Name: Pete Lilley
Age: Physically - 47, Mentally - mid 20s.
Status: Owner - Self refurbished 3800
project (4.3MB pdf)
I can recall the very moment I fell in love with the synthesiser. It
was 1977, late afternoon, Denny High, last period - music. Our
teacher had given up attempting to teach us music, so we were
allowed to bring in LPs (remember them?) of our choice. I didn’t
have any particular musical taste then. Favourites of the day
amongst my fellow classmates would be Genesis, Rush, Pink Floyd,
Thin Lizzy, Jam, even Lynard Skynard. In fact “Freebird” was very
popular, played endlessly in the Prefect’s Common Room until some
disgruntled soul lobbed the record, PLUS the player it was playing
on, out of a window! You could say our music teacher had developed
our appreciation of music after all! Anyway it was during one of
these periods of “music appreciation” that someone brought in a copy
of the new Tangerine Dream LP “Encore” That was it! TD was to become
the sound track for my youth, augmented by other more contemporary
sounds of the time (proper) Genesis, Floyd, Rush plus Gary Numan (I
loved the Polymoog sound) and Ultravox. But it was Tangerine Dream
that I followed closely. Saw them a few times at the delightful
Glasgow Apollo, which as I recall,
had a unique bouquet of school gym changing rooms.
What hooked me into synths and keyboards was when looking at the
pictures on the double album cover whilst listening to “Encore”.
Inside, page left, is a picture of Chris Franke tweaking knobs and
another picture just showing a mass of patch leads – that was it – I
wanted a synth. Music coming out of boxes of electronics, that just
My musical ability at the time was nil, but it didn’t stop me buying
my first synthesiser - a Korg M500 - which turned out – wasn’t. Bit
of an early disappointment that!
I was hoping of rich lush strings, soaring lead sounds, etc etc. But
hold on. What does M-O-N-O phonic mean?
Where are the VCOs? Where are the voices? Ahh, one is stood at
bottom of learning curve!
I was set on a long journey of many purchases – some of which would
disappoint, some of which I should have kept (have you seen the
price Korg Mono Polys fetch these days - eeek!)
So, in rough chronological order I owned at some time: a Korg MS20,
SQ10 and a Korg Delta. My claim to fame regards that rig is I sold
it to a Scots band called H2O, who made an appearance on Top Of The
Pops with said keyboards.
My next rig was a Polymoog Keyboard – not as flexible as the synth
version (which again wasn’t really a synth) but it did have that
“Vox Humana” setting which was the Gazza Numan sound.
Buy this time I built my first kit, a Transcendant 2000. Now, my
electronics knowledge was somewhat limited! I did a lot of theatre
lighting and sound for school and amateur dramatics thanks to my mum
who designed sets. I managed to get my O level in physics so knew my
pnp's from my npn's and that big mains capacitors are not our
friends when charged, as demonstrated by my mate when he made
contact with the innards of the school disco twin deck which we
built in woodwork.
The Transcendent kit was a challenge, particularly as I did not have
any test gear. My philosophy was follow the instructions to the
letter and do a proper job. The slowest task was identifying the
resistors. Till this day why is it they can print the little
coloured ring codes but not the actual values like they can do on
capacitors? In my youth I built a lot of plastic models so my
attention to detail, plus steady pair of hands enabled me to
construct the synth and thus fire it up with some success. Trouble
is getting 8 VCOs to track in tune without the correct test gear is
a tad difficult.
I spent a fortune down the local music shop just getting 2 VCOs (1
Never got the rest done as I sold it with the Polymoog!
The next rig I put together was a Korg Polysix and a Monopoly. By
god that Monopoly in unison mode could wail like a banshee. The
Polysix was a personal favourite. You could really get that fat
Prophet V richness.
To that rig I added a Moog Source which, alas, was not to be the
answer to the Mini Moog as suggested by the fine fellow in the shop.
I then added a Teisco 60F which sounded and looked very ARP.
It wasn’t until later that I learned that underneath it actually
was! (visit Vintage Synth).
By then my self-developed musicality had started to bear fruit. I
could play in any key, usually all at once and one’s chords were,
well, the word I would use would be “interesting”! That was the
thing about the synthesiser one could create a “soundscape “ that
was musical. The colour of the sound added a new dimension. Thing is
for me then I was happy being a synthesist twiddling knobs on a
subtractive synth and getting results. It wasn't until some time
later when I dropped down my pinkies and found my 7ths, that it all
fell into place. Still can’t name half of me chords though!
But when you get the hairs raised on the back of your arms – you
know you’ve nailed it!
When the family move down South to Worcester in 1983 I then found
synth heaven – a Rod Argents Shop!
