The Year is 2019 and everyone is obsessed with 80’s culture. From Stranger Things to American Horror Story, 80’s and early 90’s is back and louder than ever. All of this has to do with a music genre that is changing the entire social media platform called Synthwave. Synthwave (Retrowave, Dark Synth, Future Synth, Outrun) has that feeling of a lost 80’s movie soundtrack that was picked up, dusted off and remastered with modern technology. Synthwave is heavily inspired by 1980’s disco, horror soundtracks and early video game soundtracks. Funny to believe that Synthwave all started in early 2000’s when indie musicians began to fully take advantage of Myspace’s music storage and various social media platforms. This was the time for self producing musicians to display their work without the chains of record studios. The old ways of handing out physical CD’s were becoming scarce as the social media platform made the game easier for the general public to choose what they wanted to hear through research or word-of-mouth by their peers. Let’s face it, the music that gets regurgitated through the FM waves is absolutely painful to the ears so why not open our minds to a fresh sound that sounds warming and familiar!
Fast forward to 2019, groups such as Muse are now riding the Synthwave train with their Simulation Theory tour. Commercials, movies (especially horror movies) and video games are now becoming influenced by the retrowave culture. With 80’s and early 90’s pop culture establishing a comeback, I really felt that it was necessary to reach out to working, indie musicians. I asked several working synthwave artists questions that reflect their career choices and the way they perceive this fresh style of music that is changing the industry. Here is what they had to say!
*Note, links to artists profiles are accessed by clicking their highlighted names*
Are We Entering A World Where Everyone And Their Mother Can Be A Synthwave Artist?
“With any big movement a lot of people might jump on the bandwagon, and folks might get cynical, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to fill the market with mediocrity. It just means that someone found their fire to make music or become creative in general.”
“Yes and No. Yes anyone can make music if they have a computer, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. I listen to a lot of synthwave when curating songs to play on Beyond Synth and I have to sift through lots of mediocre stuff. But the exciting thing is hearing a new and talented artist pop up. Great music is the most energizing thing for me and listening to new great music makes wading through the nonsense worth it. And doing the show for all these years I have seen people improve as well. That’s really awesome too. True artists are compelled to create stuff regardless of what people are saying about them. So as I’ve done Beyond Synth I’ve seen little blips of musicians pop up for two seconds and disappear, but if you wait long enough you see the gems start to form. And then there’s artists who start making music and their first song is phenomenal. As long as cool music is being made I’m happy.”
“Like with any craft, it requires focus, practice, time/money investment and 100% dedication if you’re going to pursue it professionally. You can be anything you want to be, find your sound, find your audience and go for it.”
“I think anyone can be a synthwave artist. But some people with sound the same as others. I personally don’t know if I have my own thing, I try to stay humble, but to make it in this day in age you definitely need that zing. There’s nothing better than hearing that song that takes you back and releases memories you forgot about.
If someone can do that, they’re sure to be successful in the scene”
“Yes, but that is not a bad thing. House music that emerged at the end of the 80s is called that because people were making it at home. The problem with an oversaturated genre is that it becomes very hard to be heard. We need to continue to do what we have done – supporting each other and lift each other up. This is the first time that has been done on a global scale. Without the grass root movement, synthwave could not exist.”
“They can try haha, but in all seriousness it takes a lot of time and effort to make well produced music. The technology is there if you are willing to put the time and money into it. I think the internet has just made all music much more accessible so there’s a bigger selection. I don’t know too many moms making synth bangers.”
How does having access to an endless digital library of movies and music make a difference to up and coming musicians?
“If 80s culture is what shapes your music, having access to all the little things that came out can shape you as a creative person. I’m still finding things that I never knew existed! Even the little things like the commercials are great throwbacks, that’s what shaped a track our group (Future Holotape) did called Summer In Love.”
“It certainly changes the landscape somewhat as I notice more and more that people don’t necessarily buy albums as faithfully as they once did and will either buy the tracks they like from the album or stream it on Spotify. It put’s the pressure on for up and coming musicians to write really well crafted songs with all killer and no filler.”
“I think it’s great, it makes art, music and movies accessible to everyone, at any time. That’s how a lot of my fans hear about me. And you can support artists by buying their records or cassettes and by getting tickets to their live shows. It’s vital for independent artists like myself.”
“I think having unlimited access can definitely influence the new artists coming out. Hopefully, they let their personalities come out in the art and not just regurgitate things that have been overdone. I think a lot of newer musicians are afraid to take chances out of fear of alienating potential fans. It’s really up to the individual and how much they allow themselves to be influenced by unlimited content.”
“It makes a huge difference in being able to look up so many different bands and songs of the of that time and to be inspired by the people making music then. Same with the movies. Its great to have such easy access to so many amazing films. It gives me creative ideas and inspiration. “
Where do you see synthwave culture in 10 years?
“Thats a very good question. I’m not exactly sure but I feel like we currently live in the recycled generation where all new music and art is taking retro elements from past decades and fusing together new things with modern technology. So with that in mind I see Synthwave evolving into different branches of Synth-pop and new and interesting hybrids coming out to challenge the status quo. Already I’m hearing music come out in the scene which is a different take on the genre, mostly with vocals.”
“Still kicking, but probably spreading off into other genres. Please please stay away from country, can you imagine, COUNTRYWAVE???”
“Since the synthwave genre is powered by nostalgia, I guess in 10 years we will be in the nostalgia for the nostalgia phase. We’ll be looking back to the artists who we first listened to when we discovered synthwave and reminisce about how the old stuff is better than the new stuff. As newer artists enter the scene I imagine they will bring influences from their own nostalgia, and we might hear more 90s dance techno and trance infused in the music. Although, there is some of that now.”
