Recreating the original Devo drums with modern components

JimmyM

Silver Member

Jim Mothersbaugh went on from the early days of Devo to become a big instrument designer at Roland, and was part of the team that created MIDI. But back in these days, he created an electronic drum set using a practice pad set, some Barcus Berry piezo pickups, a handful of white noise generators he built from old PAIA kits, gates and frequency filters to isolate different frequency ranges for each drum and cut noise when not playing, and some guitar pedals. These are the two best known early tracks with Jim.

So I got to thinking in my insomnia driven thoughts that I have an old Remo practice pad kit, a couple piezos hidden somewhere, a computer with Cakewalk, and a handful of choice plugins. Certainly it must be way easy to tap into the power of computers and do a recreation, so I'm going to try just micing up a pad and treating the signal with plugins to see what happens. If it works out, I'd like to do it in real time and eventually make a full setup.

I know enough about recording on my setup to do what I need to do, but I never need to play on live instruments and use the plugins to treat the sounds in real time so you can hear the output as you play. So if anyone can clue me the best way to do it in this little experiment, I'd appreciate it.
 

roncadillac

Member

Jim Mothersbaugh went on from the early days of Devo to become a big instrument designer at Roland, and was part of the team that created MIDI. But back in these days, he created an electronic drum set using a practice pad set, some Barcus Berry piezo pickups, a handful of white noise generators he built from old PAIA kits, gates and frequency filters to isolate different frequency ranges for each drum and cut noise when not playing, and some guitar pedals. These are the two best known early tracks with Jim.

So I got to thinking in my insomnia driven thoughts that I have an old Remo practice pad kit, a couple piezos hidden somewhere, a computer with Cakewalk, and a handful of choice plugins. Certainly it must be way easy to tap into the power of computers and do a recreation, so I'm going to try just micing up a pad and treating the signal with plugins to see what happens. If it works out, I'd like to do it in real time and eventually make a full setup.

I know enough about recording on my setup to do what I need to do, but I never need to play on live instruments and use the plugins to treat the sounds in real time so you can hear the output as you play. So if anyone can clue me the best way to do it in this little experiment, I'd appreciate it.

Not much help I can provide here aside from saying Devo is awesome, edrums are awesome, and you pursuit of DIY is also awesome. Keep us posted.
 

JimmyM

Silver Member
Not much help I can provide here aside from saying Devo is awesome, edrums are awesome, and you pursuit of DIY is also awesome. Keep us posted.
I really should have at least tried it by now, but every time I get on the practice kit, I end up practicing instead. But yes, Alan Myers was a very special drummer, and even if Jim wasn't all that great on drums, his brothers are great players and he made so much gear we still see in usage.
 

Chris Whitten

Well-known Member
Just about everything I've heard by Devo had acoustic drums on it. Are you sure they didn't pass the drums though audio input, envelope flower and filtering on an analog synth? That's what it sounds like to me.
 

JimmyM

Silver Member
Just about everything I've heard by Devo had acoustic drums on it. Are you sure they didn't pass the drums though audio input, envelope flower and filtering on an analog synth? That's what it sounds like to me.
By the time Devo got a record deal, they did have Alan Myers on real drums, but started using drum machines on later albums as well. But in the old days, Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh had their brother Jim playing the kit described in my OP. He hooked them up to synth modules and effects pedals as well, but the white noise generators were key, according to everyone familiar. Later on Jim worked for Roland and designed a lot of classic electronic gear, mostly based on what Devo wanted, and was on the team that developed MIDI. But his homebuilt kit is pretty legendary in Devo fandom.
 

Chris Whitten

Well-known Member
Eurorack is the way to go. I have a whole case of percussive components in Eurorack modular format. Noise generators, envelopes, filters, FM drum synthesis, samplers, trigger modules etc...
 

JimmyM

Silver Member
Eurorack is the way to go. I have a whole case of percussive components in Eurorack modular format. Noise generators, envelopes, filters, FM drum synthesis, samplers, trigger modules etc...
Sure, that’s the high end way. But early Devo wasn’t nearly that high tech and I thought it would be fun to try this little experiment. And it was.
That was cool man, for a quick 'proof of concept' I think you are really on to something.
Thx Ron. Now I have to write a song using the concept and flesh out the sounds. That will take a lot longer, but I think the premise is solid.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
OK, I had to try a quick and dirty quick couple of bars, and it doesn't sound like early Devo but it's not bad to me. Definitely would need some tweaking out, but there's potential for some weird and goofy stuff, which I'm all about.
Def. in the right direction. LoFi is making a comeback in the synth/modular world .... so surf that wave.;)
 

Iristone

Active Member
A fun band for sure!
I'm a fan personally of synthesized drum sounds, especially for experimental/soundscape use (King Crimson, Genesis, etc.). I plan on gigging them eventually though, so I'd probably play a Nord Drum, or Wavedrum, or Marsh UDS myself.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
That is cool! Does sound like half bell, half cymbal.
Tony had the V-Wave, 2 hi-hats, a ride, a mini-ride, and 2 crashes (14&16) in his Sabian signature line. Designed to fit into electronic/drum n bass type music. I've got all but one of the hats (Distortion).
 
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