Artistic biography

Pepijn Courant

Akikaze, Japanese for autumn wind, is the musical exploration of Pepijn Courant. 

As a child, I used to listen to all kinds of music. I mainly studied classical music, but also modern music such as by Béla Bartók. My seven year piano training was to have a big influence on my way of composing.

1966-1989 : fascinated by the possibilities of the synthesizer

My name is Pepijn Courant (in English pronounced as Pepine Coorant and in French as Pépin Courant). I was born in Amsterdam in 1966. Akikaze, Japanese for autumn wind, is my exploration of various genres of music, in particular electronic music.  
As a child, I used listen to all kinds of music. In 1977 I took piano lessons. I mainly studied classical music by composers such as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, but also modern music such as by Béla Bartók. This seven year training was to have a big influence on my way of composing.

In 1978 I started to play drums accompanying my elder brother Arnoul, who performed hits from the sixties and seventies by, among others, the Kinks and the Beatles as a guitarist and singer, both at home and in several schoolbands.

In the meantime I composed numerous pieces, from classical to pop, but soon realized the piano could not offer me the sounds I needed for my music. Since 1982, I had been fascinated by the possibilities of the synthesizer, but it took me three years to save up the money to buy one. Till that time I collected all electronic music I could find. Fortunately, the library of Groningen, where I studied, had a huge collection of Tangerine dream, Gandalf, Neuronium, Vangelis etc.

I found out that this kind of music, which I had played myself on the piano for so long, was popular among a large number of people, because records sold well even though they lacked attention by the media.

1989 : I started my musical career

I decided to release my own music which I had been ashamed of before. I joined the association KLEM (Kontakt Liefhebbers Electronische Muziek), which committed itself to promoting amateur musicians. I set myself apart from most other fellow electronic musicians in that I did not start my musical career as a listener, but as a musician. In 1989 I owned enough equipment to release my first compact cassette, 'Music from misty marshes'. The music was initially inspired by bird sounds from outside my apartment in Groningen.

As I had no sampler, I had to imitate all nature sounds with my synthesizers, which yielded, according to a Belgian reviewer, a surprising result among all the new age releases with their realistic nature sound samples. I sent the cassette to the BRT 2 radio show 'Maneuvers in het donker' (Manoeuvres in the dark), presented by Flor Berkenbosch, who enthusiastically dedicated a large part of his show to this cassette.

1990 : debut concert was a big success

In 1990 I released my second compact cassette 'Aquarius'. The music was inspired by the events that took place in the twentieth century, in particular in eastern Europe, where communism had collapsed at the end of the eighties. The visionary poems by William Blake had a significant influence on this cassette, which showed an optimistic view on the world. This cassette was also well received on "Maneuvers in het donker". Through this programme, the music became known to the renowned musician Ron Boots, at the time co-organizer of the annual KLEM festival, in the last years of its existence the biggest electronic music festival in the world.

Two months before the festival, one of the bands to perform split, so Ron Boots asked me to do a concert instead. Until then, my only concert experience had been as a drummer. Despite the fact I was about to graduate at Groningen university, I hesitated no single moment to accept and composed a new piece specially for the festival, appropriately titled 'Leap in the dark'. For this piece I managed to lay hands on a Korg M-1, allowing me to take my music to a more professional level. Though expectations were low, the debut concert was a big success.

Picture left: People waiting to buy my music after my first solo concert. Picture right: My concert at the Alfa Centauri festival Huizen, March 1996.

1991 : more concerts followed

The first two cassettes as well as the third, 'Leap in the dark', were released on the Synteam label by Ron Boots and Bas Broekhuis. More concerts in Den Haag and Eindhoven followed. In 1991 a sampler CD, 'Land, sea and sky', was released by Synteam, intending to make a few unknown artists known to the public. I delivered the piece 'The master and the apprentice', combining bombastic classical with frivolous rhythmic electronic music. In the same year, I delivered for the sampler cassette 'Synbiosis' on the Spheric music label of my German friend and talented fellow musician Lambert Ringlage the piece 'A new beginning', with Edward Wüstenhoff on guitar.

1992-1993 : Akikaze released their first CD as a two man band

In March 1992, I was asked by Bas Broekhuis to release my first CD. Bas Broekhuis, co-founder of Synteam, had started his own label Audio Works. A peritonitis almost fatal to me delayed the release of the first CD on the label until 9 January 1993 at my new year concert in Eindhoven. Its title 'In high places' refers to Hoogoord, the name of the building in south-east Amsterdam were I lived at the time. This CD, as all music by Akikaze, was recorded at home and was mainly inspired by mankind's great achievements such as the conquest of the moon and the climb of the Mount Everest. The guitar parts were performed by guitarist Dirk Zeeman, a blues musician, who appeared on a CD for the first time. The cover photograph was taken by Bart Wich, after a design by me, breaking the tradition of drawing my own covers.
'In high places' sold well, certainly by today's standards.

