Interview with Rob van Eijk

2005-07-28

We decided to interview Rob van Eijk now that he's back in the business with Michiel. We asked several questions about the old good times when Laserdance was up in the charts and questions what Rob is doing nowdays. Rob also enlights us with answers to some hardware questions, how the titles were born eg. to old classic Laserdance and Proxyon songs. Also secrets of the vocoders are now being revealed, or is the mystery still a mystery? You can find that out now yourself..

 

Discography and Biography: Rob van Eijk Laserdance Area 51 Power Machine Proxyon

 
Rob in his studio

Hi Rob, it is a great pleasure to do this interview with you. As there isn't much information about you available on the web, I think it is a great opportunity for four fans to get to know you better through this interview.

Hi Staffan, it's also a pleasure for me to do this interview. You are the first to interview me.

Let's start with a presentation of you. Can you tell us about yourself and your family, what do you work with, hobbies, etc?

I live in The Hague with my girlfriend and son, I work at an office as a systems administrator, my hobbies are of course making music but also gaming, surfing the net, shooting, raising my son is a big one, I could go on for a while so let's leave it at this.

Can you tell us about your childhood. Where did you grow up?

My childhood is not that interesting to talk about I think but I was born in The Hague and lived here all my live.

Tell us about your musical career. When did you started playing music?

I started playing keyboard after I met with Michiel, in the beginning he helped me a lot to get me started, and apart from that I had no lessons at all. Thanks to him and a lot of practice I can now manage myself on the keyboard.

What do your family and friends think about your music?

Well, most of my family and friends are not into this kind of music.

What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have some favorite artists?

I really like italo music but during the years my interest has shifted to trance and lately I also like hardhouse and goatrance.

The list of favorites would be to long but to name a few, Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Vincent De Moor and of course Koto and lot's more.

Why do you like music in, as we call it nowdays, the Spacesynth genre? I don't know what it was called back in the 80s, so maybe you could tell us?

I really don't know either what it was called back then. I like this kind of music because I like good melodies more then vocals, and in this genre the accent is more on melodies then on vocals. And it is also easier to make but that is just my opinion.

It has been a while since you were active musician in this genre. What made you come back?

It was a meeting I had with Michiel in 2002 that made us return to this genre.

Have you followed the discussions at the spacesynth related forums the latest years, or did you start last year?

I followed it a bit as from 2002 because Michiel made me aware of it, before that I didn't know it existed.

I only became active in it I think just before the release of the Area 51 album.

Before we go through the questions regarding your new Area51 project, I think that we first take some questions regarding the music projects that you were involved in back on the 80s.

How did you get in contact with Michiel Van Der Kuy and Erik Van Vliet for the first time?

I came into contact with Michiel through a mutual friend (whom I met at work) he introduced us to each other, this was because the three of us had a passion for italo music.

I knew Erik Van Vliet already from his record store Hotsound.

Which projects and musical constellations have you participated in? (The ones that I'm aware of are PowerMachine, Laserdance and Proxyon)

Do you still have contact with the people in those projects?

I have participated on a lot of Hotsound and later on Michiel's own Made Up Records productions, be it not always as a composer or producer.

Apart from Michiel I have no more contacts with people from those days

The most successful project that you have participated in must be the Laserdance project. Which of the Laserdance albums were you involved in? Do you know how many records that were sold?

I think it was the first four Laserdance albums, I really don't know how many where sold.

Can you describe what the words Laser Dance, Proxyon and Rygar means, and who came up with the ideas of those project names?

Laserdance was Erik's idea, the name Proxyon was chosen, from a book, by the boss of Rams horn when we where looking for a name for our new project and Rygar is I believe from an old video game and to tell you the truth I really don't know what they mean, they where just nice names to use at that time I guess.

Who came up with the space-theme idea on the Laserdance albums?

That must have been Erik, he was more into space themes then us as far as I can remember.

Why did you start up the project Proxyon at the same time as you were releasing albums under the name Laserdance? Did you do it because you felt that there were some different kind of style between the music in those two projects?

Proxyon was never intended to create a new style, we were just producing more tracks then Erik wanted and then it is logical to look for different companies to release your stuff.

As you know all tracks from those days where recorded in Michiel's studio with the same equipment we used on Laserdance and other projects.

