Interest for instrumental music
I realy like "The Tornados"
Hi, my name is Danny but I have chosen "Guy-Lian" (like the famous Belgian chocolates) as my nickname. Born in Belgium (may 1967) my life has always been dominated by music. My father, being a hifi enthousiast, owned more than a thousand albums and an extensive collection of tape reels. Besides rock & roll, disco and country, instrumental music was part of this library. Especially the music of "The Spotnicks" and "The Shadows" drew my attention. A special place was reserved for the organ based music of "The Tornados".
In the second half of the seventies, new artists entered the pop charts with musical styles never heard before. "Jean-Michel Jarre" with “Oxygene”, some years later followed up by “Equinox”. "Vangelis" became popular with “Pulstar” and “To The Unknow Man”. These tracks impressed me even more. Much had to do with those exotic timbres which were totally different form those organs and electric guitars.
From "just listening" to actually "playing"
About the beginning of a home studio
In the early eighties I got to know a client from my fathers work, a guy who had tons of synth based albums. He introduced me to the music of artists that were totally new to me. Amongst others Kitaro, Klaus Shulze, Tangerine Dream, Tomita and Michael Garisson entered my aural world. And apparantly Jarre and Vangelis had much more in their sleeves than Oxygenes, Equinoxes, ans Pulstars ... too. But the most important fact was that he owned a rather comprehensive synth studio of his own. Those "organs" impressed me beyond compare. The looks of an ACE TONE SY5 Multistrings, Yamaha CS30 or Roland System 100 model 101 and 102 really made me drule.
A year after our first meeting he sold his Roland System 100 Model 101 to me and this became my very first acquisition, the first step of what would become a home studio of my own. After exploring various synthesis parameters (what happens if I turn that "resonance" up to 10??? .... auch, my ears, my ears!!!), notes (is it an A, is it a B, is it a C? ... nope you stupid ... it's a D ... and a flat one, by the way!!!), rhythms, melodies and the like, my parents approved on making further investments. Over a period of four years I was given the opportunity to expand the 101 with an ARP AXXE, mono synth, a Roland CSQ600 sequencer, a TR808 drum computer, Evans Echopet EP-100 and Crumar Trilogy poly synth. all second hand. Thanks mum and dad for making this possible!!! For two years the "System 100"-man even borrowed me his ACE TONE SY5 Multistrings so I was able to put some nice songs together, mostly inspired by Michael Garisson.
In 1984 a milestone was set with the acquisition of a brand new DX7 (a synth I still own in 2020). For more than a year I plunged into studying and experimenting with FM synthesis, creating a sound library of about 100 personal patches. At that time I recorded my songs by bouncing between two Revox A77 tape recorders.
By the end of the eighties the first multitimbral workstations saw the market. Having to make a choice between the Korg M1 and a Roland D20 I chose the latter. Now my songs began to evolve rapidly. In this developing style there was less room for the older synths so I sold some of them (the TR808, ARP AXXE and Evans Echopet).
In my hunger for more polyphony and sequencing power (demanded by the new style), a Roland W30 sampling workstation and Yamaha SY99 synthesizer joined the expanding studio.
My playing technique, composing and mixing skills grew steadily with the years. I temporarily joined a guitar band "The Guitar Syndicate" who covered "The Shadows". I had to play all the non guitar parts, forcing me to search for (what were to me) unusual chords and notes. I also started making music for a couple of student performances of the skool of arts (NARAFI in Brussels and Sint Lucas in Antwerp) and of course I explored my own boundaries with compositions just for fun, trying to push my limits.
Between 1999 and 2003 I didn't use my gear much. Those years I spend a lot of time with my family, they deserved all the attention they needed. So the synths were retired temporarily. But by the end of 2003 I felt the need to start composing again. Besides, by 2005 my equipment list had gained reasonable size with several synths, samplers, hardware sequencers, FX units and an analog Soundtracs Topaz 48 mixing console. Some of the eldest instruments were sold too. Anyhow, the fact of giving my family lots of attention didn't interfere with my modest lust for gear. The expanded setup found its place in an attic above the garage of our new home, perfect for inspiration.
At that time I made my first CD album: “Musical Impressions”. The album was published indepentantly and contained 12 tracks covering different kinds of music: from italo over disco to more melodic songs, sometimes with an obvious link to Vangelis. In 2008 my concept “Jewel” was finished. It musically described types of landscapes like the savannah, the forest or even the city. Because of my growing experience the songs got more and more mature. In 2006 one of the first composed tracks of the Jewel concept, "Jewel of the Arctic" won the synth contest on the Dutch synthforum, which was quite a personal achievement.
A new chapter:
"Solar System" and
"Song of Souls"
Between 2010 and 2015, due to personal problems, I stopped making music. Until april 2019 I rarely fired up the rig.