1996-1998 : own label Criminal Records

In this period I worked on the prestigious project 'Fantasmagora'", using many of my oldest compositions. The music had a classical, symphonic rather than cosmic touch. Musical inspirers were, among others, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield and the music was based on acoustic instrument samples with a leading part for my first instrument, the piano. I decided to release the CD myself on my own label Criminal Records. Thanks to my grandfather, who had also co-financed my piano training, I was able to finance the record and invest in new recording equipment. The CD cover was designed by me and painted by the painter Lex Heilker whose "sous-realistic" style perfectly matched my ideas. 'Fantasmagora' was released in October 1996.

Furthermore I sampled an enormous number of sounds and I made music for a video of the one month trip I had taken to Indonesia in 1995. The title piece with its Indonesian drive and the accompanying video shots were well received on the Alfa Centauri festival in Huizen. One piece was partly released on a promo CD by the British magazine Sequences. In Huizen, I also played 'Out of the dark', specially composed for the occasion, a musical sequel to 'Leap in the dark', returning to the Berlin School with classical influences, as the die hard fans like it best.

1999 : concept of spiritual balance

In the studio version of 'Out of the dark', the Voder (Voice Operated Demonstrator), an effect algorithm developed for the Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler by the American Bill Mauchly, simulating speech sounds in a simple and flexible way, was commercially used for the first time. The piece was released on the CDR 'Conflicting emotions' by Quantum Records in 1999. This CD was again based on a concept, this time the concept of spiritual balance and voice sounds were used predominantly.

2000 : a new age concert

In 2000 I was asked to do a new age concert in the forested environment of Garderen for a group of stressed account managers of a pharmaceutical company, who could use some relaxing synthesizer sounds after a tough day's training. I improvised a twenty minute piece on the background of stereotype nature sounds using one synthesizer, to the satisfaction of both employer and audience. It was my best paid gig ever and the first time my girlfriend saw me perform. In the same year, I recorded a few dance songs still waiting to be released, but more about them later.

2001 : I remastered my three cassette albums

In 2001 I digitally remastered my three cassette albums without altering the original versions too much, being able to do so as I still owned the original instruments at the time. The album 'Leap in the Dark' was released on CD-R by Quantum Records at the Alfa Centauri Festival, again on March the 16th, where I played a specially composed piece as well as parts from 'Leap in the dark', melodic and rhythmic music, influenced by the Berlin School and by classical and oriental music. Unfortunately, the concert was once interrupted by piano sounds, produced by a computer music demonstrator, who played in the entrance hall. This location appeared to be a bad choice, because there was no stage. People were even able to touch the equipment while I was performing, and some of them showed more interest in the instruments than in the music.

Close to the audience

2003 : return of acoustic percussion sounds

In December 2003, I was finally able to buy a digital audio workstation, that allowed me to combine multitrack audio and midi recording, digital mixing and mastering without the need of the ghastly personal computer. The machine not only speeded up the creative process, but was also responsible for the return of acoustic percussion sounds to the music of Akikaze.

2004 : new instruments

In spring 2004 Quantum Records re-released 'Aquarius' on CD. A bonus track, 'Dimona blues', that I had composed the year before, was added. It featured some new instruments. The flute sounds were made with physical modelling. This technology uses computer models rather than digital oscillators. The sound resulting is most expressive and realistic. 'Dimona blues' fitted in musically as well as thematically. It was dedicated to the victims, both humans and animals, of Dimona, Israel's secret nuclear plant. The Jew who had revealed the existence of Israel's nuclear activities to the world, was obducted in Italy by his own terrorist government, but remained mentally unbroken after twenty years in prison, after which he still was not free to go.

On 21 November, I performed my song 'Flame of hope' live on a single instrument, the Ensoniq TS-10, in the Nicolas church in Utrecht, that celebrated its 800th anniversary. The acoustics of a church and the presence of a different audience than usual were a new and rewarding experience, not to be ruined by the parking fine, after I had played my free gig.

In autumn 2004, Quantum Records released 'To the sky and beyond the stars', a tribute to the American electronic musician Michael Garrison, who had died in early spring at the age of 47. Garrison had inspired a lot of his contemporaries, including me, whose Garrison influenced track 'The Iceland error' from 1994 made it to the compilation. The title came from the one zero too many in the number of copies Michael Garrison had sold in Iceland according to Dutch electronic music magazine KLEM.

