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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari


Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Michel van Osenbruggen talks about the Refuge en Verre album

S&S:How was the Refuge en Verre project born?

Synth.NL: Ron and I didn't plan upfront to make an album at all to be honest. Ever since I have joined the Groove Unlimited label in 2007 I have become good friends with Ron. We visit each other on a regular basis and our wives, kids and even the dogs like each other too. Last summer our wives decided to rent a holiday house in the Belgian Ardennes together and Ron and I decided to both bring a synthesizer and try to make some music. We never played before together and we thought we might maybe record one or two songs. It turned out we could make music together very quickly and after the weekend we had quite some material. Only after that weekend then we decided to make this album.

S&S: With Refuge en Verre, Synth.NL touches lightly a music that is closer to the atmospheric and ambient progressive borders (Orage d'Été, Rosée du Matin and Coucher de Soleil). Is this the influence of Ron Boots or simply Synth.NL progression?

Synth.NL: When we started playing the first two tracks, they were quite uptempo and as you can probably tell the first track sounds a bit more like Ron Boots and the second track a bit more like Synth.NL even though you can hear us both clearly. From the third track on we wanted to do something different that was more the both of us. From there the idea came to play a more ambient track and Orage d'Été was born. Later on we decided to do some more quiet stuff. We actually like this kind of music very much, so it was not the influence of one of us, but the influence both of us.

S&S: After an album with catchy rhythms and melodies such as OceanoGraphy, don't you fear to destabilize your fans with an album that has a more progressive musical orientation as Refuge en Verre?

Synth.NL: No I don't fear that at all actually. I have a very simple view on my own music. I make the music that I like myself first of all and then if other people like it too... great!! If they don't... no problem at all! I won't get upset if people don't like my music. Everybody has his own taste fortunately and I can't change that :). Besides, this album is collaboration and there you have to make compromises of course. My next solo album will sound more like Synth.NL again I guess even though I'll try to improve myself of course and try not to do the same thing as on the last albums.

S&S: On is another side, your very rhythmic and orchestral approach is strongly present (La Roche-en-Ardenne, Combat de Coqs and Contemple de Ciel) on Refuge en Verre. How did the communication passed between you and Ron Boots?

Synth.NL: That went very easy, not in words but in notes :) Almost all tracks were played live as improvisations. Most of the times I started playing something and Ron just played along. Ron is a very good live artist with a lot of experience playing with other artists. I most often was amazed how easy it all went actually. This is really Ron's quality and not mine. Besides that Ron knows what kind of music I like since he helped mixing and mastering my solo albums and next to that we always have a lot of discussions about music together.

S&S: Did you feel swallowed or intimidated by Ron Boots experience and skill with random rhythms and sequences?

Synth.NL: No not at all. Ron is a very nice and easy person to work with. I'm way more difficult I guess ;) I'm quite stubborn and perfectionistic, but Ron handled that very well :) I think both our styles mix very well on this album. We are both melodic and chord oriented even though our individual approaches are different. The only thing I had to get used to is the longer length of the tracks. Usually my own tracks are a bit shorter, but it is Ron's quality again to keep these tracks interesting especially with his sequencer work.

S&S: Refuge en Verre is your 4th album. Wasn't it too early in your career to twin your music, which after all hardly flowers, with the one of a musician also experienced such as Ron Boots?

Synth.NL: I haven't thought about that to be honest. I was planning to release a solo album in October, but because this project was so much fun I decided to postpone that solo album and release this one together with Ron first. Actually when I think about it now, it might be even a good idea to get my name out to Ron's fans that don't know me yet. Ron has been around for a very long time and is very well known all over the World, where I just started out. But like I said before, that was not the reason for doing this at all. It was just a lot of fun to work with Ron and I'm very happy with the end result.

S&S: How did you like working in team? Does it take a lot of comprehension to work, write and match musical ideas with someone else?

Synth.NL: I could not work with just anyone I guess. Like I said before I'm not an easy person to work with. I have a strong idea about what I would like to do up front normally. Especially when I'm working on a solo project I already have a clear image of the theme of the album, the whole story and build-up of the album and even the music is already in my head before I start playing a note. In this project with Ron I just let myself go and I just went with the flow. There was no up front idea, no theme nothing. We just played and had fun. I guess this is why it worked. There were no complicated discussions at all. I liked working like this for a change and will do so again in the future for sure, but now I go back to my own way stubborn way again.

S&S: Does Refuge en Verre marks a new turning in the musical progression of Synth.NL? Synth.NL: Well yes and no. For me every track is a turning point actually. I try to improve myself with every track. Fortunately I still learn new things every day. I guess when I would not be able to improve myself anymore it would be better to stop completely. It would get boring then to make music for me. I learned a lot by the way from this project with Ron. He solves things differently than I would have done on my own. So it could well be that I will use this experience on my next projects. But Synth.NL will still remain Synth.NL :)

S&S: Talk to me about Rosée du Matin. We have the feeling to hear Vangelis at the time of Opera Sauvage. What is the influence of Vangelis on your music and which are your other musical influences?

