Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam and Big Merp

Getting the two cats to coexist at CatSynth HQ has a long and sometimes bumpy road. Sam Sam in particular has a tough time of it. But things are starting progress to the point were we at least of tolerance and respect. Sam Sam mostly stays on the mezzanine level of HQ, splitting her time between the bedroom and the studio, but she is starting to come out more and reassert herself as the sassy queen of the house.

Big Merp has the run of the downstairs level and enjoying both the relaxing and fun of living here.

He does sometimes come upstairs. In this photo, he jumped up on the main studio console that houses the Nord Stage, Prophet 12 and Pro Tools workstation, and has found a nice hiding place behind the monitor.

From his perch, he supervised part of the postproduction for our latest CatSynth TV, which you can now see here.

Sam Sam also hangs out in the studio a lot. In this video she gives as a little mew as a greeting.

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Mew šŸ˜» #catsofinstagram

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They can actually be in their own spots in the studio at the simultaneously now; and that is indeed progress.

Weekend Cat Blogging with Big Merp and Sam Sam

We have exciting news. Big Merp (aka “Marlon”) has come to live with us at CatSynth HQ!

Big Merp on the sofa

That is a soulful face a cat who has seen a lot in his short life (our vet thinks he actually isn’t that old, but life on the streets can certainly age one quicky). Due to circumstances beyond the scope of this site, our buddy in Oakland found himself needing a new place to live – otherwise, he would be back out on the streets. We’ve come to know him and love him over the past year, so it seemed like the obvious solution to welcome him into our home. Things were rather tentative at first, a new place and concept in a new city.

Big Merp arrives at HQ

But it didn’t take long for him to get comfortable, and now he practically owns the place.

Big Merp on the balcony

Sam Sam, on the other hand, is not too pleased with this intruder into her idyllic life. She has been a bit nervous and skittish, often looking for places to hid and decompress.

Sam Sam hides in the studio

She has mostly stayed on the upstairs level while Big Merp mostly stays downstairs for the time being. Their encounters to date haven’t been all that friendly, but Sam Sam is slowly gaining confidence. She prefers to stay upstairs, and I’m doing my best to shower her with affection and remind her that this is still her home and she is my special little girl.

Sam Sam is a wonderful and pretty cat

Merp is a very friendly cat, but Sam Sam has had some bad experiences in her past and it’s understandable she’s taking a little longer to adjust. I certainly hope that in the long run, they get along.

Sam Sam comfortable but wary

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam

The weather is dreary and we at CatSynth are tired. So the best thing to do is curl up and relax.

There is a lot we can learn from Sam Sam’s example of napping in the face of fatigue or cold.

Today I am more tired than usual, but for good reasons. We had a successful Pitta of the Mind show last night. It was all new pieces and the performance went off without a hitch – except for my psychedelic lighting unit not switching on – but we ran with it and had a great audience experience. Today, we simply take it easy and figure out what’s next.

This is the goal, other than exercise, mental exploration, and creative pursuits. There is another performance tomorrow (an improv duo), but other than that we should be largely on our own. Something I think Sam Sam appreciates.

We hope you all have a good weekend, wherever you are, whatever you do, and however the weather is treating you.

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam: A Comfy Spot on the Bed

It’s been a busy – and cold – time at CatSynth HQ. So it’s not surprising that human and feline alike are seeking warmth and comfort. Sam Sam has taken to sitting on my side of the bed, even rushing to grab the warm spot when I get up.

In the photo above, we see her enjoying a bit of posh comfort on fluffed-up bedding. It’sĀ goodĀ toĀ beĀ theĀ cat!

She especially likes it when I leave dirty clothes there, as it adds my scent. I came home after a long day at work to find her curled up on top of them and quite contented.

I suspect she was a little lonely during the day, and perhaps a bit cold as well. It’s been a dreary February, as we have stated before. But it drawing to a close next week, and the skies are becoming a bit brighter. We at CatSynth look forward to the arrival of spring (honestly, it can’t come soon enough).

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam: Sick Days and Stormy Weather

It happens almost every year. After returning home from NAMM, a few days later I fall ill with what we affectionately call the “NAMMthrax”. I suppose it’s not surprising, being in close quarters with thousands of musicians and others over four days and compromised immune systems from all our drinking and debauchery. This year’s hit hard around Wednesday, and has lingered into the weekend. But fortunately Sam Sam is here, and being both a great companion and a great nurse.

When I lie down to rest, she is usually by my side. Of course, being a cat, she takes frequent naps herself.

There is something so peaceful and calming about her curled up and resting. And it seems to fit well visually and spiritually with the stormy weather that has settled in this weekend. Since December, we have been hit with a series of really nasty winter storms with high winds and flooding. It is not pleasant, and sometimes even stressful, but I know I shouldn’t complain as much of the country is in a deep freeze.

