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Modular Profile: Matthew Allum

Modular Profile: Matthew Allum

As the man behind the phenomenally successful British developer ALM/Busy Circuits, Matthew Allum’s impact on the Eurorack landscape at large has been, to say the least, considerable. His company recently celebrated its 10th anniversary — no mean feat in what has in recent years proven to be an unforgiving marketplace — marking the occasion with a third iteration of the powerful, vastly popular and perfectly named Pamela’s Workout, also known as the module that started it all for Busy Circuits.

On his entry into modular

Around 2010 I got a Doepfer Eurorack system after being disappointed with the then‑new OP‑1. Since I was a teenager I’d dreamt of owning a modular system: Doepfer really made this accessible. A frustration trying to sync that with an MFB sequencer, as well as some older DIN Sync‑based equipment, motivated me to create a clocking module to solve this problem. I based it on an [open‑source prototyping platform] Arduino that had been gathering dust on the shelf, together with some basic electronics knowledge. I have a technical background, but back then it was more software based. The surprising interest from demoing it at an early Brighton modular event encouraged me to do a small run of 50 of these ‘Pamela’s Workouts’. I needed to sell approximately half to break even, but I figured if nothing else it was fun to learn about manufacturing and creating a physical product. Fortunately the 50 sold out within a week and the Busy Circuits journey began!

On his go‑to modules

My go‑tos include the Doepfer A‑111‑6, a fun, great‑sounding bass synth in 12HP; the Feedback Modules CR, KM and BX Pre‑mixers, which are essential for magic drum coloration; the Super Synthesis 2OPFM, a simple, cheap FM VCO — perfect clonks! Also, the ADDAC System ADDAC112 VC Looper & Granular Processor. It’s the ultimate granular monster.

On 10 years of ALM/Busy Circuits

This past November we celebrated 10 years of ALM/Busy Circuits. Over that time it’s grown from a part‑time hobby to a business with employees and offices in London and Chicago — though, small ones! I’m extremely proud of the modules we’ve put out over that time. Not just Pam and more bread‑and‑butter utility modules, but also the more ambitious re‑imaginations of classic hardware, brought into the Eurorack environment: digital FM, like Akemie’s Castle, classic rackmount sampling like the Squid Salmple and digital effects processing like the MFX. All done with emphasis on functional, good design, usability and fun. We’ve also done our first complete system, the System Coupe, and our new case range is doing well.

We’ve made many new friends and have got to travel to shows around the world, meeting new people. We’ve done collaborations with artists I admire, as well as other manufactures like Worng Electronics. We’ve also built up demo and education content across social media platforms, resulting in a well‑respected Instagram account where users can get immediate inspiration and ideas to get the most out of our modules, plus longer‑form content on our YouTube channel.

On Pamela’s Pro Workout

The Pro is the third Workout iteration; each one being a complete overhaul of the last whilst keeping the form factor and core interaction model. Where the New Workout introduced modulation features on top of clocking, the Pro upscales everything with big improvements to usability and performance as well as new pattern creation features like cross‑output modulation and ‘off‑grid’ flex timings. Firmware updating is now trivial too — you just drag and drop via a USB‑C connection — so we have plenty of scope to add new features over time, as we’ve done with other modules like the Squid [Salmple] and the previous Pam. That is, until we ran out of space, which was one of the motivations for the upgrade!

On the culture of modular

Eurorack used to be an obscure, geek‑only oddity, but it’s now commonplace in studios, with users approaching and using it in so many different ways. I feel this is parallel to the culture, which was once centered around a single Internet forum but is now much, much broader and wider‑reaching. Events like Superbooth are hugely popular and also mirror this. I always thought Eurorack would maybe spawn its own musical genre, but it seems that instead its just seeped into everything! And rightly so. It’s such a fun, creative technology — both audibly and visually.