Black Dog- Taking Control Of Controllers (via Kickstarter) (interview)
Electronic auteurs Black Dog have launched a crowd-funding campaign to help them manufacture a high-end custom-made DJ controller they’ve designed called the Machinewerks CS X51.
Deriding competitive MIDI controllers for being ‘cheap lumps of plastic designed to keep the costs down, with no look or feel to them at all’, the respected tech veterans promise their new product will be a ‘proper work of art’ and one that’s manufactured in their hometown of Sheffield.
Martin Dust chatted to Skrufff this week and explained more about the project.
“We need to raise £27,000 to get started and build all the units. We opted for Kickstarter to include people and to see if there is a market out there for what we’re building,” he said.
“If we can find enough people to back us we’ll be able to start a company building great stuff in Sheffield, even though our accountant advised us not to do it.”
So why build them in Sheffield?
“We wanted to bring back some manufacturing back to Sheffield after the Tory and Labour parties took the whole City apart,” he continues.
“The funding from Kickstarter is only half the story really, we are ready to invest into this if we can get it off the ground and Kickstarter is perfect for that,” he promises.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You guys are electronic musicians and DJs first and foremost – this must be taking up an enormous amount of your time- why not still concentrate on music, DJing and performing?
Black Dog: “Well all our controllers are breaking and we needed to replace them. There was nothing on the market we wanted, so we decided to start building our own. It makes perfect sense for us to do this, we’ve spent 30 years working with this technology in the studio. Yes it was hard when we started but we’ve always liked a challenge. The idea of building all our own equipment has always appealed and we are still making music and DJing, only now we’re doing it on our own gear now, who better to actually test it.”
Skrufff: How much time, energy and money have you invested in the project so far? (I’d imagine tens of thousands of pounds if not more?)
Black Dog: “We’ve spent 8 months getting to the third prototype of the unit and we’ve also built a demo version of our mixer and synth. We had to learn new tools like CAD and talk to a lot of fabricators so we understood the whole process. It’s important that they understand exactly what we wanted. As for money, yes we’ve invested a large amount but it’s been worth it and we know we can make that back. We’re not looking to make big bucks off the bat, we wanted to build a place, employ people and make some cool shit, that’s the goal for now.”
Skrufff: Why do you think you guys should be able to design a better product than all the established tech companies out there (with their bigger resources, experience and teams of highly trained tech people?)
Black Dog: “We’ve been using controllers since day one and never found anything that has suited us, so there seemed to be an obvious opportunity. We also don’t have a marketing department desperately trying to sell to anyone and everyone. That only ends up in with a compromised design that appears to have loads of features, but most will never get used. Many controllers available now seem to fall into this trap, it’s pointless and show that they don’t actually watch artists and DJ’s play out much.”
Skrufff: How can you produce your product in England and keep it competitively priced?
Black Dog: “With great difficulty but it can be done. We didn’t set up Machinewerks to be a big box shifter; the idea of getting everything built in China wasn’t what we want to do. Keeping everything here allows us to keep a closer eye on the whole process, maintaining the quality we want. We won’t be driven by compromise.”
Jonty Skrufff: https://twitter.com/djjontyskrufff