Two events from my teens remain firmly in my memory as being instrumental (pun intended) in me becoming obsessed with synthesizers and making electronic music. The first was was hearing New Life by Depeche Mode on my friend's older brother's car stereo. From the opening synth notes I was hooked by these new sounds that I'd never heard before. That summer my friends and I played the Depeche Mode Speak and Spell album on repeat at our endless pool parties - I knew without a doubt that I wanted to make electronic music like this.
The second event was at the local newsagent glancing up at Vangelis on the cover of Electronics and Music Maker magazine. At the time I didn't know who he was but he was surrounded by banks of synthesizers and again it was a "that's what I want to do" moment that I recall being so strong and vivid. I bought the magazine and drooled over all the adverts of amazing synthesizers from now legendary manufactures such as Moog and Sequential Circuits. I was intrigued to read in the article that Vangelis never studied music and played by ear. For those that don't know Vangelis is an award winning composer who wrote the famous soundtracks for Chariots of Fire and Bladerunner.
At the time I was having piano syncopation lessons but was hating the laborious lessons and practicing and even once being reduced to tears in my music lesson. I wanted to make my own music, not learn to play other people's music and reading about Vangelis had inspired me that I could do exactly that without any music lessons. I'm not against music tuition by any means but I now realise that I'm wired to compose rather than perform. I don't play instruments well even after all these years. Put me in a room with a piano and I couldn't play you anything you'd know but come back in an hour and I've probably come up with a new melody or chord structure for a new song. There have been times over the years where I have deliberately sat down to practice the piano or guitar so that I can perform live but I just end up writing new music. I did a personality test once and unsurprisingly came up as the composer artisan. Even as a kid I was always working out melodies on my younger brother's toy clarinet or something. My Dad would often tease me as I was always making bass sounds with my mouth. Funny that I never became a bass player!
So here I was a teen with something suddenly superseding my interest in girls. I started making frequent visits to the local music shop and looking longingly at all the amazing synthesizers they had for sale. I still remember seeing the Roland Jupiter 8 and SH-101 for the first time and plotting with my band mate at the time how we could afford to buy the SH-101 after seeing it in the Freez I.O.U. video. I was living in South Africa at the time and these kind of items were so much more expensive there. Unfortunately we never did buy it and it went onto to become a collectable classic.
During the summer school holidays we painted my friend's house and I also got a job in a bakery and a supermarket. I baked and packed thousands of loaves of bread, did endless brushstrokes and even had a now embarrassingly stupid and painful turpentine bath to try and get the enamel paint off my skin! With the money from these jobs I bought a now classic Roland System 100m synth and a TR-808 beat box. These items later became the inspiration for my artist name Rolanoid. I soon added a Korg MonoPoly synth which I had to smuggle into the house to avoid my mother's "you've not bought another keyboard have you Michael?" My folks later supported my habit and bought me a Yamaha DX27 synthesizer which was very good of them and exciting for for me.
Having all these instruments is one thing but in those days they didn't sound brilliant on their own. You needed reverb, delay, compressors, mixers and something to record it onto as home computer recording didn't exist then. In short you needed a studio and they cost a lot of money even to hire, especially to a teenager. As I went into the music shop a lot, the staff got to know my face and one day one of them showed me the recording studio in the back of the premises. I was transfixed - it was so silent and packed with equipment, equipment I needed to make my music sound the way I wanted. I had the synths, now my manifesting attention was turned to getting a studio and for years a Fostex 4 track cassette portastudio had to suffice until the advent of the PC and a software programme called Reason by Swedish company Propellerheads. When you make a firm resolve to get something you can never be sure how and when the universe will deliver it but this was everything I ever wanted as a teenager and more and all for only $200! It now had virtual synths, drum machines, effects and a mixer. The hardware equivalent would have run into six figures. I remember thinking at the time "thanks universe, I finally got my studio."
Reason was already in version 2 when I got it and the first piece of music I made with it I gave the working title Reason 2 Live which I released as Reason To Live. I was thrilled to have the track used on the soundtrack for two episodes of Dreamspaces in 2004, a BBC TV programme which I was a big fan of. I felt very honoured to have my track played alongside Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers and U2 whose music also featured on the series, particularly as I was a big fan of these great groups. Reason To Live was released on my Electronique album in 2005 and later on The Collection in 2012.
Music is the reason I'm here - it's my raison d'Ítre - my reason to live and maybe what helped inspire me to keep going through some unbelievably hard times when I just wanted to give up on life.