Benge, the synth-meister behind some of the best electronic music of the last decade – from John Foxx And The Maths to Wrangler and Blancmange – now has his own must-see television show, ‘The Memetune Programme’. There’s even an annual to go with it…

You join us as we are indulging in a brand new televisual internet entertainment moment. As a soundtrack of futurist synth library music plays, the camera zooms into an exciting-looking piece of hi-tech pro video kit from 1980. On the screen, a man wearing thick glasses plays a Yamaha CS-80. A potted plant sitting on top is quivering with every note. The scene cuts to a hand prodding an ARP 2500. Video feedback effects swirl and a wall of modular synths emerges, before the whole shooting match climaxes with a whoosh of white noise and green waveforms dancing on the black screen. Then the owner of the hand earnestly introduces the show.

“Welcome… to ‘The Memetune Programme’,” he says, shuffling a stack of papers like a pre-digital BBC newsreader. “Today, I’ll be programming a large E-MU modular in a section called ‘Patching Today’. I’ll be looking at the history and development of the monosynth, in a section called ‘Switched On’. Today’s ‘Synthesiser Club’ features some vintage ARP equipment. And I’ll be looking at some old video gear and how I do synthesis on it.”

The presentation style sits somewhere between 1970s Open University late-night telly treats and the BBC’s ‘Tomorrow’s World’, with added 21st century vaporwave knowingness. Although it has the feel of a send-up, the content is all spot-on, thoroughly researched education and performance.

‘The Memetune Programme’, ladies and gentlemen, is the latest output from Ben Edwards – aka Benge – prolific producer and sometime member of John Foxx And The Maths, Blancmange, Wrangler, Fader, Creep Show and many more of your favourite electronic star turns of recent years.

There are six ‘Memetune’ episodes, amounting to several hours of tightly scripted and shot synth content. In these days of reels, stories and internet-delivered blipverts, a solid 30 minutes of slow TV is a contemplative pleasure. Watching a man patch an ARP 2500 while he describes precisely and concisely what he’s up to is ‘Repair Shop’-level restorative distraction, geared entirely towards synth nerds the world over.

“I love doing it, but it’s incredibly time-consuming,” explains Benge. “I did it all on my own. Just writing it took months.”


When he says he did it all on his own, he really was solo, delving into the frankly staggering collection of synthesisers residing in his Cornwall hideaway. The house itself is a modernist marvel, a backdrop worthy of a 1960s British TV caper with international playboy/spy dimensions. The studio is in the basement, where Benge creates his diary of a benign scientist in search of electronic sound.

“It’s quite hard filming yourself and editing it because there’s no one to help move the camera,” he says, with typical understatement. “So I had to fake a lot of that stuff where the camera moves and I then appear. But the more I did those sorts of things, the more fun I had with that side of it, exploring the little tricks you can do with video.”

What started out as merely a bit of fun – motivated by Benge’s increasing interest in the production of the short videos he’s been posting on his YouTube channel for years – has turned into something of a monster.

“I wanted to create an outlet for all the ideas I was exploring around video production, plus my general love for synths and studio gear,” he explains. “But it developed into something much bigger than I thought it would, in terms of the amount of time and effort it takes me to make each episode. It was pretty much like a full-time job for six months, which is just ridiculous. Luckily, I was between working with other people at that stage. Once I’d done the last Blancmange album with Neil Arthur and a new Fader album, I had a clear space to do this. I started in December 2021 and ran through to September last year.”

Although ‘The Memetune Programme’ is most definitely chucklesome, it’s not played for laughs. Yes, the video effects are funny in their 1986 cutting-edge extremism, but they’re part of what Benge is experimenting with, and their wild visual oscillations are almost as exciting to him as the waveform madness his synths are capable of. His deadpan delivery is also pretty amusing, but that’s not intentional.

“It’s not meant to be funny,” he protests. “It’s what I’m like when I talk with a microphone. I do the introductions for a weekly show called ‘Modulisme’ on Resonance FM, but I didn’t realise I spoke like that… it wasn’t a piss-take.”

In the name of research, Benge spent many quality online hours watching episodes of classic, Raymond Baxter-era ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and fell down the rabbit hole of an online cache of BBC TV opening credit sequences through the ages.

“I found this amazing archive of programme openings designed at the BBC on the Ravensbourne University website. They’ve got every sort of show from the 1960s all the way through. They’re works of art in themselves, beautifully done – things like ‘Horizon’ must have taken so much time to make. So I was looking at those, especially ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and ‘Rockschool’.”

Ah, ‘Rockschool’. Appointment telly for every young aspiring muso in the UK stuck at the parental home and dreaming of pop stardom via the dark art of being-in-a-band. It aired in the mid-80s and would dish out tips on technique and gear featuring the ‘Rockschool’ “band”, fronted by guitarist Deirdre Cartwright. It was stilted and awkward with a DIY ‘Tron’ aesthetic, but essential viewing – not least 1987’s synthesiser special.

“It’s so cheesy,” says Benge. “It wasn’t done tongue-in-cheek, but if you look at it now, it looks even crazier than my programme. There was loads of chromakeying going in it… they had weird backgrounds and would be green-screened onto those green grids you got in the 80s. Everything looked like that – it’s so brilliant. So I was thinking about those. And there was also ‘Look Around You’.”

‘Look Around You’, which ran for two seasons on BBC Two in 2002 and 2005, was a pitch-perfect spoof of all those vintage pop science/pop culture BBC programmes. Written by and starring Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper, it featured the beloved Synthesizer Patel who would extol the virtues of synthesisers, including the water-based Liquinth, while expressing his paranoia about people wanting to steal his keyboards.

