Interview with Gert Emmens

Harmonic chords over tapestries of retro sequencing:
an interview with Gert Emmens

Date: May 2008

Gert, how did you get in touch with electronic music, and how did you start out as an amateur musician?
My interest in electronic music is more or less related with my love for the synthesizer.
My first “confrontation” must have been the use of some variation of the theremin, used in “Good Vibrations” of the Beach Boys in 1966. At that time, I was eight years old. I loved the sound of it, but didn’t know for years where the sound was made with.
Then, in 1970, “Lucky Man” of Emerson, Lake and Palmer was released as a single. I was completely blown away by the Moog-solo at the end of the song. From of that moment, I wanted to have such an instrument too, not knowing of course that it was played on a modular Moog, which I would never be able to afford…..
Nothing happened for some years until I heard “Autobahn” from Kraftwerk in 1974. Which was the start of synth-music getting more and more popular. In the years that followed, I adored “Oxygene” from Jean-Michel Jarre, “Timewind” from Klaus Schulze, “Ricochet” from Tangerine Dream and “Heaven and Hell” from Vangelis and many successors of the mentioned albums. On my father’s organ, I started to play the “Timewind” chords, which wasn’t too difficult…..
From 1976 – 1978 I was playing some kind of electronic music with a friend from school, influenced by Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream etc. I still have some of the recordings that we made in those years. In 1979 I bought my first synthesizer, a Yamaha CS10. And soon after that, a Farfisa VIP portable organ, an Elka E-piano and a Siel Orchestra.
From 1980 until now, I tried many synths, string synths, organs, drum computers etc. In 1981 – 1983 I recorded many music with a Korg PE-1000, an Arp Odyssey, a Mini Korg, the mentioned Yamaha CS10 and Siel Orchestra and some kind of synths and a sequencer that were made by a friend. I used two Akai tape recorders to make overdubs. Many of those recordings are still in my vaults.
It must be around 1985 that I lost interest in electronic music and started to discover other styles. By then, I was playing keyboards in a fusion band, and also played drums in funk and fusion bands. The synths had changed from analog into digital. The DX7 was my favorite synth then….
In 1995 I bought an old analog synth again, a Korg 800DV, and that was the start of a new focus on electronic music.
I noticed that the electronic music scene had lost many of it’s popularity during the years. In 1995 my first album was released (recorded in 1994), which contained pop music. That album marked the end of the period playing non-EM music. From of that moment on, I was focusing on electronic music completely.

How would you describe your own music, is there something like an “Emmens-sound”?
I wasn’t aware of the fact that I developed a typical Emmens-sound, until Ruud “confronted” me with it. Ruud told me, that if he even heard a 1000 electronic music records, he could always pick my music out of it….
Why? Because of how I play chords, the harmony’s (the way how chords are played in a row) and the way I play solo’s, I suppose.

One way or the other, you got under the wings of the Dutch Groove Unlimited label. When and how did that happen?
It must have been in 2002 that I first met Ron Boots at his home. He had a customized Moog Prodigy for sale, in which I was interested (and bought). Being there, we talked about music, and after a while Ron asked me if I was interested to release new music at Groove Unlimited. Yes, I was very interested in doing that..
At that moment I was contracted at Quantum Productions. “Wanderer of Time” was my first album to be released through Groove Unlimited in 2003. Last April, my seventh album “The Nearest Faraway Place Vol. 1” was released through Groove Unlimited.

It seems your output has increased the last couple of years. How come, what inspires you?
I don’t think that the overall output of my music has increased over the years. The difference between now and a couple of years ago is, that I’m more certain now about what I want to compose, produce, release.
I remember that in the past, I was always uncertain about tracks that I had composed. Are the track good enough? Should I change something? And so on. That caused many tracks not to be released and even some of them were just deleted from the computer. Others were improved.
Before releasing an album I always used to sent it to friends and electronic music reviewers and asked them to have a critical listen at it and to let me know what they were thinking of it. And if the outcome was that several listeners thought a track not being good, I replaced the track. But that’s no standard procedure anymore….

Tell us some more about your amazing collaborative efforts with Ruud Heij, known Free System project? Can you reveal something about the musical chemistry that takes place between you two, and which led to two joined albums by now?
Actually, we released three albums so far: “Return to the Origin”, “Blind Watchers of a Vanishing Night”, and “Journey”.

