Interview with Edwin van der Laag
We are all familiar with Edwin van der Laag's name from the cover of the Laserdance albums, and some of us are lucky to own the rare Syntech albums that he made in a co-operation with Huib Schippers. Now when his name is actual because of the release of the new Syntech album Best Of Volume 2, we took the chance to interview him.
Discography and Biography: Syntech Laserdance
Hi Edwin, it is very interesting to make this interview with you. Many people have seen your name on the Laserdance and Syntech album covers, but as there haven't been much written about your work for the spacesynth genre I think this interview will let us know more about you.
First of all I think that we start with a presentation of you. Can you tell us about yourself, what do you work with, hobbies, etc?
At the moment i am working for a package design company as ICT support and 3D visualizer. I haven't made music for about 8 years now, but I am still interested. 3D design is also a hobby of me. I even made 3D models of some of mine drawings.
When did you start playing music? What kind of instruments do you play?
I started playing synthesizers after I met Huib Schippers ( around half the 80's ). First it was all analog but later on more digital, so via midi we could use the computer to control the synthesizers.
What type of music do you listen to nowadays? Do you have some favorite artists?
I still prefer electronic music, but I like a lot of other music to, from popular to classical. I like the old synthesizer music the most. Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Klaus Schulze. More popular music I like is music like : Air, Moby, Royksopp ...
How did you first get in contact with the music that is now called for spacesynth (ie. music like Laserdance, Koto, Syntech) ? Why do you like that kind of music?
I did hear that kind of music for the first time on the radio. That time pirate radio stations were very popular, and they liked that kind of music too. The music was mostly instrumental and electronic, just what I liked.
You have painted the Laserdance-covers and also made the music on the Syntech albums. Tell us about how it all started. How did you get in contact with Erik van Vliet for the first time?
After I met Huib Schippers I spent lots of time with him experimenting with synthesizers, sequencers and drumcomputers. After a few years we wanted to make it more commercial to earn some money with it. We made demos and took it to the disco. After several tries the DJ said we should contact Erik van Vliet. He was interested in our music, and on his label ( Hot Sound ) we made our first record.
Did you have some contact with the Laserdance composers Rob van Eijk and Michiel van der Kuy at that time, or did you only get in contact with Erik?
Erik also had Laserdance on his label, so that is when we first heard Laserdance. Our first record was recorded in the studio of Michiel van der Kuy. I personally have never met Rob van Eijk.
Do you still have some contact with the people that you worked with during that time? ( Erik, Michiel, Rob, Huib, etc)
Huib is still one of my best friends, although I see him only a few times a year. I haven't seen Erik or Michiel for a lot of years now.
Before we go through the music that you have composed I think that we first take some questions regarding the pictures that you painted for the Laserdance covers. The covers for the Laserdance albums have all the space-theme.
Did you draw pictures like that before you made those covers, or did it start at that time?
I made most of them before.
What kind of education do you have? Are you an educated graphical artist ?
I don't have any graphical education, only a few years technical.
Describe how you got your ideas for the albumcovers ? Did you first listen to the artist's music to feel the atmosphere and mood in the music ?
The inspiration came from anything which had to do with Science-Fiction. Films, books, drawings anything. While drawing, I was probably listening to synthesizer music.
Did you have some discussions with the artists during the cover-making process? Did the artists or Erik have some suggestions or requirements for the cover, or did you have free hands ?
No, I made them all myself. When I met Erik I had about 20 drawings. Erik was interested so I gave him photos of the drawings. He just used them for the Laserdance albums and never did pay me a cent for it ( with the exception of the ambient album, i copied an excisting drawing for him, which he did pay. )
How long time did it take for you to make an albumcover ?
From 5 to 20 hours.
Was it you that decided how the Laserdance logo would look like? (ie. the font for the artist name)
What technic did you use to draw those pictures? Were they oil-paintings or made with air-brush ?
The paintings are made with airbrush and pencils.
Have you recently tried to use the modern way of drawing pictures by using computers with a electronic drawing table ? If so, what do you think about that technic compared to the traditional way of drawing?
I am using a computer with 3D programs ( and 2D ) to make drawings now. No drawing tablet ( because I don't actually paint ) just a mouse.
Which one of the Laserdance covers are you most satisfied with?
I don't have any preferences.
The two latest Laserdance albums that are called The Guardian of Forever and Strikes Back don't include your name on the cover. Are those covers made by someone else, or is it you ? If it isn't you, why did you stop making covers for the Laserdance albums?