“They all come with burglar alarms these days, you know, because crime’s so bloody bad, these bastards steal your synthesisers and…” he starts to rant, before being diplomatically cut off by the host.

“Yeah, well, this is the weird thing about ‘Look Around You’,” says Benge. “Someone told them about my studio, maybe 20 years ago. It was in the West End, near the British Museum. There weren’t many studios like that back then, so they came over to film some bits, and I met them. Synthesizer Patel actually uses one of my synths, and they used my VCS 3 in another episode.

“They did ‘Look Around You’ really well. It was done flatly, without a laugh track, so I was inspired by it a little bit, which is weird because it was a piss-take, while I tried to do it really straight.”


And, of course, every 1980s pop science TV show needs an annual, with a snazzy hardback cover promising riches within its pages, printed on very cheap paper stock. ‘The Memetune Programme’ annual is part book, part album, with two CDs of music from the series inserted into the inside of the front page.

“I never set out to do a book,” says Benge. “But once I’d finished the programme, I realised I had a lot of material. I’d scripted it all, so it was in a text file. The images all came from the actual programme, which was filmed at quite high resolution, so it’s good enough quality to use for print.”

The idea came from the dark flip-side of the era he is mining for inspiration.

“It’s a bit embarrassing, but I found this old Gary Glitter annual from 1978 or something,” he says. “I was a big fan of his when I was little. It’s really weird – full of strange things. I thought, ‘Wow, I’d like to make an actual annual’. With all its different sections, the show completely fitted the profile of an annual’s content, so it was a case of reformatting it in that early 80s style.”

The addition of the CDs makes for a complete package of synth nerdery. The music on the show is lovely, full of wistful tunes and melodies, split into tiny bite-sized morsels. It functions like contemporary library music, in the tradition of the futurist electronic efforts of KPM Music, Standard and all those other collectable does-what-it-says-on-the-tin LPs with titles like ‘Contemporary Styles In Electropop’, ‘Industrial Panorama’ and plain old ‘Electronic Music’.

“That was another reason for doing it – to demonstrate the instruments,” explains Benge. “It gave me an excuse to work on each one again and make little tunes with them. They all have their quirks, and the music I made on them plays on those. I tried to make a piece for each one, a bit like my ‘Twenty Systems’ album.”

Benge does have previous with this concept. ‘Twenty Systems’ was a 2008 book/CD release which catalogued 20 of his synths in date order, from the 1968 Moog Modular to the 1987 Kawai K5m, and featured a track made with each system.

“It does tie into that,” he admits. “One of the two albums in ‘The Memetune Programme’ annual is all the demos, which it goes through chronologically. It starts off with monosynths then goes through polysynths and the later digital synths. Each one is only a minute long, so it’s nearly an hour, and they sound really nice to listen to as an album. The other CD is all the theme tunes, incidental and background music.”


Benge’s intense relationship with synthesisers goes back to his childhood, when his parents ran a school for autistic children in Loughton, Essex.

“I was brought up in the school, and it had a music room with some synths in it and reel-to-reel tape machines,” he recalls. “When I was a teenager, I’d be in there playing with the little modular synth and tape loops. There was a cheap organ in there too, so I’d play on that and record it. I was even into synth music back then. I came into that side of it quite young.”

Next came an interest in musique concrète and other early electroacoustic experimental music. He went on to study art at Goldsmiths (“I was a messy painter”) and in the 1990s filled his small London home with synths.

“I was really lucky that I first got into them in the early 1990s, which was the golden era for synth collecting because no one wanted them. My first modular, the Moog, I bought cheaply back in 1993 or ‘94. And that’s the ultimate modular synth to learn on. Once you’ve got your head around the Moog modular…”

The collection is mind-blowing, and some of it is worth insane money.

“It is now,” nods Benge. “But I’ve never paid big money for stuff. Over the years, I’ve got amazing bargains where people have given me things they don’t want anymore, just because they’re too big. I’ve never bought anything for tens of thousands or anything like that. You see CS-80s going for £30,000 or £40,000. I paid $600 for mine. It cost more to ship it over from America.”

So does he have a particular favourite? He ponders the question, unwilling to commit. But when pressed, he admits it’s probably the ARP 2500.

“It was from this guy called Don Larkin who does studio clearances,” he remembers. “One time, he had these two ARP 2500 modulars, which were really cheap for what they were.

Don’s not a modular specialist but he’d done a clearance and these were part of it. So I went up to see him and there were two identical systems, but I could only afford one of them. I bought it, and it was really amazing… I’d been looking for an ARP 2500 for years. So he was happy and I was happy.

“Then the next day he rings me up and says, ‘I’ve got Hans Zimmer on the phone – he’s bought the other system and he wants to buy yours as well. Will you sell it back?’. I was like, ‘No way. I do like Hans Zimmer, but no’. And it’s worth crazy money now.”

Would he ever sell any of his collection?

“People do contact me and make offers,” he reflects. “Sometimes it’s really tempting, but I know this is such a precious collection of gear and I use it all the time, so I’m very reluctant to split it up.”

Tough luck, Hans. But never mind – you can enjoy the ARP 2500 that slipped through your fingers by tuning into ‘The Memetune Programme’.

Watch all six episodes of ‘The Memetune Programme’ at electronicsound.co.uk/video/benge-tv. ‘The Memetune Annual’ is out at zackdagoba.bandcamp.com

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