Happy Gotcha Day Big Merp!

It was two years ago that Marlon, aka “Big Merp” came to live with us at CatSynth HQ! We had already known him for a while, but circumstances arose where he needed to find a new permanent home, and we were more than happy to oblige.

We first met him in 2018. He was living on the street in the Temescal section of Oakland, California.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_3156-1.jpg

Life on the streets can be rough, and it showed on his face. But he was incredibly friendly and loved people, and enjoyed coming indoors to hang out. He was clearly a former house cat, likely abandoned. We’re glad we found him and gave him a home. The posh indoor life has been good to him.

Big Merp is a “synth cat” – he loves to get up on the main instrument desk to be close to the action. There is the iconic photo lounging with the Novation LaunchPad Pro and Arturia MicroFreak above, as well as many others.

Although he bonded with the humans right away (including visitors), things were a bit more difficult with Sam Sam. She was not happy with this newcomer to her home and tried her best to avoid him for quite a while. Over time, however, her confidence returned and the two grew more comfortable with each other’s presence. They may not be the best of friends, but they do at least accept one another and share space.

Please join us in wishing Big Merp a very happy second Gotcha Day!

Farewell to 2020, a year like no other

How does one summarize a year like this? Words like “unprecedented” seem trite, and we learned from our experience with 2016 that even a difficult year has its beautiful moments. 2020 started out normal enough, with our annual pilgrimage to NAMM but quickly veered into surreal territory, and that was before the first COVID-19 lockdown was announced…on my birthday. Everything that has happened since has happened in the shadow of the pandemic. Perhaps the lowest moment was losing our dear friend Serena Toxicat. But the year has also brought unique experiences and opportunities, such as making music with musicians I admire together on opposite sides of the country. Indeed, as I was grieving the sudden loss of Serena, I received a call from my then-new collaborator G Calvin Weston offering comfort and support, and we have developed a closer friendship along with our musical collaboration. That moment perhaps summarizes the complexity of 2020 as much as any.

It has also been a banner year for CatSynth TV with rapid growth in viewership and subscriptions, but also the craft of making the videos in a variety of structures: synth reviews, interviews, documentaries, and art pieces. Of course, a few things remain active on the blog, our cat-and-music pics, Wordless Wednesday, and the occasional article. But for the most part, the transition from blog to video is complete.

The year ends on a note of optimism for 2021. The vaccines are arriving (we just need to make sure people take them); things are a bit more hopeful politically in the country, and we can start to repair the damage of the past five years. The album I have been working on – a musical statement – is coming together and will be released in the first part of the new year. Our little household at CatSynth HQ is safe and healthy and closer than ever – even Sam Sam and Big Merp seem to be getting along better now. And of course, we’re going to continue to share more videos, images, and ideas.

2020 has reminded us that we cannot know what is in store, and that improbable things can have a tremendous impact on our lives. We will face what comes as best we can, and focus on what is most important. And thank you for continuing to be a part of this journey with us.

Happy 4th Gotcha Day, Sam Sam!

It’s the 4th anniversary of Sam Sam’s arrival at CatSynth HQ. It’s hard to believe it’s already been four years, but it’s also hard to imagine life here without her.

On December 7, 2016, I brought Luna’s ashes home. On that same day, a friend drove up from Southern California to San Francisco to deliver Sam Sam. Quite a transition.

Sam Sam was rather timid at first, spending most of her time under the bed, but coming out to eat but also to explore and give her little characteristic squeaks. It wasn’t surprising that she was a little skittish. She was thrust into a completely new place and situation, after a serious of stressful homes. But she soon adjusted and become comfortable, and her goofy and sassy personality blossemed.

This was a paradise for her, and she loved being spoiled. But in 2019, her world was once again upended with the arrival of Big Merp. She didn’t welcome this new “interloper”. It has taken a lot of time and work from all of us at CatSynth HQ over the past year, but we got them to the point where they could at least tolerate one another, and now they can even spend time together, if not somewhat warily.

“Little Sam Sam” continues to delight us all with her little voice and her cute antics. We love her dearly.

Please join us in wishing Sam Sam a very happy 4th Gotcha Day!

Wordless Wednesday: Sam Sam and Highway 58

Sam Sam in the studio with a California Highway 58 shield. Vintage modifications done in Adobe Lightroom.

Wordless Wednesday: Sam Sam and US 101

Our interests in cats, synthesizers and highways come together in this photo featuring Sam Sam checking out my US 101 shield, which I was using as a backdrop for a livestream concert on Saturday.

Farewell to 2019: Tipping Point

Our year-end collage is a long-standing tradition at CatSynth. And we had a lot of fun making this year’s edition, so many wonderful images to choose from. One of my best solo performances to date took place at the Compton’s Cafeteria series at the Center for New Music. Big Merp came to live with has at CatSynth HQ. And our adventures took us from the halls of NAMM to the bottom of Death Valley to the subways of New York.

