Many people know me as a “microphone guy” because my MJE / OktavaMod mics have been helping people make great-sounding recordings for over 12 years … but mics are just one of my pursuits in the realms of sound, transducers and consciousness. You see … I’ve been interested in the metaphysics of sound and the intersection of sound and consciousness for a long time. That’s how we got to N.O.W. 😉
Back in 2007, I did a long interview with a recordist / musician named Andy DeLapp. A shortened version of this interview appeared in the May / June issue of Tape Op Magazine in the “Behind the Gear” column.
I recently just came across the original long form interview after not reading it for quite a few years. I’m republishing an excerpt here, because I feel this is important material that sheds a bit of light on who I am, how I think and how our N.O.W. Tone Therapy System is just another step on this long path in sound.
Here is Andy DeLapp’s original set up of the 2007 interview. Our conversation in question and answer format follows.
Andy DeLapp– “In 2007 I had the opportunity to interview mic modification wizard Michael Joly. OktavaMod (Michael’s company) was really starting to take off in a big way. I’d purchased a mic mod on an Oktava Mk-319 which (as it turns out) was about to completely change my world.
I was not too long out of seminary. My head was still buzzing with all manner of aetheriality, and I was flush with enthusiasm for the minutiae of my new-found passion for recording…”
AD: In reading your writing both on OktavaModshop.com and elsewhere (that’d be the TapeOp.com and GearSlutz.com message boards) I’ve noticed that you seem to see a certain element of transcendence in what you do. Are you a person of faith? If so, how does your faith interact with your work? What is it that makes a microphone more than the sum of its parts?
MJ: Good eyes! I rarely get asked about this aspect of my work. I’ll try and give an answer that makes sense in this context. I am a person of faith. I believe that the work I do is but one of many jobs along a nearly infinite and reiterative path of spiritual growth back toward the Universal Origin. My work is essentially that of one who clarifies patterns and strives to reduce dissonance in communication systems so that messages can be heard more clearly.
I don’t sing the call to prayer but rather, I make it heard better. The essential nature of my work is carried out with a cognizance that the materials I touch have the same ultimate origin as my own spirit and form. So they are divine and have a “desire” to be reunited with their Universal Origin. The manipulation of material objects—putting them right, is a small gesture toward this goal of reunification.
This idea is sometimes expressed as “God in everything” (which I acknowledge) but I’m usually more aware of this faith as a melancholic longing for union that arises from the Original Separation. My faith has been strengthened and clarified by reading, at one time or another, the works of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Dane Rudyhar, Teilhard de Chardin, Dhyani Ywahoo and the Urantia Book (ed: and more recently by Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, The Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao Te Ching, Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” R.W. Emerson’s “Essays” and A Course in Miracles—MJ 11/28/17)
As to a microphone being more than the sum of its parts—if one accepts the idea on faith that the materials in a microphone are divine, and have been previously acted upon by the hand and mind of its designers and builders, and further can be organized to be in more perfect union, than one can see how the union of parts is itself a distinct identity—a meta form. The degree to which this meta form is manifested is correlated to the degree of consciousness humans brought to their work in the design, building and modding of the microphones.
AD: So as I see it, you’re basically describing microphone design, development and manufacturing processes as refinements of a divine spirit which is in all things. Your role in all of this is to clarify what’s already there. You put this into practice by “helping” the microphone reach its fullest potential. Is that right?
MJ: I’m comfortable with that playback.
AD: On your webpage, you explain in some detail about the City of Tula, its heritage, and the Oktava factory there. Is it just Oktava mics? Are there other brands of microphones worthy of re-development? In your mind, what separates the sheep from the goats?
MJ: Well, to follow on the “more than the sum of parts” idea from above I believe that Tula and its people, their particular history and actions, leave a certain psychic imprint on Oktava microphones that is in part responsible for their sound. There is a psychic confluence of 800 years of weapons-related metallurgy and a simultaneous desire for peaceful pleasures of tea (Tula, home of the Samovar) and spice cookies. At a practical level, we’re talking about an electronics factory that has been making transducers since 1927, so that more recent history gets poured into their products as well.
I don’t know if there are other brands of mics worthy of re-development. I’m a bit myopic here in that the Oktava experience has been very deep and rich for me and I haven’t felt a need to look to greener pastures. There are a few individual mics that are stand out as mod candidates from other manufacturers, but an across-the-board brand that excites me and I feel is worthy of follow-on re-development? I personally don’t see one, right now, that is right for me.
AD: Are there other “Tulas” in the world? Do you see hope for other “future classics?”
MJ: Objectively, it would seem that the possibility exists. I would look in geographic areas that have a long tradition of near-alchemical work—populations who have been involved in the transmutation of materials form one form to another for a long time. Cultures where brass, bronze and iron bells are plentiful as well as a more recent interest in 20th century electronics. Somewhere in Japan and China perhaps? Speaking of China, once these manufacturers go beyond copying Neumann capsule designs and connect with their own psychic pasts then they may develop products that people respond to with the kind of affection that has been directed toward Oktava’s mics.
AD: A number of other companies are operating in Russia making musical gear—Sovtek springs most readily to mind. It seems as though price point isn’t the only issue—that there’s something special about the gear itself. At the same time, I’ve met a number of people who lived in what was the USSR, and they all seem to view Soviet-era technology with an equal mix of admiration and disdain. What is it about Soviet-era tech that draws such varied opinions? What is it that draws westerners to this stuff?
MJ: Well the Soviet era is pretty universally regarded as a time of great suffering for millions of people. The resultant polarization of the world into two basic political camps wasted countless lives and transmuted the precious resources of the earth into tools of destruction. I suppose there may have been, in the early of years of Russian product availability in the West, a sort of transgressive or subversive attitude accompanying their use that resonated with the punk/DIY aesthetic. But for me, working with Soviet-era tech is a small scale “swords into plowshares” activity.