We continue talking with independent Synthwave musicians about essential elements of this genre. Here we talk about times and feelings. What is the difference between the present and, so-called, future-in-the-past? And it’s not about grammar. Find out an answer and a bit more in the second part of the big #synthfam interview!
Karl Magi: Which Emotional, Psychological, and Social Themes That are being Explored Within Synthwave are Interesting to You? Why Them?
Inexedra says that he’s interested in whatever subject matter is “at heart” of a song. His appreciation of themes in synthwave can be attributed to “ever-growing obsession” with individuals and their contrasting viewpoints of the human experience.
He goes on to say that his inspiration comes mostly from within his own emotions and thoughts. “Sharing such abstractions of the human condition for others to relate to, be it through instrumental composition or poetic lyrical work, is what drives people together in all musical communities far beyond just synthwave.”
Inexedra admits, “Maybe my glasses are tinted a little red, but that unifying power is why music is something I have always believed in. That said, synthwave does this very effectively due to its inherent versatility and emotional/nostalgic appeal.”
As for Hazmat, he’s interested in the retro-futurist aspect of synthwave music. He says that thinking about how people in the past imagined our current era is “either funny or deeply sad”, depending on one’s perspective.
The knowledge that people in the ‘80s envisioned 2020 that was a “perfect utopia” with flying cars makes him laugh. He says that he wants to send the following message: “Nothing has changed, you see? 40 years later, and we’re in the same damn situation.”
Arctic Mega Defender’s take on the cyberpunk idea is a little different. He’s wonder by a fact that, to some extent, we’re now living in the future which was envisioned in the ‘80s.
He points out that many of today’s cyberpunk themes are a portrait of the real world than of a fictional one. He says, “I hope we can continue this direction and address more themes that are not set in a fictive 2020, but rather a snapshot and a comment on the actual 2020.”
As for milicow, his inspiration is everywhere and in everything around. For him, making music is fulfilling and exciting, something that he wants to do more than anything else in his life. “Right now, I have more important things to tend to than making music, so progress is slow.”
Like Inexedra, he says that his main inspiration is his thoughts and emotions. “I want to write something that I want to listen to, yet haven’t found. Even if it’s not that good, knowing that I wrote it makes it so much more special to me”.
milicow is fascinated by how psychology and emotions affect his creative process. “Daily meditation is helping me to balance my emotions, untangle my psychology, and make room for creativity and ideas to flow more freely.”
KM: How to Strike a Balance Between Social Commentary and Making Fun Music Within Synthwave? What Do You Think About This?
Moonrunner83 is predominantly focused on making music that he enjoys listening to. He feels that the greater global dialogue is already “rife with social commentary — most of it static” so his goal is to make music that serves as an escape from it. He concludes, “I just want to be swept away. I’ll leave the social commentary to those who wish to comment.”
In Inexedra’s case, he feels that music is the auditory equivalent to poetic storytelling. He points out that, like poetry, there are many reasons to write about a wide array of subjects and themes. He adds that people should be able to make the music that they want to make and concludes: “There seems to be something for everybody in this specific community which I think tends to self-balance pretty well.”
Music is something deeply personal for millicow. Even if some of his music might be inspired by the human condition, he’s mostly interested in sharing how he feels and what he’s experienced with others.“If music that I write makes someone else feel something, a feeling which can’t be fully communicated through words, then I’ve succeeded.”
millicow feels music should be taken lightly enough that “ideas can flow without being judged and restricted to the point of writer’s block.”
In spite of this attitude, he does take music-making seriously, to the point that without it, life almost isn’t worth living. He adds, “Music takes the edge off and makes everything feel lighter.”
This has caused millicow to question if music is a passion or addiction for him because he’d often prefer music-making to doing more important things. He elaborates, “Knowing that I have more important things to do gets in the way of creativity because I don’t feel completely free. It’s a vicious cycle. There’s never enough time.”
As for Arctic Mega Defender, he struggles to find a balance between more serious and more fun music. He says: “Each track usually ends up 100% fun or 95% serious. In my opinion, it is easier to insert fun flirts in an otherwise serious track than the other way around.”
KM: Do You Have any Issues With the Musical Direction in Which Synthwave is Going?
Inexedra feels that what’s going on is more of an expansion than evolution or change in direction. Whether one is seeking the “classic mono-esque” sound of early synthwave or something more recent that has roots in synthwave and analog sound design. There is music available to fit.
