Interview 2004 - by Rudy Adrian
"Going back to the early 70's when I started getting into rock music as apposed to the pop music I was into as a kid, the first music I really got into were things like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath - all the normal things - but specifically Emerson Lake and Palmer, what appealed to me was their use of synthesizers - it was a sound that fascinated me. Obviously as the 70's went on, I became exposed to bands who were using synthesizers as their main instrument. And the obvious ones that come to mind there are bands such as Tangerine Dream, and many of other the German artists such as Klaus Schulze. So towards the end of the 70's I decided that these guys were having far to much fun at my expense *[ie: "I was spending money buying their records so that they could play on their synthesizers"]* that I decided to do it myself. So that's how I got into doing music in the first place."
The Cassette Albums:
"There was a music paper here called "Sounds", which was one the big three weekly national music papers. In the back of one issue was an article on Archie Patterson's "Eurock" magazine and I rang the UK distributor, this guy Martin Reed, and he informed me that he was also doing his own magazine called "Mirage", and would I be interested in that, and I don't quite remember how it came about but I mentioned to him that I was kind of making my own noises on cheap synthesizers anyway, and so he said: "Send me some and I'll have a listen and basically tell you how good you are - or not!" (laughs). So I sent these things off, just with the intention that he could hear them - there was no ulterior motive. The music on the tapes was almost cobbled together as a laugh, and he rang me up a couple of days later and said: "Well these are great, can I release them?". So they were the first two cassettes" "Usra Major" was the very first one and "Embryo" was the second. You see, Martin had a label that ran along side the magazine that sold cassettes through the magazine, and I don't think we're talking vast quantities of cassettes ... or magazines for that matter! I remember him ringing me up once actually and saying the cassette "Embryo" is going really well - so I'm thinking "Great I can stop my full-time architectural job and live on music alone and move into a nice big house with all the girls and the rest of that..." and then he said "Yeah, we've sold thirty five!" (laughs), so I thought "Well if that's a good selling cassette..." I think a little dose of realism crept in there. And then over the next year I did more for him, and contacts in the electronic music arena began to widen for me. Up to then I thought I was the only person in the UK who listened to electronic music, but obviously I wasn't alone after all (laughs). None of my friends were into it - they hated it actually! But then I got to know more and more people in that area and these guys in Norway got me into getting a vinyl record release called "Thoughts of War".
"If you look at absolutely any area of music, any genre. If you go back to the 70's when rock was at it's height, there were actually only a small percentage of good bands - the rest were pretty much rubbish and have been forgotten about since. In Punk music - I was really into the early Sex Pistols, but then I was at the target age for them - I was in to that at the same time I was into Electronic Music. But most Punk music was TERRIBLE, awful. There were only a tiny handful of Punk bands that were any good, and I think the same is true with Electronic Music at any stage in it's history, the vast majority of it has been rubbish and it does muddy the waters. I mean, in the UK there came to be a thing that Electronic Music was just Easy Listening music done on synthesizers. What people call "Melodic Electronic Music" isn't that at all. For me "Melodic Electronic Music" is Jean-Michel Jarre or Vangelis, now THESE guys now how to write melodies! (laughs), not some child-like tunes played over a badly written rhythm section, using awful synth presets that everyone uses, which is what seems to make up the majority of electronic music and has done really since the late 80's. And that's strangled everything else so that what now gets called Electronic Music I don't think is anything of the sort. "When someone says "Electronic music" to me, I think of straaaange sounds.... I mean, "Mirage" to me is "THAT'S Electronic Music": lots of weird sounds, they're not trying to sound like pan flutes or like fake 12 string guitars. But it's using strange sounds or the arrangement of the music is unusual and in "Mirage" Klau makes the classic mistake of going on ten minutes too long, but it was that good, I'll forgive him!"
Klaus Schulze's "Mirage":
"This is obviously a personal opinion, but "Mirage" is by far and away the greatest electronic release, I think it is THE pinnacle of electronic music. I'm a massive Tangerine Dream fan and to be honest a lot of what Schulze has done I'm not that keen on. "Mirage" is as close to perfection as you can get to it, even now, without "nostalgic" ears on [ie: " without listening and taking the age into account"] , it's still a valid piece of music. After all that time. It's almost classical really - it doesn't age, for me it doesn't sound like it's pinpointed in a particular era, which some electronic albums I think are.... such as my own "Legion" for one! (laughs). Over here in the UK, the one that seems to be singled out and held up as the greatest Schulze record is "Timewind". Now I personally have found this utterly baffling. there are bits of "Timewind" I find OK, but it's quite a harsh, thin sounding album, I think, and there are lots of other Schulze albums which are better. So maybe I'm in the minority of one here. There was one good review of "Mirage" at a time when Punk was happening and anything with synthesizers and keyboards was being routinely panned by the music press. But I think it was in "Melody Maker", where it got a suprisingly good review from a reviewer who I would have expected to absolutely slate it *[ie: "say it was very bad"]*. You must remember we were right in the height of New Wave in the UK and anything which was seen as remotely linked to "hippie" music (which Schulze's definitely was), would have been automatically criticised."
