One of my favorite things on youtube is the Automatic Gainsay Youtube channel run by Mr. Marc Doty. For the average synth head Marc Doty captures exactly what most of us are looking for in our infinite battle with gear lust. For some, Marc demonstrates and toys around with vintage synths that we will never get our own hands on and for others Marc demonstrates and test drives modern synths that we are considering spending our hard earned cash on. For that reason the Automatic Gainsay Youtube channel has become a go to place for synth junkies and synth enthusiasts around the globe.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Marc Doty for a bit of Q & A. Here’s how it went down!
BBOY TECH REPORT (BTR): For those that do not know, tell us a bit about your background?
Marc Doty: After graduating from college with a degree in music education and composition, I got to work pursuing being a rock star. I worked for Prince for a time in Minneapolis. I recorded and released a CD which garnered interest from Geffen and Interscope… but no dice. I was involved in freelance composition when I rediscovered the analog synthesizer.
BTR: How did you become interested in synthesis?
Marc Doty: I heard “Fly Like an Eagle” on the radio in 1976. I turned to my older brother and demanded that he tell me what made that sound. He took me to a music store and showed me an ARP Odyssey. I was hooked. I obsessed over music that had synthesizers in it from that day forward.
I got my first synthesizer in 1985. It was a Roland Juno 106, a gift from my mom. I took synthesis lessons from a local music store, and immediately began teaching my mom’s grade school students how synthesizers worked.
For years, I just used whatever synthesizer was new, but in 2000, my love of analog synthesizers was reborn, and I’ve been an obsessed student of synthesis since then.
BTR: Automatic Gainsay, is that the name of your band?
Marc Doty: Yes! I formed Automatic Gainsay in about 2003 in Minneapolis. I was writing an album in 2006 or so, and I started my YouTube channel in order to promote the music. It didn’t quite work out that way! The name comes from a Monty Python sketch.
BTR: As a musician, who or what inspires you?
Marc Doty: I am deeply inspired by the views and pursuits of early synthesizer innovators and electronic music composers. I think that which they envisioned got a little waylaid along the way, and I feel like it’s my duty to remind people how amazing synthesis is, and how it can be used to achieve creative ends.
BTR: Folks know you from your in-depth series of synth video reviews on YouTube, how did you come to the “I’ll review synths on youtube” space?
Marc Doty: Well, as I said, I originally started the channel to promote my music. But I also posted several other things, at first. One of the things was a fantastic documentary on electronic music from the early eighties. I found it at a school garage sale, and it was wonderful. It was filled with vintage Moog modular stuff and a Fairlight. It got really popular, and got up to about 300,000 views. It was right about then that I shot some Minimoog footage (including an interview and a demonstration) for Sonic State’s Top 20 Synthesizers series. After it was over, I asked if I could post what I had shot on my channel, and they said okay. That’s where my Demonstration of the Minimoog video came from, and that’s why people started coming to my channel.
I started buying analog synths in 2001. At that point, there wasn’t a lot of information OR audio examples on the internet. A lot of us who were interested in vintage analog synths would buy them without having heard them in order to find out if we liked them. It seemed a bit backwards. I started shooting demonstrations for my channel in hopes that people who were looking to buy synths on eBay had a resource to hear the synths and see the functionality before they invested.
It just… sort of… took off.
BTR: Do you find that reviewing synths and sharing is time-consuming and therefore robs you of time to make your own music?
Marc Doty: Ha ha, yes. Absolutely. But at the same time, it has sort of become my musical output. Of course, it isn’t as satisfying as scoring for theater or being in a band, but I do enjoy the music I come up with as a result of the demos. In many of the demos, things I was making up on the spot became the seed for the themes each demo has. I have increasingly tried to make each demo feature a theme comprised of sounds from that synth plus drums. Those themes are the total of my current musical output, and although they’re a little less complex than what I’m used to doing, I have fun making them.
BTR: I saw your synthesis tutorial series on MacProVideo for the Bob Moog Foundation, it was a great mix of history and technical info. How long did it take to prep for these videos? Or was it more like a culmination of your years of knowledge?
Marc Doty: The intersection of macProVideo.com and the Bob Moog Foundation was a fantastic event. As an employee of the Foundation, I was asked to create a series of videos about synthesis, and I jumped at the chance.
I am a firm believer that people should understand the history of synthesis in order to understand how it works. And the history of synthesis goes all the way back to around 1900. The development of heterodyning oscillators, and the oscillator that resulted from Lee De Forest’s Audion are fascinating histories. Understanding those histories, the development of those technologies, and how they inspired inventors and composers lends a greater understanding of how they can be used. I did a little research for that series, but mostly I was just brushing up on exact dates. I’ve always been kind of obsessed with those histories. All of the videos are unscripted.
BTR: What is your relationship with the Bob Moog Foundation?
Marc Doty: I am the Archive and Education Specialist for the Bob Moog Foundation. That position includes a lot more than it seems. I study, organize, and protect the archives (along with others!)… I write educational content, develop materials, teach, and demonstrate synthesis (along with others!)… but I also design art, shoot and edit video, help and educate at festivals, lift things, and more.
BTR: What are your top 5 favorite synths of all time?
Marc Doty: 1. The Moog modular: At core, I am a modular synthesist. I crave the sound of the Moog modular, and the power of modular synthesis in general. Of course, I will likely never own one of these… but I do plan to invest in a large modular system sometime soon.
2. The Moog Minimoog: Never in the history of portable synthesizers has there been a more expressive combination of functionality and beautiful sound. Its a rare trait of a synthesizer that every turn of the knob leads to something pleasing, and the Minimoog has this trait. It’s really the measure of a great synthesizer.