So you used the same equipment in Michiel's studio? Was it all Michiel's equipment or did you own it together?

All tracks I did were composed and mixed there. I had some equipment at home but not a lot.

On the Proxyon album 'Interplanetary Mission' there are three composers; you, Michiel and M. Van Eijk. Who is M. Van Eijk?

M. Van Eijk is as you might guess my brother.

Nowadays when we have Internet, it is much easier for musicians like you to have contact with the fans. How was the situation in the late 80s? Did you have any fan club?

I know Erik had some kind of fan club and Michiel had a postbox where you could write to, I think that was about it in those days. And everything had to be done by regular mail, nowadays it's a lot easier to get into contact with people, Thank god for the Internet.

Can you tell us about the musical equipment that you used on the Laserdance and Proxyon albums?

The equipment we used most where:

Drums - Linn LM2, Roland 808 / Akai MPC 60

Bass line - Roland Juno 106 / Yamaha Fb01

Strings - Roland Juno 106

Melodies (leads, chords etc.) - Oberheim Obx-a / Korg M1 / Korg Polysix / Roland Super Jx10 / Emulator Emax / Ensoniq Esq1

Effects - Yamaha Rev 5000 and Korg delay

Fostex - DR 16 (16 track tape recorder)

Mixer - D&R

I can't remember if I forgot anything, I think this is about it.

When you made the Laserdance and Proxyon albums, did you use factory presets that came along with the synths or did you made those sound patches by yourself? (ie. if I buy the same equipment as you used, can I achieve the typical Laserdance/Proxyon sound directly without spending lots of time making patches?)

Most of the time we used slightly edited presets. So I guess with not much effort you could reproduce the same sound if you want.

Many of the Laserdance songs included long parts where the drums where playing solo (i.e. long sequences with just the percussion and the drums).
Do you remember why you let the drums playing alone like that?

In those days we where really crazy about the Linn drum machine and that's why we overdid some of the drum patterns a bit.

Do you remember the lyrics on the old Laserdance and Proxyon albums? I wonder if it is just nonsense words or if there are some lyrics in the vocoder parts?

I don't really remember the actual text I do know that the lyrics where mostly parts we took out of science fiction books which we had at that time.

The text was certainly no nonsense. We thought that it was sometimes better to have unrecognizable text to make it more mysterious.

Most songs in this genre are instrumental, with exception of the vocoder parts. Do you think that there are some connection between the song title and the song itself?

Most of the time the title has nothing to do with the actual song, usually the song was finished before we had a title, sometimes Erik came up with the title of a new track without having even heard the song.

Sometimes the song and the title match but that is I think a personal meaning.

Why do all the Proxyon songs have a song name that begins with the word 'Space'? Was it a ment as a joke? Or was it just a coincidence that it became like that?

To use the word Space in a lot of proxyon tracks was really the idea of the rams horn boss at that time.

On the 1st and 2nd Laserdance album, there are a lot of cool vocal effects saying "Huuh" and "Haah". Whose voice is it that we hear? (The vocal sample can for example be heard at the last 2 seconds on the song 'Battle Cry' on the Around The Planet album).

The vocal effects all came from the Emax Core library Michiel had at that time.

Which one of the songs that you've composed or participated in do you like most? Why that one?

I helped Michiel with Fatal destination by Claudia T and that is in my opinion the best track of those days technically.

Now over to your latest project, the Area51 project that you run together with Michiel. Your website is called rygar.nl, but your project is called Area51. Why?

We started the Rygar website before the project we where doing was finished. And before we knew under what name and where we were going to be releasing it. It is not really about the style that we choose a new name to release our album. It was actually because Michiel had just released some old Rygar tracks at another label and he thought it was better to launch the new project with a new name.

On your Rygar-website you've published pictures of your and Michiel's studio. Can you tell us about what software and hardware that you use nowadays.
Do you use any of the stuff that you used on the Laserdance and Proxyon albums, or have all that equipment been sold?

Most of the old equipment is gone, Michiel still has a lot of hardware but nothing that was used in the old days.

The only hardware things I still have are the Juno 106 and the Korg DVP1 vocoder.

We both use the same software and VSTi synths.

When I listen to the Laserdance/Proxyon/Area51 albums, I get the impression that all songs are made by just one person as the songs are in the same style and they includes similar voices through the whole album. Do you think that there is some difference in the music that you and Michiel make?

