Ryeland Allison and Vince De Franco

spotlightsoundcheck.gif (46773 bytes)Born and raised in California, Ryeland Allison began his love of music at age three. By age thirteen his interests included computers and technology. And by age twenty-one he'd found a way to combine all of his interests into one thing. We call it Groove. By 1992, he'd joined Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer as a sound designer and co-composer on such films as Drop Zone and Broken Arrow. Eventually he co-produced the soundtrack for the film The Fan, and percussion programming for Face/Off. In 1994, Ryeland teamed with renowned sound designer Eric Persing to create the popular Distorted Reality CD-ROM. His most recent endeavor, engine ear, showcases his combined talents of groove musician (technician), sonic innovator, and entertainer.

Vince De Franco was born and raised in Pennsylvania and started his musical journey at the age of eight. He began computing and inventing at age twelve. And later, after receiving a degree in Physics, Vince turned to electrical engineering. By combining his love of music & technology, Vince helped create the Dimension Beam. This infrared light controller is used to shape sounds via frictionless MIDI control. The D-Beam has just been introduced as an important component in the Roland musical product line for 1998 and looks to offer new creative possibilities for years to come. For Vince, engine earshowcases his formidable songwriting ability, his lyric baritone, and his mad-scientist technological creativity.

Together these musicians have formed "engine ear." engine ear is about bringing people together to enjoy new forms of sound energy. It's about Rave, Rock, Ambient, Funk, and Pop. engine ear wants the world to share in their mutual discoveries of the electronic wonders of the modern era.

(This interview took place in Ryeland's Studio City recording studio.)


RolandGroove: Is there a common term for what you do?

Vince: It's an amalgamation of remix, dance, rock and pop based upon electronic instrumentation.


RG: How did you get started in this?

Ryeland: When I first started hearing interesting sounds in '89 with stuff that was coming out of Europe. At that time it was called "new beat"  - It was like a slowed down hard techno. Every time I heard something new and interesting coming out of Europe, I would eat it up. Primarily, 'cause nobody was doing it here.
Vince: I'd been playing guitar, singing, and songwriting for years. And I had the concept for the Dimension Beam while I was at Interactive Light. I received tremendous feedback from electronic artists, reviewers and other people that are into this aspect of sound - and I just got more focused from there.


RG: Interesting, you started out as a guitar player. Do you still play and incorporate that into your music.

Vince: Yeah, but heavily processed with stuff like the Roland effects, BOSS SE-50, and whenever possible, each of these controlled by infrared light of the D-Beam.


RG: What was your goal when you started thinking about the D-Beam?

Vince: I originally wanted the D-Beam to be an extra appendage while I played the guitar. I used to put the first prototype on the ground and move the guitar through it. The guitar moving through the light was the same as your foot moving a control pedal. Every piece of gear that can use MIDI Continuous Control to control real-time effects parameters can be connected to the D-Beam. What happened from there was keyboard players, synth players, sampler users, remixers, engineers became attracted to the technology.


RG: What do you guys see the future of the beam technology as far as musical application?

Ryeland: People are just beginning to find out. I think people are going to learn to play it like an instrument. Applications are endless. Roland can incorporate it into any product they choose if it makes sense.


RG: Can you put it in layperson terms how the Roland D-Beam works?

Vince: Sure. The infrared light pulses thousands of times per second from a transmitter and there is a receiver right next to it that looks for a reflection of the pulsed infrared light. With something hitting the pulsing region it can measure how intense the reflections are. In a sense it's a little one sided radar. The radar uses very low energy infrared light, nothing more powerful than television remote control, but highly sensitive. These pulses and measurements are then converted to controller data that can be use to change any parameter or element of your sound.


RG: You can use the D-Beam as a control device to accomplish almost anything, as you would a knob, wheel, pedal or whatever?

Vince: Exactly. It's the next logical evolutionary step in interface control technology.


setweb.gif (13731 bytes)RG: Let's talk about the technical end of the Roland product. What have these new boxes done for the electronic artist?

Ryeland: They are a huge success [points to Groove Box]. Everybody is returning to the splendor of the original Roland analog stuff, and that was the genesis for the new Groove. The logical evolution of where you can get true analog sound and feel, but with complete digital control.


RG: Are you talking about analog versus digital?

