Stirring up the sour porridge: False Flag in Conversation with Legowelt
Dutch artist Legowelt, real name Danny Wolfers, is a man who needs very little introduction. Making music since the early 90s, under both Legowelt and a myriad of other aliases, Danny has cultivated his very own hybrid sound marked out by his steadfast passion for analogue hardware.
Since that first 12″ on Bunker Records back in ’98 his back catalogue has grown emphatically, taking him to labels around the world as well as his own Strange Life Records started in 2006 running through to 2012.
One of Danny’s latest musical contributions was for Holland Electro, a compilation that showcases exactly what it says on the tin. Compiled by False Flag, the release brings together electro pioneers and newer talents for 17 tracks that reflects tomorrow’s quintessential Dutch underground sound.
Following the release we enlisted False Flag to sit down with Legowelt who imparted some wisdom on them in the form of gardening tips, Surinamese food experiences, his feelings on Behringer and what can be expected from his Shadow Wolf Cyberzine (for those who can decipher it).
Hi Danny, first of all, congratulations on your engagement!
Legowelt: Thank you.
Apart from the wedding being postponed, how have you been lately and how has the pandemic influenced your daily routines?
Legowelt: The obvious thing is of course that I don’t play any shows for now and the foreseeable future, no traveling about. This is something I did consistently for the past 20 years so I am in this sort of ‘serene’ rest period now. It is definitely not a dark void or something like that for me.
Playing shows is something I did on the weekends mostly, in the weekdays I work on other stuff as a musician. Making albums, mucking about with gear, doing soundtracks for videogames & films, doing stuff for synth companies etc. I can keep on working on these ‘weekday’ things throughout the weekend now so I might be a bit more focused and in a continuous flow and finish them faster and who knows more professionally ha. I also have time to paint a bit more and sell the paintings on my website.
Apart from that my daily routines haven’t changed much. Like most other artists I do miss playing live gigs and DJ sets, even the traveling. I was still amazed and thankful to be traveling to places like Australia or Moldavia just to play shows and walk around those exotic lands. But also I miss, when I had a DJ gig for example, to be obsessed by a cool song and having the chance to play it for a crowd, or in better words FORCE the crowd to listen to it LOUD, that’s basically what you do when you are DJing. I just listened to Mike Rogers ‘It’s Just A Story’, a classic amazing Italo song that one should listen to every day for good mental hygiene and I just can’t wait to play it in a club. When that moment comes whenever it is, it might be just months or maybe next year, maybe longer… I know that moment will be beyond magical.
I believe we share a similar view, namely creating your own little universe that is slightly less annoying than the real world outside but unusual in its own way so it’s more comfortable to reside and move around in. Can you share something about your values within this universe, some of the rituals you might have, necessities that you need on your way throughout the days.
Are there specific elements or traditions that are important to you, like cooking, meditation, playing tennis, gardening etc?
Yes you should create your own hyper reality bubble, ignore all the mass media, religious mumbo jumbo, peer pressure or any forced culture… that’s bad for your soul. Stay away from that larval energy. Life is too short and precious to worry about Kayne West, religious laws, getting stressed on Twitter or squander your time watching Netflix. Evolution spent million of years to create consciousness and what do we do with it, we waste it on these dumb things.
With that out of the way I will just go over the things you mentioned one by one: First of all, tennis… I know I use it as a painting subject sometimes but I am terrible at ball sports, always afraid for the ball… it’s a projectile that is coming towards me… I panic! That system is still embedded in my primal evolutionary neuro system. It is just that the concept of tennis can give paintings an extremely interesting dynamic.
Meditation – I don’t really do that, my mind is total chaos I want to keep it that way.
Cooking – I do that almost every day and enjoy it greatly. Making music and cooking are very connected, they are similar creative endeavours in which you make something out of different, sometimes totally unrelated, ingredients. I have been really into the Surinamese cuisine the past few months. Suriname is a former colony of Holland, a sparsely populated country, most of it is jungle, part of the Amazon, teeming with exotic wildlife and undiscovered species. The cuisine is basically a mixture of Indian, African, Javanese, Chinese, Dutch, Jewish, Portuguese, Maroon and indigenous influences. Its probably one of the tastiest and diverse in the known universe.
Gardening – This is of course a very serene pastime but also an extreme luxury in these times, to be able to go outside and tend the land is an archaic ritual deeply embedded in the symbolism of humans. Anyways, I literally planted kilos of flowers seeds last week so hopefully when the drought is not too bad it will turn into a sea of flowers.
