DC Motion — Dion Coursen — is a Canadian synthwave producer. He has a unique take on the genre that mixes elements of pure synthwave with his other musical influences such as punk/proto-emo, indie rock from the 2000’s and New Wave music along with carefully constructed lyrics. I talked to him about how he first started making music, his creative approach to it and his views on the current state of synthwave music.
photo: provided by Dion Coursen
Karl Magi: How did your passion for music first get sparked?
Dion Coursen: I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember before I was ever a musician. I still remember the lyrics for a song I wrote when I was five. I won’t be sharing that with anybody ever, but it will always be with me. When I got my first guitar at 12 before I really learned to play it, I started writing songs like crazy, and have just been doing that ever since. My first real show was on my 15th birthday, and I’ll always just be trying to recreate that feeling.
KM: What are the elements and themes that drew you into producing synthwave?
DC: When I was in my twenties, I started really getting into Eighties music: New Wave stuff, movie soundtracks, cheesy pop stuff. I started hearing these newer bands/producers popping up who were writing in those styles years before I’d ever even heard the term synthwave. I called it “that fake Eighties stuff” and I just fell in love with it all. As I was getting older and there was less time to get together with other people to work on music or to have multiple weekly band practices, being able to work on music by myself was huge. I sort of just fell into writing the synthwave-ish stuff I’m making now, but it was never a super conscious decision. It was really kind of an organic transition.
Running Solo was written as an homage to 1980’s action sports films soundtracks: Thrashin and North Shore.
KM: Which artists have influenced your approach to music?
DC: There’s been so many throughout the years. Geez, I sort of having to go by the genres I’ve been really into. When I was young it was punk/proto-emo stuff. Samiam and Knapsack were big for me, I just loved that honest, raw songwriting. Then I moved through the early 2000’s indie rock boom with bands like TV on the Radio, Phoenix, and Wolf Parade. There were lots of great bands writing interesting stuff, but that all led me back to the OG Eighties New Wave stuff like the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, and New Order which is the main genre I’ve listened to every day since.
The record that really influenced me into getting into the neo-Eighties stuff was Twin Shadow’s “Confess”, which isn’t synthwave per se, but encapsulated that Eighties vibe I loved so much while incorporating a modern sensibility. As I started getting more into production, Tesla Boy, Anoraak, the Midnight, Sebastian Gampl, Freeweights, and Duett were all influential to the sounds that I started using, even though my style of writing is probably quite a bit different. Of course, Mr. Moonrunner83 has been teaching me a lot about doing production on my own over the past year or so and he’s great. I’m a huge fan of what he’s been doing.
KM: How do you go about creating new music?
DC: It’s a bit different for every song, but usually, I’ll just come up with a few bars I like, set it up to loop, lock myself in my little vocal booth and just start singing gibberish until I come up with a decent melody. Once I have that solid foundation, I’ll start building it out from there. I spend a lot of time on lyrics, but they are always born out of the melodies.
I’ll labor over lyrics to the point of insanity because there’s nothing worse than the day after you record vocals coming up with a better, word, line or phrasing. I’m so scared of that I try to make sure I’ve exhausted all of my lyrical options before I set them in stone.
After the core song is written, I’ve been getting help from my more experienced producer pals to help me get my sonic quality up to a higher level. That has been invaluable in becoming a bit more self-sufficient as of late. Shout out to Moonrunner83 and Optics music.
photo: provided by Dion Coursen
KM: What are your plans for the future with your music?
DC: In June 2019, I’m releasing a five-song EP called The Edge of Summer, which Moonrunner83 produced with me. I’m pretty excited about that. After that, I don’t have any plans for world domination or anything, I’ll just continue to do what I’ve always done. Attempting to hone my craft, keep on writing songs, and playing a show here or there. It might sound a bit clichéd, but I really do just do it for the act of creation. I hope people like my stuff and listen to it, but at the end that matters less to me than bringing something into existence out of nothing.
photo: provided by Dion Coursen
KM: How do you see the current state of the synthwave scene?
DC: At the risk of sounding too much like a super way too cool hipster, being like, “you can’t box me into a genre maaaaan!” I do have a hard time considering what I’m doing as pure synthwave. I think my style is an amalgamation of all the genres I’ve ever been into. With that said, what people are doing in synthwave right now is truly unbelievable. I love so much of it, to the point where I feel that simply trying to recreate it isn’t going to do much good for me, or the rest of the world for that matter. If you want amazing pure synthwave there are so many incredible acts out there doing it much better than I ever could.
All I can bring to this scene is what I’ve been doing my whole life — writing songs from my heart and not taking the genre into much consideration while I’m doing it. Although I do love using the tools that synthwave enthusiast has brought into my toolbox. Music quality aside, the scene itself seems to be very supportive and amazingly collaborative. The Instagram synthwave community is so accepting and I’ve met so many kinds and wonderful folks from all over the world. I’m super stoked to be a small part of it.
KM: What recharges you creatively?
DC: It’s strange, but the busier I am with the rest of my life, the easier it is for me to get writing. I do motion graphics animation as my day job. If I put in a 16 hour day doing that, I tend to end up locked in my little studio all night.
Staying really busy seems to be key for me. Often when I’m making visual art, all I’ll want to do is be making music and vice versa. But the two really do go hand in hand, especially since both disciplines are so software driven these days. The skillsets overlap much more than you’d think.