The tape scratching and sampling ScrubBoard hits beta

Regular readers will be aware of the ScrubBoard. For those who have been in a cave, it’s the insane brainchild of Jeremy Bell, a kind of mad scientist musician who was hell bent on using cassette tape as a viable scratch performance tool. The ScrubBoard has seen a few iterations since 2014, but now it’s hit what Jeremy describes as beta, thanks to a FabLab case and a motor.

The original version was little more than prerecorded tape stuck to a board with the cassette head moved over it. We loved that of course, but now after a trip to a FabLab, it’s looking more like an actual product than a selection of wood and wires held together with hope.

Scrubboard cassette tape sampler scratching Jeremy bell (3)

Essentially, The ScrubBoard beta is a cassette tape loop, driven by a motor, and controlled for speed and direction. The live singing is recorded to the tape loop (actually a pair of stereo channels i.e. the full width of the tape), and the combination of handheld play head, motor speed, and direction delivers the performance you see in the video.

Scrubboard cassette tape sampler scratching Jeremy bell (1)

Pat your tummy, rub your head

For experienced scratchers, it’s easy to watch the video and start screaming fake, because the sound doesn’t match the hand movement to our brains. But you have to imagine that you’re moving the head shell on the record, and at the same time moving the record back and forth and changing pitch — all without touching a crossfader. Yes — my head hurts too.

Scrubboard cassette tape sampler scratching Jeremy bell (2)

I don’t know if this will every be turned into a commercial product. And honestly it wouldn’t matter if it didn’t. I just love that Jeremy has taken a totally out there idea, and persevered with it for four years to make something that’s insane and genius in equal measure. We need more Jeremys, people who are unfettered by conventional thinking to shape the madness into something that the rest of us can deal with and use.

Once again, hats off to Jeremy Bell. I look forward to my inbox pinging in roughly another 9 months for the next update.