Welcome to Thundergate. For the last eight months or so, we’ve been experimenting with an exciting new medium. The idea: hard-shell mask with programmable electronics - lightweight, hardwearing and designed for performance.
The music was made with live tweaks to Elektron Digitakt, Digitone, Sequential Pro-2, and a pair of Moog Mother 32 units. Reverb generated by Meris Mercury 7. Studio tracks coming soon.
The mask you see in the video marks a completely new development for us. The project was inspired by our collaboration with Writer/Director Drew Pearce, who we worked with on the neo-cult-classic film Hotel Artemis. When we saw our Skull Mask 3D printed in a bone-like sheen, worn by action stars in a futuristic bank heist on the big screen, something clicked. This moment proved that Steve’s masks really did have infinite scope in new forms and materials.
A production still from Hotel Artemis with Kenneth Choi, Sterling K. Brown, Brian Tyree Henry and Father John Misty donning our 3D-Printed Skull Masks during the bank heist scene.
Steve set to work using digital design, 3D printing, and programmable LED strips hand-wired to a self-attenuating microphone built into the mask. The process of wiring and experimenting with different light patterns triggered by various sound sources was incredibly fun and empowering. The removable jaw (attached by magnets) gives access to exterior mics for the ultimate performance experience. As with our papercraft masks, we aim to bring together filmmakers, artists, photographers, musicians and all types of creatives, while offering new possibilities through art and technology.
The built-in, sound-reactive mic triggers the LED strips and self-adjusts to follow the most prominent frequencies. We are going to experiment next with a fixed level mic to see what happens.
Music is a big part of what we do both internally and collaboratively. In addition to my involvement in Wintercroft, I have been touring and recording as a musician for nearly 25 years. Prior to meeting Steve, I was a music journalist, writing mostly about effects pedals and the artists that use them. I amassed quite a few innovative noise boxes and met so many inspirational characters along the way. My obsession eventually trickled over into synths, which have been part of my music in one way or another over the years, but now the community is flowering in much the same way the cottage pedal industry did a decade or so ago. So, it is a very exciting time to be making electronic music and something I have wanted to do since the late 80s’ being a kid weaned on Wax Trax, Mute, Netwerk and all those boundary pushing artists who embraced technology. A similar, genre-defying renaissance is rising now.
Mangling a sample into oblivion over top a pounding rhythm in an experimental surgeon's outfit is a highly effective form of therapy.
Steve and I discovered over the years working together that we appreciate a similar sonic aesthetic and we both love to get out of the screen and tweak hardware synths and samplers. We pooled together our Elektron, Sequential and Moog machines, rammed them through my library of effects pedals and have been making music behind the scenes. We are openly new to this process and learning through chaos, experimentation, folly and equal moments of joy and frustration. This is the perfect metaphor for what we want to convey with the music – unflinching visions where the real and fantastic intertwine and beauty is found, even in dissonance. This is the first glimpse at our new musical project, Thundergate, and you have now seen the sound-reactive prototype mask in action. We are inspired to take it further using Steve’s visual and physical design prowess, my background as a musician and our mutual love for noisy machines and experimentation.
Taking a breather and admiring the machines in the shadows, we contemplate a world of possibilities in sound, design and vision.
With these Masks we have set our course of electronic exploration and a part of what happens next is up to you. Our company is built on principals of open collaboration and providing people with the tools that they need to make incredible things. So, how would you like to see this develop? Do you want to build your own electronically augmented helmet from a kit? Let us know.
We are looking at this technology as a vehicle for multimedia arts collaboration. If you are a filmmaker, photographer, fashion designer or artist and have an idea for a project, get in touch using the button below.