Synthwave enthusiast Jules “Neon” Fawkes has no issues with the musical direction of the genre. He echoes what Inexedra said about the range of options and adds that “fans who want to explore new things will find them, whereas fans who want their neon lights and orange sunsets can stay content knowing there is always more of what they like.”
millicow says that within each genre, there are styles he likes and styles that he dislikes. It either makes him feel something, or It doesn’t.“What moves me will not necessarily move every other person with their own unique tastes and preferences. That variety and freedom are beautiful, and I don’t think any style is inherently wrong, even if I don’t find it enjoyable.”
Arctic Mega Defender is likewise free of the major criticism of the genre’s direction. While he’s noticed people have strong views on vocals or lack thereof, he wants to tell people that “we make our music to express ourselves, explore our capabilities and go on our own musical journeys.”
KM: And Final Query to #synthfam Members is About the Community Itself.
Why are You So Passionate About It?
Before Hazmat made his first EP, he didn’t have a Twitter account because he thought it was an incredibly toxic form of social media. He felt that he needed an account to be heard, and that’s when he met the #synthfam. He observes, “Damn! What a surprise! I didn’t expect #synthfam to be this welcoming.”
He adds that people share their work with each other, joke with other producers and aren’t afraid to ask for their help. “I didn’t even have 100 followers, but someone still asked me for some advice. That’s a great feeling. I don’t care if my music doesn’t get known, as long as I am part of the family.”
The sense of community and belonging is what Inexedra loves about the #synthfam. He feels that, out of all the musical communities of which he’s been a part, the synthwave community is the most committed to lifting each other up and helping to promote one another’s music.
He adds that it’s a mutual relationship in which he finds himself listening to producers that he’s befriended in the community. “I enjoy their music and want to do everything to support them. It’s a symbiotic relationship of the most heartwarming variety that is unique to this community, and I would never trade it for the world!”
Moonrunner83 points out that the global synthwave community is “one of the most voracious fanbases on the planet.” He says that he’s mailed cassettes to more than 65 countries around the world. “I’ve been involved in music production for nearly 15 years and have never seen anything like it.”
One of the reasons for the success of the community is that the people drawn to it are looking for an inclusion in something greater. “I’ve been looking for something different for a long time. I think I’ve finally found it.”
Finding a community of like-minded composers has been a positive outcome of the #synthfam for Arctic Mega Defender. He explains, “Finding #synthfam when I got on Twitter was like coming home — like Phil Collins said: “I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life.”
One reason that Arctic Mega Defender cites for the closeness of the community is the common bond forged by shared childhood memories. He feels that love is an “unstoppable force”. The respect that even small artists within the scene get is another factor he mentions for the strength of the community. “If you find a gem from a small artist, you comment and shout it out.”
Although he’s heard some criticism of the number of producers amongst synthwave fans, Arctic Mega Defender feels that, on the contrary, it’s a precious quality. “Every other fan of your music has the means to respond with a work of their own — and even does so! I think culture is more alive and fun to engage in when it is more like a conversion of creative works than when it is a set of monologues from separate, isolated artists. The #synthfam conversation is like a big, never-ending party!”
In millicow’s case, he is happy to see how the independent artists within the #synthfam support one another. “Communities like this are a reminder that we’re all just regular people who try to make music on top of everything else in life.”
The way in which one can get to know the artists in the community is another essential aspect for millicow: “[It] makes their art much more special and enjoyable than hearing a song at random and trying to decide if you want to listen to it or find something better.”
He says that he doesn’t have many people in his life with whom he can talk about music, so he likes to know that he’s found a community of like-minded people. “They understand what I’m thinking and feeling. It’s good to have a place where I can let out all my thoughts about music because, in my day-to-day life, I can’t.”
In Neon Fawkes’ view, the #synthfam is one of the healthiest Internet communities to be a part of. He acknowledges that there are a few exceptions but says, “In general though, the community is supportive, funny, multicultural, dynamic, and of all ages. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels they have found some of the best acquaintances and even friends within this community.”
Out of all the social media platforms, Twitter is the one that Neon Fawkes feels works best for the community because commentary and emotions translate best there. “I’ve had several artists thank me for encouraging them to join the Twitter #synthfam. The engagement between people is incredible.”
The #synthfam is a diverse, vibrant musical community with a real sense of engagement from the artists and synth music fans who are part of it. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from all of the producers and others who are so passionate about this music and the scene around it. In the future, I’m sure we’ll go from strength to strength with all of the incredible artists coming on board and making the #synthfam even bigger and better.
Karl Magi is a freelance writer based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has an Applied Degree in Communications with a specialization in Journalism from Mount Royal University. And he’s passionate about writing on music!