Erik van Vliet and Michael van Der Kuy.
In the late 1970s, electronic dance music began to emerge, and one of the pioneers was Giorgio Moroder – an Italian producer and musician from whom the Italo Disco genre drew much inspiration. Synth and disco music were produced by many Italian producers as early as around 1977.
For an English version of this article, please click here.
Significantly for Italo Disco and Spacesynth are simple arranged songs, with simple catchy melodies and harmonies, and a sound created by synths, vocoders and drum machines. Italo Disco had its peak around 1985, and was played extensively at Swedish discos during the 80s.
Spacesynth, or Space Disco as it is also called, is considered a subgenre of Italo Disco, and is unlike Italo Disco, instrumental uptempo synth music with an often futuristic sound. The futuristic album covers are also a very important part of the production.
Erik van Vliet.
The founder of Laserdance
Around 1969, as a 12-year-old. Erik van Vliet played drums and bass and was mostly into rock music, but a couple of years later he discovered disco and synth-based dance music, music from Giorgio Moroder and Farina, among others, and a whole new world opened up for him. In 1972, when Erik was 15 years old, he started DJing at various clubs in Rotterdam.
– I also DJed in Italy for two summers, when I was around 18 years old. It was fantastic, but soon I had to do military service, which was normally 18 months, but I signed a contract for a full four years, as a volunteer, because then you earned three times as much money. I could still continue to DJ on the weekends.
– The first DJ record store in Rotterdam was called USA Import Records. I went around Milan, Italy in the late 70’s to buy synth-based dance music and early Italo Disco at a lot of different small underground record stores, all the classics I could find with music by Giorgio Moroder, Mauro Malavasi, Farina and more. Partly to play these when I DJed, but also to sell to USA Import Records. These early plates are still the best I think. Peter Jacques Band’s album “Fire Night Dance” I think is the best disco album ever made.
Listen to “Fire Night Dance” on Spotify here.
– After my military service, I had saved so much money that in 1982 I was able to start my first record store “Hotsound Import Records” in Rotterdam. It grew, and eventually I had several record stores.
First own song
Soon Erik himself started releasing his own disco / synth medleys and mixes, and he had a vision to record songs himself. A song had long fascinated and inspired him, and it was an almost unknown b-side of a band called “Sponooch” and the song was called Laserdance, from 1979. Erik decided to do a remake of this song, and make it more adapted for the dance floor. And in 1984 he released his first song called Lazer Dance under the name Laserdance.
Watch the music video of Laserdance with the song Sponooch here:
– I never played synth or anything like that, but it’s not just about being able to play, but also being able to produce and create the sound you are looking for, and I have an ear for that. My strength is to produce and do the right marketing. It’s like two things in one – I do not want to produce a song unless there is a marketing plan to get the music out.
When it comes to music production, I have seen so many people over the years who overproduce the music – there are too many instruments and things that happen in a song. You usually win by making it sound simple, because then it is easier for people to absorb the song and above all that they remember it. If you listen to Laserdance, for example, it is very simple music, and is built up in a similar way as music by Giorgio Moroder or Arthur Baker (house / tehno producer).
Collaboration with Michael Van Der Kuy
Erik and the composer and classical pianist Michael Van Der Kuy met at “The Marathon”, a popular Italo Disco club in The Hague, Holland. Michael loved Erik’s Italo Disco music that Erik promoted at the club, and asked if they could collaborate, and a first step was that Michiel started sending demo songs to Erik.
– Michiel was a classical pianist when we met, and he had not done any Italo or spacesynth production before, so even though he was a great talent, and wrote good music, it was not the right sound and style. I taught him this and made sure to provide him with a lot of cassettes with early Italo Disco music.
– We were a good team from the beginning, and Michiel is mainly the composer in Laserdance, although I have been involved as a composer in some songs, but I am primarily responsible for the arrangement, production and mix. I also put the lyrics and am responsible for the album and song titles and design. But Michiel is also involved in the production.
