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Interview with: RENé VAN DER WOUDEN
Date: July 26 2011

 

A Stage is a Stage: an interview with René van der Wouden


René, please introduce yourself a bit…
Would you be so kind to give a proper overview of the music you’ve made and released until now, and the background of certain projects?
I am a composer and producer of electronic music since my teenage years, but started seriously recording it in 1994 with a reel-to-reel tapemachine, a mixer, a Korg poly 800, Yamaha DX27, Korg Poly 61 and a Korg DW8000. The first 100 tracks were mostly improvisations. Later on, more structure came into the songs after I learned to manage the Ensoniq EPS16+ sampler/sequencer better. That was around 1996/1997. The year 1997 marked some major studio improvements, for which I saved every penny. I bought an 8-track Fostex recording, an Alesis Midiverb 4, Behringer's Ultrafex II and the Edison. In the meantime my synthesizer collection grew with my first Moog, the Prodigy, the Korg M1, the Roland JV880 and the Yamaha DX7. Strangely enough, 1998 was the only year no music was recorded at all, but in 1999 I was very motivated again to improve both my compositional and productional capabilities.

So how did things continue after the turn of the millenium?
Well, in 2001 I got in touch with KLEM, the Dutch fanclub of electronic music. Before that, I’d never heard of KLEM and the whole electronic music scene as we know it today. All my inspiration came from a big collection of records of the big names in the genre. What immediately intrueged me was the devotion of Frits Couwenberg's interest in electronic music. I also remember the adverts of Groove Unlimited in each magazine.
In 2002 and 2003 I met several musicians who were also making electronic music, and in 2004 I attended my first electronic music concert, the Alpha Centauri festival in Huizen. Later on that same year I visited the E-Live festival for the first time. In 2004 I also decided to start release my own music. First with the German label SynGate, but that didn’t turn out to be a big succes. So I decided to release my music myself through REWO records, which wasn't too difficult because of the existence of the internet in general and the EMforum in particular. I always use the best materials I can get my hands on. The cdr’s are from the highest quality with archival status, which means they have a life expectancy of about 100 years. I buy from a special supplier of this kind of media.

Please tell us about your first full album…
Actually, the first album I released was "Recreation". Due to some weird fact, the master recording of it ended up in a flightcase in our garage, and stayed there safely for three years before I rediscovered it and released the recording in 2007 afterall.
Meanwhile, I recorded a new project called "Pro Sequentia". If you listen carefully to both albums you will hear simularities between the two. The only difference is the "Pro Sequentia" album has more Berlin Style sequencing.



How did you persue after these initial releases?
Well, after the release of "Pro Sequentia" and a series of concerts I gave at E-Live in the upper room in 2005, I started working on a new project called "Alchemia". With this album I wanted to capture the feeling again of the classic electronic music made between 1976 and 1985. So the sounds of Mellotron and Wavetable synthesis were used along Moog style sequencing. The albums from other artists that inspired me doing this were "Albedo 0.39", "Stratosfear", "Tangram", "Magnetic Fields", "Le Parc" and "Poland". In October 2006, the guys of EL-KA both already had a copy of "Alchemia", which was eventually released in September 2006. Both musicians were enthousiastic about the concept and had an idea to do an improvised concert dedicated to this important period of electronic music. Hajo Liese, one of the EL-KA guys, has a good contact with the organisation of the Gasometer, the largest disc-type gasholder in Europe located in Oberhausen, Germany, and set things in motion. So we were offered the opportunity to play live on the last Saturday of October 2006 on this great location, which we did. Due to the Gasometers large size, more than 100 meters high, it has a very long echo/reverb.



