Interview with Wave Walkers

Celebrating the evocative sound of ’80s Tangerine Dream:
an interview with Wave Walkers (aka Jurgen Vitrier en Germain Ghys)

Date: December 2021

Jurgen Vitrier
Jurgen Vitrier

Jurgen & Germain, first, could you both be so kind to reveal something of your background?
Jurgen: Well, I’m a classically trained clarinet player and learned to play the piano myself at the age of 16. Later I became for several years the keyboard player of the Belgian rock/metal group Manic Movement. At a later stage, I chose the more melodic genre and joined Frozen Rain in 2007, a Belgian AOR/rock band that works with international artists. I’m still doing songwriting as well as keyboards for them while I’m also in charge of the mixes for our upcoming third album which will be released after next summer. In addition, I’ve provided most of the keyboards for the Norwegian rock band Faith Circus for their upcoming album. It was also this experience with rock bands that led to our mutual decision I should take care of the overall mixing and mastering of “Kronos21”.

Next to rock music, electronic music is another genre I’ve enjoyed playing since the age of 16. I’ve been a big Tangerine Dream fan since a young age along with other great artists such as Vangelis, Jarre, Yanni, Gandalf, Kitaro, Mike Oldfield, and Klaus Schulze. They have certainly influenced and boosted my current music style.

Germain Ghys
Germain Ghys

Germain: I got into electronic music in 1981 when I was about 17 years old together with a school friend. We both very much liked the Berlin school style. When I was 20, I stopped playing music but my interest in all kinds of music remained. Later on, I met Ron Boots, visited many of the E-Day and E-Live festivals he organized, and kept contact with him through the years. When my children started taking piano lessons around 2005, this triggered me to make music myself again as well as my interest in all-new technology for it that was available then. I started buying second-hand synths, repairing, and modifying equipment, and made some home recordings. Meanwhile, I also got in touch with and met a lot of people in Belgium who were doing the same, like BySenses, Owann, Kinet, and The Roswell Incident. As such, I discovered there was a whole scene of Belgium electronic music and musicians out there.

How did you meet, what made you decide to start Wave Walkers? Wave Walkers - Kronos 21I found out you both also compose music solo…
Germain: Some two years ago I met Jurgen. We started talking, found out we had a mutual interest, and soon after that I send him some 45 minutes of music I was working on. Jurgen then started to add his own style and music, then changing, remodeling, and producing some of these pieces into what has become “Kronos21”.

The amount of music became bigger and bigger, and it became obvious it was quite heavily influenced by Tangerine Dream 80’s style without copying it. Eventually, we decided to release it on cd as we knew there are quite some electronic music aficionados out there who absolutely love this style. On my own, I’ve recorded a lot of music and released some of it on the digital download album “Resonanzboden” in September 2020 under the moniker QTonik. More is on the shelf due for release.

Could you maybe elaborate a bit more on how (the music of) Kronos21” came about, I understood that you have worked on it for a long time? How are the reactions & sales of the album?
Germain: Originally, the inspiration came from a documentary I had seen called “Chronos” (a 1985 abstract film directed by Ron Fricke; BS) which showed the passage of time in various ways. For those who have seen “Koyaanisqatsi”, this was quite similar. This was the guiding principle to make a kind of soundtrack that was my interpretation of this theme. So the original version was around 42 minutes of music divided into a number of sequences and themes. This version was then sent to Jurgen and from there the idea grew of reworking smaller pieces, but that is largely Jurgen’s work.

Jurgen: Well, it took some time to make the album as I was mainly busy mixing the songs for the third Frozen Rain album. The little spare time that was left was for the “Kronos21” project. Germain: The reactions to the final version are very positive. The intention that has gradually grown to make this a real TD-inspired work has succeeded very well I think. Someone told me that when he listened to it, he doubted that it was not the real ‘TD’ that he heard. The trick was to fit the elements that made TD of this period (‘80’s) so specific into this work. And that intention is more than successful from the comments.

Was the choice for two long tracks a conscious one? Also, judging by the result, it seems like a lot more work than shorter pieces…
Germain: Actually, it happened by accident. In the beginning, we started out from four themes that were eventually combined into two long pieces.

Jurgen: Well, the mini themes followed each other in smooth succession and the story did not seem to want to stop immediately. One emotion triggers the next and this is actually a nod to the atmosphere of those nostalgic TD albums “Logos” and “Tangram”, each time two long sets with a lot going on. Such long tracks take the listener completely into a long rollercoaster of emotions.