I like this portrait of Sam Sam sitting down in “loaf” pose on the ledge. And if you want to see a bit of action, here she is in our most recent Instagram.

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Morning routine #catsofinstagram

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We hope you all have a warm, dry, and safe weekend. More post-NAMM coverage on the way soon.

Farewell to 2018

Click to enlarge

The end-of-year colage has become a long-standing tradition here at CatSynth, and one that I particularly enjoy. It was a complex year, and the images reflect that. Our cats Sam Sam and “Big Merp” (who has pretty much become an indoor-outdoor cat at his new home in Oakland), some great shows including outstanding performances with CDP and Vacuum Tree Head, a wonderful and restorative visit back to New York. It was also dark and fiery at times, as when the Camp Fire leveled the town of Paradise and bathed our sky in smoke and ash – beautiful and tragic all at once.

Another New Year tradition at CatSynth is to share some stats from the past year. First, the basics:

  • 309Ā posts
  • 169 Cat-and-music posts
  • 78 episodes of CatSynth TV

Our top posts for the year, using the somewhat shaky measurements of Google Analytics:

  1. Wordless Wednesday: Windmill (Golden Gate Park)
  2. Aretha Franklin: Rock Steady
  3. Secret Chiefs 3 and Cleric play Zornā€™s Masada
  4. Women’s March 2018 in San Francisco
  5. CatSynth Pic: White Cat and Modular, Vertical View

It was heartening to see such a diverse set of posts top the list. However, this belies the fact that blog readership is way down, and eclipsed by Facebook and YouTube / CatSynth TV. Most of our referrals to the blog come from these two sources; but most activity stays on Facebook and YouTube. On the plus side, CatSynth TV viewership has grown significantly. Here are the top videos for the year.

  1. NAMM 2018: Mellotron! [Episode 34]
  2. Arturia MiniBrute 2 Part 1
  3. Arturia MiniBrute 2 Sequencer [Episode 61]
  4. NAMM 2018: Rossum Electro Music Assimil8or [Episode 31]
  5. Volca FM: Deconstructed Electric Piano [Episode 53]

Clearly, the NAMM reviews and synth demos dominate the channel, though I am proud of the diversity of art, music, and culture topics shared there as well. Overall, we at CatSynth do see the writing on the wall, and the efforts in 2019 will probably accelerate the shift from blog to video in terms of time, energy and investment.

On a more personal and introspective note, 2018 was a year we accomplished a lot. At the same time, it ends feeling like I both did too much and didn’t do enough. There are still so many things going on, even as we tried to consolidate and focus. One of the challenges going into 2019 will be looking at how to stay organized and even more focused, without giving up on all that we do. Also, like birthdays, a new year is a reminder that time is passing, and we are getting a bit older. Taking care of myself will also be a priority.

Thank you all as always for sharing this past year with us, and wish wish everyone a Happy New Year!

CatSynth TV Episode 99!

It’s the 99th Episode of CatSynth TV, and we have a special treat for all our readers and videos. It combines many of our interests: synthesizers, cats, experimental music and film, and highways.

Video shot along Highway 99 in California from Manteca through Stockton and heading towards Sacramento. Additional video and photography at CatSynth HQ in San Francisco.

Guest appearances by Sam Sam and Big Merp.

Original experimental synthesizer music by Amanda Chaudhary, based on melodies from “99 is not 100” by Moe! Staiano.

Synthesizers used:

  • Minimoog
  • Arturia MiniBrute 2S
  • Big Fish Audio John Cage Prepared Piano Sample Library (Kontakt)
  • Nord Stage EX
  • Mutable Instruments Plaits
  • Metasonix R-54 and R-53 2hp Cat module
  • 4ms Spectral Multiband Resonator
  • Make Noise Echophon

Happy 2nd Gotcha Day, Sam Sam!

It’s been exactly two years since Sam Sam made the long trip from southern California to come live with us at CatSynth HQ!  And not a day goes by that we are not grateful to have her in our lives.  I’m pretty sure she feels the same way.

Sam Sam checking out the next studio setup

Samantha, or “little Sam Sam”, had a complicated life.  She started out (as far as we know) in the suburbs south of San Francisco, and then moved with her human to the high desert north of Los Angeles – we like to joke that she lived “out in back of Palmdale where the turkey farmers run” in tribute to one of our musical heroes, Frank Zappa.

When her human passed away, she then went to live with his sister, also in southern California.  Unfortunately, the sister’s health was declining and another cat bullied Sam Sam, so this was not a happy chapter for her.  As her new human was preparing to go into assisted living, Sam Sam needed a new home.