Making Music in the 1980's:
"I've never lost my love for Rock Music and there's virtually no music I don't like... I'm not a huge fan of Rap, but I've heard some Rap songs I like. But I'd say Rock was my biggest influence and biggest love and things like the Sex Pistols was just another form of Rock - a "High-Speed Rock" if you like. So when I started doing music, obviously the influences tied into the equipment availability I had. because with Electronic Music in the early days, the equipment you had influenced the style you'd end up doing (laughs). Now I had very basic equipment so I had to content myself with doing very basic structures which tended to be the long-flowing pieces, rather than the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure which was actually very difficult to do on the basic synthesizers. By the time the 80's came, we had much more comprehensive sequencers. the sequencers had ceased to become like the analog sequencers, they had become more like digital recorders, so you could have THOUSANDS of notes in them. And that steered me towards a kind of very structured kind of music, where although we were using synthesizers, the format was Rock or even Pop based. And also, I've always liked to use a good "wall of sound" - I've never used just one keyboard when I could use eight all layered up, And that's what I used to do, I never, ever, used one sound to play a part. Even with a bass sound, I used to use four or five sounds layers up. It used to drive the sound engineers absolutely crazy actually. But that's the way the "Legion" album ... actually it started with the album "Assassin" being the first of the more structured albums I did. And that came about because of the drum machine I was using, the Roland TR808, and that enticed me into doing structured music And so you've done one album, and because I was relatively young - in my early 20's I think - I had this desire to make the next one bigger and louder! So it went one until I got to the album "Nocturne" I suppose, where I couldn't get any further without going ludicrously over the top."
The Tangerine Dream Sound:
"If you go way back into the 70's and listen to the Tangerine Dream albums, if you say compare say "Phadera" and "Rubycon" with the later albums (and "Ricochet" is almost on the transition of sound) you have on the early albums that big, flabby, weighty Moog sound. Now what was happening is because they were touring with this equipment - and I have a little experience of touring and doing concerts with the gear - is that they must have got utterly sick of the damn thing going out of tune all the time. So they had modifications built by Project Electronic and they were starting to add Project Electronic modules to their Moog system - oscillators mainly - so by the time they get to "Stratosphere ", if you listen to the sequences on "Stratosphere" , they're very, very thin and spiky. And they've lost that sort of weight and distortion and warmth of the original Moog and it's because they went headlong into this almost desperate struggle to keep in tune. So by the time we all got seduced by the Yamaha DX7 in the early 80's - this digital synth came out that would NEVER go out of tune, EVER, for any reason whatsoever - we all thought "Wonderful", no tuning problems. And I'm sort of sitting there two months after I got mine and thinking: " Actually, I don't like this very much, it doesn't sound very nice". I started to miss (laugh) the tuning problems. It seemed like I was buying a new synth every fortnight in desperation to get a modern synth that would sound as good as one of the old ones but stay in tune. I spent years wasting all that money and now I'm not so sure there is one."
