November 29, 2023
Nov 29, 2023
This month, Coda Analog Shop is adding a music-making device to its inventory. We’re excited to introduce the 0-Coast synthesizer, from Asheville-based manufacturer, Make Noise. In addition to stocking the groovy apparatus in the shop, we’ll also be hosting a series of live demonstrations, called “Make Noise Mornings.”
To mark the occasion, we reached out to company founder, Tony Rolando, to delve into his company ethos and his latest sources of inspiration. The Springfield, Illinois-native moved to Asheville in 2005 to work for Moog Music, manufacturer of some of the world’s most influential synthesizers. Three years later, he launched Make Noise.
The modular synthesizers coming out of Make Noise’s production line have a distinct personality all their own. Wayward arrows and eccentric fonts direct the user with terms, like “tonic” and “oscillator.” Tony doesn’t mince words. These small machines aren’t for the masses. They’re for a particular artist or tinkerer, and that’s the way he likes it.
Liner Notes: Part of your story, we’re told, began at an early age, when you started reading amateur radio books at the library. What did you find interesting about radio? Is there a common thread with radio technology and the synthesizers you make and sell nowadays?
Tony Rolando: It was more than just amateur radio books. The Brooklyn Public library had a nice reference collection of analog electronics books by folks, such as Bob Pease. I did read some of the American Radio Relay League books though, and the modDemix circuit is an example of putting to use some things that I learned from those ARRL books.
There is not a strong connection to radio technology today. Years ago, I was interested in the 60s and 70s radio technology, and so I studied it. I moved on to studying the work of Don Buchla and Dr. Bob Moog, which resulted in instruments like the 0-COAST and later, digging further into my interest in the work of Pierre Schaefer and musique concrète to create the Morphagene.
Liner Notes: Why is Asheville a good place for Make Noise, and similar businesses?
Tony: There are some great Asheville folks that work at Make Noise. They are the reason Asheville is a good place for Make Noise.
Liner Notes: Who are some artists that use your synthesizers?
Tony: Two artists we’ve worked closely with for years would be Robert AA Lowe, who just did the Candyman soundtrack, and Alessandro Cortini (of Nine Inch Nails) — with whom we collaborated to create the Strega instrument. Both of these artists have used the Shared System, 0-COAST, 0-CTRL, and Strega instruments as well as several of our modules such as the Morphagene and Erbe Verb.
Liner Notes: Make Noise has 15 employees. It’s considered relatively “boutique” in the synth manufacturing industry. Do you plan on growing to a bigger scale?
Tony: We are actively planning how to NOT grow. I’m not interested in creating instruments on any larger scale.
Liner Notes: After more than a decade of this work, do you still find yourself discovering new sounds?
Tony: Yes. Almost every day. My musical practice is integral to my design work. I play music in some way just about every day. I have a record called “Breakin’ is a Memory” coming out this year on Important Records, which was pressed at Citizen Vinyl. I released a tape called “Old Cool Echoes,” last year.
Liner Notes: What artists do you find yourself listening to lately, or that inspire you?
Tony: Looking at my Bandcamp and streaming records as well as the tapes and records sitting out –
Brett Nauke (who now lives in Asheville), Qasim Naqvi, Sam Prekop, Catarina Barbieri, Suzanne Ciani, KMRU, desert sand feels warm at night, Eco Virtual, Phong Tran, Espirit, Max Cooper, Pauline Anna Strom, Harald Grosskopf, Harold Budd, Mamman Sani.
Liner Notes: What’s different and special about what Make Noise is doing, compared to other manufacturers?
Tony: If you play the Shared System or Strega or 0-Coast – you will rapidly discover a powerful connection or be completely repelled by what we have created.
Liner Notes: We’re all about analog life. What do you do to “unplug”?
Tony: Listen to cassettes while I take a walk. Play records and hang out with Kelly (company CEO and Tony’s wife). Hide in my studio playing synthesizers or searching for interesting soundbites. Skateboard. Walk the dog. Take long hot baths.
Thanks for sharing with us, Tony.