I met Ruud about ten years ago at a meeting from Quantum Productions. At a certain moment, Ruud told me what instruments he had at his studio, and I was very impressed. I think it was around 2000 that I visited Ruud for the first time, to have a look at his collection of synthesizers, and play a bit on them.
But there was more: it appeared we could get along with each other very well. In 2003 we had our first recording gig at Ruud’s studio. It was just improvisation and just for fun. But at the end of the day there was about 45 minutes of basic tracks. We were very, very satisfied with this outcome and decided to continue: the actual basic tracks for the “Return To The Origin”-album were born.
It’s hard to describe what happens when we are making music together. To me, it’s some sort of magic. Most of the time, we just start from scratch, and the result is always satisfying.
In my eyes (ears…), Ruud is the best designer of sequences of all times. I’m more into melody and harmony, and that combination works perfectly for us.
Since our latest album “Journey”, we have recording sessions in both our studio’s. Besides the music, Ruud has become a close friend. If we are not recording music, we almost constantly e-mail with each other. We have scheduled the release of our fourth album for autumn 2008. Right now, there are about ten new basic tracks, that we all plan to complete. Thereafter, we will decide which tracks will end up on the new album.

Your sonic input can also be heard on Ron Boots’ latest album “See beyond times and look beyond words”. How did that happen and can we expect more collaborative music of your and Ron?
Well, Ron just called me and asked if I wanted to play a solo on his new album. I was very honored by that request. Ron sent me the basic track, I recorded the solo on Moog The Source and Mini Moog in my studio and afterwards sent it back to Ron.
Ron was very satisfied with the solo, so that was it then…. Ron also invited me to play the solo on stage with the Ron Boots and Friends concert at E-day 2008, which I did, of course…
In the past, we have several talks about an album by Boots and Emmens, but until now, time has been the limiting factor. But we will see what happens in the future….

Can you give an overview and description of your albums, and how they differ from and/or relate to each other? What album is the most special to you?
Ok, here we go:

“Light the Light”(1995)

Nothing special, that’s how I think of it now. This album was the outcome of a long period of playing, pop, fusion and funk in several bands as keyboard player and drummer. At my website, one can download one of the tracks of the album, “Pour Toi, Mon Amour” in the MP3-section.

“Elektra” (1999)

The first album contracted at a label and the first album filled with electronic music. Still, one can hear I was searching for a style of electronic music that I wanted to compose, and the music on “Elektra” wasn’t exactly the style I had in mind. By the time the album was released, I thought it was ok, but now I’m thinking a little bit different of it. But the album was received very well, and that was good for a start for me, of course……



“Asteroids” (2001)

I was and still am very satisfied with this album. It took a lot of time (almost two years) to compose and record the album, and I still can hear the joy that I had in making this album. It sold very well, and still does.





“Wanderer of Time” (2003)

My first album through Groove Unlimited. It’s much more a Berlin School album than “Asteroids”. From all the albums I released, this is the most “introvert” one. I heard people calling it my most “sweet” album. It contains the piece “Gaspra”, a track that should have been on the “Asteroids” album, but unfortunately, there was that 80 minutes format limitation…..



“Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades” (2003)

I know people who think this is my best album. I strongly disagree. It was released only half a year after “Wanderer of Time”, mainly because Ron asked me if I could release another album, for the concert at the E-live festival in 2003. There was a lot of stress to get it done before E-live and I can hear that’s reflected in the music.
Perhaps “Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades” is my most “dark” album.




“Live-A long Way From Home”(2004)

This is the music I played live at the E-Live festival in 2003. It contains tracks of the “Obscure Movements in Twilight Shades” album and two tracks of the first Gert Emmens and Ruud Heij album: “Return To The Origin”. The album was privately released on cd-r and limited to 200 signed copies.





“Waves of Dreams” (2004)


This is my personal favorite album. Mainly because the music reflects a hard period in my life and the feelings and problems during that period. Besides that, I’m still very satisfied with the music on it.
The track ‘’After The Rain’’, was provided with a videoclip by Pablo Magne, who also designed the cover.

