This interview with synth pioneer Tom Oberheim is one of a series created by Red Bull Music Academy.
Oberheim Electronics, San Francisco, USA
Starting out in the music electronics business in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s by building legendary devices for Maestro and using his storefront to sell ARP synthesizer to everyone from Leon Russell to Frank Zappa, Tom Oberheim went on to shape the development of music equipment – and the sound of popular music – like very few other people. Actually, for a time in the ‘80s it seemed like it was just about impossible to have a hit without an Oberheim DMX or OB–Xa, as anyone from Run DMC to Van Halen relied heavily on those machines. Sometime later the Oberheim company was sold, but Tom Oberheim went on to develop more groundbreaking products, like the Marion Rack Synthesizers and some groundbreaking soundcard systems with SeaSound. It seems like he never lost the enthusiasm he felt when he first started working with computers in the ‘50s, all while keeping a decidedly consumer friendly outlook: “My philosophy in building music equipment has always been not to try to second-guess the musician.”