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Interview: Paula Maddox, From Modal Electronics to Dove Audio (English Version)

28. Juli 2018

Comeback with Dove Audio

Paula Maddox

Paula Maddox

It was in April 2015, when first features and images appeared of a new synthesizer series of a previously unknown company, called Modal Electronics. It soon became apparent that the Modal synthesizers had indeed brought a new and extremely exciting player to the market, which actually had unique and expensive synthesizer bolides like Modal 002 or Modal 008 in their program. Behind all these new developments was mainly the ingenious synthesizer creator Paul Maddox.

In October 2016 it was time, Paul visited with some copies of the Modal Synthesizers in our editorial office.

For one thing, we were fired up from the start for these synthesizers, on the other hand, Paul immediately impressed us with his professional competence and his fresh style. But before we could publish the interview of this visit. Paul had left the company Modal. Even our investigations at that time brought no results. We were all the happier when, a few weeks ago, we received a press release from Paula Maddox, who had launched a thrilling kick starter project under the label Dove Audio.

Finally, Paul was now Paula Maddox – and obviously was still very interested in devoting her know-how to the synth scene.

We took the opportunity and asked  Paula Maddox for an interview, this time only by email.

And here we go:

Peter:
Hi Paula, now it is already a year later, we have started this interview. At that time, you visited us in the editorial office and presented us personally the Modal 002 and Modal 008. After that there was silence.

Paula:
Actually Peter, it’s probably over 2 years ago. At that time I had a lot going on in my personal life and work life at modal with new products.

Paula Maddox

Paul Maddox & Peter Grandl in the AMAZONA.de editorial office in October 2016

Peter:

The modal synthesizers were great sound producers. Especially the polyphonic variants 002 and 008 were unique on the market and somehow also like your „babies“. Didn’t the farewell hurt?

 

Paula:

Thank you for your kind words and in a word „yes“ leaving modal hurt. Modal was partly my baby, into which I poured my heart and soul. Having to leave modal was one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in my life to date.

Peter:
Modal also seems to want to finance the new Skulpt synthesizer via a Kickstarter campaign. Were you still involved?

Paula:
No, the last thing I had any involvement with was the Craft synth, but then only in a very minor role, I was working on other things at that time.
I hope that Skulpt will be a success for modal.

Paula Maddox

Peter:

If you try to buy a Modal 008 or Modal 002 in Germany today, the few traders who have remained cannot give a guarantee concerning delivery time. You get the impression, even through the Skulpt Kickstarter campaign, Modal ran out of money.

Actually a great pity, because I think that especially the Modal 002 could become an insider’s tip, similar to John Bowen´s Solar, which is now produced for 9 years – and achieved slowly acceptable quantities by this continuity. How do you see the future of the big modal synths?

 

Paula:

As I resigned from modal in December 2016, officially leaving March 2017, I can’t comment or make any assumptions regarding Modal electronics. I’ve no idea why the production of 002, 002R, 001, 008 and 008R apparantly ceased when I left, it was a big shock and a great shame to me to see them being withdrawn from really great sales outlets.

As for big modal synths, I think it’s always risky to discount someone from doing something big and/or amazing in the future, I will admit Skulpt came as a complete surprise to me. Look at Yamaha in the early 80s with the DX7, no-one saw that coming and they dominated the market. Similarly the Access Virus. I think it’s very difficult these days to predict the future in the synth industry, and that’s part of what keeps it exciting for me.

 

Peter:

Paul became Paula and with that you could be the first woman – at least as far as I know – who is masterminding involved in the design of synthesizers. And even if you look at our readership, there are only 5% of women when the issue is studio electronics and synthesizers. We often discuss whether this imbalance has social causes or is of genetic origin. What do you think?

