[SoundDesign Logo] Archival Interviews ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Chris W. Williams of Dancing Fantasy Interview 1993 (previously unpublished) The group Dancing Fantasy (Curtis McLaw, Chris W. Williams) represent one of the true connections between progressive and popular music.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. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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!"