Maplin 3800 Owner  Pete Lilley's Page

    Pete Lilley      

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Pete Lilley
Present Owner


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Name: Pete Lilley
Age: Physically - 47, Mentally - mid 20s.
Status: Owner - Self refurbished 3800
3800 refurb 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 fascinated me.
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 voice) sorted.
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 long staircase!

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 twiddle.
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 keyboard.

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 baby.
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 the 3800.

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!



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