Of course there is a difference between Michiel and me. He has a classical background and is technically much more advanced then I am.

But I think because we grew up together making this music we both now each others style.

On the pictures of your and Michiels studios I can see that you both are using master keyboards with weighted keys. Isn't it difficult to play the fast melodies on those keyboards. Why aren't you using an ordinary synthkeyboard?

Once you are used to a weighted keyboard it isn't so difficult anymore to play it and the keys are slightly wider than on a normal keyboard which I like personally. I don't know why michiel uses it, maybe because he has always played classical piano and is now used to it.

If you got the chance today to freely swap your current music equipment to the analogue stuff that you used in the late 80s, would you do that swap? Why?

No way, and I think Michiel will give you the same answer. If you ever worked with the old equipment you would probably know how much effort it would take to create a new song.

Limited sequencer memory and writing down all mixer settings and synth presets where really annoying if you wanted to start a new song before you finished your current song. Not to mention the need to record large parts of a song on a 16 track tape and to manually cut the end mix on a 2 track master recorder. We both often talk about what we would have done if we would have had a setup in the 80's like we have now.

Tell us about the recording of the album Jupiter Beyond. It is quite a distance between Holland and Spain. How did you communicate and exchange ideas?

You don't want to know what my phone bills where during the recording of the album. As you know Michiel had no internet at his home in Spain so communication was all done by gsm. We each made part of the album and visited each other when we were ready mastering the tracks.

Have you and Michiel made all songs on the Area51 albums separately, or have you made some of the songs together? Was that the case also on the Laserdance & Proxyon albums?

On the Area 51 albums we both made the basic tracks on our own and visited each other when we where ready for mastering and if necessary alter the tracks a bit. The Laserdance / Proxyon albums we did together we also recorded together from start to end, if necessary we would sleep in the studio to get things finished.

Rob in his studio

What kind of feedback have you received for the Jupiter Beyond album? Was the album what people had expected or did they expected something that sounded even closer to the old Laserdance/Proxyon/Koto style?

I must say all feedback I have received so far is all positive. Looking at the reactions so far I must say it is what people expected. And we only just got started again.

In the sound sample of 'The Robot Empire' that you've uploaded on your website (and which is available on the Message from Another Time album now), I can hear a vocoderpart in the same wonderful style as on the first Laserdance albums. How do you make the vocoderparts? Do you sing or just talk the lyrics?

Michiel uses the vocoder on the JP 8080 and I use the Korg DVP1 vocoder. Normally we sing the vocoder parts and add a lot of delay and reverb to it.

Do you have any plans of printing the lyrics inside the cd-cover, or do you think that the lyrics shall remain as a secret?

I don't know if it is interesting printing the lyrics on the cover, but we will consider it on the next project.

Your Jupiter Beyond album includes alot bass line in the Koto-style. Do you have any plans of making songs with a bass line in the Laserdance/Proxyon style?

Yes on the next project I will definitely use the 106 bass line, as you know I now have a 106 again which is Michiel's old one.

I've always liked to have some T-shirts with the Laserdance/Proxyon/Koto logotype on. Have you and Michiel discussed with Humphrey about selling some merchandises with the Area51 or Rygar logo on?

We have not discussed this with Humphrey yet, maybe we will in the future. Anything with the Laserdance or Proxyon logo will not be done by us.

Have you heard some of the Spacesynth albums that have been produced by Hypersound and Axis during the latest years?

The only thing I have heard so far are some discs send to me by Anders and Maciej from Axis.

What musical plans do you have for the near future?

We will certainly continue making this music as long as we both have pleasure making it. Any new plans will be announced on our website as soon as we want to make them publicly.

Now you have given us answers to a lot of questions and before we end this interview I wonder
if there is something that you would like to say to your fans?

I like to thank everybody for their support. As long as we have fun making this music we will continue. Feel free to mail me, or Michiel, if you have any questions you would like to ask. We are also planning a big change on our website but that depends if Thomas has the time to help us doing it. And finally, we are planning some nice new ideas for this year and will keep you informed through our website.

Thanks for participating in this interview and good luck with your forthcoming album!

Thank you, and hope to hear from you soon. Greetings to you all.

Rob.

 

2005-05-22 20:56:43Interviewer(s):