[SoundDesign Logo]  Archival Interviews

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Chris W. Williams of Dancing Fantasy Interview 1993   (previously
unpublished)  The group Dancing Fantasy (Curtis McLaw, Chris W. Williams)
represent one of the true connections between progressive and popular music.
With several albums breaking into the Billboard charts, the duo rode the new
adult contemporary radio market as it transitioned from new age and new
instrumental music to smooth jazz.  Whether it was planned or not hardly
matters because the Dancing Fantasy sound remained rather consistent through
seven releases including  their latest studio album Love Letters (1997).
    This interview was conducted not long after their third album, Moonlight
Reflections (1992) had made it into the Billboard top 25.  The album mixes
laid-back jazz textures with a very identifiable mix of electronics and
grooves.

Your last two albums have quickly moved into the Billboard charts in the
U.S.  Do feel this has impacted your music?  If so, how?
    No, not really.  Sure you have to work under certain pressures to be
successful with the next coming album because of what people expect it to
be, but Billboards only underline the fact  that people like the Dancing
Fantasy sound.  It's great and we're going to follow this style. I don't
think you should think too much about this music.  We don't want to make
music to reach the Billboards.  We want to reach interested listeners.

How did you guys meet?  Where you both part of the group Double Fantasy, and
what transitions took place besides the name change?
    Double Fantasy was the idea to connect new age sounds with popular music
elements, but it started with other musicians.  Curtis and I were working on
a film music project when the president of IC/Digit, our label, crashed our
studio--he was working next door.  He said, "Hey guys, what's going on in
here.  This sounds great!"  He was talking about his problems with the other
Double Fantasy guys and asked us if we would like to continue the project.
We decided to make it more groovy, more alive, so we called it Dancing
Fantasy.  We also added more natural instruments like saxophone and trumpet
to make the songs sound more alive, and not too electronic.  Another
important thing is we decided to work it more compactly--not overly long
songs or complex arrangements so that we can also reach people that might be
scared by some of these long megamixes.

Who were some of the people who musically influenced you, and how did they?
    We have not been involved in new age music before; it was just like a
jump into cold water for us.  I don't think there are any influences.  We
haven't been listening to guys like Tangerine Dream or Vangelis to be
honest.  I think this was very healthy for our music.  We just used sounds
from our libraries and didn't try to copy other instrumental groups, so we
created out own sound.  Maybe there are some influences from dance music,
soul music--the rhythm and grooves but only in this fashion.

Your last recording California Grooves was an intriguing concept album.  How
was it different composing for it, than a regular studio album?  Do you plan
more of these?
    Well of course it's much more difficult to work out a concept album.
I'm thinking about California Grooves, and it included sampling along the
beaches of Los Angeles and then coming back to Germany, then we would fix
the samples and think about certain songs and correct them.  It takes a long
time coordinating a whole cover story and liner materials.  So, it was nice
to work out the Moonlight Reflections album which is just music, just the
songs.  But it's also very important to sometimes give the listener a big
building around the material, the impressions and story you want to tell.
So, maybe the next album will be a concept.  We'll see.

Any comments or statements you would like to give to the listeners of the
program?  Any hints on what's in the works?
    We always try to talk to the listener through our music.  Of course, you
might say, it's difficult without lyrics, but a saxophone can also tell a
story you know and sometimes it's even more than words can say.
    Just relax and get into it.

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Megabyte Interview December 1992   (previously unpublished) Megabyte broke
onto the music scene as few new instrumental bands before it. Their debut
album Powerplay (1987) spawned a radio hit in the United Kingdom and several
tracks became staples of new adult contemporary stations in North America
throughout the late 1980s.  With a sound that can be musically adventurous,
but always accessible, Megabyte's catchy song writing and first-class
production continued with the brilliant recording Go for It (1990) and
concept album Island Energy (1992).  1994 saw the release of two albums,
Crystal Universe, an album spawned from the a project for which the group
collaborated with the Munich Planetarium combining a vast multimedia and
laser show with their compositions, and Coral Sand Paradise, another
paradisical travel log, this time in the Indian Ocean islands, merging
ethnic sounds and influences with the high-tech world of electronic music.
Retaining the conceptual ties to the water, Megabyte's latest album, The Cut
(1996),  has garnered the "New Emotional Music Innovative Award" from the
Pallas Group and further evolved their hybrid style, be it powerfully
rhythmic or classically refined and delicate.

