Monday, 11 June 2007

Synth.nl -aka Michel van Osenbruggen. Synthesiser music from Holland


EDIT 19th June: Synth.nl has just mailed me with some GREAT NEWS! 


Above: Synth.nl in his studio.

I'm getting a lot of musicians inviting me to be MySpace friends, and I really enjoy listening to everything. All the music I've heard has been good in one way or another, but occasionally I hear stuff that triggers an empathy switch in my brain. The music is communicating that somewhere along the line, I have something in common with the artist; the music is almost a conductor of understanding and familiarity.

I knew absolutely nothing about Synth.nl when I clicked on his MySpace invite and started listening to the track that was playing, but I found the music instantly uplifting. It's the sort of music into which I can jump in and then float about, being gently tossed this way and that by its currents. It reminds me of that transendental floating around feeling you get as the passenger of a fast car doing laps round a race track.

It's no coincidence that Synth.nl is really into racing cars then. Only I didn't know that before I interviewed him...

Above: Me in my mate's Lotus Elise after a whole day of doing laps at, I think, Donnington race track (him driving, of course, wink.)

The following interview is a list of emailed questions, with Synth.nl's answers. Click below to listen to "Scuderia." This gives you a good idea of Synth.nl's music. You can find more on his MySpace and site.




Jude: I love the fact that Scuderia starts with what sounds like a cricket (cicada) followed by Formula 1 sounds. I think the Formula 1 sounds work really well throughout your stuff. Are you a fan of motor racing?

Synth.nl: Yes I love motor racing. Formula 1 in particular. I really love this little high tech world. Once a year I just have to go to a race and hear the singing of these high revving engines and also smell the mixture of oil, gasoline and burning rubber. Also the atmosphere on race events is always very relaxed. I will go to the 24 hours of Le Mans this year as well. Second best to Formula 1. The car you hear in Scuderia is a Ferrari Formula 1 car by the way. My favourite brand..


Ferrari Scuderia Formula 1 car.

Jude: Have you ever been on a track day? Where you go to a racing track and drive round the track in your own car? I did a few laps at Donnington as a passenger in a TVR Tuscan and we came off the track at over 100 mph. That was fun. Do you like fast cars? What car do you drive?

Yeah, that TVR Tuscan. A total sex beast.

Synth.nl: I drove on the Fiorano circuit recently at the Ferrari factory. This is their official test track. We drove brand new F430 cars there with an official testdriver. It was like a dream come through for me. It was actually the only time I drove on a circuit. In the beginning I was quite nervous, but after a while I really enjoyed it. My dream is to buy a Ferrari one day. But for now I drive a very nice cousin. It is a Maserati.



Above: Synth.nl's dream car. The Ferrari F430.

Jude: I’ve just written an article about Peter Greenaway, who also lives in the Netherlands, like you. Michael Nyman has written the scores for many of his films. What do think of Michael Nyman’s music?

Synth.nl: I wasn’t familiar with his music before I read the interview. I listened to some of his work after reading the interview. It is very nice I think. Much more classical than what I do. But I like classical music a lot too. I can only have much respect for someone that has achieved all this already. I’m just a beginning amateur compared to this man.

Jude: I saw Orbital live in Sheffield some time in the early nineties and it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. Have you ever seen them live? What did you think when you first heard their music? Have they influenced your work?


Synth.nl: No I haven’t seen them live unfortunately. I would like to though. I like their work a lot. And yes they influenced me for sure.

Jude: Are you classically trained? If so, up to what grade? And if so, was the piano your first instrument?


Synth.nl: I took one year organ lessons when I was ten years old, but I hated the music they made me play and also the fact that I had to learn to read notes. So I quit :) I still can’t read notes actually. I do everything on my hearing and can read the midi editor in Sonar very well. After this organ lessons a long time nothing happened. I studied electronics and from there my interest in synths came along. More from the technical side than the musical side. So actually I started out as a collector of these beautifully black and white buttoned machines with blinking light on them about 11 years ago. I never did anything usefull with them though but tweaking filters and knobs. About 1 year ago I suffered a burnout and had to stay home from work to recover from that and got bored quite quickly. That is when I started making music to relax and keep myself busy. I took a very steep learning curve in that year :) I actually had no idea where to start.

Jude: Do you have sounds already in your mind before you compose a new piece? Like, with Asian cooking and website building, you prepare all the ingredients and then right at the last minute, assemble them into something interesting. How would you describe composing music on a synth? What kind of process do you use?


Synth.nl: Usually I’m starting with a certain sound I like. I’m always fiddling around with synth sounds or samples I like to record in the field with my Edirol R09. I love that machine. I carry it around everywhere. At a certain moment a melody evolves around these sounds and I start to work on a rough track. Usually I work on a lot of tracks at the same time. I like switching between them and tweaking them bit by bit until they are finished. I also have some friends that listen to my rough versions and comment them. I learn a lot from my friends this way. In the beginning it was strange for me to hear that people all listen to different things in a track.

Jude: Are you more into smoother rhythmic electronic music rather than industrial dance music?

Synth.nl: I like smooth stuff and dance stuff as well. Not too hardcore though. It has to be melodious in the first place and my preference is synths only. So no acoustical instruments are harmed in the production of my music ;)

Jude: Was Tubular Bells an influence on you? Tubular Bells was one of the albums which was very important to me during the 70s.



Synth.nl: Yes I liked that album a lot. I was one of the first instrumental things I heard. I started my to listen to Vangelis and Jarre after that. And that is the music I ended up loving the most.

Jude: Do you like Hagelslag on bread? I think Hagelslag is one of the best things about Holland.


