Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jeremy Lord Synthesizers SkyWave, International Musician & Recording World (US) 1978



Jeremy Lord Synthesizers SkyWave synthesizer 1/2-page advertisement from page 77 in International Musician & Recording World (US), February 1978.

I actually started writing this blog post back in September 2011 with my original intro made reference to Thanksgiving in Canada. But I kinda forgot about it after I sent a few emails off to people in the hopes of getting more info on it. I guess I never got anything back, and the post fell to the sidelines for a while.

Oooops.

Anyways, I've blogged about many of my favorite imports like the Thunderchild, Scorpion Stage (twice), and the more common Wasp synth, but this Skywave was one of my all time favorite import obsessions - for a while anyways.

You may have heard about the Skywave. Probably from someone trying to impress you with their synthesizer knowledge. Me? -I knew absolutely nothing about it except the existence of an actual ad. Ziltch. Nadda. So, as usually happens in these types of situations, I focus first on the ad itself.

This 1/2 page advertisement isn't exactly "art" with all the different font sizes and styles popping up everywhere, but the ad-copy itself becomes "art" to me because of that heaping pile of gorgeous, ridiculously yummy historical and technical information.

This was obviously the introductory ad for the Skywave, with its main purpose to get people out to the Frankfurt Spring Fair - and in particular Custom Sound Ltd's stand in Hall 5 to hear Case Bakker of H.B. Electronics demo the beast.

The title includes the word "rugged", and the word is mentioned again in reference to the flight case. Both references suggest Jeremy Lords Instruments was targeting touring musicians.

The ad also provides some juicy historical pricing and technical info.
  • A recommended retail price of 599 pounds (including flight case!). Nice.
  • Two VCOs
  • Square wave modulation
  • Graphic Waveform controls (?!)
  • Mixer section
  • Noise
  • External i/p
  • Touch operated illuminated selectors
  • VCF and VCA ring modulator
  • Sample and hold
  • Output EQ
  • Four LFOs
  • 49 note keyboard
  • And, most interestingly, a "3 dimensional joystick that controls keyboard modulation, pitch bend and sound volume".
Sounds like a formidable opponent to some of the other synths available at the time. But, alas, finding a real Skywave in a retail shop was probably as rare as this ad, and as rare as finding information online about the instrument.

Sequencer.de has a Skywave page with some specs, and a nice color photo of a Skywave showing off the lovely yellow and red accent colours. Another side view photo, along with a few other stats (only 10 made!) can be found on the blog side of the same site.

I found and interesting comment in the Theremin World forums made in 2008 by what looks to be a former employee, that explains what happened to the synthesizer and the company:
"I watched this happen synthesis, when low cost plastic keyboard synths from Japan wiped out the British Analogue Synthesiser producers (I was working for Jeremy Lord Synthesisers, which changed to making medical products as Lord Medical, because there was a near total collapse in sales of the expensive Sky-Wave Synthesiser)"
But the majority of information that pops up when you do an online search for the instrument is Jeremy Lord's son, Simon William Lord. His Wikipedia page describes Simon as "an english musical composer, record producer and musician" who has been involved in a number of projects, including a solo effort where he goes by the name "Lord Skywave". And not surprisingly, Simon has used a Skywave synth in his music.

His personal Web site, simonwlord.com, includes a few songs from the Lord Skywave album released in June 2008, and states on the site that the album includes the Skywave synth. In fact, Simon's connection to his father (and the fact he used compositions from his grandmother) is such a great sound bite (pun intended) that the Skywave connection is picked up in many reviews. Gigwise.com, for example, really grabs onto this marketing hook in it's review of the album - and in the end gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars. And that isn't the only good review. According to the Wikipedia page, NME gave it 8/10, and Mojo gave it 4/5. Not too shabby.

I found some more recent solo work described as "Acoustic/Psychedelic/Screamo" on his MySpace page. And he has another MySpace page featuring some more collaborative "Electro/Pop" work under the name Black Ghosts.  Black Ghosts seems to be getting popular amongst the kids.

I spent a little bit more time online because I wanted to track Simon down and ask him a few questions about his father as well as his own impressions on the sound of the Skywave. But so far, no replies. :( 

If he does get back to me, I'll be sure to post an update to the blog.

2 comments:

marcom said...

Hi, I was in a band called Pool of Sound with Jeremy lord at the time that he launched the Skywave. He invented the pitch modulating joy stick, which was copied mercilessly thereafter. The band included Chas Dickie, Graham Smith and David Jackson of Van Der Graff Generator.

Losersband Uk said...

I have one of these. Simon is the only other person on the planet I know of that owns one too. Always searching for any news about them online. :-)
Tom

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