What came next?
In Autumn 2007, I started my next project: "Universal Quiet". Again I wanted to do a retro-style album but then more inspired by the works of Klaus Schulze. My hope for it was its music would generate the same kind of feeling somehow for the listener. I know this is a tough job especially when you don't want to be a copycat. So I started to collect and organize the sounds needed for such an album. You may know the track "FM-Delight" of the "En=Trance" album. I really love FM synthesis, so I programmed a lot of sounds on the Yamaha SY77 synthesizer. The FM section on that synthesizer is very powerful. I think 50% of all the sounds of the "Universal Quiet" album come from the Yamaha SY77 and the Kurzweil K2500 synthesizers. The analog sequencing sounds are from the Crumar Bit99 (an invention of Bob Moog) and the Roland JX3p analogue synthesizers. The title of the album is a typical KS title, saying the opposite in what you do. This album is not ambient or silent music, but high-speed sequencer-driven music.



In 2008 I created "Sequential Tourism". In the first six months of 2008 I travelled a lot for my work. I worked in Haan, Germany and in Brussels, Belgium. The many miles from home and the numerous lonely nights at hotels gave me the inspiration to think about music for travelling. Music one would like to listen to while driving long distances. In August 2008, next to the preparations of the Schallwende Grillparty performance, I recorded the music into the Mac computer, which I composed earlier that year on a Yamaha RM1x sequencer. I worked the sequences out on analogue synthesizers again like the Pro One with CV to midi into Logic. On "Sequential Tourism" features a lot of Wavestation sounds. The Korg Wavestation is not an easy synthesizer to program because of its interface structure. Once you know your way, it's easy to get those sounds you want. I myself use it a lot for pad and string sounds.

René , I’ve heard you planned to perform some tracks of "Alchemia" for a live performance and that you have remixed some elements of it. What can you tell about the reasons for this?
For the Schwingungen Summer Party concert I indeed wanted to perform some tracks of this album. Therefore I had to re-record some bits to make it more organic. I now have the Moog Minimoog Voyager analogue synthesizer, which has those perfect analogue sequencing sounds. I recorded the sequences again and added some extra sounds from the Waldorf XTk. The two tracks I performed on July 2nd, 2011 were "Far Across the Heavens" and "Golden Dreams of Silver Elements". The results were stunning. I also made studio versions of them.

Overlooking your releases I am especially impressed by "Numerus Fixus". How did this album take shape, what did you plan for it?
Well, during the spring and summer of 2009 I did a lot of nature photography. When I’m not making music and not working otherwise, I like to spend my time on photography. In that period I made over 2.000 pictures, and some of them are used for the cover of the album. The music itself just floated out of my mind and into the studio. I composed about 160 minutes of music, divided in uptempo tracks and some ambient/space music tracks. The up-tempo tracks were selected for the "Numerus Fixus" album. This factory-pressed cd (made at the same factory where all the Groove Unlimited released come from) was mastered by Ron Boots. For the ambient/space albums I decided to release them as a download or cdr.



What made you decide to release "Numerus Fixus" as a factory-pressed cd?
My decision was primairy based on efficiency. We live in a time where internet is all around and people extensively use iPods, iPads and smartphones, meaning they treat music as a conventient product and want to take it with them wherever they go.
My experience is that they don't care anymore in what format you're selling your music as long as it does not take too much time to get the music itself. Still, a lot of people stick to the cd format for whatever reason, and personally I still like cd players. I don't have any pod/pad/mp3 player, but I do like to have digital soundfiles on my computer as well. It all makes things much easier and I think that’s the main reason for most of us. I don't want to judge or decide what other people should or not do. I respect them in chosing their own way to enjoy music.

You release your music on a private basis. Where can people also find and buy your releases?
Yes, first of all they can visit my own website www.renevanderwouden.net and just click on the picture of an album. This will lead them straight to the music files for that particular album on Musiczeit. When you click on the REWO Records logo, you will see an overview of all my albums on Musiczeit. However, I also sell the physical product of my releases. This most of all happens at festivals on which I have a stand and there’s also the opportunity to have your album personally autographed for you. You can also send me an email when you want your album sent to your home adress. Finally, one can buy my music at EM retailers such as Groove Unlimited and Cue Records.



