Waveform Interview

The following interview extracts are courtesy of Zenith Magazine and took place just before the release of Virtual World.

"Making Waves", the first CD by Waveform, surprised many with the high standard of the compositions and the commercial sound. The musician behind Waveform is Steve Blenkinsopp who operates from Scarborough. Steve is working on the follow-up and has allowed us to preview the excellent track "Vista". How long have you been working with Synthesisers?

I have been intensely interested in synthesisers for the last 14 years and started by recording tapes for family, friends etc. since then. I was sound engineer at the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough for a few years and keyboard player for the short-lived group "Eclipse". In my attempt to gain a commercial record contract, "pop" songs such as "My Girl" were written which received airplay on local radio stations. A more serious synth piece called "Astral Flight" also earned air time and led to an Interview with BBC radio.

The result of this musical activity was a publishing contract. This unfortunately turned out to be restrictive as the publishers (who will remain nameless) were not used to promoting instrumental music and would not release submitted material! At the same time they wanted to retain the copyright and would not allow me to submit the work to other publishers or release it myself. This unfortunate state of affairs lasted about 5 years until my solicitor eventually sorted things out. The effect of all this was that I was actually put off writing and recording music for some time.

Eventually, I decided to concentrate fully on recording instrumental music (the first piece I wrote about 12 years ago was entirely instrumental and was 20 mins long!) and subsequently my debut CD, "Making Waves", was released.

What sort of response have you had to "Making Waves"?

A lot of positive feedback from people who have bought the album. It's ironic that it's sold more copies in Germany and Holland than the UK. It would be great if it sold more here.

What music do you enjoy listening to?

Basically any instrumental music - it doesn't have to feature synthesisers. Anything that is challenging to listen to and rewards you over several listens rather than instant gratification. If the question is geared towards influences, then I would have to say the sound of synthesisers as I discovered them in the late 70's were what got me recording my own music. Genesis, particularly their earlier work, for example, but whether they were an influence on my music is questionable. Basically I am fascinated by the synthesiser and it's capabilities.

Do you ever hope to perform your music live?

It would be good to do some live performances. Anyone who has heard "Making Waves" will know some of the arrangements are quite complex involving several dozen layers of instruments. To do that justice live would either involve working with several people and quite extensive rehearsals, or involve backing tapes and I always feel this is a cop out. Certain synth music lends itself to solos over a rhythmic sequence backing, but most of my arrangements are quite complex and won't come across quite as well live without doing it properly. I can't see it in the near future.

Can you give me some additional background on Vista?

Instrumentation first. The equipment is basically the same as the "Making Waves" album. The main change on "Vista" is the addition of the Kurzweil K2000 which is an incredible synth. It lets you load samples from the Akai S1000 sampler (the industry standard) and then process these samples as if they were raw waveforms in a synth itself. So it's got filters, resonance, effects etc on board and you can also load your own waveforms. I sold my Jupiter 8 after having put all it's waveform samples into the K2000, so effectively, I still have the Jupiter 8!

It's probably the way that synths will be going in the future. The K2000 uses a method of synthesis called VAST -Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology. It's a bit of a gimmicky name, but it means you can design your own synth on the screen, configuring it to any way you want. The bird sounds at the start of Vista' were created on the K2000, basically the filter going into self oscillation (laughs)...if you are interested in the technical details! It just uses sine waves, modulating them to give the trill of the birds and the crickets.

The next album will explore virtual reality. "Vista" basically takes you into a virtual world, a place that doesn't exist other than in the mind of the computer and the participant in the computer game. It's set in the future and "Vista" looks at it from the perspective of a rain forest. The rain forests have died and the only way to see them, and other natural beauties of the world, is via virtual reality. I wanted the birds at the start not to sound too realistic to give the impression that they were artificially created.

The central character, who is the link between tracks, is exploring this virtual rain forest. Obviously in the virtual world you can do anything - point up and you can fly! The reason the strings have a slightly sad feel about them is because the rainforest does not exist anymore, mankind didn't save it. (laughs) ...We're getting very philosophical here! Some of the other tracks will be exploring virtual warfare, entertainment etc. It will me more rhythmic than the last album, more up-tempo, and I'm looking forward to working on it.

Many thanks to Steve for this interview, and I hope that those who haven't yet heard "Making Waves" will be impressed enough by Vista to investigate Waveform further.