January/February 2005
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One is a rave icon who named himself after a beat box. The other is a synthesizer pioneer whose name is synonymous with electronic sounds. Upon the release of the film Moog, 808 State's Graham Massey speaks to Dr. Robert Moog about his machines that changed the face of music.

Graham Massey (808 State): I enjoyed the film a lot. Is this first film anyone has made about you?
Dr. Robert Moog: The first full-length film, yeah. I've made appearances in other films, but not the whole film.
808: I grew up in the '60s and '70s, and I would explain any mystery sound on a record by thinking it was the Moog. Is that the way you perceived it, when you originally got things together, that it should be an open spot?
Moog: Oh absolutely, yeah. We didn't have any particular kind of music in mind. In fact, our first customers were experimental composers and they wanted to make different sounds and as wide a variety of different sounds as they could.
808: Was there a more tangible optimism in the '60s culture that science and engineering would always lead us along to a new place?
Moog: There was a tot of experimenting and electronics was a very important part of it, but so were drugs and weird clothes and long hair and beads and all that. It was a time of rebelling and not going the approved way.
808: Were you going into New York and spending a lot of time there?
Moog: I would go in to see customers and help them use what we'd made for them and I was able to hear some of the music that was being done. It was just something in the air, that was not necessarily electronic, but it was very adventurous and people were up to trying anything new.
808: Yeah, there must have been similar ideas about the instruments in the air at that time. Have you ever dwelled in anything with drum machines; would that be a thing you tried to make and gave up on or did you just not bother with that?
Moog: We made one experiment drum machine for one of our customers in New York City, but it never went beyond that. It was a very large thing and cost many thou-sands of dollars, but it was made on his order.
808: Did you make any records yourself? Do you have interest in that or were you approached to ever do that?
Moog: If I wanted to, it wouldn't be hard to do it. I certainly have enough contacts, but its not something I think I can do; it's just not where my head's at. I don't have that kind of talent.
808: In the film you had some interesting views on music in that you feel it's made by one person to be listened to by one person these days, and that's kind of a danger.
Moog: I do believe that.

808: When I first got involved in the dance music scene, the rave scene back in '88 through the early '90s, I thought the biggest impact of the rave scene was the social aspect to it. It was these huge gatherings of people with music as the focus. I was wondering if you ever got involved with the rave scene in America or got taken to those things?
Moog: I was familiar with it and I been to a few. It's not something that I spend a lot of time at.
808: Each Mini-Moog that I've tried is a little bit different; would you say that was the case?
Moog: I guess it is. Analog instruments tend to be slightly different one from the other.
808: Is it something that you can tune like a hot-rod kind of thing?
Moog: I suppose so. What usually happens is you get used to it and you know how to get the sounds out of it.
808: Do you think they change with age?
Moog: A little bit, they do.
808: What your views of the software versions of the Moogs that are now readily available?
Moog: We give permission to use our name, so we must feel it's of some benefit. It's inexpensive and it enables people to learn a great deal about analog systems. I think they are appropriate for experimenting with, however the experience of playing one, of actually making music in real time, is very different with the analog hardware. You feel the difference.
808: I've tried both, the real thing really does have a liveness. The feeling is hard to explain, but it has more of a presence than software. Do you have a favorite [Moog] artist?
Moog: No, I've worked with so many artists and every one one of them comes to me with something different. When anyone asks me if I have a favorite, I draw a blank.
URB: After 40 years of building and creating Moogs, being so intimate with them, do you get to a point where you don't want to here another Moog ever again?
Moog: No, no. Every musician comes out with some-thing different. Can you imagine the people at Steinway getting tired of listening to the piano?

More info on Moog at 808 State's collection of early live and demo recordings, Prebuild, is out now on Rephlex.