second half of the 1970s was a golden time for European rock
music. In the post-Beatles daze, especially on the European continent,
rock had been surpassed by a new form of experimental instrumental
music that heavily featured synthesizers and all types of post 60s
electronic music technology. One French artist called Zanov
(his full name is Pierre Salkazanov), released three albums
of electronic music back in the late 1970s. In 1980, Zanov was about
to work on album number four when he stopped. Although not releasing
albums over the past 30 years, now in 2014 Zanov is back with his
legendary fourth album, newly remixed and remodeled. Featuring a dazzling
display of electronic instrumental music sounds, Virtual Future
sounds like a throwback to the late 1970s, a time when all
seemed well with the music world, and thats a good thing. Speaking
to mwe3.com about his musical approach, Zanov explains, The
inspiration behind my music is purely musical. Many times, days and
nights, I have sounds, chains of sounds, tunes coming in my head.
I forget most of them, but when I am composing, the strongest ones
come back. I do not have to visualize or think about anything else
but sounds. In general, I have my mind turned towards the future.
The CD pressing of Virtual Future features some eye-popping
cover art that should raise a few eyebrows. Fans of electronic music
masters such as Jean Michel Jarre and T. Dream will enjoy Zanovs
unique and intriguing approach to dazzling electronic music.
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Can you tell us where youre from originally and something about
where you live now and what you like best about it?
Zanov: I was born in Paris in 1947. I am currently living in
France, near Lyon, in the country. What I like the best, besides playing
music is driving my car, riding my Harley, walking in the country,
reading scientific books and spending time with my family.
mwe3: What were your early music studies like? What instruments
did you gravitate to when you were younger and how many instruments
do you play?
Zanov: I started playing piano when I was 6 years old, but
it was very old school. No way to listen to any music, just trying
to execute what was written on the score, not feeling anything and
getting ruler taps on the fingers for each mistake and a piece of
chocolate at the end when the session was not too bad. So in the end
I hated playing piano.
At 17, I bought my first guitar, which was for me the symbol of freedom.
Then I played in a small band, but never became a good guitar player.
We started by playing only The Shadows, and after that we evolved
by playing most of the hits of the time in discotheques, until the
end of 1969.
became bored with the guitar sounds and tried to imagine that it could
be possible to create and arrange sounds with electronic means. I
was trying to master the noise between tuned stations on my radio
transistor with the tune knob and the antenna position, and sometime
was getting a sound that I liked. I didnt know at that time
that the first synthesizers already existed and that there were already
musicians to use them. At the same time, I was studying engineering
in high school and started to work as a computer design engineer in
mwe3: How did your music influences inspire you to consider
becoming a recording artist? Who were your big music influences growing
in France? Even though you speak a different language in France, I
know that pop and rock were huge there and The Beatles and The Shadows
were quite popular in France too.
Zanov: The inspiration behind my music is purely musical. Many
times, days and nights, I have sounds, chain of sounds, tunes coming
in my head. I forget most of them, but when I am composing, the strongest
ones come back. I do not have to visualize or think about anything
else but sounds. In general, I have my mind turned towards the future.
I like futurology, sciences, evolution... I know a lot about chaos
theory and complexity science. This influences a lot my ways to see
the music and sound composition.
I had very few influences from other musicians. I had too many ideas
by myself and this gave me the chance to have a personal style without
any temptation to copy other styles or techniques. The two albums
which I liked the most are Tangerine Dreams Ricochet
and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.
I read many books on electronic music synthesis. Many were technical
books but I read also books on musical perception, aesthetics and
the brain trying to understand the relations between sound structures
and human emotions.
mwe3: France has a rich music history. What about the progressive
rock scene and when did you first become aware and interested in progressive
rock and instrumental music? How did you become involved in the growing
music scene in France?
In 1975, I had to make a business trip to London, and I took this
opportunity to visit music shops. There, I met by chance with another
French guy Serge Ramses, and I started discovering the world of synthesizers.
home I bought my first synthesizer - a VCS3 and that changed my musician
life, giving me the opportunity to break the limits of the conventional
You have to know that even there is a beautiful picture on the cover,
of my 1976 Green Ray album that was composed with this VCS3
only. I had to understand and to experiment in depth with the sound
synthesis to be able to do that, thanks to my scientific and engineering
The most important thing is, when it comes to play music and to compose,
you have to master enough of the techniques in order to forget them
and let yourself be guided by the beauty of the sounds and your emotions.
release of Green Ray in 1977, I got a wider range of synthesizers,
which allowed me to explore a larger part of the universe of sounds.
As you may know, I build all the sounds used into my music. I never
used any presets, so I can master my music and give life to the sounds.
I first bought an ARP 2600 with an ARP sequencer. I needed something
flexible that I could patch and play easily with knobs and sliders.
My dream was a big Moog , but it was too expensive for me.
A few months later, I bought an RMI harmonic synthesizer. This was
the only synthesizer that allows you to make additive synthesis. It
allowed me to build sounds by adjusting the 16 first harmonics with
sliders that you can move in real time, allowing one to make sounds
that are not possible to make with subtractive synthesis.
was very important to me, because I am more a sound player than a
keyboard player and I often use the keyboard to control sound parameters,
not to play notes.
