Soul in the Machine is a live electronic music performance act which presents electronic dance music by combining technology, sculpture and music. Three instrumentalists play on a drumwall, laserharp, marimba and MIDI lever, one-of-a-kind sculptures which have an associated lighting action corresponding to each sound struck or altered. It was founded by three people, but the overall endeavor is so complex that over time it has grown to encompass a much larger team of instrumentalists, singers, performers, dancers, music producers, fabricators and designers.

Soul in the Machine’s goal is to combine the energy and up-to-date sounds of modern, well produced EDM with the traditional skill of live musicianship. It’s not something that’s new in big concert venues where national touring acts have the gear and expert soundmen to achieve that polished sound, but live acts with high sound production values are not common in nightclub environments.

In public settings with a high quality PA, well produced electronic dance music is capable of imparting much more low frequency energy than most other forms of live music. The unproduced live kick drum and bass, unless a band is fortunate that their setup matches the venue’s acoustics, simply can’t fill out the low end aural space the same way that a painstakingly well produced beat can. It is possible for more traditional bands to achieve a modern, well-produced sound, but it takes a lot of effort, effects gear and expertise (professional soundmen with extensive soundcheck as well as prematched bass/kick, filtering/EQ and live side-chaining) to achieve that level of polish. It is this low frequency energy that the audience ‘feels’ and it’s what gets them dancing. It’s but one reason why we see spectacular sounding, but relatively mundane to watch DJs in dance clubs these days instead of interesting to watch but relatively raw sounding live bands. SitM would like the nightclub audience to have the best of both worlds.

Prior to the conception of Soul in the Machine, Mr. Technology and St(br)ainless were classical/jazz musicians. St(br)ainless never thought much of electronic dance music, his exposure to it being mainly the (thump) (thump) (thump) of jungle emanating from his roomate’s bedroom. This changed when Mr. Technology and St(br)ainless attended their first club/rave event at the urging of DJ Sandman in 1999. It was there that St(br)ainless realized now much energy EDM had in a public setting with a quality sound system and it simultaneously dawned on him how much the visual presentation could be improved if live musicians with visual instruments presented the music rather than having a DJ present the music with much of the DJ’s skill hidden from the audience’s view. St(br)ainless, Mr. Technology and Sandman then resolved to start the project which became Soul in the Machine.

The first thing SitM needed to do before performing was to build instruments. At that time, St(br)ainless was designing/fabricating furniture for the modern/contemporary market so it was natural to begin fabricating the insruments/sculptures using the same skillset. In the same vein, Mr. Technology was designing an LED light source in his engineering consulting job and the task of designing the electronics/firmware for the instruments fell onto him. Despite their skills in their respective fields, the first SitM instruments were definitely clunkers. The first two drumwalls never saw the light of day. Finally, the first decent keeper, the laserharp, was constructed in 2002 and by 2004 SitM had enough to put on the first show.

At that time, Mr. Technology, St(br)ainless and Sandman did everything for the band: instrument fabrication, logistics, marketing, obtaining gigs, songwriting and music production. Over time, it became apparent that the project was going to suffer unless the tasks were divided up into more specialized pieces. More and more people have been brought in to help, ranging from front people/singers and music producers to machinists and welders to industry agents resulting in the SitM team which exists today. St(br)ainless and Mr. Technology still do the design work and much of the fabrication work for the instruments, but when a team member is good at what they do, their principal task is to set some parameters, then get out of the way.

drumwall 3.0, February 2003. This is the beginnings of our first usable drumwall. The frame and the octovator made the cut, the solid 1/4

January 2004. the lovely Emily Kachorek volunteering for some slave labor soldering duty at St(br)ainless' house. Building this house was his entry to furniture fabrication and later, instrument fabrication.. Lighting modules for the helixes.

helix components in St(br)ainless' dining room. Clearly this is not a good place for instrument fabrication, but we didn't have a real shop yet, just a garage/house.

Mr. Technology in the days before he developed Speed Grooves

Not only does Soul in the Machine design, fabricate and perform with its own unique instruments, it has been issued three patents which arose from that process by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The first one is utility patent for the lighting controller in the drumwall and marimba, the second is a design patent for the narrowing truss sections of the branching tree motif which makes up the support structure of the drumwall and laserharp and the third is another utility patent for the lighting system in the transparent cymbals on the drumwall. Mr. Technology and St(br)ainless are the patent holders.

We’re not sure about this but we may be in the running for possessing the most patents of any band-related patents of any band in the world, giving us the basis for laying claim to the title of “The World’s Nerdiest Band”.

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