For those who have never come across circuit bending before, could you explain a little bit about how it works?
Circuit bending is the creative modification of electronic devices such as children’s toys, digital home keyboards, drum machines, guitar effects, games consoles etc. by adding new connections within the existing circuit to create sounds that the device was not originally designed to make. The process is an exploratory one and can be a simple as wiring in a few switches and potentiometers (variable resistors) to control the ‘bends’ you’ve found, more advanced bending may involve additional circuitry such as simple sequencers or modulators to automate your bends. Getting started in circuit bending requires no formal training in electronics although a little knowledge of basic components is useful. There are a couple of basic rules, only bend low voltage battery operated devices, attempting to bend mains powered electronics can result in electrocution if you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t try and bend anything you’re not prepared to lose, some things don’t take well to bending and can become irreparably damaged in the process.
How did you get in to circuit bending?
I stumbled upon circuit bending about 7 years ago after coming across a circuit bent Speak and Spell on Ebay, I was fascinated by the sounds it made but didn’t fancy paying £200 for it, did a bit of research and discovered a global community of people doing similar things.
I Bought myself a Speak and Maths and got stuck in.
What has been your favourite mod so far?
I have a couple, for pure sonic chaos it would have to be the Echo Destruktor, it’s the amplifier and echo circuit from a Barbie Karaoke Machine rewired into a complex feedback network. It’s very expressive and will do anything from delicate pulsing blips and rich bass drones to full on brutal screeching noise. It’s one of my early bends and I still use it today. I built a new version for a reggae producer in London a few months back with an additional low pass filter.
The other is the Mute Synth mod I built for Mute Records boss Daniel Miller, he’d seen a previous mod I’d built for myself and he asked if I could build one for him. I personalised it with a leatherette panel as a tribute to the track Warm Leatherette he produced as The Normal.
How do you perform as a live act?
As a solo artist my live set is entirely improvised, it’s different every time and use different instruments. I generally work out a rough shape to what I’m going to do before hand but that often goes out the window on the night.
Sometimes it will be can quite delicate and minimal, other times quite brutal and in your face, there are many factors that influence the performance, the acoustics of the space, the PA, the audience and what kind of mood I’m in.
A lot of my instruments are by nature somewhat unpredictable, although I can pretty much make them do what I want them to do, but sometimes they’ll throw you a curve ball and you have to go with it. It’s as much about me playing the instruments and the instruments playing me.
I also perform, compose and build instruments with the Dirty Electronics Ensemble, a large group of musicians based at De Montfort University in Leicester led by John Richards. Performances tend to be more structure but still involve a strong improvisational element.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to do a lot more gigs and recording this year, I’ve mostly been consumed with building commissions recently.
There’s also a few interesting projects I’ve been working on with John Richards from Dirty Electronics but I can’t talk about those to much, there will be some announcements on new instruments soon.
You can download Twisted Electronics for £34.70 here