After two great EPs Raydar has released his first LP on NRW Records. This is his second release on this label after “Evil Squad” and it has gained a lot of positive feedback. That’s not a wonder, because this young artist knows pretty well how to produce rad synthwave music. In Neon Graffiti he mixes modern styles like french house with synthwave/retro sounds and combines them in a way that it becomes addictive. Synthwaver is happy to have interviewed him and to have learned more about his production and thoughts behind his music.
The songs on the album have a strong french house influence. Many people following the synthwave scene commonly agree, that the Valerie Collective, Kavinsky and Drive’s soundtrack are somehow the pioneers that rediscovered/reinvented this genre. How would you define synthwave?
I remember hearing Kavinsky a few years back, and for me, it was the most interesting electronic music I could find next to guys like SebastiAn, Mr. Oizo, Justice, and Boys Noize. All these artists share a pretty similar sound that is at least, for me so much more appealing to listen to than a lot of electronic stuff you hear today. They have, what I could only describe as a ‘retro sound/funky vibe’… a real grungy, old school feel, that gives you a big sense of nostalgia. At the time, I really wasn’t aware of any ‘synthwave’ scene or even the genre. It wasn’t until I found out about Lazer Hawk, Dance with the Dead and Carpenter Brute that I got really interested in that sound, and wanted to learn more about it, which eventually led me to find New Retro Wave. Synthwave carries a really romantic aspect along with it. There is a lot of care put into this style of music…it invokes some pretty big feelings of nostalgia for the people making it, and fans listening to it.
If Neon Graffiti was the soundtrack of a movie, how would this movie be?
I’ve never really thought about it…I could see some of the tracks working in a kind of, ‘coming of age’ movie or some kind of love story maybe.
When you started to create the album, how did you conceptualise it and how much time did it take to finalise it?
I’ve had songs that were on Neon Graffiti in the works years ago like, “Elation”,”ICU” and a few others. I had a good chunk of Neon Graffiti together while I was working on my first EP with New Retro Wave, “Evil Squad”. Neon Graffiti is pretty different in tone from my first release, so I’m happy how it all worked out. After Evil Squad came out, I had just finished some more tracks, and wanted to make a second EP, which was basically the first half of Neon Graffiti. I knew I wanted to create something reminiscent of Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’ with the use of vocoders, and I also drew a lot of inspiration from 70s/80s funk and disco. I experimented with using little samples here and there, recording guitars and analog synths. The album went through some changes in length as well, I think in total before we decided to go forward with the release, there were 2-3 songs cut, or moved around because they either didn’t fit with the rest of the album, or had a bit too much of a contemporary feel to them. I’m happy with the final result because I really had to push my self to create something different from what I had been making before.
What influence had design and visual aesthetics on your music for Neon Graffiti?
I wanted to give the album a ‘classic’ look at first. I was really inspired old classic rock record covers and posters… I love that gritty, old school look. Victor Moatti ended up doing the album art work, and came up with a beautiful design. It compliments the album and reflects the over all sound.
Which are your favourite tracks of the album if you had to choose?
I really like Elation, Night Walkers, and Lost Kid. I think I like Lost Kid the best out of the whole album.
What tools did you use for this album? Any favourites?
The whole album was made in Ableton Live, with a mix of software instruments and a few analog synths. This past year, I got Xfer Records new synth, ‘Serum’. I love using Serum… you can hear it on probably every track on the album… It’s pretty easy to use, and you can get some pretty gnarly sounds from it. I’m also partial to my Moog Slim Phatty…It was used pretty sparingly on the album, but it’s hands down my favourite synth. I think I also used an Arturia Mini Brute at some point, but I don’t think any songs I used it in made it on the final cut of the album. Great synth tho.
What would be your advice to somebody, that is starting to produce retro synth based music?
I’ve had a few people ask me this before, and there are a few things to be said…If it’s just on the production end of things, I would encourage someone to get a bit out of their comfort zone, maybe learn more about what equipment and plug-ins are for and how to use them appropriately (something I’m still learning). Familiar your self with your gear, and surround your self with the music you love. Get invested in your scene!
The most important thing is to realize that things take a lot of time to happen. You kind of need to forget about labels and sending people demos n shit, especially when you are just starting out. That stuff really doesn’t matter at all until you have changed enough as an artist to find a sound that is truly YOU. Be aware of your growth and change as a musician. I’ve been working on music since high school, playing in bands, writing my own music and producing electronic music. I dropped out of university to focus on music full time, and that is how I was able to get to where I am now. I’m not ‘big’ by any means, but I’ve been able to accomplish things in the past few years that I am proud of, and wouldn’t have pictured happening 3 or 4 years ago. Opportunities will come your way eventually, you just need to work really really hard, and be patient. Also, don’t drop out of school or anything like that haha…It was just something I needed to do to move forward as a musician.
How will Raydar evolve? What can we expect in the future?
I’ve been working on a live show for a while now, and I’m figuring out ways to create something interesting enough for me to do live. I’m not a fan of dj sets really, but unfortunately it’s just in the nature of electronic music, it can be limiting as to how you can preform it live. I’m working on ways to move away from something like a dj set and bring more of a performance element to the table. I’ve been re-working a lot of the songs so that I can essentially build them back up during a live show using my own stems, samples, and midi info, all in Ableton. I have some new songs in the works, but I’m not too sure if they will have a place in the synthwave community or not… I tend to stray away from the genre a lot. There’s still a huge synthwave influence in my new stuff, but I don’t think I could, or would really want to be known as a straight up ‘Synthwave guy’. Ever since the album came out, I had been focusing a bit more on my band, and I felt a little uninspired to make electronic music, but I think I’m getting back in the groove of things again, and I’m gunna have a bit more time to spend working on Raydar stuff. I definitely have an idea and direction for a new album I’d like to make, so I’ll be getting back to work soon.
How do you see the synthwave genre today?
Synthwave is still something I am new to. I’ll admit I am not a huge fan of the genre, however, I am amazed by the community. The fans, as critical as they are about this genre, it’s one of the few scenes in music I’ve been involved with that seems to have a very tight and loyal following. People really care about the music, and it feels like they are genuinely interested to seek out new artists. It’s been a pretty great experience for me so far, having my music injected into this scene. I know that when it comes to synthwave, I can stray pretty far sometimes… I’m still growing as an artist, but being involved in the synthwave scene to any degree, so far has been amazing. I think that the genre is really accessible, and there are certainly enough amazing artists with unique sounds that attract all kinds of music fans. As far as the state of synthwave today goes, I can only see it getting bigger.