René, it seems you invest quite some time in visiting and networking in Germany on various musical occasions, such as EM Breakfast, Electronic Circus, Schallwende Elections…. Can you elaborate?
Yes, of course. The main reason for that is there’s happening a lot over there when it concerns music. It's also kind of relaxing and have a day out at the same time. So when I don't have to perform I just like being there, especially at the outdoor events. Having drinks and food with music is a German way of living, which I like a lot. It's also fun to meet and greet all the collegues again.
Some of the Dutch (Masters) do the same and come over to these events, even when they don't have to perform live. It’s great way when we team up again and chat a lot while having a drink and have a good laugh. I’ve heard several electronic music events are also organised in France. I’d love to go there in the near future as well and maybe play a few concerts as I’ve done in the UK. Rumours say Denmark seems to have an interesting EM scene as well..

We know you as a solo-musician. Have you ever considered doing collaborations with others?
Up to now I only got involved with various artists projects like the "Dutch Masters" and the "Analogy series". Working with other musicians can be very interesting, but the collaboration must have something like a good marriage. Musicians must have something to add to each, both musically and on the creative side. If that’s not the case, my motto is: don’t do it. Playing together the same synthesizer is not interesting for me. But when someone is good musician in his own way (e.g. Hajo Liese’s analogue sequencing) it can be really nice to do something together. It all comes down to something complimentary when collaborating with somebody else.
Another good example of this was the previously mentioned performance at the Gasometer and the Grillfest jam in 2008 together with Remy, Ron and Harold. This was absolute fun as something magical took place.

How did you get involved in the "Dutch Masters" project, initiated by Synth.NL? Can you elaborate a bit more about the music you composed for it?
Ron Boots and Michel van Osenbruggen invited me to join this conceptual project, asking me to compose a track inspired on a Dutch painting. I already had plans to make an album about zeppelins and so came the idea to compose a track inspired by this painting by Carel Willink called "The Zeppelin". With the Waldorf XTk I choose a sound, which made me think of starting the engines of this flying machine. What I find interesting about zeppelins is that the 19th and 20 century all come together in one machine with all its shortcomings. During my concert at the Schallwende Gruga Grillfest 2011, two zeppelins were floating above the Gruga Park Essen. I didn't ask them to be there, it was just luck I suppose…..



You already previously mentioned you made quite some major technological changes in your studio the last few years. Can you tell tell some more about that, the synths and gear you prefer, etc.?
Yes, what started with a tape-machine has now ended up in a full high-tech digital environment. Nowadays I work with Mac computers and Logic 8. I absolutely love TC Electronic studio equipment. For example, I have a 12 DSP powercore setup with plugins. I also have a hardware TC M3000 (VSS3) studio reverb next to the VSS3 plugin in my powercore. These are topnotch reverbs and I really like them. I also have the Focusrite Liquidmix, which is a most excellent hardware plugin with 30 EQ's and 30 compressors. I personally think that a top quality reverb/eq/compression does really add something to your sound. It's better to have those and three synths for making an album then none of them and 40 synthesizers.
I absolutely hate all those numerous cheap and free plugins from the internet. Almost all of them don’t sound well and have a throwaway character, but hey, that's why they are offered for free. Over the years I also learned to switch off the internal efx of my synthesizers.

You know, I love synthesizers with lots of possibilities in programming. I absolutely love any Waldorf and Access stuff, but along these the Korg MS2000, the Clavia Nordlead 2x and the Alesis ION are among my favorities. Not to forget about the Minimoog, that’s at the center of my synthrig. I also use a lot of the Native Instruments and Arturia software, and I also own some of the Eastwest sound librairies. Other softsynths I use are the Korg Analog edition with iMS20 controller and the M-Audio Oddity/impOSCAR. For pad sounds and atmospherical sounds I use the Wavestation and the Roland XP30 a lot. The latter is a small keyboard version of the JV1080/JV2080 that has the famous vintage soundboard built in.