In December of 2016, I was still deeply grieving after Luna’s death – and also reeling for the shock and horror of the election.  I hadn’t yet prepared to welcome another cat into my life, but when a friend and bandmate reached out to me that he needed to find a new home for a sweet cat whose human was headed to assisted living – and then shared her adorable photos, I said yes.  How could I not?

At first, Sam Sam was exceedingly shy and skittish, spending most of her time hiding under the bed, coming out only for food, water, and the litter box.  She was mostly silent but occasionally emitted these tiny squeaks.  As she adjusted to her new home, her personality blossomed.  She’s quite friendly, vocal, outgoing, and quite a ham.

Sam Sam scratch-n-roll

And she has no trouble demanding exactly what she wants from her humans.

“I want food nooooowww!”

We close with this episode of CatSynth TV featuring Sam Sam is all her adorableness.

Please join me in wishing Sam Sam a very happy Gotcha Day!

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam: Sheltering from #CaliforniaFires

California is on fire.  To our south, the area northwest of Los Angeles that I remember fondly from past visits in on fire, including Malibu and Thousand Oaks.  To our north, the devastating Camp Fire has laid waste to much of the town of Paradise, is threatening Chico, and is among the smokiest I have ever experienced.  If anything the air quality in San Francisco is even worse than it was during last year’s wine-country fires, which were much closer.

We’re mostly hiding indoors during this time, at least as much as we can.  Even just opening the patio door for a minute left my eyes watering and nose as if I was just breathing straight out of a charcoal grill.   Yesterday, Sam Sam seemed quite distressed as the particulates seeped into HQ (mostly from the main hallway).  Today is slightly better, and she is more like her normal goofy self, including showing off her scratch’n’roll.

But she still is finding places to hide – if I can smell the smoke, I can only imagine it’s much more intense for her.  Yesterday, before I left for work, she jumped up on my chest and snuggled in, wanting me to stay and be close.  I had to go, but came home as soon as I could after my in-office responsibilities were done.

We do also worry about our pal Marlon in Oakland, who spends much of his time outside.

The light from the smoky skies is stunningly beautiful.  It’s amazing how such beauty can arise from something as awful as this.

But in all, we need to put our challenges in perspective.  I can’t imagine the horror and pain people in the fire zones are going through, losing their homes, fearing for their loved ones, and of course their companion animals.  The messages I see from people searching for their missing cats, or the heartbreak of not being able to rush home to rescue them, is painful and our hearts go out to them.  Other animals, too, of course, as we hear about horses, dogs, and birds.  

Both north and south zones have evacuation shelters for those who have small or large animals.  In the north, Butte County has set up a line for those who either find and are searching for lost pets in coordination with North Valley Animal Disaster Group.

NVADG is active both in trying to locate and rescue lost pets, as well as running multiple shelters for those with animals.  From their website:

NVADG is providing emergency animal sheltering and where and when allowed will evacuate and/or care for animals in evacuation areas.  
Animal shelters will be established at:


Small Animal Shelter: 2279 Del Oro Avenue, Oroville.  Off Nelson near the County Center and Highway 70.

Small Animal Shelter 150 Airpark Dr, Chico at the Chico Airport
Large Animals should be taken to the Rolling Hills Casino Equestrian Center off Highway 5 in Corning

If you want to donate to NVADG, please consider a cash donation. It gives us the flexibility we need and we will definitely need it!  Donate on our website or send a check to NVADG, PO Box 441, Chico, CA  95927. 

We certainly hope all the fires around our home state are brought under control soon, and the air returns to normal as well.  Then the hard work of rebuilding begins…

Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam, and Remembering Luna on #BlackCatDay

Sam Sam continues to delight every day with her adorable antics.

And she certainly gets lots of love and attention in response.

It’s interesting to see how different her unique facial markings look from different angles.

Of course, being the constant center of attention can be quite exhausting, so there is always time for naps.

Sam Sam often sticks a paw on her tail while sleeping, a trait we have remarked on before.  I don’t know whether it serves a purpose or is just a quirky habit, but it is very sweet.


Today is #BlackCatDay, and an opportunity to celebrate and recognize black cats as we close in on Halloween when stereotypes and threats sometimes reach a crescendo.  It breaks our hearts to think of any cat being hurt or abused, but black cats can face an especially different time.

For years, the celebration of black cats on and around Halloween was a ritual, with Luna often hosting the special Halloween Black-Cat Edition of Weekend Cat Blogging (back when that was a shared thing).  Now it is more a time to remember and reflect on Luna, who left us on October 31 two years ago.  We will have a proper remembrance on that day, but for now, we just want to bask in the beauty of our beloved black kitty.