meet DOS4GW

starve without your skeleton key

This is my favourite synthesizer.

humble, but also bad ass.

This is a Roland System 100. I’ve got the whole set; the speakers, sequencer and everything.  I’ve also got a table that isn’t pictured – and come to think of it, I’ve never seen or heard of another anywhere. That’s not to say they aren’t around, of course, but the vintage synth community on the net is usually pretty fucking comprehensive, so it’s a bit surprising.

There’s a great story behind how this synth came into my possession. There was a cleanout of a music lab at a university on the cards, and my mother had the inside scoop. The place was full of equipment, probably all useless, but worth a look anyway. At this point in my career I was working a few days a week pushing pixels for contractors, and living with my brother and a couple of other nerds in a craphole in Crawley. I was living well below the poverty line, but I was happy.

I went over to the lab to have a squiz. I found a few old Mac IIs, and some crappy Yamaha PCM keyboards that weren’t worth the plastic they were made of. There was a grand piano there, but lifting a full sized grand from a uni was a bit beyond my capacity at the time. A CZ-3000 stands against a door in the corner. Yes! Something usable! I put it by the door, to take downstairs later. A few uprights, boxes and boxes of sheet music… an awesome collection of guiros, but auxiliary percussion isn’t really my style. Heaps of posters claiming that yes, every good boy does indeed deserve fruit. A table in the corner with some dusty black boxes and a keyboard on it.


I suddenly was in a panic. There’s a (to me) priceless full set mid-70s analog monosynth here. I need to get it out. Now. Before anyone notices. They have cameras. Surely they have cameras. Surely they know it’s worth money to the right people. But they’re going to bin everything here. It needs a keeper. Someone to love it. Ok. Be calm. A trolley. Get a trolley. Some drapes or curtains or something, wrap that fucker up, take it down the emergency exit, and get the fuck out of here and never come back.

With the help of my fearless mother (to whom I owe this entire venture, and indeed my love of keyboarded things), I got the entire set down the stairs and into my car (a ’76 Clubman Mini, built the same year as the synth). The panic is dying down. I’ve done it. I pull away from the carpark with a feeling of elation and a surge of belief in the vintage synth gods. The paranoia isn’t totally gone; I check my rear view every five seconds, half expecting Tosh Lines from The Bill to pull me over in an SR Nova (drive it like a joyrider).

I get home. It’s here. It’s mine. My brother thinks I’m dumb for obsessing over it, which is fair enough, considering that I could sell it for an amount roughly equivalent to my yearly salary at the time.

Fuck that, I think. It’s fucking mine.

I’ve used it on damn near every track I’ve ever made. It’s flexible, but somehow my patch cables seem to gravitate toward the square waves every time. They’re so thick. A decent preamp, then straight onto disc – it breaks up in a way that seems criminal. Even better, sampled with an S-220 or Mirage or another digital rackmounted fuckup, it blips and grumbles and moans. I have the facility to hook it up to a computer controller sequencer, but somehow that feels like cheating. Sync the oscillators, pitch those fuckers down, open up the filter and just give it the beans. Sample bank 1, standby, record, autoloop. Ship the bass, it’s done. All thanks to a phonecall from my mum.

So pick the fucking phone up when your mum calls, yeah?


Filed under: geek shit, life

2 Responses

  1. H dawg says:

    Speeding in the corner
    ya mother warned ya
    it’s a sound system banger.

  2. DOS4GW says:

    I rate that album. Used to hate it, but it’s grown on me. Sharp Darts is still the best track.

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January 2010
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