Interview with Julius Wijnmaalen
When the latest Laserdance album Strikes Back was released, we could see a brand new name on the albumcover. Julius Wijnmaalen's name popped up from nowhere and with his album he used a style on some of the songs that
hasn't been included on any earlier Laserdance album. As we couldn't find any information about him, we contacted Julius through his friend Marcello d' Azzurro to ask him about his Laserdance album and his view of the Spacesynth genre.
After Julius had answered our questions he also gave us some songs that was recorded back in 1993, which have never been released before. The songs are not made in the spacesynth style, so they show other musical side of Julius than the spacesynth songs that we could hear on his Laserdance album. You can now download the songs which are available at the end of this interview.
Discography and Biography: Laserdance
Tell us about yourself, where do you live, what you work with, hobbies etc.
I was born in the city Leiden near the coast of the North Sea, where I have also lived for my whole life. Leiden is beautiful, it is like Amsterdam but smaller. Leiden has many museums and universities. My hobbies are making and listening to music, a lot of sport and cars. I studied in the technology of health on the higher of Professional Education.
How did your music career get started?
I was born with the music. and I started playing on a organ in my parents livingroom. After that, I was playing with some turntables, amplifiers, tapedecks and many more. Later on I started a illegal radiostation. After that I bought a very cheap Casio keyboard, a very small one. I started the recording with a tapedeck by playing a melody and later I dubbed it with a Bassline or reverse. Later on I bought a keyboard which could record the melodies and the bassline. I bought a Alesis MT8 sequencer, the Alesis drumcomputer and some other modules. Very soon came the computer in sight, the Atari 1040st, Falcon (which was used in the album “Strikes Back”), MegaST and the TT030. So, I love not only making music, but also the great Atari computers. They have a very good timing for this kind of music. I sold the keyboard and bought synthesizers like the Juno alpha, D50, D110, MKS50 and many more. On the same time I realized that I also needed a lot of effect processors. So I bought a lot of compressors of Alesis and DBX, reverbs, delays and other effect processors.
I made a lot of music, but my intention was always to make music of pleasure and not for the commercial market. Many friends and my family said: “why did you not sent demo’s to the record companies”? I said: “oh no, I make music for my own pleasure”. Later I realised that I wanted to try to make a demo for the recordcompanies. I didn't started to make Italomusic, eventhough this was and is for me the number one music in the world. As the Housemusic was popular at that time, I started to make housemusic. This was no success. I tried for several times, but the recordcompanies didn’t want to release it. Therefore I stopped with making housemusic and continued with making Italodance music for my own. Eventhough Italomusic was less popular, I thought about trying to make a demo. So started with a sound like Laserdance. The name of the demo is: “The Experiment”. Yes, my best fans. It is track number 6 on the album “Strikes Back”. My career started with this song.
Do you play any more instruments besides the keyboard?
Yes. I also play drums, and I love the digital drums. I began with digital drummodules from “Tedd”, but the latency was terrible so it was difficult to drum very tight.
What I most like is the of course the synthesizers. You need nobody else to make a compete music orchestra, and you can play and make a lot of different sounds. It has a good atmosphere. I can be playing for hours and hours without looking to the time. What a great pleasure!
When did you find the spacesynth genre?
It was about twenty years ago. I was very young. Here there were a lot of illegal radiostations. They were playing a lot of discomusic and there was one kind of music which was very good, lovely, warm, melodious a strong bassline and more. It was calling: Italo disco. So, from that period I was a Italo fan.
Why do you like that kind of music?
I love the great beat, the sound and the manner of playing the synthesizers. The sound is happy, melodious and sometimes heavy. Great!! To make a good melody in instrumental music is difficult. The instruments are the voices in the music. It has a good bassline, a lot of synthesizers sounds (I don’t like analogue instruments very well), a lovely drumloop. The Italomusic in the early years was basic, but very good. The ratio and sound in that period was very important.
Which one is your favorite song in this genre? Why that one?
