MARK FRANCOMBE Musician, Filmmaker, Game-designer & Kipple-monger


My main interest has been live looping. I started back in the 80´s with the classic two tape machine, as invented by Terry Riley, used by Eno on Discreet Music, and appropriated as “Frippertronics” by Robert Fripp) You can see the diagram of my set-up back then below.
Now I do everything digitally, and and LOVE the echoplex digital Pro, or EDP. I have two.

Echoplex Digital Pro

This box is pretty old now, designed by my friend Mattias Grob and sold by Gibson as early as 1994, it has had a few esoteric upgrades up to the current OS known as LoopIV. This enables all sorts of complex cutting, chopping rearranging and mangling, so its become very well suited to quite glitchy manipulations.
Why do I need two? Well as its pretty old, its in mono, and to run in stereo you need two, but also you can treat it more like a conventional looper, and think of each as a seperate track. The EDP is more suited to linear work, not so much the typical looper stuff, stacking layer upon layer till you can’t go further, the EDP is better at rearranging and reductive techniques. Needless to say, it was discontinued years ago… oh.. and its pretty bad sounding. Hissy and a little lo fi, if you care about those things, then its not for you.

I don’t.

Electrix Repeater

Also discontinued is the Repeater, and is also great! but excels at a totally different type of looping to the EDP. The Repeater is all about re-pitching. Its so great at time-stretching that although not transparent, its actually sounds good when its stretching a 5 second loop out to 1 minute… It has four tracks, and as such you can “mix” you loops, it hasa. FX loop so you can mangle external and re-sample the result (I have the stupid Alesis AirFX in the loop).

The evolution of racks!

I’ve now found that I can fit everything I need into 6U (OK Im lying, Id prefer 7U, but I only have 6) but that has not always been the case, I have gone from multiple huge racks to complex racks with drawers that slide out. Its alwasy kind been like that, as the following historical evolution of crazy guitar stuff shows. (If anyone EVER reads this write to me, I’m sure there will be a prize for biggest nerd)

2011 The Magic Box

The 2011 signal chain

Its guitar into The Roland guitar synth, that splits into synth signal and guitar signal. The synth guitar goes straight into the mixer, the er… analog guitar goes into the stomp boxes, then the Fireworx, then the Vortex, then the mixer. The Aux send is a cable that daisy chains the loopers together, the 2 edps and the repeater (the repeater cable also has a little daisy chain from left to right, so I didnt have stereo in to repeater, just not possible with a mono Aux send) The output of one of the edps goes into the Roland EF303 effect and then into the mixer. the second EDP sometimes went thru the Air FX, and then into the mixer.
The Kaiossilator just went into the mixer, the output of the mixer goes into the Kaos Quad FX.

1981 Set-up

When he was 8 months old Nikolas found an old book on the shelf. “Concepts of Modern Art”. And in the back cover was a diagram of the equipment set-up I had in 1981. So here it is reproduced as is, with annotations.

I cannot believe I had this gear in 1981!!! Incredible! I was 17 years old!!!
…and scribbled in the back of “Concepts of Modern Art” as well !!! I mean!!! what an Arty Farty youngster I was!!!
So Can I remember what all this stuff was??? I think so… nearly…
1 Guitar with BUILT IN Fuzz, (Built in by me) it was a tiny version of the Big Muff with one knob.
2 goes to the Korg X911 guitar synth, with an expression pedal (that I dont actually remember, maybe it was wishful thinking when I drew this diagram.
3 That went into the Electric Mistress Flanger and then into a tiny 4 channel mixer.
4 The small box below the X911, I dont know what it is, some kind of switch, I know that it needed a HOLD switch, maybe its that.. …
5 the other box at top of page is a home made oscillator box, basically 4 oscillators that could all modulate each other, they were all wide in their ummm width, and could go from LFO frequencies to dogs only pitch… and it had a nifty little joystick for wibbling like Hawkwind, big fan at the time.
6 … but I cant quite see why it appears to be accepting an input from the guitar synth.. and that also went into the mixer, which went into my trusty WEM amp, whatever happened to that?

Cor Blimey,it was all donkeys years ago…

2005 Loop diagram

The 2005 signal chain
Basically, this setup was guitar to guitar synth, synth goes straight to the mixer, guitar goes thru a few effects like pitch shifter and space station and bitrman. then to the mixer. Then the busses on the mixer send signals to the 2 loopers, which are fed back to the mixer. The AirFX on the floor (for foot wobbling) and the Vortex and the MoFX are all send effects. The output of the EDP goes into the Federation, for filtering and stuff. And midi from the guitar synth goes to the MS2000 synth and on to the Sampler. Which of course both have audio sent to the the mixer. Thats All, easy really!!!

Now, wheres my acoustic guitar???

1983 Uncle Ian Set up diagram

Even MORE incredible, is this Elborough en-scribed document
This shows the complete set-up for the Uncle Ian recording – The UrbanPicnic.

1. The Trusty Soundmaster Rhythm box: This was the heart of the Uncle Ian system for many years, providing 2 clock sources. A standard pulse on every beat, and a programmable pulse. Here it is seen sending a pulse (dotted line) to both the Guitar synth to trigger the envelope, and the sequencer to synch the clock!

2. The Korg X511 guitar synth: No idea how I afforded this at the time, however It was completely brilliant, and I also can’t remember selling it, but I did, what a twat! It was unstable as hell, being monophonic, but made great squealing pig sounds, You have no idea how much I want one of these again!!!
We sent a CV (control voltage) signal from our home made sequencer, to pitch the synthy side of it, and my guitar was chopped up and filtered by the other side… Awesome! as they say in the USA.

3. The Electric Mistress Flanger, bought for me by Helen Badham, girlfriend at the time and sometime bass player for UI, I STILL HAVE IT, admittadly lying un-used in a box somewhere, I really have gone off flanging… however this one you could stop the sweep and tune it by hand, which might be cool… where’s that box?

4. Nicks home made sequencer: Based on the diagram in the Barbani book I still have, it worked like a charm, and was used for years..

5. And here’s the clincher…  Its an exact replica of Eno’s Tape Delay looping system as he describes it on the Discreet Music ambient album, and subsequently stolen by Fripp and renamed Frippatronics, however the technique is originally attributed to Terry Riley in the 60’s.

Some things never change – and I’m one of them!

Electronics, analog and computer
I have always been into electronics, although never became very knowledgeable about it, and have been building a modular synth for a number of years now. Here you can read about my it, how it was donated to me by Pepe and what Im doing with it now! Soon – Samples and Photos
I made alot of VST Plugins for a while, mostly as a compliment to AudioMulch. Making what I need for a particular track. Most of my release The Money Hush Room was made with these plugins. They were all built using the excellent Synth Edit. I am not sure if they work in ANY other host, but would be interested to know if they do.
Please take them and play with them … completely free!!!


Leave a Reply