Just checked back in my email archive and here’s a photo from Chris Carter and a lengthy bit of text about the device pictured. Description after the cut.
The ‘TG Tape Sampler’
In or around 1977-78 I designed and built two TG ‘samplers’. One for Sleazy and another for myself. Each unit consisted of a small mechanical one-octave keyboard and a series of cassette machines. Our ‘samplers’ contained various endless loop cassette tapes and each tape had different sounds playing. Sleazy’s had primarily ambience/situations and dialogue, whilst mine had mostly rhythmic sound effects and TV & film snippets. My keyboard was connected to various bulky cassette players, mostly Philips branded, whereas Sleazy’s keyboard was connected to (initially) three (and later four) small Sony Stowaway cassette players. These were the precursor to the Sony Walkman player. He bought a bunch of them while on a Hipgnosis trip to New York in early 1979.
The two samplers functioned slightly differently from each other. Both units had the audio output of all the tape players summed into a small passive mixing circuit, which fed a volume control and the main audio output - and from there to an effect unit (usually a Gristleizer), and then to an amp. On Sleazy’s unit (the mk1) I had designed it so the keyboard keys switched the cassette machine audio output on and off for each of the players, this is how Sleazy wanted it. The drawback with this method was that all the tape players had to be powered on and running all the time while you were playing the unit and the batteries tended to run down fairly quickly. My unit (the mk2) was configured so the keyboard keys also switched on the battery power to each of the tape players - but only when you hit a key - the drawback to this method was that there was a slight ‘slewing’ of the tape sound each time a player was started from the keys. Which could make the audio a little weird and wobbly, but very TG sounding none the less.
Both the TG samplers had a small 10-step sequencer built into them which could be synchronised and triggered by a clock pulse from my modular synthesiser and sequencers.
In the 1970s the design and construction was relatively basic and easy to make, it was based on the Mellotron keyboard concept. But to reproduce those units nowadays I think the biggest hurdle would be finding the endless loop cassette tapes. The tapes we used were made for the outgoing message on early telephone answering machines and came in various lengths, usually just a few minutes long. Of course you could use regular 60 minute cassettes now. And instead of a mechanical one-octave keyboard (which I’d imagine would be pretty hard to find now) you could construct something out of regular toggle switches or push buttons. I suppose it depends how close to the original concept you’d want it to be.
Although my TG ‘sampler’ no longer exists we still have Sleazy’s unit in our archive. In fact it was on display at the TG 24 exhibition in London in 2005.