Monday, May 23, 2016


The past few years have been a real transitional period for me. After years of being an active musician, tape label owner and working a full time job, I hit depression followed by a burn out and ended up on EI after I got laid off from work. I decided to put a hold on my music activities and set the label aside. During my recovery I started getting back into something I briefly started years ago, my passion for electronics and DIY instrumentation. 

My grandpa and my dad taught me how to solder when I was young and I've soldered basic things pretty much all my life. I never got in-depth with electronics apart from a bit of circuit bending and fixing basic things on appliances and instruments. I discovered the Music From Outer Space (MFOS) website and ordered a few PCBs to start with. I first built the Echo Rockit, then the Mini-Synth, then the Sample and Hold. I then ordered and built the Ring Modulator and the Phaser. I received a copy of the book Handmade Electronic Music by Nicholas Collins as a gift and started reading more about DIY stuff. 

Soon after I started regularly making electronics, Ray Wilson (owner of MFOS) unfortunately got sick and had to close his shop. Since I couldn't order more PCBs from him, I started building perfboard circuits to be able to build more modules independently and to improve my soldering skills. After months of trial and error, I got a few modules working. With the help of my dear friend Al Isler (musician/engineer) who designed perfboard layouts based on Ray Wilson's schematics, I was able to make a few more things to add to the system. (I will post another article with these layouts for DIYists to build. They're very cool :)

After months of building, I had my system mounted on wooden racks, which I constructed by hand. I tested a bunch of modules and designs and kept the best ones for the portable system. I will eventually rebuild the racks with fresh new modules. Possibly CGS stuff. Anyhow, I messed up most of my builds and it was quite frustrating at times. Lots and lots of troubleshooting, filtering through found circuits and all. I had two little metal suitcases laying around, perfect to house modules, so I decided to use them to build a portable system. A system that will most likely be used for droning, texture making and shaping sounds and samples.

Here is the list of what my system has:

- MFOS Echo Rockit
- MFOS Sample & Hold with VC-Clk
- MFOS Ring Modulator
- MFOS Noise Toaster VCF
- MFOS Echo Rockit Resonant VCF
- 2X MFOS AR Enveloppe Generators
- 4X MFOS Noise Toaster VCAs
- 2X MFOS Signal to gate converters
- 4X 40106 Oscillators (inspired by Nick Collins)
- 2X System 100 LFO clones 
- Digital Delay (Boss DD3 modified and rebuilt into my systems format with better parts).
- 3X ZVEX SHO preamp clones
- 4-channel audio mixer
- a utility panel containing 2 attenuators, audio and CV splitters.

The audio signal is 1/4 inches and the voltage is controlled using banana plugs. We could call it the MFOS format maybe? It's between east coast (Moog) and west coast (Buchla). At first I was making a total east coast 1/4 inches for everything on the synth, but I got seduced with the idea of controlling voltage with smaller, stackable cables. 

I haven't made my own music for more than a year now and I'm super excited to start up again and make an album. I will be releasing the next phase of the Élément Kuuda journey. With explorations of new sounds and new ways of working with my custom system, it should be quite interesting.