Your album Island Energy is a concept album from your experiences at "Club
Aldiana."  Do you feel that you were successful in conveying your emotions
from there to music?
    M. MEGA:  We think so.  The feelings we went through on the Canary
Island Fuerteventura are well represented on the Island Energy album.
Perhaps even too much, because IC thought the Spanish touch would be too
evident for a "New Instumental Music" production..

    L. McBYTE:   And looking at the pictures in the booklet, everybody can
imagine how much this rough island had inspired us.

The pseudonyms for the members changed after Powerplay Was this a change of
members?
    L.MCBYTE:  There was a partial change of members, yes. but we were
involved in MEGABYTE since the beginning. After the change, we took the
whole responsibility for the project and changed the first names into "Maxx
MEGA Jr." and "Leroy McBYTE."

I read several years ago that you can't let out your identities for
contractual reasons. Is this still true?
    M. MEGA : Yes, unfortunately. But we think the fans of MEGABYTE will
love our music just the same, even if they don't know exactly who we are.  I
hope so.

Does this mean you'll never perform live?
    M. MEGA :   No. It's mainly a question of money. We haven't as yet found
a sponsor who loves our music so much to run the risk of a live tour--not
even in Europe.  But if you know one, we'll be the last to refuse. Promoters
can contact us in Germany at our Airport Studios.

Who do you consider major influences on your music?
    L. MCBYTE:  In general every kind of emotional music, which is able
to recall associations. For instance Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, Yello or Art
of Noise.   But also traditional classical music has an influence. Mainly on
structure and development of the songs. Especially the late romanticist
Liszt and the French impressionist Debussy.

The term "New Age" offends many of the musicians that are similar in style
to you. How do you feel about this commercial name?
    L. MCBYTE: Very good, because "New Age" is a wide notion that allows
many interpretations.  It's a term which came from the early meditation
music but developed into a description of "New Instrumental Music" or "New
Emotional Music."  It uses modern instrumentation possibilities to create
more subtle atmospheres and pictures than ancient classical music was able
to.

    M. MEGA :  I think our music covers a very wide range of feelings.  Of
course you can relax and dream with our music. But you can also find songs
which are full of power and emotions. A very good example is our
"Breathpipe" song on the album Go for It.

Are there any hints on future projects?
    L. MCBYTE: Yes. Actually I am discussing a project with IBM Germany.
There already exists a sponsoring of German wild-life reserves. And our idea
is to describe each of them musically in its most characteristic expression.
And with a combination of good slides we will be able to realize a nice
booklet and an impressive live performance.

Have you considered film scoring for instance?
    M. MEGA : Yes, of course. But in Germany it's a hard job to get a deal.
Probably it would be a good idea to make a film by ourselves. No, I'm
joking!  But we think it may be worthwhile to contact some American
producers. Mark Sakautzky from IC/Digit Music is going to the US and he will
be busy on it, I hope.

Do you have any comments you would like to give to the listeners of the
show?
    L. MCBYTE:  Enjoy MEGABYTE !   Take some time, sit down and listen. Let
your phantasy draw colourful pictures. It you have them, take your headphone
and discover all the fine details which are hidden in our songs. And feel
the love we have put into our music, for you.

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Paul Haslinger Interview October 1994    (previously unpublished) On October
25, 1994, Paul Haslinger reemerged on the music scene, so to speak, with his
debut solo album Future Primitive.  The day after, SoundDesign managing
editor Bradford Warner had the opportunity to speak with Haslinger via phone
at his studio, The Assembly Room.  Haslinger, a former major contributing
member to Tangerine Dream (1986-1990), has since released two more studio
albums World Without Rules (1996) and Score (1999), an avant-garde side
project named Coma Virus, scored a visual-music album with director Jan
Nickman entitled Planetary Traveler (1997)and contributed to numerous U.S.
motion picture soundtracks.