Ryeland: Well... Obviously I have a lot of analog over here [points to a wall of a dozen synths]. But the age old question is would you rather have infinite resolution, which is analog, or stepped output - which means control. You can definitely feel and hear the difference in resolution no matter what anybody says. It just hits you differently than a digital device would. There's more of an organic element to an analog device.


RG: So do you think that's why a lot of people are gravitating to those old sounds that Roland had early on?

Ryeland: Not just the sound, it's the personality of the device producing the sound. The first time these boxes came around, people explored them and took it to a certain level. Now people have gotten into hearing in a more abstract fashion. You've get a different attitude - the original gear, different applications, and people are becoming more inventive. It's weird that it took so long for people to catch up. They say technology is always way ahead of the curve of its application


RG: It's also what I think people are familiar with. You wonder why people search after that great guitar sound, like the perfect '59 Bassman. Back in the early '60's, they were complaining because this amp had too much distortion and they couldn't get it cleaner. But now its the holy grail of blues tones. You look back and think they had these great instruments and these great amps, and the sound that came out was what we've been searching for 20 years, and its kind of ironic that at the time, they weren't satisfied. So, would that be the same kind of analogy you would use toward analog sounds?

Ryeland: My dad played in a rock band and spent a lot of time in studios. He laughs and says, "we spent hours and hours trying to get the cleanest, most perfect sound, and now you guys come along... you got Lo-Fi, trash distortion, and it's all about noise factor now. All of the stuff we tried to get rid of." But distortion creates an edginess that wasn't there, a more saturated tone, different vibrations that wouldn't be in a clean signal. And that effects you emotionally a lot differently.


RG: So with Roland, you get what you want?

Vince: You want lots of flexibility, but you don't want complex operating system that blocks your creativity. Roland products are great in that way. They appeal to a wide base of users, but also give someone the potential to take it far beyond what appears it to be when you take it out of the box.
Ryeland: There's a performance aspect of using gear like this. Instead of sitting around with it alone, you can have it out there like we do, so there's no difference between playing the 505 live and singing or playing a guitar. It's an instrument.


RG: Paint me a picture of the guy that is going to come in and look at Roland Groove Products?

Vince: The person who's been at home trying all these different ways with what they already have and not having great success at creating something which when they turn on the 505 and play one of the patterns, they hear it right off the bat. That's the first building block they are going to start off with, as opposed to the toil they had to try to get to that point before. It kind of breaks down the creative process and puts a stronger block at the bottom so they can be creative on top of that. I thinks that's that appeal of the 505.


RG: Is this person an amateur DJ guy or..?

Ryeland: Enthusiast, creative, experimental person... and all professionals that are interested in getting a new sound. DJ's, musicians, studio owners, etc. just want every piece, obviously. Then you have the new market which are younger kids that are interested. It's sort of home organ, but with today's music you've got all the new rave, techno sounds.


RG: Lets talk about the music, and how you guys start to create, what do you look for, or what's the vibe or the feel as you start to remix. What's that key thing that gives you insight when you create?

Ryeland: It depends what comes from your emotions. We try to put across as a feeling for the entire piece - it could start off with a groove, start with a melody, start with a chord pattern, guitar line, voice, a sound we heard and sampled and started playing with the computer.
Vince: Its all based on us exploring, the emotions we come across while we are exploring with the equipment, and then tie them in with the emotions we have which are unrelated with the music altogether to get a point across. Then everything is working in conjunction; our minds with the electronics, with the emotions that are music related and ones that are not, and we fuse them altogether in the process of remixing or writing a whole new piece in the process of new creation.
Ryeland: What we are doing, we did the first week we were together. A lot of the stuff we are doing is creating new pieces, just sitting in front of our gear. We always have performances in mind, so we pair down, keep as compact as possible - easy to get in, easy to get out, just like a DJ. But we are GJ's, gear jockeys, we've got all the tools to create full tracks on our own. And let's see what we can do just jamming and come up with a idea - "hey that's a cool groove, lets stick with that" or develop that aspect of it, or sometimes just go for 30-45 minutes exploring all these outer territories. That's why we dig the Roland (Groove) stuff so much.


RG: For the budding amateurs out there, what would you say to them.

Vince: Don't be intimidated by any instrument. Whether its electronic or 100 years old. Embrace the technology, when its on your side it works best for you. When you have a good attitude towards it, and are open minded with it, you can do anything.