2005 : new album project completed

Finally I lived up to my oriental name. I recorded a Chinese piece 'Qiu feng', Chinese for Akikaze, and the Indonesian piece 'Guna guna', the first version of which had appeared on the Indonesia video in 1995. These two pieces are part of a world music project. There will be more pieces from other musical cultures and the album will show yet another musical territory, but still recognisable as Akikaze's.
During this year, I recorded both old and new pieces. I completed a new album project. Unlike the sampling based sounds on 'Fantasmagora' and 'Conflicting emotions', it features as many analogue synthesizer sounds as possible. The music marks the return of acoustic percussion to the music of Akikaze and explores the possibilities of arpeggiators.

2007: studio relocated

During autumn 2006 and winter 2007, I relocated my studio to a smaller but more comfortable room. The studio now had enough space for my new instruments and for another digital mixer. The Yamaha CS-6x was cleverly swapped for an EX-5 and VL-7 and the Roland AX-7 was sold. The Minimoog, Korg Sigma and Mono/Poly were repaired by Saint Eric. The latter synth was provided with voltage controlled effects switching and facilitated much faster envelopes. A new studio desk was added to house the mixers and the 19 inch devices.

Guitar

Having used guitar samples for a long time and having seen artists like Madonna and Robbie Williams making arguably successful attempts to play the guitar, I decided to give it a try. As a child I had tried one or two times to play my elder brother's guitar, but given up too early. Now these famous artists gave me the illusion I might be able to play the guitar as well. So my brothers gave me an acoustic guitar for my 40th birthday and half an hour practicing every day during three months gave me the basic skills.
The new album still had the guitar samples though. Speaking of which, the album 'The age of deception' was still waiting for release. The record label, Quantum Records, had gone out of business. Its owner Eric Snelders had suddenly stopped giving any signs of life, while owing a lot of money to his artists and distributors. Since a fine way to distribute my music seemed to be lost, all CD's are sold through this website, but any other marketing and distributing options are still open.

2008: 'The age of deception' released

My two year guitar practice had paid off. In December 2007, I completed the electro-acoustic and acoustic guitar parts of 'Hymn', the opening piece of my concert in Eindhoven in 1993, but I was not satisfied with the result. After that, I continued recording 'Silent running', an even older rhythmic piece, inspired by Jean Michel Jarre and entirely made with analogue instruments, including the Motion TEA-625 electro-acoustic Western guitar borrowed from my elder brother Arnoul. The recording process was sadly delayed by a faulty midi to cv converter and Solina Ensemble.
The album 'The age of deception' was released by Lothar and Sabine Lubitz of SynG@te Records Germany in cooperation with long time friend Lambert Ringlage of Spheric Music Germany.
This seventh album is, like all Akikaze albums, a concept album. The music of 'The age of deception' tells us how negative experiences like death of your loved ones, misfortune, deception and disappointment can make you stronger and better in the end, or in Friedrich Nietzsche's words: everything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The music was recorded between 1994 and 2005. As previous albums, 'The age of deception' shows a great diversity, but this album as a whole brings back acoustic percussion and as many analogue synthesizers as possible. This time I experimented with analogue electronic percussion and arpeggiators. Early Neuronium fans or other romantics will again appreciate the acoustic guitar sound based pieces. A must-have for listeners of diverse melodic and rhythmic instrumental music. The cover painting 'The temptation of Saint Anthony', made by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, was selected by me and the cover was designed by Lothar Lubitz.

2009: new album 'Music from the Mesozoic' finished

I re-recorded "Autumn solitude" in late autumn 2008 and 'Heart to heart' and 'A new beginning' during my Christmas holiday, the latter pieces with the Motion TEA-625 electro-acoustic guitar, in memory of my second cat, who had died on 5 December.   

