80s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Rob Stuart is Back with Electronic Dream Factory (EDF)

Excellent music never dies; sometimes it just goes away for a while. And, like a treasured loved one, its return evokes strong emotions of joy, relief, and a reconnection with the universe. That’s what’s happening here, folks. And, I am delighted to be the bearer of the fantastic news.

Rob Stuart first graced Rave and Roll’s pages exclusively as a featured artist back in November 2009. Earlier that year, I had published an article about his Toronto-based band SLAVE to the SQUAREwave, followed by a review of their then-latest smashing release, The Money Shot. Earlier this year (Feb. 2014, to be exact), I was privileged to announce Slave’s return with a jaw-dropping, in-your-face collection of tunes called Asphalt, Sex & Rock ‘N’ Roll. Now, I am thrilled to deliver the trifecta: Rob Stuart’s long-awaited re-emergence featuring an entire catalog of synthesizer-driven musical goodness from his band, Electronic Dream Factory (E.D.F).

Rob agreed to be interviewed so that I can share with you all a little bit about the beginnings of E.D.F., its evolution, the inspiration for the music, and the reason for the decision to re-release the catalog.

When did E.D.F. make its debut in the world?

EDF studios circa 1983

EDF studios circa 1983

Originally E.D.F was and still is the name of my home recording studio. I stole the name from a small British synthesizer company called Electronic Dream Plant which built a very cool monophonic synthesizer called “The Wasp.” My earliest recollection of my first home studio was back in 1981. I decided very early on in my “music career” that rather than pay other people to record in their studios, that I would just build my own and teach myself how to record, engineer and mix.

I was only sixteen back then and gear was incredibly expensive, so my first studio was nothing fancy. I would work three summer jobs to save up enough money to buy studio gear. I still remember purchasing the first real synth I ever owned, a Korg MS-20 for $595.00 at Steve’s Music Store in Toronto. I was so proud walking home with that synth tucked under my arm that day. It was once I started writing original music when I decided Electronic Dream Factory would also serve as a good band name.

Who were the original band members?

Greg Fraser, Rob Stuart, Rob Tennant (1992)

Greg Fraser, Rob Stuart, Rob Tennant (1992)

There have been many incarnations of the “band”version of E.D.F. Version 1.0 is me alone as a solo artist . Long time friend/musician/ artist, Greg Fraser was the first person to become an official member. Our first full-length self-titled album was just Greg and myself. Version 2.0 included Rob Tennant, who was the live drummer.

We soon added Maxx on guitar. Version 3.0 included Emerich Donath on stick bass and Rude Van Steenes on electronic percussion and vocals. I knew Rude back from the Vis-A-Vis days as I was an original member of that band .

EDF Version 3.0

EDF Version 3.0

Why synthesizers and electronica vs. guitars and…?

I’ve always been a synthesizer nut. Ever since I first heard early synth-based music like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Throbbing Gristle, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Gary Numan, John Foxx, and early Human League, I knew I wanted to get into synthesizers.

First of all, they looked so cool and they could make sounds that you’d never heard before. That was really the appeal to me. I would spend hours messing around with my MS-20, plugging in cables, twiddling all the knobs, to come up with unique and different sounds. I’ve never been a person who is comfortable jamming in a rehearsal studio or in a band situation, which is why I don’t really consider myself a musician. I still don’t play that well, but writing, recording, and producing came fairly naturally to me. Writing music always was and still is a personal journey for me, so when MIDI came along it allowed me to create all parts of the music by myself, which I thrived on.

Having said that, I’ve always been a guitar fan, so when I couldn’t fake a guitar part by myself or find the right guitar sample I’d have to bring in a guitar player. Of course nothing can replace the thundering sound and look of a live guitar player on stage. That’s where Maxx came in. He was a cool-looking dude with a great head of hair and a killer guitar sound which added to the live element and gave the studio recordings a little extra grit.

Was E.D.F. mainly a studio band, stage band, or both?

I’ve always been a studio guy, but you have no choice but to play live if you want to promote your product seriously. It’s a great feeling playing your own music live with 3 or 4 other people on stage with the lights, smoke, and (hopefully) crowds of people in the audience grooving to your tunes; however, I also derive immense pleasure spending hours in my studio just writing or playing music by myself.

That’s were the “other” side of E.D.F comes from, as I also record and release ambient, chill out, new age music which I never intend to play live. Our finest moment was playing at Pine Knob in Detroit, Michigan in front of 10, 000 people for a big end-of-summer music festival.

What or who inspired the music?

The “who” is endless. See all the bands named earlier. Inspiration can come from anything, really. It could be a unique industrial sample, synth patch, drum and bass groove or simply a nice chord progression. It’s piecing all of those elements together that makes it fun and challenging.

Did E.D.F. originally get the airplay it deserved, and if so, by whom?

