ZANOV
Virtual Future
(Zanov Music)

 

The second half of the 1970’s 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 that’s 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 Zanov’s unique and intriguing approach to dazzling electronic music.


mwe3.com presents an interview with
ZANOV


mwe3
: Can you tell us where you’re 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.

I 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 didn’t 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 1972.

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 Dream’s 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?

Zanov: 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.

Back, 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 music.

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 background.

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.

After the 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.

This 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 the year.

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 haven’t missed a beat in 32 years! Is the Virtual Future CD really a continuation from where you left off?

Zanov: 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.

My 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 didn’t 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.

During 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.
I also 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".

When 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 France’s music history? It is still considered the golden era of the 1970s in a lot of ways.

Zanov: 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.

It’s 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?

Zanov: 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

 

 
   
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