But in januari 2019, after investing in additional hardware, I was caught by the music virus once again and started two new concepts: one with the name "Solar System". This album was to become my musical journey through our solar system, starting with the sun and ending with the controversial (ex-)planet Pluto. Every planet is given its own song with its own ambiance.
Another one, called "Song of Souls", is a collaboration with two talented graphic artists. They write and draw short animation flics and I was asked to compose the music for those short pieces of art. Please continue reading for further desciption of those compositions.
The first track of Solar System, "Saturn - VI" was finished end of may 2019. The song travels along this massive planet, passing the distinctive rings, vast collection of moons, looking at the atmosphere ...
"Uranus - VII" was delivered in december of the same year. Though more modest, it tries to capture the beauty of this distant gaseous giant.
2020 started with a new milestone: 'Earth - III'. The song was a collaboration with my good friend and skilled musician Hermax. He was responsable for the musical composition and structure. He delivered more than a dozen stereo WAV-files which I rearranged into 8 stereo files. These were loaded into the audio mixer of the KORG Kronos and added EQ and effects. Then I started to add additional tracks (solo violin, flutes section, strings section etc. The result was a rather epic track of over 16 minutes.
April gave birth to 'Mars - IV'. Building on my new musical experiences with Earth, I began a very melodic composition. I also digged in the RPPR-, KARMA- and Drumtrack functions of the KORG Kronos workstation. This all lead to a very lush and rich sounding track describing the beautiful fourth planet of the solar system. Most of the sounds I designed myself (besides the solo violin and orchestral percussion samples of the EMU).
A month later "Asteroid Belt" was completed. A very serene song, describing the typical rocky formation between Mars and Jupiter. The musical phrases were invented back in 1989 on a Roland D20 and Yamaha DX7. Now it was rerecorded using the EMU sampler and KORG Kronos I asked Hermax for some advice on the ending chord progressions. He came up with this simple but beautiful idea which incorporates flawlessly with the main part of the song.
In June "Mercury - I" was finished. This time I went back to a more "easy listening" style while staying true to the overall atmosphere of the Solar System project.
In July I was asked to compose some short songs as a source of inspiration for the two talented graphical artists and story tellers I told you before. Because of the peculiar characters of their phantasy I made some rather different sounding tracks: "Remuz Amy" and "The Mandarin Dragon". They can be heard in the song section of this site under the project "Songs of Souls".
Also in July I started composing the arrangement of "Jupiter - V". This track is one of my most complex one, certainly in the musical domain. It contains lots of tempo variations, musical modulations, switches between minor and major chords and the like. Two and a half months and tons of work later it was finished, setting yet another milestone.
Just before starting "Venus - II" I composed another track for the graphic artists. This time it describes elves caring about lost people in the dark woods. The result is "Lost Elves" which you can listen to in the "Songs of Souls" section.
10/22/2020: a major milestone is reached: 39 years after my first steps in electronic music a contract with a major EM distributor is negociated! Soon more news on this will be released.
November 2020 "Venus - II" was finished. As most of the other Solar System tracks, Venus - II is all about melody, harmony and atmosphere.
November 2020 (again) seems to be a very inspirational month. A new track "A Brand New Life" was composed because of the fact that my wife and I were informed that we are to become grandparents for the first time in our lives. This immediately led to this very joyful song. Quite a bit different than the other songs but nevertheless created with as much love as the Solar System tracks :-).
And again in November, "Pledged Souls" was finished too. Actually the base of it was used in the end project of a conceptual video of my eldest daughter. I recorded some extra midi tracks so it can be added to the "Songs of Souls" project.
And November was closed with the completion of "Sun - Ouverture". This is to become the opening track of the Solar System project. Somewhat unusual to me: it begins with a soundscape as the listener is guided from outerspace to the galaxy closer and closer to the center of our solar system. As the star is approached the soundscape transforms to an epic sounding crescendo. It was the first song mixed on the new Yamaha HS8 monitors.
As the end of 2020 was coming, I had to chang the full songs to teasers. This was because the Jewel-project as well as Solar System Part I and II was going to be published by Groove Unlimited. Take a peek at the "songs"-page and listen to the teasers. You might like them ;-).
February 2021: almost 40 years after I took my first synthesizer steps my first pro CD "Solar System Part 1: The Terrestrial Planets" is published by Groove Unlimited. The CD comprises the tracks Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Asteroid Belt. If you want to listen to the teaser, buy the CD or the tracks on Bandcamp go to the <Songs page>. You can click <HERE> to go directly to the CD page on Groove Unlimited.
March 2021, after three months, "Neptune - VIII" was finished. Due to serveral personal situations the song was created in bits and pieces. Nevertheless the same standard as the former compositions of the Solar System project was reached. Only one track to go and this epic journey through space will be finished.
