Tag Archives: Obsidian

Alpha Boy & Jan-Friedrich Conrad – Obsidian

Eighties-Sound-Instrumental-Producer Alpha Boy aka Norman Knight is collaborating on a project with northern-germany-based Jan-Friedrich Conrad. JF Conrad is well-known for his musical work for audio plays in germany. Audio plays are extremely popular in the german-language-area, and his scores for „The three investigators“ (largely known as „Die drei ???“) had been used in audio plays on compact cassettes which did 30 times gold and three times platinum.

Conrad is a true synthesizer maniac who used to produce scores with pure MIDI recording and no audio tracks at all except for the mastering procedure. This gave his arrangements, which consisted of up to 14 hardware synthesizers plus drum machines and effects processors, played „live“ by a MIDI sequencer without a single audio track, a real synthetic eighties feel. This have been the years of Jan Hammer´s Miami Vice scores and Tangerine Dreams hardware-sequenced Movie soundtracks. Besides being a skillful keyboard, synthesizer and organ player, Conrad plays melody lines on a five-string bass and guitar synthesizers as well.

Besides composing, Conrad works as a psychotherapist and as a lecturer and censor at School of Audio Engineering and as a widely-known product-review author for musician´s magazines. For their new album project, both composers are eager to redefine the essence of the psychedelic eighties electronic instrumental music sound, as it was defined by MIDI, analog subtractive synthesis and the advent of digital synthesis techniques. We are happy to had this chance to speak with Norman Knight and Jan-Friedrich Conrad.

BELL BIV LAEVOE: How did your collaboration start? How did you meet?

Norman Knight (Alpha Boy): I took all my courage and wrote to him. He is so easy to find on the Internet.

Jan-Friedrich Conrad: Fortunately I had a good day, and he’s survived without serious damage.


BBL: Do you regard your project as a meeting of the generations in causa eighties-sound?

JFC: I do not see a generational question. It is, however, that I had always been careful NOT to sound like eighties, because that always has been the first thing which would happen when I used to improvise with synthesizer arrangements.

NK: For me it’s a meeting of generations, since Jan-Friedrich has influenced me musically when I was a child.

JFC: Thus, thanks to Norman, it is a pleasure to explicitly being asked to reflect on „eighties sound“.


BBL: Can you tell us what are you working on now?

NK: We are currently working on a joint album. But we do not want to reveal too much.

JFC: So far I have spent much effort to keep up with the contemporary developments of musical styles. Thanks to Norman, I was reminded that what I have produced, actually always has been originary, if I had just played straight on. Or, as „Die Ärzte“ were singing: „You are always best when you don´t care at all.“ I just have to hit record and play simultaneously, that´s what I have to do.


BBL to JFC: What do you think of the idea of a new generation of eighties-musicians?

JFC: It’s a fascinating and heart-warming experience to finally be regarded as a musician who has influenced others, with a way of making music which nowadays can be called iconic, or, in certain circles, is considered a „cult.“ I´ve always been admiring other artists as well. Some of them told me, the real golden age had been the sixties or what decade ever.

But of course, every era has its music, and much of it appears as the golden age in retrospect, because only the good stuff in remains in our collective memory. The eighties gave birth to MIDI recording and more and more affordable computers, which led to a process which we can call the „democratization“ of music production today.

The music that I composed for the Europa label was pure MIDI recording, and I could afford to produce that as a student of musicology at home, competing with the hippest reel-tape-based 24-track-studios. Everytime I got payed, I was seeking for a new or used synthesizer, but it took a long time to earn enough for a couple of ADAT recorders. My radical restriction on MIDI recording has created a personal style. In parallel, I´ve always been making rock music, as a guitar and bass player as well as a drawbar organ player.


BBL to Norman: How does it feel to make music with the idol of your childhood?

NK: To be honest, even better than imagined. Jan-Friedrich is a very kind fellow. I learn a lot from him and I am very grateful. We complement each other in composition, and that in turn brings joy and a lot of funny moments. Indeed, it´s a dream becoming true.

JFC: Oh, thanks for supplying my narcisstic needs. Good to hear that.


BBL: Where can we buy your first song?

NK: You can purchase it online on Bandcamp. Our first joint track is called „Obsidian“.

JFC: What I like about Bandcamp is that it´s possible to easily distribute non-data-reduced music files with 24-bit resolution—which sounds audibly better than CD quality.


BBL: Will you still give your fans something to take along?

JFC: A quote from Kraftwerk: „Es wird immer weitergehen – Musik als Träger von Ideen – It will go on forever—music as a carrier of ideas.“

NK: Enjoy our music, folks! We will keep you in touch, hopefully in this blog, on the Facebook Sites of Alpha Boy and Jan-Friedrich Conrad.


Check out and buy their fantastic tune „Obsidian“ on Bandcamp below.