I recently added this video to YouTube:


“When Darkness Falls Upon The Earth” (2005)

This cd reflects my vision on this planet’s future, which isn’t too optimistic…. So, the music doesn’t sound very optimistic either. Like “Wanderer of Time”, it sounds rather retro/Berlin School. The closing track “Sam” was written for a Belgian friend/fan and his wife, who had tragically lost their son Sam.





“The Tale of the Warlock” (2006)

This is actually my first “real” concept album (but in a way “Asteroids” and “When Darkness Falls Upon The Earth” deal with a sort of concept as well). In style, the music makes a turn towards symphonic music/progrock. I’m very satisfied with the music, but looking back on it now, I think that the production could have been better.
I hear things that I don’t want to hear in it. Believe me, that can be rather frustrating for a musician.





“A Boy’s World” (2007)

This album is rather special to me too (like “Waves of Dreams” was). All music on this album (except for the last track), was inspired by my son Frank. It’s rather symphonic electronic music again, but overall more light/cheerful (except for the last track again) than “The Tale Of The Warlock” was. This last track, “Nothing Last Forever”, was dedicated to my late mother. Her death, after a period of years of suffering, has meant a great deal to me.





“The Nearest Faraway Place, Volume 1” (2008)

During Spring and Summer of 2007, I composed lots of new music. Many of the tracks were sounding very symphonic, much more symphonic than can be heard on “The Tale of the Warlock”. Then, in August 2007, the hard disk of the computer in the studio crashed: 110 minutes of new music was lost, and about one hour of new music of Gert Emmens and Ruud Heij.
By then, I knew I was going to perform at the Gasometer in Oberhausen, Germany on November 10th. After thinking it over for a while, I decided to try to “restore” all music that was still in my head, but leave the symphonic pieces.
Then, I made a timeline for composing about 70-75 minutes exclusively for the concert in Germany. It meant that I had to compose and record about 10 minutes of music a week. With all pieces of music that were still in my head, new music was composed very fast, and existing pieces were expanded with new pieces.
Around that time, that the idea was born to make one large piece of music of it, which I would play entirely at the Gasometer concert. About 71 minutes of new music was finished in time, and there was enough time left, to rehearse it for the concert.
Some weeks before the concert, I contacted a guitar player who I knew from a band in which I had played drums for some years. He agreed to play some guitar solo’s on the album. After the concert in the Gasometer, I took some time to improve some of the parts and to add the solo’s. By the way, all the improvised solo’s on this album are played on a Minimoog.

What’s your opinion about the current state of electronic music worldwide and the Dutch electronic scene in particular?
I’m afraid I cannot give a proper answer on it, because of the simple fact that I am not “into the scene”. I hardly listen to new electronic music, and I’m not a regular guest on any electronic music forums. Sorry!

Are there any (electronic) musicians with whom you would like to work with?
As stated before, the lack of time is a very limiting factor. But, supposed there would be plenty of time to start projects with other musicians, I would go for:
Frank Van Bogaert: great music (although not exactly the style of electronic music I compose) and his music is produced very well. Besides that, Frank is a very nice person.
Ian Boddy: great, versatile musician.
Mark Shreeve: if you are into retro Berlin School sequencer dominated music, you want to collaborate with Mark!
Remy: The fact of making music with a person of another generation would be challenging for me. Remy is a very nice person, and his music is very versatile.
Lambert Ringlage: I personally like his solo work. And there are similarities with my own music. Besides that, Lambert is a nice person and very reliable.

What can we expect from you in the future?
I will complete the” The Nearest Faraway”-trilogy, of which part two and three will be released in 2009 and 2010. And, as said, if everything works according to plan, there will be another Gert Emmens and Ruud Heij release in fall of this year. We are working on it right now.
Next to the electronic music, I’m also working on a progrock album for quite a long time now. At this moment, there is about 45 minutes ready for release. It would be nice to complete a full album. Since it is a rather different style than what people are used from me, I’d perhaps better take another artist name for it. And as the music is a different style, I’m not sure if Groove Unlimited would be willing to release it. Let’s just wait what comes out of it in the end.

….any other topics you’d like to discuss?
Nothing in particular, but I want to thank you very much, as well as all the others who are still promoting electronic music, and thus helping to keep the scene alive.
The Sonic Immersion website is a great idea, and it helps people to find information about the artists. Go on with it!


Sonic Immersion
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