MATRIXSYNTH: Darrel Johansen - Snapshots of Early Serge History


Monday, April 12, 2010

Darrel Johansen - Snapshots of Early Serge History


"1107 1/2 N. Western Ave. Serge's Hollywood factory. The door is just to the left of that brown sedan, to the right of the wig store. This is just a few yards north of Santa Monica Blvd."



"A test station in the Hollywood factory where transistors were matched for Serge's low-noise, high-gain VCAs."



"An assembly station, with circuit boards in rails so that multiple boards could be assembled at once. The styrofoam on the left was used to cover the boards which could then be turned over to be soldered. The styrofoam kept the components in the board when the whole assembly was flipped over. Some finished panels are on the shelves up on the wall."



"Someone's wooden Serge unit on the floor. The broom was used to sweep up the clipped metal leads that would cover the floor as PC boards were assembled. It was also used to sweep up when the ceiling collapsed --causing pigeon quano to rain down over the assembly stations during a disaster that took days to clean up."



"The Haight Street facility in San Francisco in 1980. This is in the lower Haight, and right next to the "Gentleman's Social Club" on the bottom left. Eric Drew Feldman wrote a song for Butch the dog, the club's mascot, who was usually hanging on the street with the mostly older 'gentlemen.' They looked with amusement at the young white people coming and going to Serge's."



"A look up the street. If you travel past the shop on the right (the brick structure with bay windows just beyond the church), you go up the hill to "upper" Haight, the more famous part of the street, adjacent to Golden Gate Park."



"My front office, with bay window to my back. This is on the second floor. Serge lived on the third floor, and the first floor, which was a shop at one time, was mostly vacant."



"My test station."



"A look down the shop and assembly stations. The face panels were developed with a photographic process on the right."



"Panel assembly station in SF."



"PC board assembly station. Note the styrofoam was replaced with these velcro'd panels with foam rubber --causing the resistors and capacitors to acquire fuzzy heads as the heat melted the some of the foam on the components. The two Anchor Steam bottles, I think, are evidence of Paul's station."



"Another angle of my front office. Very cold in winter."



"zero case system"



"zero case system"



"When I was teaching at The Evergreen State College, I assembled this new electronic music studio."



"Chas Smith in his recording studio, with his Serge - circa 1980"


Update via Kevin Fortune in the comments: "Interesting to see those old photos. I started working with Serge in Newhall before that first photo. I built those worktables and just about everything else in there. When we first got to the L.A. shop in '76 or '77 the shops next door were a little different... If you were coming down Western Ave (from the right in the 1st photo) and read the shop signs from top to bottom they read: Live Nude Hamburgers Wrestling. Later I came up to Haight St to help him get started renovating the building. Check out "The Mighty Serge" photos in my Facebook page. I built it in '77 and finished in april '78. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1038349981&ref=profile or www.kevinbrahenyfortune.com

I go to do engineering at Sound Transform in Wisconsin every few months. We've upgraded the components and the grounding and the audio quality is superb! Orders of magnitude above what we were making back then."

11 comments:

  1. ...paging Ken Burns.....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Where's Kevin Braheny? He should be hiding under one of the work tables.

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  3. I'm working on a new module for that very Buchla right now... getting it interfaced to the the new eurorack and 200e systems. So cool to see how unchanged the TESC studios are! Just found that Oberheim sequencer in our closet... Where it is sitting on an unpurposed e-mu modular that was obtained from UW.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great pictures, it's a shame the evergreen buchla easel was stolen. :(

    ReplyDelete
  5. I had a good laugh looking at this...not because I'm old enough to have been in SF in 1980 to see the Serge shop, but because I am old enough to have misspent a couple years of my youth at the Horseshoe Cafe, which now occupies that site on Lower Haight, around 1990. If only I had known what had gone on there before...

    ReplyDelete
  6. It seems they favored powerful early Seventies luxury cars too. A dressed-up Pontiac LeMans, Dodge Polara 500, and 1970 Riviera appear in the shots parked directly outside what I would assume to be the door to the upstairs. Muscle synths and muscle cars. I think I'm in heaven...

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  7. GREAT photos - the start of historical preservation of information easily lost otherwise. Maybe the start of a website?

    PS - I think the pigeon guano is THE secret of the great sound....

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can say that none of those cars belonged to anyone who worked at SMMS. Glad to give everyone a peek into this period of time. The pigeon guano was the low point of the Hollywood shop.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Interesting to see those old photos. I started working with Serge in Newhall before that first photo. I built those worktables and just about everything else in there. When we first got to the L.A. shop in '76 or '77 the shops next door were a little different... If you were coming down Western Ave (from the right in the 1st photo) and read the shop signs from top to bottom they read: Live Nude Hamburgers Wrestling. Later I came up to Haight St to help him get started renovating the building. Check out "The Mighty Serge" photos in my Facebook page. I built it in '77 and finished in april '78. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1038349981&ref=profile
    or www.kevinbrahenyfortune.com
    I go to do engineering at Sound Transform in Wisconsin every few months. We've upgraded the components and the grounding and the audio quality is superb! Orders of magnitude above what we were making back then.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Orders of magnitude? Really?

    ReplyDelete
  11. After more than 20 years of drooling over an endless number of synthesizers, Mr Fortune's Serge is still the best looking synth of all times imho.

    ReplyDelete

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