May 2021: "Pluto - IX", as last track of the Solar System project, was completed. Describing this peculiar (non) planet the track consists of two similar pieces. One with a bit sad mood considering this object not as a fullworthy planet anymore. But recently more and more scientists want to categorize it as a real planet again. This 'joyful' prospect is reflected in the second happier part with sequences, drums and percussion.
Since Pluto was the last piece to be finished, all tracks for "Solar System Part II: The Jovian Planets & Beyond" will be transferred to Groove Unlimited to get published.
The coming year will be spent at getting a new house into shape. This means also rearranging a new home studio. So chances are little to compose new pieces. But when all is back up and running new work will be released.
July 2021: The succesor to Solar System Part I is published by Groove Unlimited: "Solar System Part II: The Jovian Planets & Beyond". This album contains five tracks all meticulously arranged and mixed, describing the outer planets of our solar system. It is available on industrial pressed CD and as a download on Bandcamp.
So stay tuned on this site for new work.
February 2022: It has been a while since I posted here. This was mainly because of the move to a new house. Last month I finished the new home studio. Because it has a rectangular shape of 3.30m by 3.60m and contains two windows and a door I had to acousticaly treat the studio. I made some bass traps in the corners and two absorption clouds on the ceiling. Most of the surface of the walls are covered by diffusing panels.
All instruments and other equipment are setup again and resemble the former studio. Only a new Jaspers stand was purchased to house the mixing desks, MIDI master and PC-keyboards.
Next few months my wife and I will finish other rooms of the house . I hope to start composing again somewhere next summer. Keep my fingers crossed for lots of inspiration :-).
How do I look at making music?
Often people say that they can recognize my songs immediatly. This is because of the way I look at composing.
I prefer to make rather simple arrangements with lush melodies backed by silk chords. This simplicity is partly due to my rather restricted playing skills, which can be addressed by technology, but I really do prefer simple sounding melodies.
At the same time, things may not become dull or childish so I have to keep it interesting. This I try to accomplish by bringing a certain amount of “emotionality” to my creations. It’s always an interesting challenge to use cold and static instruments to bring up tracks that moves the audience. This is what has always interested me in the work of Vangelis and Kitaro. Their songs repeatedly brought me to tears and goosebumps. The last years I seem to get a similar result rather well myself (this being said I do not pretend to be of the same high level as these two exceptional pioneers of electronic music).
In order to get emotionality in my work I make extensive use of MIDI controller codes 7 (volume) and 10 (stereo panning) to bring static sounds to life. For instance, the solo violin sample I use in quite a lot of my work is very suitable for this technique. Other sounds I use this way are the oboe and flute samples, both of the EMU/AKAI S1000 libraries but also choir and string arrangements are recorded this way. The controller codes CC7 and CC10 are often assigned to a modulation wheel or data slider. Especially when patches are played in a layered fashion these modulations result in a quite expressive experience.
Another way I achieve this peculiar sound and arrangement is to start from pictures that I try to describe musically. The Solar System Project is the perfect example of this. Whenever I feel ready to start a new composition, for instance Mars, I first look up several photographs of NASA, ESA or antoher official site on the planet and used them as background of my laptop. Just staring at those photographs and admiring their beauty, ideas tend to come up very spontaneously, always giving that special feeling to the overall arrangement. Therefor I dream to write a score for a documentary or film. Perhaps this dream can come true one day … who knows.
Another typical way of producing music is that I record it without the use of a DAW. It is true that I do have a laptop installed in the studio but its only purpose is to visualize the pictures of the planets (or whatever theme I’m working on). Besides that and even more importantly I use it to look up the extensive PDF manuals of the instruments.
The recording process is completely done in the internal sequencers of the synths that have one. For those who don’t have one built in I use two very stable old-school Roland MC500MkII external sequencers. This way of working has served me very well for decades and I never felt the urge to convert to some kind of DAW.
The mixing task, normally taken care by a DAW also, is done on an analog/digital Yamaha MGP32X mixing desk and a small Soundcraft EPM12. All the instruments are hooked up with four or more outputs to the desks. As for effects, I use the internal generators of the synths if they are of good quality. The section of the Kronos, SY99’s or Access Virus C are perfectly suited for this matter. If effect quality is poor or totally absent -for instance the Roland D20 (poor), W30, Yamaha DX7 and both EMU E-series samplers (absent) I rely on three outboard processors being a TC Electronic M-One, Alesis QuadraVerb Plus and Lexicon MX400. They are fed to the desks by 6 send/returns. On some occasions, the two internal effects of the Yamaha mixing desk are dialed in too.
All this together makes the need for a DAW for me obsolete. The only danger that may become lurking behind the corner someday are data storage issues. All instrument patches and songs are stored on old floppies or hard disks. For the moment I ‘ve seldom experienced issues with it but one day it will happen. Anyway, as for now, I’m perfectly happy with my way of working, giving me the opportunity to move the listener with my songs, take them to an imaginary voyage through for instance the solar system.
Thanks for reading.
Danny (Guy-Lian Music)