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Moby’s Serge Modular: The Wild Story of the ‘Belle of the Ball’


Moby’s Serge Modular  · 

Source:
Reverb.com/Deutsche Grammophon

The time synthesist Drew Schlesinger sold a Serge Modular Series 79 to Moby – who later let it go for $15,000 on Reverb. “I got a call from a soft-spoken gent who said he wanted to buy it.”

Moby’s Serge Modular

Moby is almost as famous for selling off his vast collection of synthesizers and drum machines as he is for his music. At least, with synth nerds like us. In 2018 he put all of his gear up on Reverb and donated the proceeds to charity. 

Moby's serge modular
The original Reverb listing for Moby’s Serge Modular. · Source: Reverb.com

One of the items in that lot was a 1979 Serge Modular Music System SMMS Series 79, a fabulously rare item that Reverb called “the belle of the ball” in the original listing. It eventually sold for a whopping $15000 – a far cry from what Moby paid for it originally.

Moby’s Serge Modular: The Original Owner

Recently, synthesist and composer Drew Schlesinger posted an interesting story on his Instagram account. Titled “MY & MOBY’S SERGE MODULAR,” it was the tale of how the Serge came to be in Moby’s hands. 

“A number of years ago Moby sold off a ton of his gear on Reverb and one of the prized items (so I’m told) was this three-panel STS Serge Modular that went for around $15k.” And so began a story that was so good, that I had to get in touch with Drew for more details.

Here’s the story in full.

Moby’s Serge Modular: The Story in Full

Around 1991, Drew borrowed an eight-pane Serge System from (Utopia member) Roger Powell through his friend Mark Styles, who used to do sound for Utopia. “I rented it for a period,” Drew said, “and also got to visit Todd’s studio in Bearsville (New York). I was working on a remake of ‘Machines’ by Lothar and the Hand People, which was never released, and fell in love with the Serge.”

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Realizing it was the sound he needed, Drew placed an order for the three-panel Serge that would eventually end up in Moby’s hands. “I decided I had to have one and placed an order with Rex Probe who ran and still runs Sound Transform Systems with the design based on what I found most cool on Roger’s system.”

After using it for some time in his studio to make non-tonal and “constantly changing soundscapes and percolations a la Morton Subotnick,” Drew decided he wanted a different configuration and opted to sell his Serge.

“It was replaced a couple of years later with a newer and different two-panel system,” he said, “when STS went to solid panels rather than the Swiss cheese panel wrapped in metallic foil which was less robust. I also wanted a different set of modules.”

Moby’s Serge Modular: “Killer vintage synths and drum machines”

“I put an ad in The Village Voice classified,” Drew said in his original Instagram post, “and got a call from a soft-spoken gent who said he wanted to buy it and could I deliver it to him down on the Lower East Side of NYC near Avenue B.” Who should answer the door but “a petite guy,” who appeared saying, “Hi, my name is Richard Melville Hall but people are starting to know me as Moby.”

Moby’s small apartment was already filled with “killer vintage synths and drum machines,” Drew remembered. “We chatted for a few minutes, he paid me and off I went oblivious to what would become a major force in DJing and dance music.”

Moby’s Serge Modular: Serge Pricing

Drew estimates that he sold his Series 79 Serge to Richard Melville Hall for around $3500

Moby serge modular Drew's Serge
Drew Schlesinger’s current two-panel Serge Modular system. · Source: Drew Schlesinger

Does he regret not holding onto it considering it eventually sold for $15000? “Not at all,” he insisted. “Between then and the time Moby sold it I went through various different configurations always trying to keep it to a compact two-panel system and each time focusing more and more on random capabilities. My current system has a rare Dual Random Source, another Random Source and two Smooth/Stepped Generators that do a lot of random functions.”

Drew is unaware of who bought his old Serge. “I just recall hearing (Moby) was selling a lot of his synths and saw it on Reverb,” he said. “I was glad he still had it actually.”

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Moby's serge modular lead

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John Smith

My John Smith is a seasoned technology writer with a passion for unraveling the complexities of the digital world. With a background in computer science and a keen interest in emerging trends, John has become a sought-after voice in translating intricate technological concepts into accessible and engaging articles.

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