Since the inception of DJing, DJs have taken a conventional use of a turntable and improvised to come up with a new sound. Whether it was back cueing to extend the break on certain records, the invention of the scratch and individual scratches thereafter, beat juggling, or coming up with sheet music with it’s own specific turntable language, the record player has been taken to new places since the mid 1970’s. If anyone has seen a turntablist crew perform, you have witnessed different incarnations of the turntable as an instrument. Sometimes guitar, sometimes drum, sometimes a horn section, these DJs played together as musicians, each individual taking the part of a member of a band. Any one who’s ever seen Kid Koala perform as a solo artist, or in Bullfrog, knows that the DJ can play his or her turntable as an instrument so to speak. Bands like Inclubus, Linkin Park, and others have used the DJ not just as background fodder, but to the fullest extent they could. Mixmaster Mike was one of the first to connect his turntables to a wah wah pedal to get different sounds. This author has been a DJ in a band and toured with a guitar flanger pedal and DD-6 Delay pedal to add some extra flavor to the live sound as well. But how far can the turntable go as an instrument? Black Cat Sylvester wants to show you.
Nashville’s Black Cat Sylvester has used bands The Sylvester Scratch Band, The Perfect Hours, and Call It Anything to further the art of DJing. Playing an invention that is under patent, The Synthtable, he aims to “rescue the record player from becoming just another percussion instrument, rescue many a MIDI device from doing what it was originally built to do, and envisions the next incarnation of the DJ as a melody maker and soloist.” Aside from the references to evil penguins throughout his bio, The Synthtable looks interesting. Through a series of video performances BCS showcases this question invoking instrument. It looks like a turntable but plays a series of synth sounds, much like a keyboard. An cool concept indeed, but they are not revealing yet how this actually works. Perhaps after it gets patented we will see what’s under the black cloth and figure out if foot pedals are used, and just how the turntable gets the sounds. Until then, enjoy a series of trippy sounding videos with other DJs and a live band. Always great to see musicians taking the art of DJing to new places.
More on Black Cat Sylvester here.