What prompted you to release this debut album simply under the name
"Haslinger?"
    Space on the cover art?  No, it was the following of general tendency to
make this as simple and as clear as possible.  It also was influenced by the
fact that I go into the e-mail networks simply as "Haslinger."  Artists
always deal with their identities in sort of funny ways, and one of the
ideas was to dissolve the personality into just haslinger@aol.com, which is
the e-mail address that I'm using.  Out of all those ideas came the decision
to go with Haslinger because that's the simplest we can get with the name.

What is the situation with the label Wildcat Records?
    Wildcat is a label associated with the soundtrack label Varese
Sarabande.  My manager is involved with the label. . . so I don't have to
deal with the label as much as usual.  It's always difficult with a first
release because the relationship you establish with the label is very
critical for your own creativeness because it can be a real hassle, so it
was very important for me to find a label where I'm sure communication is
going to be good enough.

Are we going to see more of the music you have recorded in earlier eras be
released?
    That's up in the air.  At the moment I don't think that any of that
material is worth releasing.  If I ever do feel that way, and maybe rework
some of that stuff, then that's another project.  Right now, the album
that's out is what I feel was worth releasing after a long period of
experiments and trying out different styles and the ones that didn't I would
rather keep in the closet.

Do you think people will be surprised with the style of this album since
they may have been expecting music similar to your time with Tangerine Dream
(TD) in the late 80s and early 90s?
    I dive into fan communication once in awhile and I get the newsletters
and that kind of stuff and it is interesting for me to see what people's
perceptions or opinions are and what they make of the persons behind [the
art].  Needless to say, during my time with Tangerine Dream, there were a
lot of comments that I took very personally, that originated out of people's
beliefs and not all of them were necessarily right.  The music of TD, as I
have pointed out in numerous interviews before is mainly guided and managed
in a way by Edgar Froese.  I was a contributor and I worked with them for
five years and I couldn't imagine a more intense working experience than
that.  Still, I was a contributor and was not responsible for the style of
TD.
    However, having said that, there are albums where my influence is
stronger.  One of these albums, for instance, is Optical Race.  On Optical
Race, if you listen closely, you will find mid Eastern harmonies and
structures which are again to be found on Future Primitive.  So certain
connections cannot be avoided--after all we are human and we have certain
likings, and let's say the fact there was no [personal] release in three
years points to time where I went through a lot of development and changes
and a whole change of lifestyle.  I moved to the U.S. and became even more
entrenched with technology due to its availability here.  This all led to
Future Primitive.
    There are certain elements that were always fascinating for me like the
combination of Eastern and Western elements. There's also the experiment to
get things in as simple a format as possible.  And one of the formats for
this album was to try to stay away from Western diatonic melody structures
and scale systems, go in Eastern ones which enables you to just to play more
freely and not worry so much about what you're playing.  I created micro
tunings that followed middle tone tuning and then modified them so they
would fit certain electronic sounds I was playing those line with.  From the
Blue Room project I did with Peter Bauman, there were some vocal samples
sort of left over, so I went through hours and hours of material and just
sampled with great moments so to speak.  I did this with pretty much all the
vocals on the album--reversing, whatever manipulation I could do with them.
    The third element was me being exposed to a whole new world of rhythms;
it's almost a combination of urban and tribal rhythms, and the manipulation
of those.  The place I'm living now provides access to music that has really
influenced me.  The last three years, I have been trying to write a
symphony, and it never worked, because if you just set out to write a
symphony, then you're just kidding your own brain.  The only real way to
approach an album for me was to ask "what do I have fun playing?"  and if
[the music] is fun then let's do it.  So in a way the album was the end of a
long, winding road where I finally asked very simple questions.