In 1977, I composed Moebius which was released at the end of
In 1978, I composed my 3rd album In Course Of Time, but as
a result of some incompatibility with my manager, I had to wait for
the end of my contract with him to release it, it was in 1982. That's
why In Course Of Time was released in 1982.
I made several concerts in France in 1977-1978, which were welcomed
by the critics for my personal musical universe.
mwe3: I heard that you became a computer engineer back in the
early 1980s and you only recently returned as a recording artist.
So is the 2014 CD release of Virtual Future a return to form?
The album sounds great and it also sounds like you havent missed
a beat in 32 years! Is the Virtual Future CD really a continuation
from where you left off?
I started in 1972 as a computer engineer. When it came to publish
my first album, my manager and I had to find an artist name, so why
not Zanov? As I told you, since I had my VCS3, I had to share my time
between my day job as a computer design engineer and my music, during
part of the nights and the weekends.
So there were the 2 pieces of myself; at work I was called "Salka"
as a shortcut of my name, so we decided to choose "Zanov"
as artist name. I think I am really the combination of these two faces.
job as computer engineer was taking me more and more time as I got
much more responsibilities, then I had my first child, so I didnt
have enough time to make music at the level I wished to.
In 1984 I had to make a dramatic choice. I decided to take a long
break from the music, but not an end, as I decided that I would resume
when I retire.
30 years I did not stop making music in my head, it was some times
very frustrating, but it helped me to keep that decision alive.
mwe3: How were you able to capture such a warm sound from your
synths and can you tell us something about how the Virtual Future
CD was recorded? I was reading that the album tracks were originally
composed on an analog synth back in 1980 and that you finally completed
it using the Arturia Origin synth. That all sounds very high tech.
Can you tell us about the Arturia Origin synth and how it shaped the
making of the Virtual Future album?
Zanov: In 1979, I started to work on new ideas for the following
album. I wanted to introduce some French spoken poetry, with the voice
processed through vocoders and synthesizers, and deeply integrated
with the music and synthesized video.
I spent all my weekends in a video recording studio. They had a research
section with an EMS analog video synthesizer named Spectre
(EMS, the company that produced the VCS3). I tried to create some
video, sharing some parameters with the music synthesis. It was very
exciting, and captivating.
I had to stop sometime before end of 1979 because the studio got rid
of the video synthesizer, and closed the research section.
worked with a film scriptwriter to get in a poetical way
the things I wanted to say.
I worked over 4 years on this project. The name of it was "Nous
reprenons notre avenir".
I made the decision to take a break, It was at a stage where I was
not completely satisfied with it. The words were not understandable
enough. I had tried other mix downs with less processing on them,
but in this case the result was not musical enough. When
I restarted in 2014, I rediscovered "Nous Reprenons Notre Avenir"
and decide to remove the words.
As it was recorded on an 8 track tape recorder, I had to digitize
everything and fix some details. I worked with Pro Tools to remove
the words, and to make a first remix.
Then, I used an Arturia Origin synthesizer to rework parts of the
compositions and complete them.
This hardware DSP allows me to create my own synthesis-patches by
connecting independent modules, and use several at the same time.
I spent long hours on the final mix, to get the music as I feel it
today, which is a little bit different than 30 years ago.
mwe3: Coming out of the late 1970s music scene and even in
the early 80s, would you say it was a time of great creative
happenings in France and in Europe as well? Some say it was the age
of Eurock. What were some of the high points for you during that period
of Frances music history? It is still considered the golden
era of the 1970s in a lot of ways.
I had very few contacts with other musicians, just meeting some of
them once by chance and that's all. In fact I do not listen to that
much music. When listening to music, I enter into an analysis mental
process, trying to understand how the sounds and the compositions
are made, and very often. I am not a good music listener and very
often, I listen to a title only once.
Its true that the arrival of the analog synthesizers in France
opened a lot of opportunities to new music. Analog synthesizers were
marvelous devices for the sound composers like me, unleashing our
creativity and powering innovations. When digital synthesizers appeared,
they become used by keyboardists, mostly using preset sounds, and
the interface with the user changed to fit this usage. I was very
disappointed. Now, there is a comeback of digital synths with an analog
like interface, but not as rich as on the vintage synths.
mwe3: Do you think the CD release of the Virtual Future
will spark interest in the music of Zanov and the classic French
electronic music sound? Now that Zanov has made such an impressive
return, do you think there will be more music from you in the future?
What does the future of music offer you and Zanov moving forward?
My comeback is not limited to Virtual Future. This album is
the link between the past and the future, and now I have to build
the future. My plan is to compose and release a new album before the
end of next year. I will also have to get new synths for that, in
addition to the Arturia Origin. I have not yet found the ones that
meet my needs. About the style, I even do not know myself. I have
too many ideas in my head, I do not know what will come out when I
will start this new album.
At the same time I have to get prepared for concerts.
Thanks to Pierre Salkazanov @ www.zanov.net