An Unusual Approach: Phil Ventre of London Modular Alliance on Debut Album, Building Modular Synths

Updated: Sep 24, 2021

Left to right: Phil Ventre, Simon Lynch, Gavin Pykerman © London Modular Alliance

London Modular Alliance; comprised of Phil Ventre (Pip Williams), Gavin Pykerman (Koova), and Simon Lynch (Yes Effect), have been a bit of a phenomenon since their debut back in 2016, going on to quickly become one of the most dedicated groups in the new school Electro scene, not to mention one of the strongest and most vocal supporters in the rising world of modular synthesizers.

Already with a plethora of releases on many of the best labels out there such as Applied Rhythmic Technology, Brokntoys, and Hypercolour to name a few, London Modular Alliance have returned once again to ART to release their very first full length album titled "Portable Sanctuary".

Here we get a chance to speak with Phil Ventre; one of the main founders of the group, about all things modular, including how the group and storefront came about, what modules tickle their fancy these days, and of course this incredible new record of theirs. Let's get on with it then!

Electric Kingdom: What was the catalyst for you guys forming the group? How did you guys all first meet?

Phil Ventre: I met Gavin (Koova) through Soundcloud many years ago. We were both making Electro and it was quite an undervalued genre at the time, so anybody who was into it kind of gravitated towards each other.

He showed me some of his modular setup, and being a massive gear nerd, that was it for me, no looking back! Simon was living in Hackney Wick at the time. He posted on some modular forums about doing jams at his place, so me and Gav headed over. After a few sessions there was all sorts of talk about doing live gigs, opening a shop and stuff. Mostly all bollocks really, we never actually thought it would happen, but here we are.

Amazing the way things can start to change right before our eyes like that, isn't it? Sometimes we are actively participating in some of the biggest changes of our lives and don't even realize it!

So for those who may not know, you guys aren't just a music project and live act, but as you mentioned, also a thriving store that deals with modular synthesizers. You guys even do workshops and repairs.

Talk a little bit about what that is like. Is it particularly difficult to run a synthesizer shop? And for the curious, what came first, the shop or the group?

We do run a shop. The lines are pretty blurry as to whether this or LMA came first, but probably the store. It was arguably the go to place for so many producers. We’ve made loads of good friends, and generally had a wicked time running it - often under difficult circumstances, with little or no cashflow - but it does seem this has run its course now.

Along with a ton of other small businesses, Covid fucked us in immeasurable ways. Our sales were all in store, so the lockdowns really did cripple us. Landlords now want stable business with long leases, so actively priced us out the area.

Doing something for the love of it without any business acumen really did show up some serious naivety in our lack of planning, but the closure of the physical store has enabled us to rethink things and look for other opportunities.

Altar of the Modular Gods © London Modular Alliance

That really is a shame, I am sorry to hear that about the shop. All around the world so many businesses are suffering terribly. But like you said, it's also giving everyone an opportunity to rethink how they are doing things.

Alright, let's talk modulars for a bit here. As you know of course, modular synthesizers have been growing in popularity almost in tandem with the resurgence of vinyl over the last several years, which is interesting because it's during that time that there has also been a particular rise in interest in Electro music, and even in general with analog hardware and more classic approaches to making electronic music. A time many of us have waited for for years I would say!

From your perspective, how have you seen this all unfold? I am sure you have noticed an interest in modulars and synthesizers in general, but has it all led to an interest in more authentic electronic music as well you think?

I’m not surprised they’ve grown in popularity. Most music producers are always looking for inspiration, and being able to craft a set up to your exact need is very attractive and way more interesting in so far as the results that can be achieved compared to standard synths.

Over the past few years manufac