As we mentioned at the end of last year, most of the energy has moved to CatSynth TV and our social media platforms (especially our Facebook page). The blog is mostly our core cat-and-synth pics these days, although I do enjoy sharing long-form articles now and then. And In 2020, I do plan to revive the “primary highways” series from eight years ago.

On the video side, things have been going very well. Here are the top videos for 2019:

  1. Rick and Morty Pocket Operator, Part 2
  2. Introduction to the KOMA Field Kit [Episode 106]
  3. Ginger Baker, In Memoriam
  4. EXCLUSIVE! Arturia Pigments 1.2 First Look
  5. Folsom Street Fair 2019
  6. NAMM 2019: Rossum Electro-Music Trident [Episode 116]
  7. Rick and Morty Pocket Operator Unboxing [Episode 166]
  8. Mutable Instruments Plaits [Episode 102]
  9. Strymon Magneto Loop & Sample Modes [Episode 125]
  10. NAMM 2019: Interview with Dave Smith of Sequential

By early autumn, I was also thinking about this year as a “tipping point.” The transition from the blog to the video channel is the most obvious, but it also applies also on the personal side. The arrival of Big Merp was one of the big stories, and it’s been a tough integration getting both cats to coexist, but things have been trending well in the past few months, with Sam Sam regaining her confidence and HQ becoming a more harmonious place again. Musically, I have moved in a direction that is perhaps closer to my roots in jazz, fusion, funk while maintaining the experimental electronic aspects. I have also moved to a point where studio work is how I spend most of my musical time, between the videos and other projects. Finally, I am getting older, as we all are, and that adds both perspective and a need to focus on health and wellbeing. In 2020, I may “do fewer things” than in the past, but I hope the things I choose to do make an impact both personally and beyond.

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming days: NAMM 2020 is around the corner, I have a full queue of demos to share, and I am laying the foundations for some major musical projects. And of course, we will continue to post cats and synths.

CatSynth Pics: #NationalCatDay with Sam Sam and Big Merp

Sam Sam with Yamaha TX802 and cassette deck

Of course, every day is National Cat Day (or International Cat Day) here at CatSynth. But we are marking the occasion by letting Sam Sam and Big Merp share their own pics. Above, we see Sam Sam in one of her favorite spots in the studio, in front of the Yamaha TX802 and cassette deck. Sam Sam would also like to share her recent studio video.

And lest Big Merp is left out of the fun, here is a pic of him hanging out behind the main modular synth.

Big Merp with the modular

Wordless Wednesday: Sam Sam, Sky, Shadow, and Minimoog

Sam Sam enjoys breakfast with window seating. I managed to capture this abstract moment with a partial reflection of the sky. The Minimoog looms behind her.

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam and Big Merp

It’s been a week of both progress and setbacks as we work to make a happy home for both Sam Sam and Big Merp. To help give Sam Sam more of a sense of territorial ownership over the loft level, and to give her more diversions, we bought her a wall-to-ceiling cat tree. After tentatively exploring it for a week or so, she finally claimed her place on the top platform as “queen of the loft within the loft.”

Sam Sam on her cat-tree in the loft

With these and other steps, she has been becoming bolder and more confident. I was able to capture this close-up showing her radiating happiness and beauty.

Sam Sam is a beauty

We also got her a Cat Cave, a cozy and calming little place to sleep, which she liked as well.

Another positive step is that she was able to remain while Big Merp entered the room. No fight or flight. Things were tense but peaceful, and both cats hung out in the same space for quite a while.

Sadly, it was not to last. By the latter half of the week, Sam Sam had retreated back to hiding in the studio, while Big Merp resumed encroaching on her spaces. I know that he just wants to play and be where the action is. Whether I’m doing business or creative work in the studio, he always wants to be nearby and be “the little helper.”

Merp helping with a coding project
Merp hanging out near the modular synths

Indeed, there were enough studio pics from the last few days that we will feature him in a “Man-Cat Monday” post tomorrow complete with synthesizers. On the downside, the studio is one again becoming ground zero in the territorial conflict between him and Sam Sam. I do really want comity between them or at least detente, so we can all enjoy these spaces together.

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam and Big Merp

Getting the two cats to coexist at CatSynth HQ has a long and sometimes bumpy road. Sam Sam in particular has a tough time of it. But things are starting progress to the point were we at least of tolerance and respect. Sam Sam mostly stays on the mezzanine level of HQ, splitting her time between the bedroom and the studio, but she is starting to come out more and reassert herself as the sassy queen of the house.

Big Merp has the run of the downstairs level and enjoying both the relaxing and fun of living here.

He does sometimes come upstairs. In this photo, he jumped up on the main studio console that houses the Nord Stage, Prophet 12 and Pro Tools workstation, and has found a nice hiding place behind the monitor.

From his perch, he supervised part of the postproduction for our latest CatSynth TV, which you can now see here.

Sam Sam also hangs out in the studio a lot. In this video she gives as a little mew as a greeting.

View this post on Instagram

Mew 😻 #catsofinstagram

A post shared by CatSynth / Amanda C (@catsynth) on

They can actually be in their own spots in the studio at the simultaneously now; and that is indeed progress.