For all the bees, butterflies and other insects we got to try to help them a bit while we can… I say to everyone plant flowers everywhere on your balcony before your house in the streets, there is an article about making seed-bombs in the last Shadow Wolf Cyberzine.
I sort of try to have the garden as part of my bubble, protecting it from the outside, my own eco system, a hidden garden of eden. Its a bit of an uphill battle, you can really see the global warming taking its effect, especially here in Holland the weather has completely changed, the sun is too intense the original flora is disappearing. Slowly the ground is turning into sand. We get new invasive species too. We get the Western Pacific Gopher snake around here now, there is a population of around 40. They look like rattle snakes but are not venomous. They can give a nasty bite but otherwise pretty harmless… it’s kind of weird but also fascinating.
Your track on Holland Electro is named Imperial Goat Pro One. I assume the Sequential Circuits Pro One synthesizer was utilised in this track? Was the title chosen randomly or does it refer to something specific?
Legowelt: Well, the track was originally called ‘Imperial Glory’, it was meant for a L.I.E.S. Gladio release, but somehow it didn’t make it on there and like everyone else one gives a leftover when asked to contribute to a compilation… ha so that’s the story. It doesn’t use the Pro One itself but the U-HE REPRO software version which is a truly amazing emulation of the Pro One. I have a real Pro One though, it was completely overhauled a few years ago by John Matze from Duplex, a Rotterdam techno band. He washed every part, put in new keys and pots and made it absolutely mint. It was completely beaten up so it was rather nice to see it transformed into something completely fresh. I originally got it in the mid 1990s when I traded it for an Akai VX90 with a Spanish flamenco guitarist who wanted polyphony. It was a good deal I think, the Akai VX90 is the rack version of the AX73, a rather boring simple analog poly synth. I used to have a cut down version of that too which I called the AX23. I’ve got a little studio page about it.
GOAT is an acronym for Greatest Of All Time but that’s a bit too much credit for the Pro One – though it is a really, really good synthesizer. I think here it’s just about the animal, it somehow reminds me of a goat. Down the road here is a little farm with lots of billies. Billy is the proper name for a baby goat… not many people know that I think. They are so fun just jumping up and down on everything, there is also a Vietnamese Pot Bellied pig walking around there and sometimes the billies jump on him and the pig gets all annoyed. I should make a video of that and put that track underneath it… that’s probably three million views right there.
Speaking about the Pro One, Behringer recently came out with a clone of this synthesizer and to my understanding you have an outspoken opinion about the cloning company. Would you care to share your view about their business model and how it reflects modern times?
Legowelt: Ha well like other synth nerds we make a lot of jokes about Behringer, that doesn’t really mean I have an outspoken opinion. Anyone that would be too serious about the brand or would always be defending them would be, let’s agree, a real twat. I got the usual boring Behringer studio stuff myself here… DI boxes, some mic pre amp and I have this echo pedal which is a total rip off of the Electro Harmonix memory man, it’s pretty shit but so is the original Memory Man.
I used to have a Behringer mixer in the late 90s, I loved that thing. It was a rip off of a boring MACKIE, I am not a big fan of Mackie mixers they are so characterless, bland and tedious. So here is a Behringer clone of a bland and boring mixer. But somehow because they use all these crap parts it actually gives it more character than the original mixer.
For example the EQ was different, more lo-fi you could make pretty cool sweeps with the mid sweep EQ, especially when the pots got dusty (and that was pretty quick!) it was instant Basic Channel crackle and hiss. And the gains where cool too, set it to maximum and you could transmorph any serene sound into pure distortion… instant industrial terror noise!
One of the crappiest Behringer products I ever owned was a T1954 TUBE MAGICIAN rack effect. What a load of useless 19” rackspace that was – 8 tubes with in and outputs to ‘warm’ your sound… it didn’t do anything, maybe it was broken. I changed the lamps behind the tubes with red and green lights which made it look really cool. I did keep it in my studio a bit, while it didn’t do anything with the sound it certainly worked on a ‘psychological’ level… sometimes gear doesn’t have to do anything, just by looking at it can make you think things sound better. Thats a thing a lot of brands do, make gear that doesn’t do much like special compressors or EQ that are super expensive but because you spend money on it you just make yourself think it’s special and doing something.
