We’ll admit, it’s tough to find your niche out there. Each day peaks as more and more artists gain accessibility to tools for professional production. Less and less are going out side of their comfort zone to create truly innovative output. Moon Armada is a clear and present exception, the project by Honest Kevin is, upon first look, one of the most unique and attractive fusions of visual and audio that we’ve seen in awhile.
What started as a hobby for RadioShack’s best RC cars turned into a passion for circuits, sounds, and maker culture. Moon Armada is the current iteration of Kevin’s DIY creations. With pieces played by artists like Flying Lotus, it’s safe to say that the project’s famed Baby Bots are received with a warm welcome in the electronic music world.
Gotta just get straight to the point, how did the Baby Bots get started?
A big part of what I try to do with Moon Armada is to create interesting and unexpected relationships between sounds and the objects they originate from; So I naturally saw a lot of potential in using dolls as enclosures for noisy, unorthodox circuits. The combination of these contrasting elements work to create something unexpected and surreal, that (I hope) stimulates the imagination and creativity of those interacting with them. Personally, I like to imagine them as cyborgs from another planet, speaking their own alien language.
The world of analog sound and ‘maker culture’ has definitely become a trend that most aren’t willing to put in the time to learn. How did you get into the physical side of instrument building?
I had first got into hobbyist-level electronics as a kid, mainly through RC cars, model trains, and those RadioShack learning/ DIY kits. Later, while attending the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences I really started to get into circuit bending and DIY audio, and it just kinda took off from there. In addition to music and sound, I love to work with my hands, and find the whole process to very meditative.
Besides building out instruments you also make music can you tell us about your other project Honest Kevin?
I would describe Honest Kevin as somewhere between Downtempo and Abstract Hip-Hop beats, with a touch of Ambient and Experimental Noise. I do use a lot of the instruments I make as Moon Armada in my recordings, as well as a lot of other experimental techniques, gear, etc. I’m putting out my first full album within the next couple months.
As a creator that builds homegrown gear, would you say that you spend more of your time in the tech or jamming out?
That’s a good question! I definitely put a lot of time into building; from designing to prototyping, obsessing over where everything will go, making sure things are even/ straight, etc. But completing something is usually followed up by hours of playing with it too, so I guess it would probably be close to an even split, which I think is how it should be.
What does Columbus have going on in terms of analog sound? Give us to scoop on the hot spots to gears.
To be honest, I’m really not sure; Though Columbus is my base of operations, I actually have only “lived” there about 2 years, and I am really never there. I’ve spent most of the last year in Vilnius, Lithuania, where my wife is from, and prior to that I was in Austin for about 10 months. Here in Vilnius there is a great spot called Soundium, and in Austin there is of course the legendary Switched On, one of the best synth shops in the country.
We’ve seen a lot of circuit bending DIYs on instagram, how would you suggest a first timer get their start in Circuit bending?
Handmade Electronic Music by Nicholas Collins and Circuit Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments by Reed Ghazala are both excellent books to get started with; I think most DIY audio enthusiasts started with one or both of these. Also, don’t be afraid to explore and experiment; circuit-bending and DIY music is great because it is budget-friendly and accessible, and a lot of the mystique around it will come off once you start finishing some projects.
You have done Gameboys, keyboards, drum kits, etc where do you get your inspiration when deciding what electronics to Circuit bend?
As I mentioned before, concepts and aesthetics are very important to my work, so I generally gravitate towards things that that I can make look interesting, in addition to having great sonic properties. One of the things I really set out to do with Moon Armada is to give circuit-bent and experimental instruments a look and feel that draws people in- even people who might otherwise not be interested in such things. I think one of the main draws of the Baby Bots is that by virtue of their unorthodox look fascinates people, and stokes curiosity and creativity.
What’s the plan with Baby Bots, are we talking tour? #makeBabyBotBoilerRoomHappen
Haha, that would be something! I am currently putting the finishing touches on a set of Baby Bots that will function as one large ensemble. I’m really excited about it, as it’s probably my most detailed, high-functioning work to date. I will be performing with these Bots, as well as setting up some interactive exhibits in various places around the US and Europe this year. Stay tuned to the Moon Armada website/ Instagram page for more info.