– Our first album, “Future Generation”, was released in 1987. It was magical – everything went so right with that album! The biggest singles from the album were “Humanoid Invasion” and “Power Run”. It’s my voice you hear in these songs. Both of the above singles, and the album, sold fantastically well.
The main instrument on Future Generation was a Roland Super JX10, but also Roland Juno-60, Roland MSQ-100 (sequencer), LinnDrum and Korg DVP-1 (vocoder) were used extensively.
Listen to the song “Humanoid Invasion” here.
A total of nine albums
Erik and Michiel made a total of nine Laserdance albums, until 1995, after which they went their separate ways because Michiel wanted to try his luck on his own and created the band Rygar. In 2000, the last Laserdance album “Strikes Back” was released. Erik did this together with a musician named Julius Wijnmalen. Erik made another record with him that was to be released in 2002 or 2003, but it did not happen.
– Strikes Back was Laserdance in style, but it was not quite the same as when Michiel and I did it. And the music industry after the year 2000 almost collapsed when people started downloading music digitally.
New album after 21 years
– It is only recently when vinyl has started to sell well again, and we got a pretty good agreement with the record company ZYX, which both me and Michiel thought they would be fun to make a new Laserdance album. ZYX also had in mind how well the first album “Future Generation” sold.
– With “Force of Order” we tried to make an even better record than “Future Generation” even if it would of course be difficult – Future Generation was special! We listened to it very carefully before we worked with Force of Order, and it was also more or less a requirement from the record company.
– “Please, make the record as similar to the first one as possible!”, Said ZYX, because we and they know that people around the world who are our fans would probably buy the record if it had the original sound. We used to sell around 80,000 albums, and today maybe 1,000 albums, but that’s the time now. We are most popular in Mexico and Poland, but this is also where the largest proportion of illegal downloading of our songs takes place.
– Michiel got exactly the same synths and gadgets that we used on “Future Generation”. We rented what we could not find, all to really get the same sound as before. We only used analog hardware synthesizers, no software syntheses at all, but we recorded and mixed everything in the computer. If we make more Laserdance tiles, we will use the same analog equipment.
– It took about six months to complete the “Force of Order” – from composing to distribution. Now Michiel had already composed a couple of unreleased songs from earlier that were used. The response has been fantastic – all fans like Force of Order, and everyone is happy that Michiel and I are back and making music together again!
Listen to “Endless Space” from “Force of Order” here.
Composer Michiel Van Der Kuy signs “Force of Order”.
Possibly more albums in the future
Now the collaboration with Michiel is on again with Force of order, and they have already talked about another Laserdance album. Erik already has a cover picture ready for it, what the album will be called and also the titles for the album.
– We hope to release one album per year, but we have a contract with ZYX and they must also want us to do so. Of course, ZYX looks at how sales are going. I will soon have a discussion with them – we are now in April, and I need to know in a couple of months if we are going to plan a new album.
Thoughts on tour
– I have for maybe 25 years tried to persuade Michiel to put on Laserdance concerts, a tour maybe? Michiel has never been so keen on it though, but I think it would be a fun adventure for us. It must of course be done together with the right people and in the right places and contexts, perhaps as a connection to Kraftwerk?
More about Laserdance albums can be found on the music publisher ZYX’s website.
EARLY SYNTH BASED DISCO, ITALO DISCO AND SPACESYNTH
Giorgio Moroder – From here to eternity, 1977
Donna Summer (Giorgio Moroder) – I feel love, 1977
Space – Magic Fly, 1977
Giorgio Moroder – The Chase (from Midnight Express), 1978
Peter Jacques band – Fire night dance (album), Walking on music, 1979
Sponooch – Laserdance, 1979
Koto – Chinese revenge, 1982
Hipnosis – Pulstar, 1983
Laser Dance – Laser Dance: 1984
Laserdance – Humanoid Invasion, 1987