An Evening Among Legends

Overall Score

     Well about 3-4 years ago I started to become interested in PC hardware and overclocking, cooling and benchmarking in general.  My whole life I had been what most would call a "tinkerer."  Mom never threw away a piece of electronic hardware or anything with a motor in it before asking me if I wanted to take it apart.  Usually I just dismantled things and reassembled them or took out motors and gears and any switch that looked "useful" and slapped everything together in some useless monstrosity running off a pair of 9v batteries.  I always told myself it would serve a purpose…sweeping the floors, bulldozing my toys into a pile in the corner, or even plowing a 6" wide track of snow-free driveway in the winter. 


     Fast forwarding from my tinkering days, through the early beginnings of my PC hardware learning experience, I began to get bored of just sitting behind the monitor, tweaking settings in the BIOS of my ultra-cheap hardware trying to squeeze an extra FPS out of a game or just to boot into Windows that much faster.  My budget early on in my college career (I am now one semester from completion) was very limited as was my workspace, which resembled or in fact, was a dorm room.  These dismal conditions resulted in some sad, but satisfying first mods.  The usual side panel cutout window, 80mm LED fan hole cutouts, UV reactive wiring, basically the beginner stuff.  At this point I began to admire the unchallenged skill of the elite modders of the world, filling my mind with ideas and imagery of the awesome cases that I hoped to build in the future.


     I put into motion the plans for my first "real" case mod about 2 years ago over Christmas break.  I decided to build a wood case from the ground up (or from the canopy down?) that would fulfill two main goals, 1) contain a fully internal water cooling system with the radiator air only entering and exhausting through a radiator chamber and 2) would quench my thirst to "get my hands wet" in "real" modding.  I plan on posting a retro-worklog of this build sometime in the next couple days.


     Once I completed the build, I searched for places to post my worklog and see how others felt about my accomplishment, or lack of accomplishment.  I ran across The Mod Nation Forums which in turn led me through MNPCtech to Bill Owen. 

    Seeing that Bill and many others were located in and around Minnesota surprised me.  Being the persistant (annoying?) fellow that I am, I decided I would contact Bill to see if he could help me slap a window into my latest mod (Antec Three Hundred.)  Of course he agreed and gave me the location of the "modding studio" where I was to drop off the side panel.  He asks that I keep the location underwraps but I can say it is in a very cool neighborhood in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) and the area is rich with history and some amazing architecture and buildings.  I commented how I would love to have a loft type apartment in the building that his studio resides in.  After navigating some 150 degree turns and taking zig-zag of rights and lefts through a parking lot/loading dock combination that looked like something off of a Jason Statham movie where he would be driving an Aston Martin, drifting around corners at 90 MPH, I located the door I was looking for, and parked my mint ’98 Audi A4 1.8T that Bill later fell in love with.


     His studio is a treasure trove of modding museum-esque displays and artifacts that kept me busy for an hour just looking (but not touching!) at cases and mods that I had only witnessed via worklog online.  Here are a few samples of what I was able to lay my mod-loving eyes upon:


A prototype drawing of the uber-awesome AMD "Project Phenom" featured on YouTube, The Case Mod Blog and Maximum PC magazine:



A few retired mods and some "in the works" mods, as well as a Silverstone TJ10 (destination unknown to me):


Multiple blowups of magazine covers featuring the works of MNPCtech:

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One of my favorite items in the studio, when I asked "what exactly is that?"  Bill simply replied, "Well…I guess I just use it as my MP3 player."


A "modders couch" and an Xbox 360 for breaks between brainstorming and modding:


     After my first trip to the studio, I asked Bill if he would mind if I wrote up a short article for XCPUs to which he happily obliged.  He invited me to the "unveiling" of an amazing Bruce Lee tribute case that was being built for Ric M, the owner/operator of The Mod Nation and KRVS Computers.  Sadly I had previous obligations so I could not attend the actual unveiling party, but Bill graciously invited me to come hang out the night before and check out the rig and meet Ric. 