That is a difficult question, because I don’t know all the synthesizers songs and the songs which I know are very good. So let me think... give me enough time!
While I answering this interview, I have on the background Italo disco of Rudy and Co “mamma radio”. Very very good. Good melody, heavy, lovely tight drums. Delicious!
You have composed the music for the latest Laserdance album that is called 'Strikes Back', which you have released together with Erik van Vliet. How did get in contact with Erik van Vliet?
I bought several 12inches of the Laserdance, and on the records there was also an address. So I sent my demo to that address. He wrote me a letter to call him as soon as possible. So I called him and made an appointment. When I was in his office we talked about the ideas which I had. Then he gave me the green light to start with the project.
Have you been in contact with Rob van Eijk and Michiel van der Kuy which composed the earlier Laserdance albums ? I assume that you are living not far away from eachother.
Later I have been in contact with these guys, but before I started with the project I had no contact with Rob and Michiel.
There are many well-known composers in this genre that are living in Holland. For example, Edwin van der Laag, Huib Schippers, Erik van Vliet, Rob van Eijk, Michiel van der Kuy, etc. Do you have any idea why people from Holland have succeeded to compose so much good music in this genre?
I think that dutch people are always busy to try to find a new sound and a new trend. Although this has one disadvantage: the music becomes old very quick, and I think that the composers and DJ’s in The Netherlands have good contacts with other countries.
You have some friends that are involved in the italo project i Venti d' Azzurro. Can you tell us about that friendship ? Are you involved in some Italo disco project at the moment?
My friendship in the I venti d’Azzurro is very close. We have always contact, and I am always ready for this organisation. A organisation in this difficult time where the Italodisco is less popular. I have a lot of respect for Marcello who keep staying in this difficult time. Again and again he did it, to make a great party and a wonderful show for the Italo fans. There are also other organisations which organises Italo Party. Also thanx to these guys for the survive of Italo disco.
Have you visited the Italo Beach Party ? I saw that for example Rob van Eijk and Michiel van der Kuy have been there.
Yes, I was also there. It was lovely, a great atmosphere. Perfect. I hope to see more Italo parties in the future, and of course don’t forget the Italo Party in Italy in May 2006.
Now I think that we take some questions regarding the album 'Strikes Back' that you have made. Did you start to compose the music for the album after you got in contact with Erik or were those songs recorded before that?
One song was recorded before the contact with Erik. It was the demo “The Experiment”. The rest of the songs were made after the contact.
What music equipment did you use for composing the album ? (synths, effects, computer, computer program, etc).
Let me think... It was a lot of equipment: Roland D50, Juno, MKS50, D110, U220, JV880, TR707, Yamaha DX7, DX7 mk2, FB01, TG500, Akai S950, Akai XL3200, Alesis DM5, mixing console from Soundcraft 16/8/2, a small mixing console from Mackie and a small mixing console from Behringer for the percussion. Later on I bought some more equipment like Jomox Airbase, SuperNova and the old Simmons which were never used on the album. Also the Roland RA-90, TR626 and the Korg S3 were never used. I also used effect processors like Bassfexx, Virtualizers, Quadraverb, Midiverb, Microverb, Nanoverbs and a lot of compressors from Alesis, DBX and Phonic (excellent for some percussions). All the songs were made with the good old one: Atari TT030 and for re-editing the Falcon optimized by C-Lab. The software was the latest version of Emagic Logic. A powerful program. I like it very much.
What synths did you use for making the leads, the bassline, the strings, drums etc ?
The leads: MKS50 in combination with the D50 and DX7’s. The bassline: Juno and sometimes the Akai S950 sampler. The strings was often the JV880 or U220. The drums: Akai S950 in combination with the DM5 for the percussion. I often used the Nanoverb from Alesis for the small reverb on the percussion. Some synthesizers were compressed by compressors from Alesis and DBX.