The first E.D.F release was actually a cassette-only; but, believe it or not, we used to get airplay on the radio. CFNY 102.1 in Toronto was the first station to play our music. That station was a huge supporter of local independent music, led of course by the one and only David Marsden who still plays my music to this day on his new station http://www.nythespirit.com. With open-minded people like David and the good folk at CFNY, the song “So, What of Tomorrow” ended up being a winner on a CFNY talent search contest and was released on a compilation CD, which to us at the time was unbelievable.

Other places that would play our music would be University radio stations like CIUT (University of Toronto), CKMS-FM in Waterloo, and CKLN (Ryerson University) who were always great supporters of ours. Local DJs like Ronno Box and Craig Beesack would play us at clubs like Catch 22 and local promoter Billy X was also an early supporter of E.D.F

What’s it like to translate a concept in your head into music that you share with the rest of the world?

It’s fun at first, but it can quickly become frustrating when the business aspect kicks in. I won’t even talk about the music business these days as no one has a clue what’s going on; but back in the early 90s there were still labels you could shop your product around to. For our first album we had some interest from TVT Records which had just signed Nine Inch Nails. For the second album, “Drama Dream” we signed a deal with a label in Montreal, which went bad. For the album “Number 3” I had a distribution deal with Toronto’s The Record Peddler. Financially that was probably the most success I had with an EDF album as they managed to get distribution deals in quite a few different territories worldwide.

What made you decide to resurrect EDF?

One word: “Tunecore.”

Tunecore is a great service that distributes your music around the world to digital music stores and streaming stations. It’s really cheap and allows you to keep 100% of the earnings. They really do get the music out all over the world! E.D.F had a pretty strong following in its heyday, especially in Europe.

As I mentioned above, the album “Number 3” was released and distributed internationally by The Record Peddler. I used to get royalty cheques from airplay I received from places like Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and many other countries. Over the past few years I decided to post some old E.D.F videos on YouTube and found that people were actually looking for the old releases. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to re-master and re-release the whole collection in a new package.

Hence “Industrial Catalogue:” All four E.D.F albums in one, 64 songs in total, reasonably priced at $8.99. I did the same with my ambient/chillout/down-tempo E.D.F music, as well. Four albums in one package under the title ˜Noise Control” with 60 Songs in total.

Are there plans for live shows, and if so, where?

At this point, definitely not. SLAVE to the SQUAREwave takes up all of my spare time with live performances and recording. The last time E.D.F played live was at a rave in the middle of a farmer’s field in Oakville, a suburb of Toronto. This was actually where I met Colin Troy from S2TSW, as we were both playing at the rave that night. I was performing my more “techno” E.D.F material while Colin was doing his Smokin’ Jehovah project, which was a mix of middle eastern music and house. Really cool stuff. We chatted through the night about our love for Bowie, Roxy Music, and electronic dance music. We became instant friends and SLAVE to the SQUAREwave was born.

Do you have any examples of E.D.F. music online that people can preview?

Here’s some of my ambient/chill-out music taken from “Noise Control”:

Will the entire catalog be available for purchase? Where?

“Industrial Catalogue” is available via Amazonmp3.

Picture-#-4.-EDF-Industrial

 

 

 

 

 

“Noise Control (Vols 1 to 4)” is available via Amazonmp3.

Picture-#-5.-EDF-Noise-Cont

 

 

 

 

 

Both albums are also on Spotify, Rdio, Shazam, iTunes, Google play, Wimp, Deezer, beats music and many, many more on-line stores.

Can folks buy single tracks?

Yup! Single tracks are the standard 99 cents.

Will this inspire you to go back into the studio and create new E.D.F. tracks?

E.D.F has never really stopped. It’s just come in many different shapes and forms over the past 32 years and will continue to evolve. I’m getting more and more into the chill-out/ambient stuff as I get older, so you can most likely expect some more music in that vein.

What’s next?

I’m considering releasing some music by a duo group I was in back in the mid 80s called “silent GREEN.” It was an ambient project where the music was ad-libbed and recorded live. I played synthesizer while Bruce Bentley played “ambient” guitar. Bruce and I also had a synthpop band called “Ear Candy,” which was another CFNY-supported band. Tragically, Bruce passed away last year, so I’m thinking of releasing it in his memory. Some of that music is pretty magical.

Thanks so much!

Thanks for your support. I love what you do. You don’t know how important things like this are to a band/artist. You’re really doing a great thing here and it is most appreciated. XOXO

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80’s (and sometimes 90’s and 00’s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Rob Stuart

EDF2Yes, that’s Rob with a “b,” Stuart with a “u.” Let’s get that straight before we embark on a journey that spans three decades and blows the lid off of the electro/synth/industrial music powder keg.

Not long ago, I featured an article on the Toronto-based band Slave To The SQUAREwave, followed by a review of their latest smashing release, The Money Shot. I also ran a Criminally Underrated piece on another Canadian 80’s band I felt had not received their well-deserved share of the spotlight called Vis-à-Vis. At the time, I had no earthly clue that there was a vital connection between these two amazingly talented bands. That connection is Rob Stuart.

