Roland Axis-1



UPDATE 6/1/2010: Here is my latest creation by Jeff Toman of and James Walker of Synth Repair Services! A project almost eighteen months in the making, this is a one-of-a-kind wireless keytar. Its appearance notwithstanding (it is quite a sight, sure), the unique quality of this piece is its battery power and MIDI revision, allowing the wire-free functionality a controller like this really demands. The original Axis-1, released in 1985 (or thereabouts), came shipped with a very large, heavy, and thoroughly rhinoceros-like stompbox which powered the unit and allowed step-though of source synth presets. The wire connecting the stompbox was pretty long (over 25 feet, by my estimate), but hard to replace. It was a 6-prong powered MIDI cable, as opposed to a standard 5-prong passive MIDI cable (available at every corner music store). What Jeff & James did here was add a custom power supply employing a long-lasting, rechargeable RC car battery, AC power jack, power switch, a few battery indicator LEDs, and a brand new MIDI circuit board acquiring juice from the new power supply. TALL ORDER.

I play a lot of '80s music whenever I'm playing a local gig somewhere, and I wanted a keytar that was the most '80s THING ever conceived by anyone, ever (and unfortunately I'll never afford a zebra-striped Delorean). I wanted a keytar that looks like a TRON LIGHTCYCLE, and for the record, this was well before I'd even heard of a Tron sequel begin planned for some far-off theatrical release. After a few sketches in Photoshop, and after selling off my old RK-100 (which didn't have any velocity sensitivity anyway) to pay for it, I got an Axis-1 from eBay in September of 2008, messed around with it at home for about half an hour, and promptly mailed it away to the UK. A year and a half later it's now back in my skeletal hands, works wonderfully, and transports everyone seeing it to a time before the internet and goatees and iPods and self-respect (and hey, the Tron sequel is only a few months away now).

Now, any project like this is bound to be quirky, and once the keytar arrived home from its extended visit to various UK workbenches, my good pal, synth tech, and Parallax producer Randel and I had to spend a few hours farting around inside the thing tying up a few minor electrical loose ends (not the least of which was a fair bit of protective sealing, since the keytar's factory silver paint job turned the whole thing into one big, fat conductor!), and adding in a power inverter for 15 feet of electro-luminescent wire (i.e. "el-wire"). This install was all on me, and since I'm neither ingenious nor crafty, I used packing tape for it. Looks great in pictures, and like total shit up close. Oh well!

The changeover to battery power allowed for the use of standard 5-prong MIDI cables. This in turn allowed me to purchase a MIDIJet wireless MIDI transmitter (used on eBay, because I'm perpetually broke). This thing transmits up to 500 feet away, meaning I could theoretically play entire gigs from my car, where shit ain't quite so loud...

This band is louder than your inner child

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Copyright (c) 2010 David C. Lovelace