The Indian santoor is a hammered dulcimer. It has 29 rows of three identically tuned strings. Tuning is a tedious job, but worthwhile. The British pound sterling exchange rate being historically good, I bought one from a London based vendor. It had been on my wish list for about twenty years. The Akai ASQ-10 and Roland MC-500 mark 2 were replaced with a Roland MC-80 with SCSI and an internal hard disk. The thin sounding and unstable Korg Mono/Poly was sold and replaced with a Moog Little Phatty.
After almost a year, the Solina Ensemble was repaired by Saint Eric and even better, provided with a bypass switch and two low frequency oscillator rate voltage control knobs and inputs. It came too late to be used on 'Silent running', where the Korg VC-10 ensemble was used instead, but in time for a few other pieces on the new album.
Early July 2009, the new album 'Music from the Mesozoic' was finished. It is a prequel to my debut 'Music from misty marshes', which was released in 1989. As 20 years before, the music was inspired by nature and its sounds, but this time by over 65 million years old sounds! That's why we call it a prequel. So we hear dinosaurs, pteranodons, giant dragonflies as well as smaller reptiles and insects in different environments. Also, the cause of the dinosaurs' sudden extinction is interpreted musically, which should finally solve this scientific mystery. As 'In high places', this album features real guitar sounds, but this time played by myself. Still the guitar plays a modest part compared to the lot of synthesizers and sequencers. The album was released by SynG@te in Germany in autumn 2009.
Thomas Welsh, owner of Anyware Instruments and manufacturer of the SEMtex XL, an Oberheim SEM clone, built me one last InSEQt analogue sequencer module. It consists of two separate sequencers, one of them based on the famous ARP sequencer.

A dream came true when I ordered my first carefully chosen modular synthesizer system. It was made by the unknown German manufacturer Horst Theis, who has no website but builds affordable yet great sounding modules with a few features not easily found on others. A modular synthesizer allows the performer to make his own connections whereas on a hardwired synthesizer the connections are fixed.

2010: my own business

In January 2010, I and my fellow musician and sequencer wizzard Ruud Heij recorded a long track live using the Theis modular and analogue sequencers instead of midi. We had never played together, but the improvisation showed our connection. In February 2010, I became an associate of a restaurant. My girlfriend became the chef of the River Kwai restaurant, which has specialized in authentic Thai food since 1989 and is located in an ancient cellar in the historic heart of Utrecht. My then best friend and his wife, my girlfriend's youngest sister, became my other business partners. Keeping my daytime job to pay the bills, there was little time or money left for music. The track 'Freewheeler' was the last contribution to SynG@te, who decided to focus on pure Berlin School music rather than on more versatile music. The track appeared on a compilation CD-R called 'The Collective Volume 1'.
In November 2010, when a part of my huge investment had been returned, I rode to Cornwall in the UK to pick up a second modular system built by Analogue Systems, whose owner Bob Williams I had met years before at the Music House, my favourite local music store, where he had demonstrated his modular system. Williams said this system had one of the best layouts he had ever seen.

2011: I continued recording a new album

These three instruments as well as the Dave Smith Prophet '08, the Moog Taurus 3, the MFB-55 drum machine and the Waldorf Pulse + were new analogue assets to be used on the new album 'Sense of urgency', which was completed in January 2012. In contrast to 'In high places', the concept of most tracks on this album is the dark side of humanity, especially on 'Get out of the way!'. On the other hand, two tracks 'A new beginning' and 'A perfect storm' evoke hope and optimism. 'A new beginning' was rearranged many times before it made the opening track. 'A perfect storm' is my favourite, containing rapid sequences and the largest variety of instruments ever, from santoor and electric guitar to fourteen acoustic percussion instruments.

2012: I re-recorded three old Italo disco tracks

In 2012, I re-recorded three old Italo disco tracks I had composed in 1989, just after the release of my first compact cassette. This happy music gave me new energy after the cowardly betrayal and continuous manipulations by one of my business associates. These rearrangements contain all the clichés associated with this style: Linndrum, octave basses, orchestra hits and over the top percussion. The tracks were posted on Soundcloud on the internet and got positive feedback from listeners.

In October, I picked up my third big modular synthesizer, this time in my home town. The Synton Fénix II is not a system, the modules being a fixed set selected by its designer, the brilliant Bert Vermeulen, who was also responsible for designing the Syrinx. Ruud Heij played an important role as a consultant on the Fénix project. The Fénix II has some features not found on any other synthesizer.

In November, I was interviewed on my alleged expertise of sampling instruments by Dutch magazine Bandcoach. The four page interview was part of a series on musical instruments and was published in issue 20.

2013: new vocal disco tracks

I continued re-recording some old disco tracks and recorded four new vocal tracks: 'It's my life', 'Revenge', 'The road of king's and 'Perfect strangers'. I actually performed all vocals myself, aided by the TC Helicon VoiceWorksPlus voice processor! The vocals of the second track were mixed by Pablo DeMode, a singer-writer of Italo disco songs. All lyrics were written by me, except those of 'The road of kings', which were written by Robert E. Howard and slightly adapted. Most of the tracks can be heard on http://www.soundcloud.com/pepijn-courant Now there is enough music for a new album, whose working title is '€-dance'.    

