The Haunted House

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Finishing Off the Furby

Tonight I decided to finish off the furby. To make this creature properly playable when he has his fur on, I needed to create a remote control break out box to house all the switches. There just isn't enough room inside the furby case to mount the switches and jack output. I went in to town at lunch time and bought some house alarm cable and a plastic project box.

Construction was fairly straight forward. The wires that I soldered onto the furby pcb had to be connected upto the cable, and at the other end the switches and jack socket attached.

Once these were all connected and tested I had to get the furby put back together which was quite fiddly. As with all deconstruction projects I had a couple of screws left over and I have no idea where they came from. Oh well, the little chap seems quite solid so it's not a problem.

Once reassembled I just had to put the fur cover back on. This was easy, all I had to do was cut a slit so I could align the cable properly.

And voila, one remote controlled circuit bent furby. This little guy sounds insane when you set him off. And what's great is he is totally unpredicatible in the glitches that occur.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Circuit Bent Childrens Telephone

Whilst waiting to get the parts to finish off the furby modifications, I decided to bend another one of the charity shop toys. I decided to do the noisy telephone.

Finding the bends was relatively straight forward. The hard part of this bend was fitting the switches and cables, as space within the toy was very limited. But with a little contortion and persuasion I got everything to fit.

The 2 buttons effect the speed of the sound, the top one speeds up, and the bottom button slows down. I also added 3 body contact points. The top one connects to a common base join on the board, so this needs to be used in conjunction with the bottom 2 contact points. All in all not a bad little bend for this toy. Because this toy is so small you can fit it into a pocket. Would be quite amusing to stand behind someone in the supermarket queue and set this off :-) Or perhaps not in case someone thinks I'm a terrorist with a bomb in my pocket.

You can hear a excerpt of this toy at the following link.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Circuit Bent Furby Part 1

Today I started work on circuit bending the furby. Unlike any operation, the subject must be shaved first. So to start with I completely removed the skin.

The skin came off quite easily and only took a few minutes to remove, this left a naked furby on the desk. Next the outer case had to be removed. Under this there was all the mechanics and circuit board, but to get to the circuit I had to remove the base and battery compartment.

The furby is quite a common toy to circuit bend so I was looking forward to all the twisted sick noises I was going to get. First I had to make the furby sit stable on the desk so I could solder onto the circuit board without the thing moving. I started this by celotaping his ears to the table. Once secured I started probing around with my probe wires.

I found a couple of great bends pretty much straight away, so I soldered the wires in position and fitted the jack output to the speaker connections. I am not going to fit switches just yet, as I want to make a break out box / remote control instead of attaching the switches to the furbies body. This is because I want to beable to put the fur back on and have it look like a furby again. So a trip to maplins during the week I think.

I did about 10 minutes of test recordings. You can listen to an example of this furby at this link. I think you'll agree this circuit bend is starting to sound insane. Just the results I was after.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Speak and Spell Circuit Bend

This evening I finished off my latest circuit bend, a Speak and Spell. These toys were great back in the day, I even had one when I was a kid, although I don't think I ever learnt much from it. The Speak and Spell is a classic circuit bend with lots of noise making potential. Finding the bends on this device is quite easy, but soldering on the cables was a lot harder than the other bends I have performed. Normally you can hook the wire around resistor legs etc, but for this one you have to solder directly onto the legs of chips.

The circuit board is quite well layed out on this device and it didn't take me long to identify my first bend, a kind of glitchy loop.

I cocked up the first chip leg I tried to solder onto. I applied way to much solder, so had to try and reverse my mistake using the soldering iron and a solder sucker. But on my 2nd attempt I was much more successful.

In the end I added 3 push button switches and 2 body contact points. These contact points let you use your own body as an electrical resister. I'm happy with the bends I done on this machine. There are probably loads more, but I dont want to add them to this machine, I will try and source another speak and spell for that.

Click this link for a short example of this circuit bend that I recorded.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Circuit Bending Heaven

Today Me and Amanda had to take the car into town to the garage for it's MOT. Whilst there I wanted to have a look in the charity shops for old electronic toys as circuit bending victims. We managed to get quite a cool stash, and Amanda not being shy, haggled the prices down a bit more. So in the end we managed to get all the toys below for less than 11 pounds.

The most expensive toy was the furby at 4.95, but I think it was worth the price as furbies when circuit bent sound absolutely crazy. I think I will need to remove its fur though to get to the circuit board. So it will an naked porno furby.

Some of the toy's don't have an off switch so as they moved in the bags whilst walking back to the house they kept on going off. I think Amanda was a little embarressed by this. Don't blame her. Next time I go looking for circuit bending victims, I will take a set of screw drivers with me so I can remove the batteries.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Circuit Bending Experiments

After yesterdays post about the keyboard bending project I had a few people ask me today why the hell I would find half blowing up old toys fun. So I shall present an example to illustrate. If you click on this MP3 you will hear a short recording of the 'My Little Talking Computer'. This is a raw recording from the toy straight into the mixing desk. The glitches and fuckups you hear are the result of me pressing the switches I added to make the toy spaz out.

Ok, it sounds pretty shit, I'm the first one to admit it :-) BUT, with a little chopping up, time stretching, eq'ing, reverberation and digital delays, you can create alien sounding ambient pads like that demonstrated in this MP3.