Why are so many obsessed with 80’s culture?
“I think the 80’s is the decade where the philosophy was ‘the bigger, the better’. It’s the one decade where everything was big, bright, colourful and larger than life. That in itself is very eye and ear catching. Personally I think all the best music and film came out in the 80’s as well as the coolest fashion. For me the 80’s is the ‘feel good’ decade.”
“For me its a time that exuded colour and vibrancy. Fashion was out there and creative. Music was ground breaking and experimental. The films were fun and so well made. It was a time before ipads and iphones. There’s so many aspects to 80s culture that people love its hard to pin point it. There’s a big feeling of nostalgia that the 80s brings for many people. Like any any decade can for any age group I guess but for me there will never be a time quite like the 80s. I enjoy celebrating it in all its forms, music/ fashion/ film. It makes me very happy.”
“People are obsessed with 80s culture because it gives them a sense of nostalgia, even if they didn’t live through the 80s.”
“It was such an explosion of creativity in music, movies, computer games, aesthetics, technology love and hope so it stands out as a purple beacon of neon lights in a rather grey and stereotype environment of today”
Movies such as Terminator, Scarface, Escape From New York had influenced an entire generation of musicians. Do you believe these movies have aged well and what are others that inspire your craft?
“Yes absolutely they have aged well. These movies were made with a lot more hands on SFX than movies now. Much more time and hard work went in to creating the magic because there wasn’t so much CGI and for me they looked more realistic as a result. You don’t get actors like you did then either with the same talent and charisma. Or maybe you do but not the ones hired. It was a golden time of movie making and I love to watch these films today. I also feel like there was a lot more original thinking and ideas for scripts back then. Now everything seems re-hashed or re-made because there’s no ideas left which is very sad.”
“Of course! These moves are timeless. I think what crazy is that these movies are so good that it shapes people even now. The soundtracks, the actors were so good, it was a point where creativeness was at its peak and a lot of people can see that even today. People can get inspired by anything but there’s a reason they get inspired from the 80s.”
“Escape from New York is always fun and same with Terminator, as far as aged, we’ll story wise, YES!! As far as technology, not aged well, but I love that, back then didn’t have advanced technology to heighten a story, it was more hands-on so to speak. Nowadays movies cheat it with characters having a cell phone, you got to be super clever, for sure. Blood Rage, The Boogeyman, Ghosthouse, Halloween 3, Prince of Darkness and Beyond the Black Rainbow are among my top influence as far as movies.”
Name artists that have inspired you.
“Growing up I listened to Depeche Mode, New Order, Oingo Biongo, Flock of Seagulls, Tears for Fears. That was the soundtrack to riding bikes, building forts in the woods. As an artist, I’d say my biggest influences right now is Crosses. That’s Chino Moreno from Deftones side synth project. I’m also into The Black Queen which is Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan’s dark electronic act. For me as former metal vocalist, I feel like we share a lot of sentiments in creating synth based music. “
“Again, there are so many…
Kraftwerk, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Yazoo, Depeche Mode, Human League, Alphaville, Yello, OMD, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Giorgio Moroder, New Order, Harold Faltermeyer, Art of Noise, Howard Jones, Frankie goes to Hollywood, James Brown, Gary Newman, David Bowie, Prince, Run D.M.C., Sugar Hill Gang, Grand Master Flash, Africa Bambataa, Kool & the Gang, Rick James, the Gap Band, the S.O.S Band, the Whispers, Joan Jett, Survivor, Bon Jovi, the Police, Rod Stewart, Queen, Billy Idol, Culture Club, Bob Marley, Robert Palmer, Lionel Richie… that list goes on forever too.”
“There are so many but to name a few, SSQ, Nu Shooz, Depeche Mode, Kim Wilde, The Bangles, Queen, Gary Numan, Cindy Lauper”
Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Queen, Roxette
“Perturbator lead me to Dance With the Dead, which led me to Lebrock, Kalax, Carpenter Brut. Le Matos, Dynatron, The Midnight to name but a few.”
“Lazerhawk, Miami Nights 1984, Cluster Buster, Models, Savage, Fear Factory, Goblin, Zombi and sooo much more”
“Timecop1983, HOME, Com Truise”
“This is a tricky one to answer because I will inevitably leave a lot of names out. I mean, I’ve made almost 190 episode of Beyond Synth and my guests have all been cool and talented people. I discovered synthwave through the Hotline Miami soundtrack and specifically the track by Perturbator. Through him I discovered bandcamp which led me to OGRE whose song “Shore Thing” is one of my favourite songs of all time. He was kind enough to let me use it as the theme song for Beyond Synth. From there I found Who Ha (now called Modern Knight) who introduced me to a bunch of people in the scene and it just grew from there. I feel like if I list some of my favourite artists others will be upset that I didn’t name THEM and I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings. The best thing to do is to listen to Beyond Synth and hear me chat with tons of awesome and talented people. The great thing about synthwave is there is a shitload of awesome music and a shitload of amazing musicians making it.”
We have made it to a time where musicians are working together with indie filmmakers to make movies inspired by their love of a time that once was.
One of the first people that come to mind when it comes to producing their own films and soundtracks is John Carpenter. I think its fantastic seeing all of these new artists change the music business and indie-horror world. We are seeing more and more fans become writers, producers and creators of their own world inspired by an endless digital library that was limited for so long; but thank the universe for technology.
Want to know more? Check out The Horror Syndicate’s What the F**K is Synthwave playlitst on Spotify!
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