Your album has a good variation of styles. It includes both the traditional Laserdance style and also music that sounds more like synth pop and techno. Why did you choose to not make all songs in the traditional Laserdance style? Did you feel like you wanted to stretch the limits and introduce some fresh ideas into the genre?
Yes, I wanted to make a combination of the good old sound with some new fresh ideas. At that time, I had no idea what the Laserdance fans would be thinking when they were hearing that album. So, as you can hear, there are a lot of filmmusic influences in my songs. I like filmmusic very much. That is also the reason why it doesn't follow the Laserdance standard. I hope that fresh ideas will surprise the fans.
All songs on the album have a lot of energy and a very high tempo. Don't you like slower songs like the ballads that have been included on the previous Laserdance albums? Why didn't you include any slow songs on the album?
Yes, in that period I was the man from the high BPM, but also the new Italodisco music had a high BPM. I tried to go with the new Italo dance songs. I like uptempo songs very much, but now I also like slow songs. I have made a song which is very slow, but that one has never been released.
Do you think that the strict "rules" within the spacesynth genre makes it difficult for composers to make something new? Ie. many people seems to try to make material in the classical Laserdance style like it sounded back in the 80s.
I think that several composers are afraid that the songs will not be accepted by the fans. The fans expected the typical Laserdance sound. So, the success of Laserdance was for the other composers a signal to make the songs in the same style. Maybe there were some small difference between the synthdisco songs, but mostly they sounded like the same. There must be one person who makes the difference and introduce a new sound.
Most spacesynth tracks and album titles are related to the space theme. Can you tell us how you came up with the titles for your album?
That is very different. Sometime I made a song when I have a lot of fantasy of the song in my head. So the title was born. It is also possible that I have a fantasy story in my head and then I make the song. The title is known before the song is born.
The song No Escape is a brilliant tune with fast chords and nice melodies. The song also includes some cool vocoder material, can you tell us how that was made ?
The vocal was made with my own voice in combination of samples, and of course the Atari 1040st in combination with the program Speech which was used for the voice. My own voice was processed by Behringer and the Yamaha DX7 for the sound of the voice. After that I used different kind of effects like delays and verbs. All the voices were loaded in the Akai XL3200.
What is your favorite song on the album? Why that one?
I like very much the songs “The Experiment” and “Voyage Of Discover”. It is difficult to explain, but I like the feeling of these songs. I like the melody very much, and the combination of the sounds.
Many musicians in this genre have made their music in a co-operation with another musician. Is that something that you are interested of doing or do you prefer to compose the music by yourself ? Have you got any experience of co-operations ?
I like to work on my own, because it is my ideas. That way I can do what I want. On the other way I think that it is better to work with somebody, because the other person has fresh ideas as he has heard the song with his interpretation and you can use his qualities.
This music genre has grown the latest couple of years much because of the record label Hypersound Productions' album releases. Have you heard some of the new albums in this genre ? (some examples of new artists: Area 51, Macrocosm, Xain, Anders Lundqvist, Spaceraider, Vocoderion, Zoltar, etc)
Yes. I have not heard all of the albums, but for example Anders Lundqvist “Unknown Destination” sounds good. Sometimes the sound is flat, but the melodies are very lovely.
A couple of discussion forums are nowadays available on the web, and the IRC channel #spacesynth at IRCnet is daily visited by people that like to discuss music in this genre. Have you followed the discussions at the forums ?
Sorry, I have not followed the discussions at the forums, but for now I want it follow the discussions better. I am a little bit curious now.
Now I think that we have got to know you much better through this interview, and before we end the interview I wonder if there is something that you would like to say to your fans ?
Best fans: I want to thank you for supporting me and the patience that you have had. I hope that you will keep supporting the Italo music. For you a little surprise which you can download from this site.
J-Syn Happy men.mp3
J-Syn Electronic instructions.mp3
J-Syn Move on.mp3
This is something which has never been released before and is very old. Without you, no music (and no parties). Ciao from Holland.