3. The ARP 2600: Another measure of the worth of a synthesizer is how it inspires you through its sound and interface. The ARP 2600’s interface becomes very logical with experience, and much of what you do with it sounds fantastic. After getting mine, I found myself returning to it for most situations.
4. The Yamaha CS-15: It is amazingly powerful and has a great sound… and is vastly overlooked in the synth market. I would take it over a lot of synths that other people pay thousands for.
5. The Yamaha CS-50: The CS-50 is one of the most luxurious synths I have ever played. It has a fantastic and large interface, every knob, switch, etc. feels like it is of very high quality, and it is incredibly powerful. It is the only vintage analog polysynth I have, and it’s really all I need.
BTR: Do you ever consult with companies on developing and designing synths?
Marc Doty: I am at a point where that sort of thing could start happening, and I hope it does. I am currently talking to a certain company informally about synth design.
BTR: What are your preferences, vintage synths or new synths? Why so?
Marc Doty: I can’t tell if it is the result of when I grew up, or some sort of Gen-X culture byproduct, but I feel excited and inspired by vintage interfaces. I love the old knobs, the old switches, the colors, the wood, etc. Internally, I deeply prefer the unique qualities that comprise a vintage sound as a result of electricity running through wires and big chunky components. Their imperfections lead to a more natural almost acoustic sound that is really pleasing to my ears. I know that’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.
BTR: We are seemingly experiencing a very cool resurgence of analog, what are your thoughts on the idea that we are in the midst of an analog golden age right now?
Marc Doty: I have been interacting with Korg and Arturia a lot as they are releasing their new analog synths. I was inclined to be suspicious at first, but both companies are putting a great deal of effort, creativity, and integrity into their designs and I am REALLY impressed with them. The MiniBrute is probably my favorite modern synthesizer. I am happy to have a Korg MS-20 Mini because I’ve owned a lot of vintage Korg MS synths, and I’ve always liked them. And the Volcas! There is nothing vintage about them, but they create a really fantastic analog sound through a really fun interface. And speaking of fun interfaces, I absolutely adore the Dubreq Stylophone S2… extremely creative interface and a sound that is extremely cool.
BTR: I could ask a million questions about specific products and synths that you’ve reviewed but I’d more specifically like to know what your thoughts are on the reissue of classics… Or even better which classic synths would you prefer to have revisited and brought to market now a days?
Marc Doty: For years I was told by synth techs and enthusiasts that vintage synths couldn’t be remade. The parts were scarce, companies would never invest in the process, and etc. That’s why Korg’s reissue of the MS-20 (Korg MS-20 Mini) was surprising. What was more surprising was that it wasn’t just a marketing ploy… they really invested the effort to create a recreation. And, it’s a great recreation. I don’t think I’m the only one who now wants Korg to remake the MaxiKorg and the MiniKorg and the incredible MonoPoly. And, I think they could do it. I wonder if it would be as lucrative for them… I hope it would be.
I am really excited about the Oberheim Two Voice remake that Tom Oberheim is working on. I have been bothering him for years to let me demo it! My understanding is that it is very faithful, as well.
So, ultimately… I think reissue is a really great idea. There is plainly a huge market for it, so the companies get what they need, and if the reproduction is faithful, we the enthusiasts get to have that which we’ve coveted all of our lives.
Moog will likely never reproduce the Minimoog. I think that to do it right would simply be too expensive for them. Korg, on the other hand, has incredible resources to draw from.
I am excited to see that there is a kit version of the ARP 2600. It is such a versatile and great-sounding synth… and it has the option of being normal or modular. I think it is a synth I’d love to see reproduced well. I haven’t tried the kit yet, but I’ve heard good things about it.
BTR: You obviously have a flare for teaching and a passion for synths, what’s your advice to kids or anyone that wants to learn about and master synthesis?
Marc Doty: Well, it started out as an accident of thoroughness, but my videos always contain synthesis education. And I look for a chance to explain various aspects of synthesis at any point during the demonstration. I know how challenging some of these concepts were for me as a kid, and I really seek to portray them in a down-to-Earth fashion that normal musicians can grasp. The saddest thing is that the most talented synthesizer designers have been describing synthesis for decades… using terminology and descriptions that can alienate the average person. It has been my goal to make synthesis easy to understand.
I’ll probably sound like I’m blowing my own horn here, but I think a great place to start is with my videos. I’ve been told by so many viewers that I have explained synthesis in a way that they understand at a great starting level. And I think that’s a great place to start. In addition, you get to see a lot of cool synths in the process.
The macProVideo.com / Bob Moog Foundation series “The Foundation of Synthesis” is also a good place to start. I am really proud of my description of what the envelope is from that series.
BTR: What’s next for Marc Doty?
Marc Doty: Well, I’m the new keyboard player for Depeche Mode. I mean… if they’ll have me. Which is to say, I’d really like to be. They really know nothing about this. But I’d like it.
There was a point at which I was starting to see an end for the synth demonstrations on Automatic Gainsay… because there are only so many vintage synthesizers, and even a smaller number that I like and can acquire. But then, companies started making new analog. As long as that continues, I’ll continue making demonstrations.
I will continue to support the Bob Moog Foundation in any way I can. I believe very deeply in the work of Bob Moog, and I love being able to help promote his legacy. It’s a great way for me to use my teaching skill, synthesis knowledge, and interest in Electronic Music history to promote Bob’s contributions and influence.
I would also like to continue to work with companies that make analog synthesizers. Perhaps to a greater degree.
BTR: Well we look forward to bearing witness to the growth of the synth enthusiast seeds that you’ve planted thus far. Thanks a ton for taking time out of your schedule to speak with BBoyTechReport, Marc.