Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cameron Moore & Michael Una

Well, the Kickstarter campaign is pending approval. The video isn't quite done -- I'm doing some last minute tweaks this week -- but I got antsy and decided to submit it with the last fine cut. Now it's just a waiting game, reloading the page every few hours to no avail...

2:15PM: "Dammit!". 2:17PM: "Dammit!" 2:20PM: "Dammit!" 2:22PM: "....Dammit!" 2:24PM:...
Anyway, let's talk about our interviewees from last week to pass the time in between page reloads, which are often and plentiful. This entry wasn't supposed be about the Kickstarter! It was supposed to be about Cameron Moore and Michael Una, but we selfishly made it about ourselves. Well, that changes now, my friends. That changes now.
I met Michael and Cameron about a year ago when I was waiting tables. They were there celebrating the send-off to SXSW of an instrument--the Gemini Capsule--that they had built. Not only that, but Michael is a circuit bender, something we'll get into later. The woman waiting on them got me to strike up a conversation, and it only took a year to finally get the interview.
So, last week we finally interviewed the awesome Cameron Moore and Michael Una of Unatronics. We interviewed them out of Michael's beautiful Pilsen loft, where he and Cameron do most of their work. The apartment was conveniently set up with lights because Michael's wife is conveniently a photographer, which was a major bonus. The place is crammed with awesome visuals; shelves full of electronics and spare parts and drawers labeled with things I've never heard of. It made for a great bunch of Instagram shots (omg btw follow us #thebigideashow)
Michael's workspace
Nothing important about this. Just a sweet-ass astronaut helmet
We interviewed Michael for a bit just about circuit bending, which is something he does more than Cameron. Circuit bending is basically this underground movement where you find random old simple kids toys -- yaknow, ones that play a few pre-set tunes or have animals making sounds or shout out letters and numbers. Then you rip open that toy and mess around with the circuit board, making the sounds the toy played less conventional and more random and spontaneous. Michael showed that just licking your fingers and touching the circuits messed with the sound, but clamping the circuits or driving nails into them changed the sounds also. At one point he even had me clamp down a circuit on their Gemini Capsule and my body picked up a radio station! There's all sorts of fun to be had messing around with circuit boards. Um, I'm not encouraging anything here. Stick to low-level electronics like kid's toys.
Michael, hard at work moving clamps around on nails.
Then, came talk about Unatronics and the Gemini Capsule. Michael and Cameron gave us a little bit of their history and then showed us their instrument. It looks like something out of a retro-futuristic movie. Like Barbarella or something. Anyway, it's a white box with a circle of silver dials and a smaller inner circle of clear buttons. It's a little difficult to pick up at first, but once you remember what each dial does it's pretty fun to mess around with. A dot of light circles around inside of the smaller circle of buttons. If you press one of the inner buttons each time that dot of light passes it, it plays a note. Turn the bottom dial and it changes the pitch of that one note. Press another inner button and the dot of light plays both notes in each go-round. From there, the other dials adjust the pace, pitch, echo, etc. of the notes. It's an instrument that seems to favor randomness and tinkering, just like circuit bending.

As you can tell, this amount of awesomeness was almost too much to bear. Just when we thought it couldn't get much better, Michael busted out HOMEMADE BEER. Here's the CO2 tank, which looks like some sort of freakishly cute animal on, like, Adventure Time:
I'll name him Steven. 
Well, that was our interview with Michael and Cameron. It was pretty great, and there was pizza and beer at the end!
FYI, it took me two days and about seven thousand page re-loads to write this entry. And still, nuttin. That must be one long-ass queue. 
More soon!

And in the meantime, check out Unatronics...

And Cameron's band, When Clouds Attack.

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