Rob forwarded me a list of his musical stats and an audio collection of his music from the past nearly 30 years. After listening to the music throughout much of this week while toiling away at work, I have two words to describe what I heard – “blown away.” Let me put it this way: If you are as big a fan of synthesizer-fueled music as I am, there is no better aural pleasure than I have been treated to this past week. Rob Stuart is a master at what he does, whether it is writing, performing, or collaborating on music. I had thought my synthesizer idol Gary Numan had provided me with all the electronic music I needed to keep me happy the rest of my days. I could not have been more wrong. In fact, there was a cover version of Numan’s Films included with Rob’s audio collection that is every bit as good, if not better than, the original.EDF4

Rob began his serious foray into electronica in 1980 as part of a band called The Plastic Omniums. The band’s line-up looked like this: Rob Stuart (string machine, vocals), Joseph Podlovics, (synthesizer [Roland SH-09], CompuRhythm), John Parry, (synthesizer [Arp Odyssey Model 2800]), and Clifford Podlovics (Teac reel-to-reel tape deck, effects). The band enjoyed a couple of live performances and some unreleased studio recordings before calling it quits.

Next, Rob was a part of Vis-à-Vis from 1982-1984. At that time, the band’s line-up included Rob Stuart (synthesizers, bass guitar), Rude Van Steenes (Vocals), and Kurt LaPorte (guitar, vocals). The band produced many unreleased studio recordings and had several live performances. Vis-à-Vis went on to re-form minus Rob, and ended up releasing two LPs in 1986-87.

EDP5Ear Candy was the next musical project up. It consisted of Rob Stuart (synthesizers, production), Eric Kofler (synthesizers, programming, engineering), Andrew McNeil (synthesizers), and Bruce Bentley (guitars, vocals). Strictly a studio band, they enjoyed one EP release titled Self Defence (1986). Eric Kopfler and Andrew McNeil were replaced with Tom Bentley (drums) and James (vocals) for the remainder of Ear Candy’s lifetime, 1987-88. A double-sided 45 rpm vinyl record, “Don’t Let My Heart Slip Away/Don’t Push Me,” was released.

Rob was involved in a simultaneous project while with Ear Candy. Described as “improvisational ambient,” the group was named Silent Green and produced a 60-minute cassette entitled Euphoria. For more information, check them out on MySpace.

Besides Slave To The SQUAREwave, Rob’s most longstanding and ambitious project to date is a group known as Electronic Dream Factory (E.D.F.). Started in 1986, E.D.F. is still going strong today. Using the information provided, here is a breakdown of E.D.F. personnel over the years:

Rob Stuart – Synthesizers, Programming, Production, Vocals
Greg Fraser – Synthesizers, Sequencing, Engineering (1989 to 1991)
Rob Tenant – Drums (Live band 1991 to 1993)
Max – Guitar (Live Band 1991 to 1993)
Emerich Donath – Bass Guitar (Live Band 1991 to 1992)
Rudi Van Steenes – Guest Vocal, Simmons SDS-V Percussion (Live Band 1991 to 1992)

E.D.F. Discography:

1989 – “E.D.F – Self titled cassette” (Since been re-mastered to CD)
1992 – “Drama Dream” 16 song CD (Indiscreet Sounds)
1994 – “Number 3” 16 song CD (Indiscreet Sounds) Distributed by The Record Peddlar
2005 – “Patient Number 152” Double CD (Indiscreet Sounds)
2006 – “Remix-Remaster-Remake” Best of E.D.F compilation including re-mastered material plus new tracks (Indiscreet Sounds)      
2009 – “The Haas Effect” New full length CD release featuring a unique blend of ambient, space, chill and electronica (Indiscreet Sounds)EDF3

As if this wasn’t enough, Rob Stuart has also assisted Rude Van Steenes, Terence Gowan, and a duo called The Cynix in the capacities of producer, engineer, songwriter, and synth-player extraordinaire in numerous studio projects. All of these projects, including recordings for E.D.F. and Ear Candy, have produced songs used in movie and TV soundtracks, advertisements, and international airplay.

Criminally underrated? Absolutely. Rob Stuart has got to be one of the hardest-working, consistently productive, multi-talented musicians that the world has hardly ever heard of. Between E.D.F. and Slave To The SQUAREwave, concurrent groups of diverse, yet outstanding music, odds are in favor of the elusive break that will catapult him and his solid compositions into the limelight. Better sooner than later.

Check out Electronic Dream Factory’s MySpace page.  For more information on obtaining copies of the music mentioned in this article, feel free to leave a comment using your current email address and I will gladly forward your requests on to Rob Stuart.

“Are You Not Ashamed?” by E.D.F. via YouTube user slavetothesquarewave:

“Films (Gary Numan Cover)” by E.D.F. via YouTube user Akito01: