Original File Date: 1/24/1996
Original file appears below, with all typos intact.
Kevin Lightner is one of a rare breed. He has put together what must well be
some of the largest modular systems on the planet. Systems we mere mortals
could only dream of owning (or perhaps even just touching) have passed
through his hands. If the names Serge (66kjpeg), Aries (66kjpeg), or maybe
more familiar names like Moog (50kjpeg) and Emu make your heart race prepare
to meet the man who puts these monster modulars together, as Recoil coaxes a
short interview and photos out of Mr. Kevin Lightner “Synth Master”!
Recoil: What got you started as a vintage synth builder?
Kevin: I Built a Paia Gnome/OZ and 4700/s when I was 14.
Recoil: What was the first system you put together and where did it end up?
Kevin: The first REAL modular I built was the big Moog and Roland (83kgif)
system for Hans Zimmer. It is the WALLS of his studio and it took me two
Recoil: Have you kept any for yourself?
Kevin: None! I have very few synths myself, although I’ve been playing keys
about17 or so years.
Recoil: What would you consider your crowning acheivement as far as:
1. Aquiring a hard to find unit?
Kevin: I don’t acquire. I leave that up to the brokers and owners. I
restore, improve, repair, modify, assemble… but I don’t buy or sell. Keeps
2. Building the most massive systems?
Have you had many struggles to get them working?
Kevin: HAAAA!! Struggles? Ever TUNE a 58 vco synth? Actually, they all worked well
upon powering up, but there’s a lot done before that ever happens.
Recoil: How on earth do you source these units, I mean I’m sure most people
in the know have never even seen a live Buchla or Emu modular. Aren’t they
extremely rare and hard to find?
Kevin: Again, I don’t. And yes, they are hard to find. Harder every day…!
Recoil:What would you consider the most rare system and modules at the
Kevin:Rare doesn’t necessarily mean good or desired. The Ppg modules,
Projekt Elektronik, Wavemaker… all of these are pretty rare. As far as
rare and desired in a major way, the Bode frequency shifter seems to be
requested a lot.
Recoil: What would you consider the most unusual system/module?
Kevin: Buchlas and Serges are pretty unusual from a standard audio/cv
standpoint.There are fewer imposed limitations with those systems. I
personally love the Digisound VCDO as a strange module! The Blacett
frequency divider is another rare favorite.
Recoil: You have put together some massive systems, for Hans Zimmer and
others, do these guys actually use all these modules or are they just rich
Kevin: Both. As far as Zimmer is concerned- He does have a lot of equipment-
no arguement there- but he is very talented and successful, even if he was
to just use it as inspiration, who’s to agrue with his means? It works for
him. It’s much like a painter- he may have 20 greens on the easel, uses only
2 for months, but when he wants the others they are there. As far as your
question- yes, Hans uses the Moog, Roland, Emu and Polyfusion as needed.
Recoil: Do you end up doing alot of maintenance for these people, and don’t
you have a hard time finding replacement parts?
Kevin: No, I do very little maintenance on the systems I’ve built. Generally
they don’t travel. Most systems get new linear power supplies, new trim
pots, new connectors, etc. They are actually very stable. As far as parts, I
have a wealth of suppliers for what I need. I can order Switchcraft jacks,
Moog knobs, semiconductors, pots, switches, just about everything is still
available. Special items like ribbon controller ribbons and custom things
like that are often difficult, though.
Recoil: What system if any are you working on now?
Kevin: I am doing a very elaborate custom synth for Hans now. I have a
repackaging of an Oberheim 4 voice/ mini seq with very complete MIDI for
Mark Isham.There is a very modified 2600 I’m finishing up, with MIDI and
lots of mods. I don’t modify Moogs and Arps and rare synths unless they are
ALREADY drilled up!
Recoil: that sounds like a rather wise decision… 🙂
Recoil: If you could put together any system you desired, which would it be?
Kevin: EEEEEKKKK!!!! I like ’em all for one reason or another. Polyfusions
and Sys-100’s are good later analog designs, though they are pretty tame
compared to a Serge as far as functionality.
Recoil: If you can, name your top 5 systems/modules and tell us why you
Kevin: Moog 55- good compliment- good stability. Oberheim 8 voice- Good
sound- well made- Arp2600- well compromised “modular”- good sound, MiniMoog-
just a great sound- great glide- Serge NTO- Great oscillator. period,
Recoil: Thanks for your time Kevin, we hope visitors to this page don’t soil
your Synth jpegs too severly while their busy drooling! 🙂
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