Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dewtron, or how to hide your magic (if you have it)

As I told in my previous post, I was re-reading my old magazines and this ad from 1975 got my attention:

I remembered that I saw this before but can't recall where, all I know about Dewtron (from D.E.W. Ltd.) until now is that this company was selling potted modules to build a synths... so I've started to search a little more...

In the Synthmuseum description for Dewtron they list the following instruments:

Mister Bassman
And they are missing the "Project-X" that I just remembered now

In Tim Stinchcombe's website there's a scan of an article appeared november 1972 in Practical Electronics which include an D.E.W. Ltd. ad and a picture of a synth built with Dewtron's modules.

In the Dr Robert P Fletcher webpage he mention the Dewtron modules and give us a picture (linked here):

"My earliest synth was built from DEWTRON modules in the early 1970's. Here's a picture of the inside of a box with modules in place!"
In a post on MusicThing from 2005 some people remarks, about one strange synth on eBay that was possibly built with Dewtron modules (as MusicThing sometimes 'lost' the pictures, I put here again as a 'backup' for this very ugly instrument) and an anonymous writer said::
"Dewtron was the the trademark of the company run solely by Brian Bailey: Design Engineering Wokingham. Brian moved to Ferndown, Dorset, where he started to get messages from aliens which he was very mystified by.

The modules were awful, potted in resin so you could not repair them. The 'Modumatrix' switches were a great idea, but cheaply made. If you got a badly contacting switch in the middle of an assembly, you had to take them all apart to get at the one that was bad.

I think many people bought the modules and like me was disappointed. He claimed to have built a system for Led Zeppelin."

In this SounOnSound forum thread there's the following statement about the basspedals used by Mike Rutherford (Genesis):
"The Dewtron bass pedals Rutherford used were made by a small (now defunct) UK company based (IIRC) in Cornwall (or suchlike) that sold synthesiser kits. You could buy the boards ready made or you could buy them in kit form. The bass pedals were one of the few actual fully assembled 'products' that they made. They were pretty cheap even back then and intended for cheesy home organs that didn't come with bass pedals supplied."
And other comment:
"In terms of Bass Pedals, he used the Dewtrons "Mr Bassman" up to Selling, and moved to the Taurus for "The Lamb"."
Also about Rutherford's bass pedals, in "Hollow Sun" website there's an article about the Moog Taurus and they're assuring the following:
"Famous users include Mike Rutherford of Genesis who replaced his old Dewtron bass pedals with the Taurus"
So, Dewtron were in fact the brand for DEW ltd. custom 'potted modules', and judging by the references nothing magnificent. With this modules seems they built different synth incarnations (Apollo, Project-X, etc.). The fantastic "Modumatrix" was nothing more than a patch-matrix built with pushbuttons. And the Mr. Bassman seems was their "almost" recognised instrument, a factory built bass-pedal used by top rock bands (or at least for a while). That's all the info about the Dewtron I can found at the moment, if you know something more, I invite to share your comments with dewtron-gnorants like me.


Anonymous said...

Yes I have a factory built version of the Gipsy in the attic !!!
For its day it was a wonderfull instrument --- lots of flexibility and a bottom end like thunder

elgauchoandres said...

Wow! I like to know more about the Gipsy. Please tell me more. (here or by email) Cheers.

Johnny Elmer said...

I have a Dewtron Ring Modulator, encapsulated in a brownish resin block. I was (or should I say am) a bit of a nerd at school and bought the RM from a similarly nerdy fellow in another class. This would have been in about 1979. He also gave me the Dewtron catalogue (a flimsy affair with a pink cardboard cover). I was fascinated by it (but then I used to read the Roland catalogue in lunch breaks and lust after the system 100. (I still do!) As luck would have I have to clear the loft for the insulation crew this week. If I come across the catalogue I'll scan it for posterity.

elgauchoandres said...

Hey Johnny! please do it! you have a very particular piece of history.
I think others (besides me), like to see that.
I posted here some info I've collected from the web, this stuff is very rare and will be kind from you if you share all you have about this strange modules, including pictures if you still have it!

Jim Black said...

Hi elgauchoandres or Johnny Elmer,
I've just found a Dewtron ring mod & before I try to figure out the connections I thought I'd check with someone who's hooked one up
Can you help?

elgauchoandres said...

Hi and thanks for visit my blog. First mention is for Jim Black: sorry but I don't own any Dewtron module, neither schematic, hence my comment here, where I mostly talk about rare stuff not easily found on the web.

Second is for all visitors, if you have any information about the stuff here or any other rare synth/module/instrument, that you want to share, contact me and I will make a research to post something nice together with your info, and you will be credited of course.

And third, all the people seeking or offering something please left some way to contact you, all the previous comments here have not any address to give you some feedback.

I have the blog some unattended because my other activities but I have a list of pretty rare stuff to share soon, keep coming often, maybe next time you'll find something interesting to debate.

pat kirby said...

I too have a Dewtron Ring Modulator module from Dewtron, with green instruction leaflet. I will gladly scan and post here if anyone is interested. I remember the module used to produce truly weird sounds and a great Dalek type voice.
Pat Kirby, Planet TV London

elgauchoandres said...

Hi Pat, I'm very happy seeing that my post about Dewtron motivate to all the few people out there that have parts or equipment of Dewtron. I will be very happy to post here any new information that you, or others, can supply. I don't have any Dewtron part but seems that my post is at top on searches so this will be a good thing to people seeking information about Dewtron. Thanks to all.

MiceInMy Mellotron said...

Hello, I recently bought a Mr Bassman pedal unit in need of some restoration. It's a strange mix of indestructible steel chassis and cheapo plastic pedals, using flimsy Castelco push switches as it's key contact switches. It only makes one sound, but what a sound! So far the potted electronics are ok.. It was the standard Genesis bass pedal unit until the advent of the Moog Taurus, and also appears in early footage of Yes playing 'Yours Is No Disgrace', there tuned up high and used by Jon Anderson to play a melody.

Andres Dominguez said...

Hi, thank you for your comment bringing more info about this rare instrument. Good luck you found one unit in working state! I know that Yes song and i didn't know they used a Dewtron pedal, I need to re-listen now ;) And you're right, Genesis are well known were Mr Bassman users.