I also used to have that reverb that every studio dork always names as a good Behringer product… what was that called the V-VERB or something? They only made them for a short while because they probably got successfully sued by whatever company they ripped off and had to stop making them. I don’t know if that really happened like that but it makes one think. I didn’t find it particularly exciting and sold it again to some run of the mill pop production studio so they could bathe their lame poprock in reverb.
As for Behringer’s business model ethos ripping off other people’s ideas and products… apparently they get away with it and apparently people buy that stuff without too much remorse.
If they buy Louis Vuitton bags for 5000 euros you can be sure they’re also going to get a Pro One clone for 200 euro. We can be all sour about it but that’s how it goes in our world. Supply and demand, greed and stick your hand in the sand. As long as I don’t have to buy it anymore or have to demonstrate against it. Are people doing that? Like have signs and walk circles before the music store with BAN BEHRINGER? Also the brand doesn’t really have a good street cred, like some cool kids are not going to wear Behringer t-shirts… Or are they? I can see that totally happening though the next time I play in London. Do they even have shirts? They always give these stupid stickers with their products, they should give a t-shirt instead of that sticker, a good way to cultivate their brand. Now I am talking about Behringer too much… WHY? Next question!
Okay, although it will be another question about synthesizers and designing universes. About two years ago you have built a synthesizer, the Star Shepherd. As far as I know it didn’t go into production, which would have been quite interesting given the way it was built, using glue and tape. Nevertheless a very cool DIY synthesizer that inspired you to make even more music with.
Can we expect an official Legowelt synthesizer in the future, one that people can actually buy and use in their own music?
Legowelt: I would like to make a ‘rompler’ modular module, just a sample rom player with 1000 sounds with a little 12 db filter and a pitch tuning control, very simple. It will have lots and lots of Nature samples, like different rains, wind, snow, storm, fog, forests, bird sounds etc. That might see the daylight in the future.
Any other things you might want to share, you are constantly working on new projects, anything in particular you are proud of or looking forward to?
Legowelt: I (and a lot of other people) are working on a new issue of the SHADOW WOLF CYBERZINE. For those who don’t know about this magazine its an electronic zine in the early 90s diskmagazine/hacker style format, so everything is in ASCII text format, also the artwork. You can only read it on a computer so there is a bit of a secret mysterious aura around it especially in these shallow Instagram tik tok times… It’s focused on text, deep reading and critical thinking, DIY zine ethos, strange humour, cyberpunk counter culture… It’s not for superficial bros, bimbos and normos. They will probably look at it and have no clue what it is about.
This issue will be a bit more controversial. As usual we will make fun of minimal tech house and superficial Ibiza scene DJs (‘confessions from tour managers’) but also of certain hypocritical things in the electronic music world. There is so much satirical fun to be made yet it seems so often that the scene has zero humour. When you’ve got all these music magazine website conglomerations that on the surface present themselves as socio-politically aware, always the first in line for anything that reeks even of the tiniest bit of social injustice, but have no issues to support and take money from a festival that is organised by the Saudi Arabian government as a propaganda tool… it’s time to stir a bit in this porridge that has gotten so sour I guess.
Apart from that it will mostly be D.I.Y articles, gardening tips, which plants to grow to save butterflies and bees, fitness tips from the Shadow Wolf para-military training camp, Synthesizer stuff, a Surinamese food recipes special, advice on how to break the Turing test, interviews, music reviews, poems, books & movie tips and a lot of ASCII art.
It will also be released on a floppy disc and cassette tape this time, and on the internet itself of course… hopefully it will be out in June.
Music-wise I am working on a new album called PANCAKES WITH MIST. It’s an album more influenced by latin freestyle, PPU style funk, Italo and electro. I could also say a bit like Kenny G meets Esplendor Geometrico… raw but also sensual… this foggy beach vibe. I am fascinated by Kenny G, his music is so horrible, so off, so uneasy… but in a strange way if the notes would be scaled in a slightly different tuning or ’shifted into the right dimension’ it would be the most beautiful music ever heard.
Did you know Kenny G is one of the best selling artists ever. He sold more then 75 million albums. 75 million. Can you imagine, those are numbers we will never shift in our scene but who knows! I am making a whole series of paintings of Kenny G in every day situations, like him at the supermarket, checking in at the airport (first class lounge of course!), eating TV dinners on the couch… stuff like that.
Thanks so much for your time and words.
All the best to you, your future wife, your synthesizers, your garden and your rituals.
May you all prosper and shine for many years to come.