Meet the Makers – John from Modular Addict

Modular Addict

Tell us about yourself.
I’m a pretty ordinary guy. Thirtysomething. Work/family/home kind of thing. Great record collection, greater tool collection, and a mostly lifelong passion for synthesizers that were priced out of my reach for most of my life. Somewhere along the way in my late teens or early twenties I decided to start playing around with making them, and somewhere further down the line I decided to start taking it seriously. I was a little frustrated with the prices and accessibility of some of the amazing synth DIY projects out there, so I decided to spin up Modular Addict to help make some of these products/projects more accessible to people in the US – turns out, people dug the idea – business has really exploded.

What are you presenting at Maker Faire Milwaukee?
We’ll be bringing out a pretty large modular synthesizer or two – entirely DIY/hand-built. Many people are familiar with keyboard-type synthesizers – at a high level, they’re a collection of oscillators, amplifiers, filters, and envelopes which are all pre-designed and prepackaged to work in certain ways. With the modular approach, you start with an empty case, then add any number of modules – oscillators, amplifiers, filters, sequencers, etc. – you build it the way you want, to be used the way you want to use it. Besides that, all the connections are made via patch cables – you’ve got total control over the sounds, patterns and timbres you pull out of the synthesizer – and total flexibility to creatively abuse it.

It sounds sort of complex on the face of it, but it’s really intuitive once you spend even a few minutes playing with one.

The breadth and quality of the DIY synth kits and PCBs out there is crazy, and they’re so accessible now – both in terms of cost and simplicity. If you know, basically, how to solder, you can build a synthesizer. We’re really excited to let people get hands on and play with them!

Modular Addict

What inspires you to make?
If I’m being honest, probably some unhealthy compulsive tendencies. I don’t like being idle; I’m always on the search for that one new sound that I wasn’t able to generate before, and I’ve got this enormous parts collection that I eventually need to get through….But there’s something deeper there: If I’m not focused on Synth-DIY, I’m woodturning, laser cutting, etc. – working on something.

What tips or advice would you give to someone who wants to become a Maker?
Avoid analysis paralysis like the plague. It’s the leading cause of my projects not getting off the ground. Just jump in and do it. Fail if you will. Learn something. Iterate. Improve.

Related to the above, find your own way – it’s too easy to go to the internet and read a million conflicting opinions on the most perfect way to do something. Just try something. You’ll learn as you go.

When you’re troubleshooting or trying to fix something: At all costs, don’t let it win. Your next problem/project will smell the defeat on you and beat you.

Modular Addict

Tell us about one of your failed projects.
There aren’t a ton. At the risk of sounding like a tool, I generally stay at them until I get them. I don’t have a lot that get canned. That said, I’ve got a Prusa i3 build that I’m probably never going to finish calibrating at this point…

If you could make one thing that would improve the world, what would it be?
Some method to get people to quit using the passing lane for things other than, you know, passing.

For more info check out the 2016 profile page for Modular Addict.