At what point did you decide to involve German guitarist Jens Ambrosch in “Kronos21 part 2”?
How did this cooperation work out?
Jurgen: Jens did all the guitar parts for the third Frozen Rain album and since I wanted to end “Kronos21 Part 2” with a guitar-synth duel. Jens was the logical choice.

Is Wave Walkers exclusively a studio project, or is there a possibility that you will also perform live?
Germain: Initially, this was a studio project. To bring this work live as a whole is almost impossible.
What I would consider is to use several ideas and themes to put together something that could be performed live in this style. But unfortunately, there is not enough time to work this out.

Does the title of your debut album have a special meaning?
Germain: Well, Kronos was the working title, named after the original “Kronos 21”

Can you tell us a bit more about your two studios and the instruments at your disposal? Are there any specific wishes in this respect?
Jurgen: For “Kronos21” I used synths from Moog, Oberheim, ARP, Dave Smith, Waldorf, Roland, Korg and Clavia. The only soft synth used is the u-he Repro-5, a very convincing recreation of the Prophet-5. The digital mix consoles are from Yamaha and everything was recorded in Cubase. Further production, mixing, and mastering were also done in Cubase.

Germain: Here are some photos of the current set-up of my studio, ‘Attic 52’.
The core of my system remains the Cirklon. This and the synchronization of almost all devices provide great flexibility. The NDLR, Keystep, and Keystep Pro are also important in the sequences. What follows is for the gear porn fanatics…

studio Attic 52
studio Attic 52

from top, left-right: Cirklon, Behringer K1, Cat, Pro 1, 2600, RD8, Korg ES, Emu Vintage, Morpheus, Proteus, Blofeld, SE8, Moog Matriarch
from top, left-right: Cirklon, Behringer K1, Cat, Pro 1, 2600, RD8, Korg ES, Emu Vintage, Morpheus, Proteus, Blofeld, SE8, Moog Matriarch

The Waldorf Quantum and the Prophet X are my favorites when it comes to pads and layers. Polybrute, Hydrasynth, UDO 6, Summit, Wavestate, and Nord Wave 1 and 2 are so versatile that they are used for many sounds.

Everything is connected through an ethernet-based midi backbone from Asylum. It’s fantastic hardware, but unfortunately no longer available.

From top to bottom: Virus Indigo, UDO super 6, Korg OPSIX, Nord lead 4, Nord Wave 2, Novation Summit, Kurzweil PC

From top to bottom: Virus Indigo, UDO super 6, Korg OPSIX, Nord lead 4, Nord Wave 2, Novation Summit, Kurzweil PC

Roland System 8, M Audio midi kb, Sequential Take 5, Korg Radias, Virus Snow, Waldorf Quantum

Roland System 8, M Audio midi kb, Sequential Take 5, Korg Radias, Virus Snow, Waldorf Quantum

Sequential OB6, Behringer DM12, Manikin Memotron, Nord Wave 1, Behringer Odyssey, Hydrasynth, Polybrute, Korg Wavestate, Sequential Prophet X

Sequential OB-6, Behringer DeepMind12, Manikin Memotron, Nord Wave 1, Behringer Odyssey, Hydrasynth, Polybrute, Korg Wavestate, Sequential Prophet

In addition, I use Cubase for recordings and have 2 X32 mixing panels for the audio part. In addition, an assortment of effects in pedal or rack forms.

How do you perceive & experience the electronic music scene past and present?
Germain: My discovery of electronic music was awakened at the time by hearing “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Tubular Bells”. Shortly afterward, listening to TD’s “Encore” was the real eye-opener, or ear-opener in this context. The interest was aroused. It was only a short step to Klaus Schulze, Michael Garrison, Mark Shreeve, and so on. Electronic music also made me study electronics. The fascination has never left me since then.

The contemporary movements in the domain of trance, techno, or ambient artists are also really interesting things to pick up sometimes. I listen to just about everything. Only with some things, I have my reservations, it must remain somewhat musical. Making just noise is not music, and I have heard that sometimes too. Art for art’s sake, I can’t understand.
Jurgen: I completely agree.

Website: https://wavewalkers.bandcamp.com

Website: https://qtonik.bandcamp.com