Interview Anton Roolaart
“I wasn’t happy playing covers, I wanted to make original music only”
(August 2010, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen)
Sometimes we receive an album a long time after its original release date. This also happened with the debut album of Anton Roolaart, released in 2007. However, Dreamers (see review) is such a wonderful album that I was curious to know more about this American multi-instrumentalist. Roolaart originally came from The Netherlands, but he now lives in New York City. One thing led to another and resulted ultimately in the interview below.
Can you tell our readers something about yourself and your family?Anton Roolaart : “Yes, I would like to do that. I was born in Tehran, the capital of Iran on January 26, 1961. My Dutch family went back to The Netherlands to the village of Laren when I was one year old. I have two sisters: one moved to Spain many years ago, but passed away sixteen years ago; the other sister now lives in Dordrecht (Netherlands) with her family, where she has lived for many years. I have a brother living in the USA; I’m the youngest of the family. My father had a job at an international textile company and travelled to several countries, living there for a few years, for instance in Australia just before I was born, in Iran and the USA. Later, he lived in Germany for many years before retiring back in The Netherlands. His position was to set up branch offices in other countries. Hence, my father’s business required him to move to the USA and that’s why we emigrated to America in the late sixties. Several years later, my parents divorced and I remained with my mother in the USA. We were raised speaking Dutch at home. I still speak Dutch quite well. My father currently lives in Laren; he’s 86 now. My mother lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She originally hails from Belgium, Antwerp area. I travelled back and forth a lot over the years between the USA, Europe and The Netherlands and I almost moved back in the eighties when I travelled and lived in Spain and The Netherlands for a while, one year total.”
Can you mention some musical influences?“In my early teens I was influenced by Cat Stevens’ Tea For The Tillerman. Then I was inspired by Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, David Bowie, The Beatles and classical music mostly of the Baroque period. Lately I have been listening to Steve Wilson and PorcupineTree, some of the music anyway. More recently I‘ve been listening a lot to this music of Blackfield. It’s simple but nice. There is much more ... but anyway.”
Have you always
been interested in music? Did you study music or are you a self-taught man?
Do you remember how
and when you got in contact with progressive rock music for the first time?
You’re also interested in sound recording. How did it happen?“After high school, I went to a two year school for electronics and also started to become more interested in sound recording. As the school offered a year program in ‘sound recording’, I also applied for their program, before digital of course. I ended up as an apprentice for some time in a local studio. I enjoy the technical aspects of recording and production very much to date. Soon after that, MIDI came along and I studied it a lot. I started to get some keyboards and fool around with layers and textures and make some recordings for myself. A friend of mine said I was producing music that was more in line with soundtracks for films at that time. At times it was almost leaning towards new age music. I spent a lot of time in the eighties recording and using MIDI, but mostly for myself. I didn’t do anything with these recordings. ”
You can say you’re
a multi-instrumentalist now. Did you learn to play all these instruments intentionally
or by chance?
You also run a
radio station called ProgRock Radio. Why did you start a radio-station in the
first place and can you tell me something about it?
What can you say about your debut album Dreamer?“The Dreamer-project started in 2005. I originally was thinking to call it On To The Afterglow, but later I changed my mind to Dreamer, which is another track on the album. My brother used to say I was a dreamer, but the song itself is about something else. It’s about a mystical beautiful woman that you might see in town and be curious about. Anyway the term ‘dreamer’ stuck out for me as a good name for the album. I believe in pursuing your dreams and I admire people that work hard to achieve them, despite all odds. So, I finally decided to put out a CD and find some musicians to help me out. I called my friend Vinnie Puryear who is an exceptional bass player. I’ve known him for years and he graciously accepted to be part of the project. Vinnie doesn’t have a progressive rock background, but he’s a great musician. Then, one of my friends listened to my music and gave me Rave Tesar ’s number who he had met some time ago. Rave also lives in New Jersey. I was impressed with his talent and I called Rave to discuss the project and we soon became good friends. He’s a wonderful person and I can never thank him enough for his friendship and talent. He’s an excellent musician and has worked with many well-known artists and people in the music industry. Rave may be more known for his work with Annie Haslam and Renaissance, they are now touring with Steve Hackett. For four tracks I recruited drummer Charles Descarfino who was a friend of Rave’s and mostly plays on Broadway. He has an orchestral percussion background, which I liked, and he performed in the original Broadway-show of Pete Townsend’s Tommy in NYC. The other drummer was recommended by the same friend that recommended Rave. I brought in Rich Berends for the other four tracks on the album. Rich is the drummer in the band Mastermind. Anyway, both are wonderful drummers. Besides writing the songs and arranging them, I also did a lot of the keyboard layers, as I love that work. I produced and mixed the album myself and it was a great experience for me. I grew musically and technically with it. But, as I mentioned, Rave also helped me. Some of the songs were living pieces growing in what they are as time went on.”
How did you get in contact with Chris Squire (Yes)?“When I was half way done with the project, I got a phone call from someone working with Chris Squire to do an interview with him and Steve Nardelli for ProgRockRadio as they were reforming The Syn. I had a couple of interviews with them. Later they invited me to London and I got to know Steve Nardelli. Anyway, at that point they started a small label for their projects, but they were also interested in signing other artists. Steve and Chris liked it and Steve made me an offer. I signed a contract with Umbrello Records for Dreamer. It ends up that Chris wasn’t actually a real partner of Umbrello Records although at the time they said he was. But that’s another story. Anyway, after the positive reactions to the album I decided to put a band together and did several gigs to support Dreamer in 2007 and 2008. My friend and Nearfest organizer Jim Robinson gave me a few local gigs. I found Kendall Scott, a wonderful keyboard player, who’s now a good friend and we continue to work on the music together. The album cover was done by Michael Phipps who also did the cover for Advent and the imagery for www.ProgressiveEars.com. He is a wonderful artist. The painting for the cover is based on various lyrics in some of the songs on the album and Michael did an awesome job on it.”
What are you doing currently?“I’m working on my second album which actually started two years ago, but due to some things happening in my life last year, I had to stop for a while. I got separated and lost my job for six months which did set me back. Here in the USA the government doesn’t help that much at all, but things are better now. Kendall Scott and I are still working on it. I’ve most of the pieces decided that will be on the album and I’ve been talking to Rave again to work with him to start on this project as well. My finances are better now too. Some of the music will be in the vein of Dreamer, but there will also be some different aspects as I grow musically. It will include a couple of songs I wrote many years ago and new ones written in the last few years. I’m currently looking for a drummer for the recordings and hopefully also put together a band again. I’m also currently planning to have some interesting guest(s) on the next CD, but nothing I can mention at this time. I hope to complete it late this year or early next year, but one thing’s for sure: I plan to keep doing this and I will continue my musical journey. I feel blessed for being able to do what I do and I’m humbled by the positive response to the music. Hopefully we’ll get into a prog festival one of these days.”
Thank you for
answering my questions, Anton!
More info on the Internet:
Anton Roolaart Website
album review 'Dreamer'
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