     I originally wanted to do a more Q & A article but the mood was just too mellow and I am in no way a reporter, nor do I have the mentality of one so I stuck to observing and absorbing the entire setting I was lucky enough to be allowed into.


     Upon arrival I met Ric for the first time.  He is a Virginia Beach native that was in Minnesota visiting Bill and others and attending the unveiling of the Bruce Lee case (which can be seen as well as any other mod I’ve talked about, at Case Mod Blog or The Mod Nation Forums) that he is the proud owner of.  Ric is an energetic, outgoing guy with a readily available opinion regarding any topic at hand ranging from baseball and case mod beginnings to photography and my size (I don’t conform well to the scrawny nerd stereotype.) 


The awesome case that is the focus of the evening (please check out the worklog for many professional photos and details you can’t even imagine):



     We headed upstairs to the studio so Ric and Bill could finalize a few details of the case mod.  Bill graciously offered me a beer from the contents of a slightly modded mini-fridge that contained nothing but the best of the local Midwestern favorite brewmasters, Leinenkugel’s.  (Try my favorite Honey Weiss year around with a lemon wedge, or try Summer Shandy before they cease production for the summer.)  


Here you can glimpse the mini-fridge complete with it’s blue flame vinyl film job (you can purchase all types of mod-friendly films at MNPCtech):



Bill took a few photos and videos of Ric in action, sleeving and heatshrink wrapping a few wires for a LCD hard drive activity monitor being installed in Ric’s new case.  


Photo from the working surface that has brought forth many extreme mods, in the foreground you can see some of the tools of the trade for modding, behind which you can see the workbench and the case:



The tools of the trade:



More workbench area and tools:



Bill (left) and Ric (right) in action, they work very well together and it was cool to see the thought process of ideas presented and agreed upon verbally.




    I half jokingly asked Bill if his next mod would be featuring a Tool band (my favorite as most of you know) theme or inspiration and he suggested that we come up with some ideas and we should get started.  Probably the most interesting part of the night was watching a master modder’s creative mind run rampant coming up with countless ideas and themes based on a Tool related artistic creation.  He is also a big fan so imagery came easily and is a big fan of my other musical love (Pink Floyd) and has done an awesome case mod regarding the band’s album "The Wall."  Watching the thought process showed me how passionate Bill is about modding and it was an experience I can only parallel to watching a masterful graphiti artist known only as "SWAE" formulate his imagery of the yellow brick road from "The Wizard of Oz" into an amazing 40 x 12 mural painted onto the side of a box car, downtown Red Wing, MN (my hometown.)  The mods that are produced in this studio aren’t only a functioning PC, they are truly the result of an artform and some of the masters of this art.


     He came up with some awesome ideas and potential paintjobs to be completed by the masterful airbrusher only known to me as "Brad."  If I hadn’t just spent money building myself an HTPC I would have agreed right then and there to be involved as the next customer and co-builder of a sure to be amazing Tool mod.  I am currently working on some stuff in Sketch Up related to the ideas we put together (mostly Bill’s) and will hopefully make it official as a graduation present to myself when I complete my undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice/Forensic Science, Sociology and Anthropology this fall (December 20th!)


     It was getting late and Bill and Ric were hoping to get down to the Mississippi River to photograph some of the awesome sites and scenes available only at night.  Ric finished up his sleeving and Bill finished painting over the "graphiti" that were the remnants of a previous modding party, left on the backside of his door.  The door was to be the canvas for a new form of graphiti within 24 hours, a motif would be painted by the man previously mentioned, Brad.


The soon to be modded door:



     We headed to the parking lot and I thanked them both for allowing me to sit around, in their way, and chat with them both for a few hours.  I had a great time and I would again like to thank Bill Owen and Ric M for letting me hang out.  Check out their sites and maybe pick up a few modding supplies or a one-of-a-kind "Overkill Bill" case mod t-shirt here:

MNPCTech, The Case Mod Blog, The Mod Nation Forums, KRVS Computers

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