Future Primitive includes some very intense rhythmic structures, which had
also become a very positive hallmark of some of your work with Tangerine
Dream.  Are these sampled, played on keyboards, or what?
    It's gotten more complicated.  The days with TD were actually more
simple because all we had were certain drum machines; it was before the age
of drum loops.  Today it's really hard to explain--it's almost like you ask
me to explain the studio to you.  You have a couple of basic platforms you
come from:  one is drum loops--you need to manipulate them, do whatever to
make them sound strange; you've got to work more with inexactness than
exactness because if it's inexact it's going to have some effect; then drum
loops, much like the sampler itself sort of disintegrates the linearity of
music to a certain extent taking any snap shot of music and making it the
building block for something else.
    So in the end, I had a good friend here in the summer while I was
finishing the album who I studied music together with in Vienna and he's now
at the academy in Vienna, which is funny because we went totally different
ways, but we are still really good friends and play our music to each
other.  So, he was listening to my stuff and he said "You know what, that is
totally inhuman." And I said, "Yeah, that's the sense of it; it's not meant
to be played.  You know, I'm not the first to actually build structures that
are completely unplayable, that's been around since the mechanized piano.
Some people might enjoy them and some may hold their head and run out of the
room!  I don't think I have any structures that are too intellectual to
appreciate.  However complicated or complex they are, they still provide a
certain sense of fun or groove--you can just dive into them.  That's my
ultimate measurement.  If I do something really complicated and then come in
the next day and I still tap my toes to that, then it's a good part, and if
not, then I will just say that is brain masturbation.
    So really it's the same development.  What you had in TD was just the
same guy five years earlier and what you hear now is the same guy having fun
doing the same thing five years later.

What would you say are some of your major music influences both in classical
and contemporary music?
    There's too many.  The problem always is when you point out one you
forget the other.  I would say starting from the classical side that Ligeti,
and  Zimmerman would be major influences.  On the modern side, one artist
who I think is totally underrated is Richard Horowitz.  He released an album
maybe ten or twelve years ago called Desert Equations;  that's one of the
standouts for me from the electronic scene.

Edgar Froese mentioned once in a interview that he did not really listen to
other electronic-based artists.  Do you listen much to artists working in
similar music veins?
    I have my likings and my dislikings.  There are certain new age or
electronic artists I don't listen to, but unlike Edgar I listen to an
immense amount of electronic music; I try to keep up to date with what's
going on.  Now with the ambient stuff going through this fashion wave there
is a lot more available than there used to be.  I'm happy and sad at the
same time because fashionable always means cheap.  But on the other hand it
has given electronic music exposure and recognition that it did not have
before and takes it into new hands.
    Electronic music fans had almost become like those religious orders,
where you had to be on the Schultze faculty or the TD faculty, and they were
fighting with each other and this was like 250 people.  It was totally
ridiculous, it had no relevance.  So with this new trend coming along
there's going to be a lot more ignorance but maybe some fresh wind and
chains will break.

So do you then see the mainstreaming of this ambient trend as having both
positive and negative effects on those who have worked with electronic sound
sculptures for many years?
    It's positive because it sheds new light on electronic music, it brings
it to the attention of people who had almost forgotten about it, and overall
its good that there is more exposure of that music.  Saying that, when
somebody goes into a room and starts from zero doing something and not
caring about what anybody says, like Aphex Twin, Vapourspace, and others
have done, that is always a good thing.  Once it become fashionable though,
there are certain dangers that come with it.
    The other side of it is as soon as that happens, it's just like it was
in the 70s.  "Electronic music, oh yeah, we can do that!"  They get a few
sequencers, throw a few things on tapes, and now with loops it's even more
disastrous because you just let it loop run and throw some chords on it.
That's kind of also what happened with new age.  Every one said "Hey, I can
do a new age album!" and that was the end of new age.  What I said about the
old electonic music fans is also true about the new electronic music fans.
They also have their certain quasi religious beliefs in the sense that they
have their stars and they talk about what they think their stars would like
to do next.  If you compare it on the TD and intelligent dance music (IDM)
mailing lists you'll find the same misbeliefs--they think about things that
are totally irrelevant to the artistic process.  The result of that is
certain bands assume a cult status and certain bands go unnoticed.
    I want to mention a band that I have been involved in for a while back,
which is the French band Lightwave, a band that I believe if you take The
Orb and just go a little further out, and have the influences of 20th
century contemporary music as well, then you reach Lightwave.  Yet, it is
very difficult to get any kind of recognition because they are not a cult
status band.  To do music that is really far out in that category has
nothing really to do with being successful in that category.  That's why I'm
somewhat turned off by the success some of the bands in the UK are having
because I feel in a lot of cases its recycling and some of the analog colors
that they are using just get overused.  I mean blips and blurbs can only be
listened to for so long.  It was nice as a revival movement but now it's
enough!  I don't need to hear another Roland sync sweep modulator.
Everything has its limit.

