20-01-2009 - Electroambient Space

Phil Derby from the website Electroambient Space did a very nice written interview with me. I placed a copy on my website because there was no direct link to the interview. I hope you enjoy it. You can find the copy here:

By Phil Derby, January 2009

You mention on your webpage that you have no significant formal music training, and still don.t read music. How do you go about creating it?

Well I had one year of organ lessons when I was 10, but I didn't like reading notes at all. I did learn some basic playing techniques though and learned a bit about chords. When I create a song I usually start with some sounds I recorded with my mobile recorder. That sets an image in my mind that I try to convert into sounds. Then I start playing some chords over that on one of my synthesizers. From there I start working out an arrangement in my sequencer software, add some drums or percussion and then play some extra lead lines to go with it. At the end I add some more sound effects to create the right atmosphere and remix the whole thing again.

You have a great deal of background in electronics. Describe how that helps you in making your music.

Well I see a lot of fellow musicians struggling a lot with their studio equipment, cabling and especially their PC. I think this takes me minimal time because of my background. So this way I have more time to make music I think. My electronics background also helps me to understand my synthesizers better I guess. I never read manuals or anything. Currently I'm even building my own modular synthesizers from electronics components. That is really gratifying I can tell you. I will be using these a lot in the future to create more complex sound effects and textures. I think regular synthesizers are quite limited in that area.

Do you spend time working with sound envelopes, creating your own sounds, or are you more into just jumping right in and composing music?

I try to create original sounds, but most of the time I adjust existing presets to my needs and layer them together with others. I rarely create a sound from scratch. I don't see the point in that either by the way. The end result is what counts. Sometimes I come across a preset that I like so much that I can't resist using it. I do spend quite some time on tweaking sounds with effects processors afterwards as well. But most time I spend on creating sound effects since I think these are the signature on your music. Luckily I also have some friends that make sounds for me. That saves me some time also.

Have you played live yet, and if not do you have any plans to?

Not really. I know a lot of musicians that love to be in the spotlight, but I'm more a background kind of guy. I think I would die of stress on a podium by the way. Not nice for the audience! ;) I really like to work alone in my studio at night when everyone is asleep. I usually work in the dark since that helps me focus better. I'm very easily distracted. Besides all this I wouldn't even know how to produce my music live.

I was impressed at the number of interviews you have already done that are posted on your site. I take it reaction to your CDs has been very positive? That must be very gratifying for you.

Yes I'm still quite amazed about all the positive reactions I get. Especially on my MySpace account it is overwhelming. It is very motivating and that is what keeps me going. I'm glad there is still an audience for this kind of music.

Electronic music tends to be a very male-dominated genre. You have a wife and two daughters. What do they think of your music?

My wife doesn't really like my music. She is more into singing artists and listens to lyrics. So instrumental music isn't really up her alley and she prefers guitars over synthesizers. My kids do like my music. My wife has my CDs on her iPod in the car and my kids recognize my music instantly. My oldest daughter is very musical and I hope to do some musical adventures with her in the future.

On your blog you have some cool pictures of your studio set up. How did you gather such an impressive collection of gear?

I didn't buy it all overnight. It was a long process. I have been collecting synthesizers since 1990 or so and I hardly ever sell anything. I must admit that I do spend most of my money on equipment. I work a lot of hours so I don't have time to spend money on other things anyway. The last 14 years I have been fortunate to run my own company and the hard work that I put in there is paying off so now I can spend more time and money on my music.

How many CDs do you have in your personal collection, and how many of those are electronic music and/or synth pop?

I have about 200 CDs in my collection. About 50 percent of that is pure electronic music and 40 percent is synth pop for the rest some classical and even some metal and Celtic. My taste is quite wide, but I do prefer synthesizers over acoustic instruments and instrumental music over anything else. I do like the human voice when used as an instrument like choirs, but I don't like lyrics. I think the nice thing with instrumental music is that you can have your own picture with a song.

If you could only pick 5 CDs . no iPod . to take with you on a desert island, what would they be?
I would take Oxygene and Equinox from Jean-Michel Jarre, and Soil Festivities and Antarctica from Vangelis. I really love those records. I think I played them like a hundred times already. I would also take my own AtmoSphere album with me. All these albums all make me forget the world around me. That is also the reason I produce my own music. It takes me into my own imaginary world.

Your next project is going to be classical music. How did you decide that, and how is it coming along?

When I started to produce my own music about 3 years ago I didn't know anything about composing or harmony. I started reconstructing some classical tracks that I like a lot to learn from. Then I found out that I loved these tracks even more with my own sounds than I did with the classical instruments they are normally played on. I let some people hear the tracks and they all asked me when it was going to be released. At first I said it was not the plan and I put some of these tracks on my website and then I was overwhelmed by the requests so much that I decided it would have to go on CD for people to enjoy. I'm not sure though yet when it will be released. I'm currently also working on two other projects at the same time.

Do you have any collaborations planned, or do you intend to just continue doing solo recordings?
On my AtmoSphere album I actually did my first collaboration. The track 'Nimbostratus' was produced together with Hans Landman a good friend of me. I will certainly do more with him, but I also have some other friends that can play very well on the keys. It would be fun maybe in the future to do a 'Synth.nl and Friends' album. I have that on my wishlist anyway. There are also some Groove colleagues that I think would be nice to work with and of course my own favorite artists.

If you were to collaborate with anyone, who would you choose?

I don't have to think about that. My big inspiration has always been Jean-Michel Jarre. If he would call me or mail me for a collaboration project I would drop everything get in my car and drive over there right away.

So who do you want to be when you grow up?

Well actually I intend not to grow up at all ;) But in the future I would love to do music for films or documentaries. Or maybe I could do something with visuals myself. I love the concept of surround sound and also prefer the better quality audio you have on SACD, DVD and Bluray over the CD. So I'm definitely planning to do some work in surround sound preferably with moving images that fit the picture I have in my mind while producing it.

Michel, thanks so much for the interview! . © Electroambient Space

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