Last Friday at downtown party Wham Bam Thank You NAMM, we couldn't help but notice a stylish MIDI controller called Ohm64. Created by Livid, the device has a sleek wood body that screams mid-century modern and LED-lit buttons that give it a cool, futuristic vibe. If someone wants to score Alphaville live in a theater, this is the controller that should be onstage.
At the party, we were able to catch L.A. DJ Henry Strange performing with the Ohm64. Later, we learned that elsewhere in the venue, people were using the same controller to shoot lasers and mix video footage. Clearly, this is no one-trick piece of gear.
We talked to Jay Smith, co-owner of Livid, about the Ohm64. Smith spent the earlier portion of this decade touring with the band Sinch, during which time he invented the Viditar, a video mixing controller designed to look like a guitar. The Viditar became the basis for Livid's products.
"I kind of look at our controllers as instruments," he explained, "just like with a Les Paul guitar you can use it for jazz or you can use it for heavy metal. It's not genre specific and it's not media specific."
Part of the allure of the Ohm64 is its distinct look. " Our engineer, he was a guitar maker before he was doing all this crazy electronic stuff," said Smith. "He always wants it to show a lot of wood so that people can admire the woodwork."
Smith continued, "There's a lot of stuff out there that's very minimalistic and plastic. A lot of controllers don't have this funkiness to them. It's about the aesthetic of the controller."
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Livid makes what Smith calls"open-minded" controllers, circuit boards can be purchased separately by those who want to build their own instruments. The company can also help design and build custom pieces. For controller artist Moldover, who also performed at Wham Bam Thank You NAMM, Livid built the body for his design, Mojo.
"We've been building all kinds of wacky stuff with it forever, but we're starting to see all kinds of cool controllers coming out using our circuit boards," said Smith. "They aren't just buying a part, they're buying into a resource."