Do you have any plans or interest to work with Christopher Franke, another
former Tangerine Dream member who has also relocated to Los Angeles?
    Well, Christopher and I maintain a very good friendship and a close
relationship where he's up the hill and I'm down the hill.  We see each
other once in awhile.  There is nothing planned as of yet.  Christopher was
talking about some touring plans which would include me.  The problem in Los
Angeles is, quite frankly, that you have your hands full so much of the time
that there is hardly time to just get together and plan something because
you are always just catching up with things that are in the works
presently.  I think that there are possibilities, but at the moment there is
nothing planned.  Before you see something materialize it might be a few
more years or something, but I would not exclude that possibility.

Do you have an interest to promote Future Primitive by touring?
    It would be a little bit difficult.  I'm still thinking about possible
concepts that would make it small and easy enough to do it justifying small,
maybe 500 capacity venues.  I am thinking along the lines of combinations of
visuals and the technical development of digitized images to where we are
maybe a few years away from where an artist could compose visuals to go with
a live event.

Do you have any interest in the genre dubbed visual-music with productions
such as Miramar and others?
    Yes, see that whole concept is really nothing new.  That is just another
play form that has been successfully. . .  I know Jan Nickman because we did
Canyon Dreams together.  This idea has always held huge potential and I'm
dreaming of a time where as a composer you can just say "OK, now I want to
compose some pictures to this music."  I think Future Primitive is ideal
picture music.  If you put any pictures on top of it, then you have a
movie.  It would be really nice to provide that. . .in a fixed or
interactive form.


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Blue Knights Interview October 1994    (previously unpublished) In October
Blue Knights (Curtis McLaw, Jay Heye) was already at work on new studio
projects in their German recording studio, but only a few weeks previous
they had completed a successful American tour promoting their second album
Red Night (1993). Even though many European artists have yet to make it to
North America due to the high travel and transport expenses DA music and
Innovative Communications put together a mini-tour that included both Blue
Knights and Dancing Fantasy (McLaw, Chris W. Williams), since both groups
had made the charts in the U.S. and Curtis McLaw is the co-founder of both.
The groups combined the studio musicians each had used into one super group,
including George Bishop on sax.  Dancing Fantasy would months later feature
the concerts in their album Live USA (1994).

What prompted the forming of the Blue Knights?
    Curtis and Jay met in a music store where Jay was playing and trying out
a synthesizer.  Curtis was amazed by Jay's "right into the pocket funky
jazzy" playing and asked him if he wanted to work with him.  You know the
rest!

How were the U.S. tour dates?  Do you plan to return?
    We played in Dallas, San Francisco, and Detroit.  The audience in all
three places was just great and we had the chance to play on the same stage
with guys like Joe McBride and Richard Elliot whose music we really love.
We can't wait to come back--hopefully in the Spring of '95.

Blue Knights has been called new instrumental, ambient-jazz, and a host of
other names.  Curtis referred to it as "happy-jazz" in an interview.  How do
you see the group being labeled?
    It's difficult to say.  It's a mixture of almost everything:  pop, jazz,
funk, dance floor, and even rock!

Jay, what is your musical background and major influences?
    I grew up listening to black American music guys like Luther Vandross,
Stevie Wonder.  I have maintained a certain view of music:  always in the
pocket and always for the dance floor.  I also dig European bands like Level
42 and Nick Keshaw.

The track "Life in St. Petersburg" has crowd sounds and the like.  Is this
real, a studio creation, or what?
    It is a studio creation. . . a live session but in the studio.

Clearly, you have been instrumental in exposing the brilliant Innovative
Communications label to North America.  Is there much artistic discourse
between artists on the label?
    Definitely!  Chris W. Williams and I grew up playing together in local
bands.

Curtis, after three different projects, (DF, BK, and Eylin de Winter) what
are your next project ideas in the pipeline?
    All I can say is "You'll hear from me!"