Recently I completed a hardware hacking gig for the French street artist Zevs. He wanted to take an old school Sony Dream Machine clock radio and enable it to play "Hip to be Square" by Huey Lewis and the News at a greatly reduced speed. The piece premiered along with several other works last night at Gallery De Buck in New York City, as part of Zevs' "Liquidated Version" exhibition (running through April 7th).
I was excited to work on this project because it combined my skills as a musician, hardware hacking, fabrication, and electronics.
The piece needed to look exactly like a standard Sony Clock Radio, except for two small buttons in the back to control an mp3 player and FM transmitter. The big challenge was to neatly fit all the hardware into the enclosure and make the design robust enough that the piece could withstand travel and continuous use both in the gallery and by a potential buyer.
I considered saving space by using discrete electronics and circuit boards, but decided to forego this in favor of off-the-shelf components. I did this because I was working on a deadline, and was more confident in the fabrication skills it would take to make space in the enclosure than my electronics expertise.
It turns out the space was much tighter than I thought, so I had to remove a considerable amount of material with the Dremel. There was a lot of plastic in the trash by the end of this, and part of this process left a circuit board floating with no support, so I had to fabricate a new one and glue it to a sidewall.
With this done I set about fitting in the components. I took the buttons from a similar clock and mounted them to the on/off switches of the mp3 player and FM transmitter, then drilled out holes for the buttons and LED indicators on the back plate of the clock.
After mocking up and testing the electronics, with separate transformers for the clock, mp3 player, and FM transmitter, I carefully epoxied all the pieces in with JB Weld.
To make everything fit, I had to do a lot of chores like making a custom USB cable to power the mp3 player, and hardwiring the power cord to the circuit board on the FM transmitter.
I'm proud to say the artist was pleased with the results, and he called the piece the "cornerstone" of the exhibition.
More shots from the exhibition: