We speak to Michael Rucci who makes handmade synths and drone instruments, selling them from his California base. You can find his Handmade Electronic Instruments website here as well as his stores on Etsy And Reverb.
Interview With Michael Rucci From Handmade Electronic Instruments
Thanks for taking the time out to talk about your synths / devices…
What inspired you to get into this? Did you come from a background of electronics? or making music?
Before building these I was focused on recording, some of my own music but mostly recording others in a small home studio. In 2000, I attended the Institute of Audio Research in New York. They mostly teach audio engineering but they had a few classes on electronics where I learned basics like reading schematics and soldering. Over the years I tinkered with electronics as a hobby. In 2009, I moved from the east coast to the west coast, and due to space constraints, I had to stop recording. I enjoyed building little lofi synthesizers, as I way to share them with others and fund my hobby I decided to put some up for sale.
Who are they aimed at? Electronic musicians? DIY/drone artists?
People seem to find them useful for all sorts of genres, but it is is fair to say I am primarily thinking about more experimental artists when designing these, since they have less options out there. Also, I try my best to accommodate folks that might not be able to invest tons of money on equipment.
What are the most popular devices you sell?
The Minimal and Maximal Drones are the most popular.
The 8-Bit Synth and Maximal Drone really stand out, can you tell us more about them?
Those are both sound generating devices. The 8-Bit Synth makes these lofi looping sequences while the Maximal Drone can be thought of as six note chord. The Maximal Drone has a 3 note little brother and the 8-Bit Synth has a “power” version that adds a traditional keyboard.
And how to get the best out them?
Run them through effects. The entire world of guitar effects is open to these, and many users (often coming from guitar) already have some things to experiment with. Beyond that, consider experimenting with control voltage. The CV input on the Maximal Drone, for example, really turns it into a completely different thing, more noisy and rhythmic.
What out of your instruments / devices would you recommend for a beginner?
This depends on what music you want to make and what equipment you happen to already have. If you are starting from scratch and want to make drone music, a Maximal Drone can be connected to a little amp or direct to a computer and you are up and running. If you already have some effects to experiment with and want to collect some samples an 8-Bit Synth might be more interesting to you.
Do you have any tips for someone getting into making drone music?
Don’t get hung up on the equipment, just about any synthesizer can be used for drone.
What have you got planned for the future?
I have several ongoing projects, but one that I’m particularly excited about is built around the concept of “no-input mixing.” No-input mixing is a technique usually using a mixer and effects with outputs plugged back in on itself to generate feedback loops. It is a way of making sounds without any equipment that was originally designed to make sound. I’m working on something that does all of that inside one box.
That said, it is a very slow process. I’ve been making progress off and on for years now, but it is getting close.
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