They are not mine, although the "Guardian Of Forever" looks a lot of one of my drawings!
Have you drawn more pictures like the ones that you made for the Laserdance albums ? If so, are they available on the web ?
I made more drawings, they are not (yet) available on the web.
Do you have any website?
Do you have any favorite artist when it comes to painted sci-fi pictures?
I actually don't know many artists.
If some musician would ask you to draw a picture for their album, would you do it ?
Yes I would, but not with paint but by computer.
Now I think that we continue with some questions about the music that you made for the project Syntech. The first album was called 'By Trial And Error' which I think is a funny name for a album. Was that the first album that you was involved in?
Yes it was the first ( By Trial and Error also stands for "By T and E" so ""Byte" )
You made that album together with Huib Schippers. How did you get in contact with him?
I met him via his girlfriend at school.
Where were those songs recorded? Did you both have studios or did you use the same studio?
Huib did have a 8 track recorder, but that wasn't sufficient for the first albums. Later on we had our own (home)studios.
It is written on the backside of the album covers that you made the songs with an Atari 1040ST with a SMPTE-track sequencer. Can you tell us about what equipment you used on that album besides the Atari ? (effects, synths, computer, computer program) For example, what synth did you use for making the leads, bassline, strings, drums etc ?
I don't know exactly, but for the leads mostly Casio CZ101, the bassline CZ101 and Roland Juno Alfa 2, Strings probably Sequencial Circuits 8track and drums also sequencial Circuits. We use several effects modules ( Yamaha, Roland ). We didn't have the money for Lexicon at that time.
Do you have some picture that was taken of your studio during the time when the Syntech albums were recorded? If so, can you share it with us ?
I think Huib must have some pictures.
What was your musical inspiration at that time? (ie. what music did you listen to)
All Synthesizer music.
Two years later you released a new Syntech album called Atmospheres, and this time you made all songs by yourself. That album sounds different compared to the first one as it include mostly ambiente and slow songs which have some influences of Jean Michel Jarre. Do you think that there is a difference in the music that you and Huib made?
Yes, there is a big difference. The earlier album was far more commercial. After a few years I didn't see Huib anymore ( I had a girlfriend and Huib started making music under the name Trilithon ). I still made music ( non commercial ) as a hobby, but later Erik was still interested in that music, so Atmospheres came out.
One of the songs on that album is called 'St(art)'. Is that a homage to the Atari 1040ST ? (ie. the characters ST are separated to the other characters)
Yes, without that computer I was not able to make that kind of music.
I have read on the web that you had some plans to change the projectname to Syntech 2010. Is that correct?
No, I have never heard of it ( maybe an idea of Erik van Vliet? )
A while after the album Atmospheres was released you made another album called Synth Sound which was a studio promo copy. That album was never released. Do you know why ?
After Atmospheres, I produced much more music. So I put it on a CD and gave it to Erik. He never released it.
Two years ago Erik van Vliet decided to release the songs on that album and compiled an album called Syntech Best Of Volume 1 which includes four of those songs together with some other already released Syntech songs. In the beginning of 2006 he released the next album called Syntech Best Of Volume 2. Have you got any feedback for those songs yet?
Is this the last Syntech songs that we will hear from you or do you have some other plans for the future ? A new co-op with Huib perhaps? :) I hope so.
I don't think so, but I am still interested in Synthesizer music, Maybe I start making music again.
Have you released any music besides the Syntech albums? If so, can you describe that music?
Yes, Huib and I also started making "house" music. From "Dream house" to more "Club House", "Techno" and "Trance".
Which one of the songs that you have been involved in are you most satisfied with?
The "Atmospheres" like music, because that is the synthesizer music I liked to make the most.
The latest years this genre has started to grow and new artists like Macrocosm, Area51, Spaceraider and Xain have released new albums. Their songs can by the way be heard on the radiostation HurricaneFM. Are you familiar with those artists?
Not really, but most of them are Laserdance "clones"
There exist a couple of forums on the web for music in this genre. Have you followed those discussions lately?
No, but I heard about it via Huib.
Before we end this interview I wonder if there is something that you would like to say to your fans?
I didn't know that people nowadays are still interrested in Spacesynth-music, but I am glad to be a part of the "ancient" pioneers of that kind of music. I hope that people keep enjoying spacesynth-music for many many years, I certainly will always love synthesizer music.
Thanks for participating in this interview.
Thank you Staffan, I will keep in contact via the web.