Mark Shreeve¹s Moog Modular Synthesizer:
"When I first got it - that must be about ten years ago now - it revolutionised the way I work again. It almost sent me back to the beginning *[ "square one"]* . if only I could have had this instrument in the 70's! (laugh) It stopped me doing very formulised music and made everything not just very organic to listen to but also very organic to compose. And for the first time in years I found myself feeling very inspired to create music. "So to me a Moog synthesiser is as important for creating music as a grand piano might be for a classical musician. I just stand there and make stupid sounds all day long, it sure as hell beats doing a proper job anyway! And out of that comes the inspiration to create proper pieces of music. There's only so long you can stand there listening to a great drone. I can probably stand there listening to a great drone for about two hours, tweaking it and thinking: "Well maybe I should be recording something with it". It's sort of a machine you could almost listen to a raw waveform form it - unlike most other synths, a raw waveform from the Moog still sounds pretty good. "I've heard an old Roland 700 big modular system and why didn't that sound anything to my ears as good as my Moog modular system? It looks as good, it seems like it has all the features, it stays in tune better as a rule and it's got better functions - as a second generation system, the functionality was better - they'd learned for the mistakes of their American competitors. But it's still not as nice sounding as the Moog". *[Mark, I've completely fabricated this last sentence, but it seems to me like something you'd say... heh heh]*
The Live Performance:
"When preparing for a live performance, if I get a great sound effect out of my Mini-Moog or my old Yamaha CS30 or even the main Moog modular itself, I'll record that to hard-disk, and then add delay and so on to it and then sample that. So we (not usually me, it's usually one of the other guys in Redshift who has the sampler) have the sampler with several different keys with different sound effects on them. It's not the ideal way of doing it, but it's a reasonable enough compromise for doing it live, I think. "When we're playing live, the Moog modular synth is really having to do all the sequencing, so I have it split into four different parts. Now, if I started using parts of it for sound effects live, it was almost be a waste of the machine, and it almost be impossible to re-patch a programme that quickly. As it is, I have to do quite a lot of tweaking on the sound as it we go through a concert, and a hell of a lot of re-tuning as well. "On both occasions that I played Alfa Centauri - in 1999 and the year before with Ian Boddy as ARC - and insane though it was - we took all the old stuff with us. The second time I played at Alfa Centauri with Redshift (I normally have the Moog modular synth on for two hours before I can do anything with it), I'd had it on for a couple of hours and put some headphones on to start the first period of tuning up I was going to have to do that day, and get the basic core sound that I was going to start off with... and once I put the headphones on all I could hear was this strange buzzing sound, rather than any nice raw oscillators. Now, I'm not a technical person, but I could hear that there was something not right. And as I looked at the machine - it was really weird - from the left hand side all the lights started, one by one, going out. And it started making this most horrendous growling sound and seemed to be actually dying before my eyes. And I sat on my stool and for the first time - it felt like half and hour, but it was probably only a couple of minutes - I stared at the machine with not one single thought in my head. I was completely numb, and thought we were going to have to do an "unplugged" version of Redshift here, because this was the core of our rhythm." It turned out the problem was caused by the difference in electrical volatges between Britain and Nederland: "It was about an hour before we solved the problem, and during that time I was thinking: "All that trouble, all that travel all those days of rehearsing, was going to come to nothing: "Sorry, but we're going to have to sing for you because there's nothing coming from this damn machine tonight!"" Actually we did have a slight back-up in case, because I had a Studio Electronics MIDI Mini Moog. With a little bit of forward planning - almost unheard of for me - "Just in case anything goes wrong withe the old stuff, I'll record some MIDI lines with my Atari computer to play on the MIDI Mini Moog and my Oberheim Xpander synth". But compared to the modular they would have sounded a bit limp. So it would have been a reduced performance."
The formation of Redshift with Julian Shreeve and James Goddard:
"Well, Julian and I are brothers, so we argue all the time. He started playing because way back when I did the first UK Electronica - it was the first time I'd played live, it was back in 1983 - I needed at least two other keyboard players to re-create onstage what I was doing on the "Assassin" album - that early stuff. And basically I had a backing tape which had the drum machines and main sequence lines on it - even then I still had relatively limited equipment. And so do you go on stage and play a completely different kind of music because of equipment limitations? or do you compromise and go on with back tapes? So we went on with backing tapes and played live the chords and lead lines over top. I had another guy called Rob Jenkins, who was helping me out, and because I knew Julian could play - in fact he was technically speaking rather more accomplished than I was on the keyboard (he had lessons for a start which I never did) - it would also help from a psychological point of view that if he did it, there would be someone who I was comfortable with, because for me it was quite a frightening experience for the first time. So I knew he would also be feeling a bit scared too so I would feel a bit better knowing I wasn't the only one (laughs). And really every time I did a concert under the Mark Shreeve name, he was always there, even if there wasn't anybody else there or not. It just grew up from there, when Redshift was formed, I asked him if he'd be interested, and he said "Yeah". So the first Redshift album was all me - it really was a solo album - and then we played the Jodrell Bank, which while we were rehearsing, the other guys started coming up with some
ideas and playing their own bit. So I basically designed the all the sequencing obviously, and Julian took part in coming up with the chords and lead line. So that's when he and James joined Redshift properly. When we rehearse it is not: "OK play eight bars of this and sixteen bars of that" it is more like: "Well, during this section if you can think of something..." and it kind of grows and mutates while we are rehearsing, so we are having a rough idea of what's going to happen and when, but it's never exactly the same twice. We can have a rehearsal of a piece that lasts 15 minutes, but at the concerts it can last 25." Redshift have so far released five albums: "Redshift", "Ether", "Down Time", "Siren" and "Halo", which spell R-E-D-S-H-, so there are three more to go to finish spelling out the name, will they keep going that far? "It lasts for as long as it lasts. While it's still enjoyable to do, and I still love to do this kind of music more than anything, I'll keep doing it. I dunno, I might suddenly develop a love for Country and Western music instead, who knows? Unlikely, but you never know..."