Synth.nl: Hahaha. Yes I like it, but I’m more a peanut butter kind of guy :)

Jude: More about the 70s…you list Tangerine Dream as one of your influences. I went to see Tangerine Dream at the Sheffield City Hall around 1974, and fell asleep. But it was a great experience. Music as drugs. I think the idea of music as a soundscape is a very pure form of music as it aids thought processes in a meditative kind of way. What do you think about this idea?


Synth.nl: I totally agree on that. Relaxing is very important in my music as well. I often use music to fall a sleep myself. To get back on Tangerine Dream: Maybe that could have been the nicest thing to happen to them too. The whole City Hall asleep :) I would feel very pleased if I know someone used my music to fall a sleep with :)

Jude: Do you have to have a day job to support making music or are you fortunate enough to be able to work at your music full time?


Above: Schematic view of main studio components.

Synth.nl: 11 years ago I quit my job and started an Internet company together with a partner. I worked from 8 AM till 2 AM every day for the first 10 years. And then the burnout came. I didn’t have time to listen to music in that period. So I have a lot of catching up to do. I’m just starting out with my music and I hope to release my first CD this year. So this far I only spend a lot of money on this hobby :)




Jude: I notice you’ve got a Roland Jupiter 6, which is of course a well sexy and very famous synth. What do you reckon to Roland Junos?


Synth.nl: Well let me start out that I have always been a Roland fan. The Jupiter is very nice indeed. I also have Europa installed in there, wich makes it a bit more modern. And about the Juno’s I haven’t got one yet, but I have a Juno 160 on my wishlist actually. So probably will get one some day. Recently I bought a JX8P also very nice :)

Jude: The Human League were, of course, a really great band in their early days. What do you think of their early music?

Synth.nl: Very nice music. I even have an album of them. Though I do prefer instrumental music :)



Jude: I love all the photos of your equipment on your website, including photos of the leads coming out the back of your gear. It’s almost organic, that. Tell me something about all your equipment, your favourite pieces for example and why you like them.



Synth.nl: Well to start out I’m a real gear junkie. I love sitting in my studio with the lights off and look at all the leds blinking. You can see that in my video’s I guess. When I buy a synth it is always a combination of sound and looks. I also like to do everything myself. All cables are hand soldered exactly to length. And I know exactly where every cables is. The only problem of my studio now is that it is full. I can hardly fit in there myself anymore. At the moment I actually thinking about building the entire thing from scratch in a bigger room. A lot of work, but worthwhile I think. About my favourite gear. A lot of people prefer old vintage synths my my favourites are actually very modern ones. My top 3: 1) V-synth (soon to be replaced by already ordered V-synth GT). 2) Access Virus TI and 3) The Korg Karma because it is fun to jam on.

Jude: I’ve not listened to a lot of Vangelis, although the soundtrack to Bladerunner is one of my favourite film soundtracks. Which are your favourite Vangelis albums and why?

Synth.nl: Oh that is difficult. He did so may things a most of them are brilliant. I love Soil Festivities that is my ultimate relaxing CD. And I like Oceanic and Voices as well. My favourite track is an oldie. Spiral :P

Jude: What unknown/little known and undiscovered musicians do you particularly rate? Maybe ones you’ve met on MySpace or ones you’ve come across in other ways.


Synth.nl: At the moment I’m discovering a lot of new artists. I meet a lot of people on myspace now. Lovely new world to discover. For me they are new but probably not for insiders: Again a top 3) Ron Boots, Gert Emmens, Nattefrost.



Jude: And of course, Kraftwerk. Are they Gods, or what? I would say so. Can you remember when you first heard them? What effect did their music have on you?


Synth.nl: OK. The first time I heard them I just thought they were weird :) I learned to really appreciate their music later. I recently bought their DVD and I really love it. I have watched it more than 20 times already and I’m not done yet. Now I’m looking up all their old albums as well.

Jude: Would you like to compose film scores eventually?

Synth.nl: Yes. That would be my ultimate goal. I would also love to do documentaries for the BBC, Discovery or National Geographic or so.

I hope you do. I think your music is brilliant, and I hope you go on to be a big success, which you deserve. Thank you for inviting me to be a MySpace friend.

Synth.nl: Thank you very much for accepting me as a friend and this nice interview. I really enjoyed it.


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Synth.nl's MySpace


Synth.nl's site



A really well laid out and easy to navigate site. Here's an extract from the projects page:

AeroDynamics Album (2007)
I'm working currently on my first album. I selected 'Aerodynamics' as the main theme for this album. It will probably become the name of the album as well. During my unvoluntary millitary duty I served in the Dutch airforce, where I was a mechanic on F-16 fighter planes. I got quite some education before I was able to perform this task. One of the classes I enjoyed a lot was aerodynamics and since then I have allways been fascinated with the aerodynamic aspect of race cars, jet planes and space vehicles. So all tracks are related to this subject.

Atmosphere Album (2007)
I haven't finished my first album yet, but I am already working on the second one as well. I even know the theme for the next one. That third one will be all about Space. But before you get from the ground into space, you have to leave the atmosphere. So we will go through the different layers of air on this album. During this journey we will encounter a lot of cloud formations and other phenomena in earths atmosphere.

Classical Project (2007)
I started working on a new project as well called 'Classical'. It will be a project for 2007. The objective is to make a CD with Synth.nl versions of famous classical tracks from the old composers like Vivaldi, van Beethoven, Bach and Pachelbel.


Many thanks to Synth.nl for the interview and for the ease of communication too :)


Above: Me on my way to the 24 hour bike race at Le Mans on the back of a Yamaha XJ900. 1984.

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© Jude Calvert-Toulmin


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