MATRIXSYNTH: Thomas Dolby Interview

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thomas Dolby Interview

Title link takes you there.

"BD: What is your take on analog nostalgia and the resurgence of homebrew synths? People are taking the SID chips out of Commodore 64 computers and wreaking havoc; Products like the SID Station, TB303 cloning, x0xb0x, countless others...

TMDR: Yeah, I mean, I'm all for it, you know, I think it's fantastic the level to which electronic music has really sort of permeated. When I started out in the late 70s there were only really a handful of us doing it. There was myself and Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, and a few other people. Synthesizers were still something of a rarity. And my generation were inspired by the ones that went before us; the Fripps and the Enos of the world and Kraftwerk, obviously, people like that. But we were developing this stuff in parallel to punk rock and punk of course stole the headlines. It was only really in the 80's when bands like The Human League and New Order and Depeche Mode starting having bonafide chart hits that the electronic music movement really sort of went mainstream. And then the prices started to come down, you saw personal computers getting in there, and suddenly my $120,000 Fairlight was looking like a useless antique. "


  1. Dolby is somewaht re-writing history by trying to place himself alongside Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. He was always far too commercial to be considered part of the industrial or DIY scene. And he still doesn't get it it; you are meant to use the old test oscillators as they are, not rip out the guts and turn them into decorative midi controllers...pah!

  2. I think the fancy-looking MIDI controller thing is a bit ghey as well. At least use them to control some CV signals or something.

  3. Yeah can you imagine a TGristly/Dolby show back in 1980 haha...does tommy like to be shat upon perhaps?

    Hmmm y'all may have a point about the MIDIfied oscillators...i guess it's the faux aspect that is problematic. it is a classic contradiction of digital vs. analog. MIDI controllers should not try to mask themselves as otherwise. Surely we all recognize how loverly moog knobs and vca faders are, so we should use them as inspiration for controllers, but they needn't mimic them, as a ruse.

    But hey, Dolby's from that test oscillator era, y'know, that 60's quasiscientific madman persona. but now he's modern and bald and he has touchscreens and MIDI. I think the old controller sets him off a bit from the crowd.

  4. Besides, he likes the *look* of that old test equipment, that's why he gutted it to suit his purposes. According to the rest of the interview he's a bit of a collector of that junk. Still, I didnt like his music then, and I certainly dont like it any more now.

  5. Perhaps we can apply some noise reduction to Mr. Dolby?

    A, B, or C? :)

  6. What's interesting is he talks about the 70s. The stuff we all heard from him came out in the 80s. I wander what he was doing in the 70s and if any of it is available out there. It could be a bit more experimental. Modern English is a classic example. There first couple of albums were very dark, then they came out with After the Snow.

  7. Here's a bio on Yahoo! Music: link.

    What's interesting for me was that I found the stuff that wasn't his most popular to be the most interesting of his work. The Golden Age of Wireless is brilliant.

    Thomas Dolby apparently also was a bit of tech head:

    "Dolby's interest in music arose through his interest in computers, electronics and synthesizers. The son of a British archeologist, Thomas Dolby (b. Thomas Morgan Robertson, October 14, 1958) originally attended college to study meteorology, but he was soon side-tracked by electronics, specifically musical equipment. He began building his own synthesizers when he was 18 years old. Around the same time, he began to learn how to play guitar and piano, as well as how to program computers. Eventually, his schoolmates gave him the nickname of "Dolby," which was the name for a noise-reduction technology for audiotapes; he would eventually take the nickname as a stage name."



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