MAN CAVE, a grotesque of mid life crisis
Many thanks for Dan F, who has graciously donated his MC202 MicroComposer to the Man Cave. Reason being that many of our early albums were powered by this little box, which was the first affordable, effective sequencing tool available to us in the 1980’s. So many of the songs we still perform live include patterns and sounds made by the 202.
This particular unit is not currently working properly. That’s common with old equipment. The amplifier stage is noisy and quiet – probably a capacitor gone. The filter slider is not functional. While we arrange repairs much of what I’m writing is based on previous experience.
I’m currently watching a show called The Frankenstein Chronicles. You can figure out the plot from the title – all I want to point out is that back in the 1820’s everyone below the nobility seemed to get about the place in a top hat covered in shit. Actually, their whole body was covered in mud and shit and everyone seemed busy starving to death. When people talk about the Good Old Days and Merry Olde England I congratulate myself on being born in the 20th century when we had modern things like medicine or showers.
So it is with Ye Old Sequencers. Compared to what had come before the 202 is a marvel. I had a CSQ-100 which could hold that many notes so long as you kept it powered. I also had a SQ-10 with three rows of knobs that you could tune to a tiny melody if you had a few days. I had previously wasted my money on a TB303 – what a crock – so I was delighted to find something that kept time with a tape synch, held a good number of notes that could back up, and made a noise not like strangling a chicken. I never actually backed up the notes, instead coming up with a melody and running the tape to record the results.
Entering notes was a lot more like dance steps than music. It would be one, two, three of this, enter a rest, one, two, three, four or that, a rest, a rest and so on. You’d get an idea of how it would sound after a fair bit of buttons and beeping. It was succinct, drum like.
There is little benefit in working this way in 2019. If you don’t like Modern Times, you can still find plenty of synthesisers that can hold sequences in their own brains – can I again point you at the Bass Station2 as the perfect tool for This Sort of Thing? There’s also the Arturia BeatStep if you want a little box – never used it but good reports.
It’s not a particularly powerful synthesiser, don’t buy it for that. It’s a subset of the SH101, no noise included. I would once make the 202 the kick drum and the 101 the snare and be happy with the results. It could do a decent bass or a tickling sound, but the 101 was always better - and you can get a replica of those from Roland.
Chances are I’ll not base many new songs on the 202, but perhaps revisit a way of working and a sound that typified my creativity for a few years. Top hat, ready.
It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.