Every lunchtime I would pop in and play with the latest toys. Wasn’t
long before I bought a Juno 60 and a DCB sequencer (MIDI was just
around the corner). Then things went a little pear shaped and one’s
synth purchases went a tad off the rails, a DX9 – oh dear. I swapped
it back for a Casio CZ1000. My first foray into digital synths did
not bode well and certainly did not satisfy in the twiddling fetish
department. All I ever got out of the DX9 was that 80s “Dirty
Dancing” plinky plonk sound. The CZ faired better. You could a least
get a real ballsy solo out of that. Around about this time I also
bought a Yamaha C30 which had a sequencer and looked cool, but it
had no real bite filter wise so that didn’t last long. I even
acquired a Mellotron but it took up too much space in my bedroom, so
flogged it to a mate for £25! I can remember us sneaking it into his
mum’s house, in the dead of night, only to get a fit of the giggles
halfway up the stairs. Think of Laurel and Hardy, the piano and that
The mate in question, Adrian Beasley, I met after sticking a card up
in Argents window proclaiming my love for all things TD. Adrian
later formed “Air Sculpture” with some mates from his university
days. They released a few excellent CDs and have performed in some
interesting venues like Jodrell Bank for instance, which augmented
their improvised live work ethic. Adrian had a 3800 which he built
and I borrowed it for a tinker. He could get a fantastic violin
sound out of it by manipulating the transient envelope as he played
to get the “draw” of the bow. We used to pop up to Sheffield to
Music Electronica which was always a hoot! I remember seeing Steve
Joliffe there and one very fine performance by Mark Shreeve.
My first live performance was brought about through Argents. Someone
asked them if they knew someone who could demo synths at a book
launch/conference held by Pan Books in the Chateau Impney Hotel in
Droitwich. The title of the book escapes me now but it was a good
read. The delegates had no idea what hit them! They didn’t see my
gear set up behind a projector screen. So picture a room full of
literary types. It’s 9:30 in the AM and Pete introduces them to the
sonic transients a la Tangerine Dream utilising his recent purchases
which now includes a Roland TR808 plugged into then state of the art
digital drum modules.
I think I scared some of them, certainly woke them up. The projector
screen slowly lifted up, to reveal moi all dressed in white, and
with one hell of a clichéd bass drone on hold. Well it was the 80s –
oh, I think I had highlights too! My other favourite live piece
(late 90s) was producing live backing to some spoken lyrics that I
had written. These were performed by some friends from a local drama
group for whom I did the lighting and sound for many years. After
the two night run I knew I wanted to play more live but life somehow
always got in the way!
By 1987 I had sold off all my gear and Argents was no more. My other
passion is motorcycles and I went through as many of them as I did
keyboards. For me the late 80s was a dry spot keyboard wise. I met
my lovely wife in '87 and we married in '89. Then out of the blue
for one Christmas, Debbie bought me a Juno 6 and a SH101.
Tangerinepete was back on track again!
Winding fast forward - I had a Roland E10 for some time. Whilst not
a true synth as such, it really helped me to improve my playing
technique as it had a fantastic piano and string voices, good touch
response plus an incredible nylon guitar preset. Due to this
keyboard I bought a Roland JD800 which is still with me. You can get
a very good PPG twang – ahhhhhh, not to mention some excellent rich
pads. It is one hell of a machine plus has loads of knobs to
Added to the Roland is a Technics WSA1. It’s a quality sounding
instrument which although complex to program (acoustic modelling) it
has a sonic flavour of its own. I usually just have it MIDI slaved
to the JD800 most of the time as I like the action of the Roland’s
I think I bought my Maplin 3800 in 96/97, off a colleague from work
who had it in an airing cupboard for years!
I believe it was originally built by a chap in Malvern who was a
boffin working for the RSRE - Royal Signals Research Establishment.
He certainly knew how to wire up a tidy loom. Added to this he also
beefed up the power supply – check out the smoothing caps on that
I didn’t really use it much and it took up a lot of space. So I
thought I would cut it in half, oh yes, with a saw! I put the
keyboard in the attic and the guts were thrown in a cabinet
constructed from tatty black ash shelves and stuck it on a shelf
above my other keyboards for 10 odd years!
I went through quite a few Roland Drum machines but currently
settled on a MC 505. For recording I’m using a Yamaha AW4416 but it
has really only performs mixing duties. I’m a fan of play it all
live – once! Zoom to end of last year and I went on a bit of buying
spree down Bris’ol way, buying a Korg Radias Module, a Doeffer
Regelwerk Sequencer and a Korg Z1 synth. I built a cabinet to house
the MC505, Radias and Regelwerk to create the mother of a beat box!
After sorting this out my attention then turned to the 3800. Last
year we had been listening to a lot of Goldfrapp. I love their
Theraminey - mono synthy synced sound so it was time to resurrect
CLICK HERE [coming soon - web master] to read how I sorted it out.
Not to sound too smug (and to the wife’s amazement) it fired up
first time (bar two keys) and it has brought a new “old school”
flavour to my set up. My sound has evolved again and the reborn 3800
has already made an impact. Think of Faithless meets Pink Floyd,
meets Tangerine Dream, plus a healthy dose of Forbidden Planet
wibbly woobly bits thrown in!