synth... but being married
with small kids,had no hope of justifying the expense.
Then around 1994, I discovered a book in the local library...
"build your own synthesizer" by Thomas Henry.
I thought "I can do *this*!" so I set about gathering parts
from local surplus stores and schematics from anywhere
I could get them... library books mostly... I was on the
internet, but this was pre-web days I think...
So then I went about starting small fires for the next
six years or so... ;)
Eventually, the circuits began to actually work... and
then I was thoroughly hooked.
A few years later, the idea came about to start
Livewire... mostly from the fact that I absolutely
ABHORRED my corporate day job. I started the business
while still working as a project manager for a bank, and
it took another six months to a year before I built up
the courage to make the leap to full-time self employment...
and I've never regretted the decision.
Now, one thing I must say... the thing I like the most
about this business is the camaraderie of the boutique
synth community... Dieter Doepfer, Wowa Cwejman,
Jered Flickinger, Eric Barbour, Yasi Pererra, Jurgen Michaelis,
Bruce Duncan, Carsten Schippmann and of course, the
one and only Ken MacBeth... these guys were all amazingly
supportive and helpful... and in turn, it has been my great
pleasure to help out guys like Scott Jaeger and Josh Holley
get started with their eurorack lines.
So that about brings us to 2008... Steve has done
a fantastic job in following through with my vision to bring
all Livewire products to factory assembly. We are now
delivering products to dealers in quantities we never
could have managed before. A huge debt of gratitude goes to Steve for
taking Livewire to the next stage.
Can you remember what “that” moment was when you were blown away by electronic music?
Wow... that's a big question. let's see... When I was *really* young, I
remember hearing "Funeral for a Friend/Loves Lies Bleeding" on Elton John's
"Yellow Brick Road" LP... honestly, that was probably my first real
awareness of synthesizers.... (yeah, I know... pretty lame, huh?) after
that... I remember my friend's hippie older brother playing this record for
me through headphones... it was "Autobahn" by kraftwerk. now that REALLY
blew me away... then the late 70s & early 80s came... some records I
specifically remember would be "TVOD" by The Normal, "Metal Beat" by John
Foxx, the "Leave in Silence" 12" by Depeche Mode, that first Heaven 17 LP...
what was it called?, "Rage in Eden" by Ultravox (Conny Plank's work...
amazing), the "Replicas" LP by Gary Numan, "Your Silent Face" & "Temptation"
by New Order... all this stuff really got me into electronic music. it was
like an explosion really... all this great music and most of it made with
synths. then in the 90s I remember the first time I heard "Papua New
Guinea" by FSOL... and then all that big beat stuff... "Block Rocking Beats"
& "The Rockefeller Skank"... and then drum n bass... and IDM... Autechre &
Aphex Twin... man, so much great stuff.
The Dual Cyclotron was the first Livewire?
Yes and no.... the FrequenSteiner was technically the first Livewire module,
but that was just a clone of Nyle Steiner's design... the Dual Cyclotron was
the first module that I designed all myself, from scratch.
You have an amazing collection of old test oscillators. Why?
Hmmm..... why......? a good question. I guess I became obsessed with the
idea of building a big modular synth out of them once I discovered you could
buy them on ebay for $5 and $10... and y'know... they just look so cool.
What's interesting about working with them, is you have to really adopt a
different approach to get any kind of 'music' out of them... because you're
working with machines that really aren't meant to make music... sometimes
they really aren't meant to even make sound! so you have to approach it
with a different way of thinking...
In the end, this really affected my ideas when it came to module design...
particularly with things like the dual cyclotron... which is specifically
inspired by the way I used to patch up certain pieces of test equipment.
Your modules seem old school circa 50’s era electronics but in an alien
dimension. What is it that you love so much about Livewire?
Hmm... another good question.... I guess what it is is that I am designing
modules for myself, generally... I design stuff based on the things that *I*
like... things that *I* want a modular to do... and I suppose it's based on
that 1950s SciFi aesthetic... which is one of my favorites... y'know lab
coats & Tesla coils & great big dials & switches. NASA stuff.
Why do you think there is a growing interest in modular synths?
I think it is because people like to turn knobs... pretty simple. a laptop
touch pad can get pretty boring.
Do you think you will ever run out of ideas?
Nah... too many good ideas... I'll more likely run out of time! ;)
Two of your modules the Dalek and Vulcan make me think you are a Doctor Who and Star Trek fan?
Well growing up in America in the 1960s & 70s I was a big Star Trek
fan... but only of the orig TV series. now my kids & I are huge Doctor Who
fans... we don't miss it!
I see on the back of my AFG quotes from The Matrix, are there any other quotes I may have missed on other boards?
There are quotes on every module... you just have to look harder on some ;)
The Dual Cyclotron has quotes in the form of a riddle... 3 excerpts from the
lyrics of 3 different songs... but all related... so far Daniel Miller is
the only one who has been able to guess the connection (but he cheated... as
he's part of the riddle!)
We have seen some of the Livewire module prototypes. Can we expect new modules released in 2009?
Yeah, definitely... there will definitely be new livewire modules released
in 2009... of the prototypes you've already seen, the Subdivider & Chaos
Computer will probably be released this year... along with the expander
modules for the AFG. plus, I have a couple of modules that I have not shown
that I plan to release soon..... stay tuned!