Synth.NL: You are very right about that. I have all albums by Vangelis on CD and listen to them at least once a year, so I'm sure you will hear influences from him in my music. In my opinion he is the best EM artist in the scene, a very brilliant composer. Besides that I like Jean Michel Jarre a lot. I visited some of his concerts and even got to meet up with him a while ago. I also have all his albums on CD. Next those two artists I also like: The Art of Noise, Jan Hammer, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Orbital, The Prodigy, Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, Frankie goes to Hollywood. As long as it has lots of synthesizers in it :)

S&S: What are your 5 best albums? Your albums references that influenced your artistic choice?

Synth.NL: A top five, that is always hard :) But I guess at this moment in time it would look like this:

Vangelis – Soil Festivities

Vangelis – Antartica

Vangelis – China

Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygene

Jean Michel Jarre – Equinoxe

S&S: How does Michel van Osenbruggen comes to make EM?

Synth.NL: That is a long story, that you can read in the biography on my website, but here is a short version: I have a background in electronics and when I found out that you could make sounds with electronics I was immediately hooked. Then I bought my first synthesizer in 1990 or so and started collecting them from then on. I did a lot of sound design, but never recorded any music. I was just too busy with my job and then I started my own company in 1996 and I had even less time. Unfortunately I suffered a burnout in 2005 and I was at home, not able to work at all. Then I though that it was time to finally start doing something productive with all those synthesizers I collected, and I started recording some tracks and from there my first album came in 2007.

S&S: What are the instruments you are using and fascinate you the most and why?

Synth.NL: I have a lot of synthesizers in my studio. There is a complete list of everything on my website if you are interested and there are lots of pictures of the studio as well. I try to use all synthesizers as much as possible, but I have my favorites of course. I use both analog and digital synthesizers, so I'll name five favorites for both categories. On the analog side I just love these: Moog Minimoog, ARP 2600, Elka Synthex, Roland Jupiter 8 and the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. And yes, they really are as good as everyone says :) On the digital side these are my favorites: Access Virus TI, Roland V-Synth GT, Korg M3, Roland JP8000, Roland D50. But what fascinates me the most are not any of these actually but the modular synthesizers I bought and those that I am building myself. It is just unbelievable what you can do with those machines.

S&S: Since AeroDynamics in 2007, you were always produced by Groove. What was the impact of Ron Boots on the music of Synth.NL?

Synth.NL: Not that much actually. The only thing Ron every said to me on my first album is that I should lay down a bit on the drums. In the first versions of AeroDynamics that I did myself the drums were a bit more upfront in the mix. Ron also thought some of my sounds were too dry, so he advised me to use more reverb here and there. While mixing and mastering AeroDynamics with Ron I learned a lot from him. So much in fact that on my two following albums he didn't have that much work any more. But musically Ron lets me do my own thing and I'm still very happy that Ron and Kees gave me the chance to release my music on the Groove Unlimited label. And if it is up to me, I hope to release a lot of new albums with them in the future.

S&S: Why Synth.NL and the NL?

Synth.NL: My own name is Michel van Osenbruggen and it is quite difficult to pronounce for a lot of people and even Dutch people never seem to write it correctly, so it didn't seem very suitable to use as an artist name to me. When I was thinking of an artist name, I wanted people to recognize that I did something with synthesizers right away. Synth is short for synthesizer of course. I was also looking for a name that was available on the Internet as a domain-name and a name that was easy to remember for everyone. Then I found out that was still free. That seemed like a good and short name for a website and then I thought why not use it as an artist name as well. It is obvious that I do something with synthesizers and the .NL shows that I am from The Netherlands. If people can remember this name, they don't have to think about my website either. They can just type it in the browser, and it will work :) Some people like the name some don't, but everyone remembers it and I think that is the most important.

S&S: After Refuge En Verre, what can we expect from Synth.NL in the near future?

Synth.NL: There are lots more to come. First of all I'm working on finishing the solo album that I postponed for Refuge en Verre. That album will be called 'Apollo' and that will be about the Apollo Space missions to the Moon that NASA did in the so called 'Space Race' to beat the Russians back then. I was born in 1969 myself and that was the year that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. So I always felt very connected to this event. I hope to release it in April 2011 during the E-day festival. I'm also working on my Classical Project for a long time already. Unfortunately I had some technical difficulties that forced me to postpone that project as well, but I hope to release that in the near future too. Besides that I'm already working on a lot of new stuff, so I'm sure lots more will come in the future, maybe also some more collaborations with other artists.... Who knows? ;)

S&S: Are you satisfied of the rise of EM and the progression of Synth.NL?

Synth.NL: I still have fun producing my own music and I'm happy that I can still improve myself. It is also nice that there are lots of people that apparently like music and give me positive feedback on it. That is really what keeps me going and motivates me to make new music. I am a bit disappointed though how much attention EM gets on the radio and more public media. I put in a lot of effort to get my music out there and notice that people are delighted to hear there is more music than the main stream stuff they hear every day. I really hope that some day some popular DJ's might notice that movement too. Music is not all about heavy beats and screaming guitars. Sometimes people also want to relax. Funny enough I have a lot of fans that are really into Dance music or Heavy Metal and like my music to relax to from time to time. As for my personal progression I would really love to do more projects like the Planetarium project I did a while ago. I'd love to make a score for a movie or documentary some day, but then not just the ordinary orchestral Hollywood sound, but give it my own touch, like Vangelis did with the Bladerunner movie and the Antartica documentary. Ah well.... we all need our dreams right? ;)

Sylvain Lupari (November 25th, 2010)

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