Now I hardly put any effort into the above ambient example, I quickly knocked it out in 5 minutes. But anyone that has heard my previous albums will know that I make use of lots of ambient soundscapes to give a film soundtrack feel to the music. But adding new life to old toys I can create new and unique soundscapes :-)


Circuit Bending Adventures Part 2

Today me and Amanda walked into town as Amanda wanted to get her hair cut. We couldn't drive as there was too much snow last night and getting off our estate, which is at the top of a steep hill, was too dangerous.

Whilst walking around the shops, I decided to look in one of the charity shops on the high street to see if they had any old childrens electronic toys. In Oxfam I found a toy called "My Little Talking Computer". I asked the lady behind the counter how much it was, expecting her to say 2 or 3 pounds, but she said 50p. Bargain!!!

Later in the afternoon I finished off the bend I was doing on the keyboard. This was a difficult machine to bend, and there isn't a huge amount you can do with it without crashing the onboard chips. I ended up with a pitch bending potentiometer, auto rythem kick in switch, high pass filter, and a drums distortion/glitch fuckerupa switch.

After this I took the back off the talking computer to have alook at the eletronics. The pcb for this device is quite small and mainly consits of resisters and capacitors, the main IC's are hidden away. I started probing with my test wires, and found 2 nice bends to start with. One is a harsh distortion / glitch / feedback inducer, and the 2nd was a more controlled glith, which also make the screen go slightly spastic depending on what volume you have set :-)

I then wired up a 1/4 inch jack connecter to the speakers, drilled all the relevent holes and mounted the swithces. There is probably loads more I can do with this device, but for the moment I am going to stop as my back and neck is hurting.

Talking toy with 2 switches under the apple.

Out of all the equipment you need for circuit bending, ie soldering irons, pliers, screw drivers etc, I think the most valuable tool I used today was a roll of celotape. It makes it so much easier to solder wires onto the legs of chips or resisters if you can tape down the leads first so they don't move. Otherwise you need 3 arms.

Once I had put the back on I did a sampling performace test into the computer so see what the signal sounds like at 24bits, and it sounded quite good. I do have a use for all these mad basterdised toys, and the end results should sound quite unique :-)

If anyone has any old electronic kids toys that they don't need because the kids have grown out of them, and you want rid of them to regain some space in the house, email me at In particular I am after any Yamaha PSS range keyboard, Casio SK-1, SK-5. Those strange saxaphone shaped toys with large colorful buttons on, and the similar guitar shaped toys.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Circuit Bending

Now my latest Creature album is completed and out the door, it's time to move onto the next project. This one involves lots of lo-fi sounds. To get these unique sounds I need to venture into the world of circuit bending. So what is this? Well I will tell you.

Circuit bending is the art of getting an old electronic toy, re-wiring the inside to make it sound strange / bizare / alien / crap. I have never tried circuit bending before, and I havn't even used a soldering iron since school. But what the fuck, time to give it a go. A while ago Amanda got hold of my first victim, a Yamaha PSS-80.

I started by taking the front off to get to the circuit board inside. The case opened easily, but the key rack becomes loose when you take the front off, and it is only attached to the circuit board with a very fragile looking ribbon cable. So you have to be quite careful.

To find suitable bends on the board you just have to get a length of cable and prod it against different joints on the board until you hear something interesting. The first interesting bend I found enables the rhythem section when you press a key. I attached a 'push-to-make' switch to the relevent parts of the circuit board. So when you are playing the keyboard and press the button, the drums kick in.

Another bend I found was a handy circuit reset. I wired this upto another 'push-to-make' switch. This was handy as some of the probing caused the whole circuit to crash, so pressing this reset the board. I also added a 1/4 inch jack socket to the back so I can plug the keyboard into the mixer.

You'll see in the pic below where I have mounted the buttons and switches on the front of the keyboard. Done simply by drilling a hole in the case.

I am still working on this circuit bend. I did a bit of a search on the net for this particular keyboard, and it turns out that I have picked quite a difficult keyboard to bend for my first project, ho hum. There are some interesting short circuits I can try including drum glitches and a high pass filter. I shall try these soon.

I'll post up some sound sample soon to show what a circuit bend instrument can sound like, and what you can do with some of the samples. Most of you will think I am odd doing this, but there is a reason which I shall reveal when I have made more progress.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Beatbox cooking video

Mat just sent me this excellent video. A bloke doing a cookery video to produce a break beat. Aint got a clue what I'm on about? Watch this!!


Saturday, February 03, 2007

New Creature Album

Well after months of hard work, my new Creature album, mechanical, is finally finished and sent off to the distributor. It should be hitting online retail stores within the next 4 - 6 weeks.

The track listing is as follows:

01 - Intro
02 - Nexar
03 - Twilight
04 - Vitamin
05 - Magenta
06 - Mechanical
07 - Hotel
08 - Wish
09 - Daisy Cutter
10 - Even Flow
11 - Reverend
12 - Neptune
13 - New World
14 - Terrapin
15 - Nox
16 - End Of The Line

Demos can be heard at

Album cover photography by Neil Duffin of Neil Duffin Photography.