2014:  New album 'Blue sky events' 

After almost five years of hard work and success, I decided to terminate my partnership in the restaurant. The atmosphere had been suffocating the last sixteen months and I had to go to keep my sanity and my temper. After I left, sales dropped tremendously. In March, I managed to buy a still very expensive dream synthesizer, the PPG Wave 2.3, from a fellow musician who lived in a village near Utrecht. The Wave 2.3 shares the wavetable technologiy with its successor, the Waldorf Microwave XTk, but is soundwise superior, due to its analogue filters and amplifiers. It has fewer features though. It features on many Tangerine Dream albums and I had coveted it for thirty years. The rare XTk was sold within a week to make room for the PPG. The PPG was used on three new tracks, 'Blue sky events', 'Leap of faith' and 'Rebound'. 

The new album 'Blue sky events' was released on 19 December 2014 to mark my 25th anniversary as a publishing artist. Its mood is light and joyful to celebrate long lost freedom. New acoustic or electric instruments on every new album have become kind of a tradition. On this album, I played a bass guitar on the longest track, 'Rebound', and on "Twist of fate'. On two tracks, I played the Wavedrum, an electronic drum with a real drum skin and pickup mic. Its interaction with the player is fantastic. It responds like a real drum, but as it lacks midi, its audio has to be recorded. I made all pictures myself. The cover picture was taken on Coco Cay, one of the Bahamas. The other two pictures are Akai MPC-4000 and Tascam SX-1 event list screen shots.     

2015:  E-LIVE WITH GERT EMMENS 

2015 started as 2014 had ended: selling, duplicating and dispatching copies of the new album, backing up music files and fighting for some serious money my former business partners owed me. As seen in many divorce cases, their love had turned into hatred and things had gone from bad to worse. Fortunately, my girlfriend prevented them embezzling part of my money.

In March, I recorded a new seven minute piece for the Schallwende cd. If it is chosen, I can reveal more about it. In April, I bought an Akai MPC-2500 and sold my Moog MF-103 phase shifter. 

I altered the piece Krakatau, recorded for the Indonesia video, into a new dance song Strike! I added bowling samples, a vocal hook, analogue drums and a bridge. I used the Akai MPC-2500 and the Elektron Analog Keys for the first time. I had the MPC drive the Elektrons, whose workflow made the latter's sequencer obsolete. The MPC can do anything the Elektron sequencer can and more, except, perhaps, change sounds rapidly. This song will replace Trance dance on the upcoming album €-dance for two reasons. Trance dance lacks a pumping beat, according to some listeners (in fact, I used Kraftwerk sounds making the beat) and some of the vocal samples, spoken by some unknown Afro American rappers, I cannot understand myself. Since I intend to publish all lyrics, it would be bit daft to leave out one song's lyrics.    

On 20 June, I improvised an up tempo piece with Ruud Heij on Doepfer MAQ-16 sequencers and Synthesizers.com at Ruud's studio. I played Korg Kronos and MS-20, ARP Pro-Soloist, Elka Rhapsody, Minimoog and a bit Alesis Fusion. The track needs some editing, but the basic lines are fine. 

In August, I prepared my next gig, the first in eleven years. On 24 October, Akikaze was the opening act on the annual E-Live festival in Oirschot, the Netherlands, hosted by Ron Boots. The incredible Gert Emmens joined me on electronic drums and acoustic cymbals. We played four pieces, the third being a new one. The over 300 people audience heard melancholic melodies followed by Berlin School sequences. That day, SynG@ate Records released Music from misty marshes and re-released Conflicting emotions and Leap in the dark. Also, Sense of urgency with a new cover was marketed by SynG@te. All albums got brand new covers. Kilian "Cabguy" is the new owner of SynG@ate, His taste and interest are not limited to Berlin School, so I am happy to work with SynG@ate again.

The concert was a success and I was particulalry happy with Mr John Dyson's compliments. Maybe my soloing on the Korg Sigma had something to do with it.   

Later that year, I recorded the studio version of the first part of Solstice, the piece Gert Emmens and I played on E-Live.  

2016:  MOVED TO A REAL HOUSE

I recorded the studio version of the second part of Solstice. In April, I left my small appartment and moved to a real (town) house. I ordered the new Arturia MatrixBrute analogue synthesizer, whose delivery was postponed several times. Setting op the new studio was delayed due to other priorities and a lack of outlets. In December, the studio was ready for recording the last piece called Northern light, for the new album. 

2017

In January, I finally got the MatrixBrute, just in time to have it play its part, be it a small one, on Northern light.

The new album was released in September by Spheric Music in Germany  as a pressed cd.  

©2017 AKIKAZE.NL | BY ERIK