Swords into plowshares … invading Russian tanks burnt up and made into synths. Sherman Drozd did just that, salvaging a destroyed part from near Kyiv. He shares the full story, and how the instrument was made. Well… Слава Україні! Музикантам слава!

Sherman Drozd is busy enduring Russian war in Ukraine and working on humanitarian aid to the affected surroundings. But he also maintains the Telegram channel Synth Ethic – well worth your time for perusing synths and build instructions. Entries are in Russian, but non-speakers will still find plenty of interesting images, schematics, and breadboard recipes. The poetic description for the channel:

“Техника молодежи” для любителей странных устройств и шумовой музыки. Собери нойз-бокс мечты и устраивай аудио-террор окружающим.

(Basically – ‘youthful techniques,’ not sure how to say that, but so you can “assemble your dream noise box and spread audio terror to those around you.” I’m in!)

Here’s the destroyed-Russian-tank-headlight synthesizer in action – with one cat meow in the background. Amazing:

Sherman explains the full story of “Psychedelic Soldier” (in Russian, «Психоделический солдат»), and his journey into synth DIY, to CDM:

I started to build synthesizers four years ago. In the beginning, they were simple models like Atari Punk Console, Baby 8 Sequencer, etc. More complex modular systems followed, and even some of my own developments, which I obtained experimentally. I have noticed that synthesizer collectors and musicians are often attracted not by how the instrument sounds, but by its appearance and unique ways of controlling it.

With the outbreak of a full-scale war in Ukraine, I thought: “What if I make synthesizers from those artifacts that the war leaves us?” First of all, I was interested in tubes from rocket-propelled grenades. But now it is unrealistic to get them, although the soldiers promised me a couple, as well as enclosures of anti-personnel mines (you can make cool guitar pedals out of them). An interesting fact is that radio amateurs in Kyiv collect boxes of bullets. It is very convenient to place your electronic projects in them.

Leaving the idea of rocket-propelled grenades for better times, I went to deliver humanitarian aid to the village of Dmytrivka in the Kyiv region, where active hostilities took place. There are a lot of destroyed military vehicles — in particular, the tanks that were destroyed by the Javelins. I decided to collect some trophies that could be used in the construction of synths. For example, I found an AK cartridge, which was hit by a bullet that stuck in it, machine-gun belts, and large DShK cartridges. Now I am trying to make an antenna for a theremin from all these findings, which I will call the “Altar of War”. I really liked one fragment from a shell, but it was very heavy and would rather become an ashtray.

But the most interesting find in Dmytrivka was a headlight from a bombed-out tank. It was crushed by the shock wave, but it still retained its domed shape. And it turned out that it is great as a case for a synthesizer. I built simple granular synths on Arduino: some simple oscillators and Glitch Storm. As a result, they produce wild 8-bit drone noise, which is a wonderful soundtrack for modern wars.

The only problem was painting the headlight. It was so badly burned that it was quite difficult to paint it well in different colors and cover it with varnish. However, after several attempts, I succeeded. I named this synthesizer “Psychedelic Soldier” after the myth that exists around the original title of the movie “Apocalypse Now”. In addition, the headlight with a red button on the side and a dent on top resembles the head of a war-torn soldier who sadly looks into the future with one of his eyes.

Photos courtesy the artist, which also show how it was built up:

Definitely, this qualifies as “post-Soviet.”

I grabbed this from SITKA, also based in Kyiv, who passes along this incredible barbeque DIY.

So, I say put the bomb grill together with the synth and you have yourself a good evening.

This is normally the point in the article where I find some pithy way to sum all of this up, but I can’t – it’s just too absurd. They’re sure handling it a hell of a lot better than I expect I would. I can only say to our friends and neighbors in Ukraine, there’s no way we’re doing enough, I know we’re thinking of you even when we’re not posting Instagram stories or protest photos or whatever, and most importantly, we better come visit you all whenever we can.