Dr. Blankenstein, the Mad Scientist of Analog Synthesizers and Atari Punks

Ben Marks of Collector's Weekly says: "Drew Blanke, aka Dr. Blankenstein, is a circuit bender and music-effects guru who's devoted to analog electronics. As a kid in the 1980s, he made Heathkits; as an adult, he's built effects boxes and electronic instruments (one of his most popular devices uses the same chip that's found in stun guns...) for musicians as diverse as techno wizard Squarepusher and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio.

"To learn more about Blanke, I spoke to him about his work, and even installed one of his "mod kits" in my electric guitar, which now produces some of the most otherworldly sounds you've ever heard."

Unlike a digital instrument, whose output can be preset for a musician so he or she doesn’t have to think too much about achieving a particular sound, the output on one of Blanke’s analog instruments, especially those with physical touch points and light sensors like the Illumiringer, can be tricky to control.

I learned just how tricky when Blanke challenged me to take a drill to the body of my beloved yellow Danelectro guitar and fill its guts with some of his Illumiringer hardware.

Now my Danelectro, however beloved, is by no means a rare or valuable instrument. It was made sometime in the 1990s, cost me less than 200 bucks, and has survived the abuse of two male high-school students (our children, now full grown) and their friends. But when Drew Blanke enthusiastically told me how cool it would be to drill eight holes in my guitar, the Danelectro instantly became my baby, and the prospect of chickening out and just plugging the thing into an iPad started to sound pretty good. When an envelope stuffed with a light sensor, a pair of LEDs, no less than five switches and knobs, and a rat’s nest of wire connected to a sinister-looking circuit board arrived, I became downright alarmed.

“It’s half-built,” Blanke said, trying to reassure me about how easy it would be to install his “FX mod kit,” as he calls it. “The installation is literally six solder points. It’s like a gateway drug to circuitry. In essence, all your doing is installing a guitar pedal inside of your guitar.”

Dr. Blankenstein, the Mad Scientist of Analog Synthesizers and Atari Punks