 

Paula:

Thank you, but I’m far from the first woman to design synthesisers. You only have to look at people like Cynthia Webster (Cyndustries), Ninni Bergfors (Bergfotron) and Zoe Blade and Nina Richards (Transistor Sound Labs) to name the few I can think of off the top of my head.
However, I do feel that in general there is a real problem with the lack of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) around the world

I believe the reason is that there is a lot of sexism and a large amount of misogyny within the engineering disciplines, which is a shame. You only have to look at the contributions that people like Ada Lovelace, Katherine Johnson, Grace Hopper, Annie Easley and Hedy Lamarr have made to STEM to see that creativity and engineering doesn’t know, or care, about gender.

 

Peter:

I think I take the words out of our male readers mouth if I say we would be happy if the proportion of female synth lovers would be much higher.

What do you think should happen to get more women interested in the topic?

 

Paula:

There are a lot of great women in the synth world but they’re not yet recognised, Which is a terrible shame as there are lots of female synthesists in the synth world already, Laurie Spiegel, Suzanne Ciani, Wendy Carlos, Gillian Gilbert, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Delia Derbyshire and bands like Marsheaux, Synth Witch, Grimes and U.S. Girls.

I feel people just need to get past the „old boys school“ mentality and just learn to live and live. Music is music, synths are synths, it doesn’t matter who made it.

Paula Maddox

Paula in front of her first product of Dove Audio

Peter:

Back to your new company Dove Audio. The keywords for your corporate philosphy are „Purity, Integrity and Love“ on your website. Nice words, what exactly do you want to express in terms of your company?

 

Paula:

In the simplest terms I want to provide people with products that are high quality (Pure), customer support/service that is second to none (Integrity) and I feel there is far too much hate in the world at the moment and I want to help with that by donating 10% of profits to anti-hate groups around the world (Love).

Peter:

This wonderful, featherly name DOVE AUDIO stands in stark contrast to your first product name WTF, which is commonly understood as WHAT THE FUCK. Why?

 

Paula:
😊
I actually had the name „Window Transform Function“ for several months, but it wasn’t until a friend laughed when I showed them that I realised the acronym was the same. It wasn’t intentional. I did consider changing the name but I think that most synthesiser people have a good sense of humour and would appreciate the joke.

 

Peter:

The WTF module is also a Kickstarter campaign. Was it really not possible to find a financially strong partner for DOVE AUDIO though you have that extensive reputation?

 

Paula:

Thank you, I believe that getting funding to build a company is easier when you have something to show. It’s far easier to have conversations with investors and backers when you have a proven product with a growing customer base. I started modulus (the Monowave) and Vacoloco (Gorf, Zira, etc) so I’ve been here before. Though this time I’d like to remain in control of the company.

 

Peter:

Are not you worried that the Eurorack market is getting saturated? Almost every week there are new suppliers of modules. The competition is getting bigger and bigger and should the Eurorack hype be over someday, surely only very few manufacturers will remain on the market. What do you think about that?

 

Paula:

One of the things I love about the Eurorack market is that there is so much diversity, it lets musicians look for their perfect module rather than having to make do. It also keeps you focused because there is competition.
But, I’m also making the modules in MU format for both the DotCom and MOTM style power, because I feel this market is very neglected and I believe that modular synthesis is about creativity and flexibility.

Peter:

As far as I know, BEHRINGER is looking for skilled workers like you, as they will increase their synthesizer power enormously. Isn’t that interesting for you?

 

Paula:

I’ve been approached by a couple of synth companies, but for various reasons that hasn’t worked out. If someone were to approach me, I would be happy to chat with them. Though I would worry about not being able to be creative as so often happens within large companies.

 

Peter:

Where is the journey going, Paula? Do you have any plans to build a stand-alone synth?

 

Paula:

There are a lot of new ideas and concepts in the pipeline including a couple of new modules and a polysynth or two. The focus is to build the business at a rate that is sustainable and enables Dove Audio to deliver on its three key values of Purity, Integrity and Love.

 

Peter:

Anyway we wish you lots of success and we look forward to hear from you and your new products quite often.

 

Paula:
Thank you, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you again.

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