What are your thoughts and considerations on the past, current and future EM-scene?
Well, I’m now for almost eight years active in the scene, in which I met a lot of nice and pleasant people. I’m very appreciative towards those people who organise festivals, events, grillparties, webzines, online forums and internet radiostations. These are the friendliest, trusted and devoted guys I know. All the blood, sweat and tears they put into an event to make it happen for us musicians and the audience hits my weak spot. To give any form of support, I try to attend these events as much as I can. It’s all for the love of music. I would like to thank you all. You know who you are!
I sincerely hope this will continue in the future as long as possible and that we’ll be able to connect to younger generations with our music.

Can you reveal your goals and plans for, let’s say, the next five years?
I plan to make more music, performing more concerts etc. I hope to do at least one album per year. My musical goal for performing live is to improve my musical skills wherever I can, as there's always room for improvement.
Those interested can also follow my whereabouts on my blog http://rene-vanderwouden.blogspot.com

Final question: you’ve been invited to play in the upper stage room on "E-Live 2011". What can you tell about the preparations for it and the music you will play?
For E-Live 2010, I put in a request to play in the upper stage room, but due to some circumstances I wasn't able to come. So Ron Boots and I agreed to do it one year later, not knowing about this year's great line-up. One big advantage for me about the upper stage is that you can do some special things spread over more time. To me, "a stage is a stage", and I am very happy to do my set on E-Live this year. It will be exactly six years later to my first visit E-Live festival on October 15th, 2005.
I agreed with Ron that I will start my first set at 14.00 o'clock as a sort of opening of the festival, which is an hour before the main program will start.
Again, I am planning to do three different sets. Two of them will feature already known and released music from my albums "Pro Sequentia", "Alchemia", "Universal Quiet", "Sequential Tourism" and "Numerus Fixus". The third one though will contain some new music as well. As for now I can't precisely tell which tracks I will perform, but I guarantee there will be a lot of sequencing going on.
On stage, I will play five or six synthesizers, just like during the concert I did at the Electronic Circus Schwingungen Summer Party. Some of the tracks I performed there will be heard again in "De Enck" in Oirschot. I’ve already started preparations of these concerts. Some of the released songs will be re-arranged a bit to make them special for this event. Due to the fact I do this concert as a solo concert, the computer will help me a bit with a backing track. On top of that, I will play the solo's on the Minimoog and some chords on the Wavestation, all to make it sound complete.
All in all, I am really looking forward to these concerts. For those who attended the recent Schwingungen party can expect something similar.

Discography:



* Pro-Sequentia (Private release, 2005)



* Alchemia (Private release, 2006)



* Recreation (Private release, 2004/2007)



* Kaleidoscopic Surrealism and other stories(AmbientLive Records, 2007)
a selection of classic sounding synthesizer songs from the year 2000 and 2003 captured on analogue tape.



* Altostratus/Cirrostratus (AmbientLive Records, 2007)
a double cd-r containing spacemusic inspired by the always beautiful Dutch skies; recorded from May 1999 to November 2002 on analogue gear.



* Universal Quiet (Private release, 2008)



* Sequential Tourism (Private release, 2008)



* Numerus Fixus (Private release, 2009)



* Panorama (Private release, 2010)



* Fixus Naturalis (Private release, 2010)

* Soledad and other dreams (Private release, only available as download from Musiczeit)

* Concrete and other works (ep, Private release, only available as download from Musiczeit)

Website: www.renevanderwouden.net

© Bert Strolenberg

 
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WAVESHAPE Nov 3 2010 Almost a decade of analogue electronics: an interview with Michael Neihs of Waveshape
WHITLAN, STEPHAN Dec 18 2009 The Joy of Modular Programming: an interview with Stephan Whitlan
WOUDEN, RENé VAN DER July 26 2011 A Stage is a Stage: an interview with René van der Wouden
 
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