An Interview With Retrowave Artist Let Em Riot (Alan Oakes)
Let Em Riot (Alan Oakes) creates music that combines ethereal synth tones, strong vocal melodies and a healthy respect for the sounds of the '80s that's still rooted in modern production.
I talk to him about his start in music, the creative process as he experiences it and how he keeps his creative batteries recharged.
Interview With Let Em Riot (Alan Oakes)
KM: How did you first get interested in making music?
Alan Oakes: From the moment I first saw Motley Crüe on MTV, I wanted to be a musician. I began playing guitar at the age of 11 and joined my first band at 15.
KM: What drew you towards synth/retrowave music?
AO: '80s synth pop and movie soundtracks – I wanted to emulate those sounds from my childhood.
KM: Tell me more about the themes and ideas that you explore in your music.
AO: There’s no conscious effort to focus on any specific theme or idea. Subject matter is usually a brief moment, feeling or idea taken from a personal experience.
KM: How does the creative process work for you when you're creating new music?
AO: I wish I could say that the creative process is spontaneous and just flows naturally. For me, I have treat the entire process by building a routine, much like one would when exercising. I also have a family and a full-time job, so I don’t have the luxury of waiting around for inspiration to strike. I set aside time each week to write, to ensure that I remain productive, whether or not I’m feeling inspired. I write for the sake of writing and not for the purpose of creating a composition. Most of I write is throwaway but on occasion I come across an idea worth building on. My goal is just to keep writing no matter what.
KM: Talk about your views on synthwave and how it fits into the wider world of electronic music.
AO: I feel synthwave is more about an 80s visual aesthetic than it is about a specific style of music. There are numerous genres under the synthwave umbrella. Over the past 5 years or so, we’ve seen the 80s aesthetic periodically spill over into the main stream through music, movies/TV, art, etc. Whether or not it gains mass appeal to the level of other genres of electronic music is hard to tell.
KM: Tell me more about The Futurist. How did it come about? What was the process of producing it like?
AO: While discussing Let Em Riot’s first release on New Retro Wave, the idea of a full-length album came about. Up until that point I had stuck to releasing singles and EPs. I had appeared on several compilations released by the label however, we wanted to put together something special for the first official release. We decided to make the album a collection of what we felt were Let Em Riot’s strongest tracks and mixing in some new material as well.
The only real challenge with the production was revisiting the old session files for the remastering process. Some of the tracks were written and produced over six years ago and I was not disciplined enough back then to create proper archives of the sessions. Opening those old sessions proved to be quite the headache - missing plugins and audio files. I was fortunate enough to eventually piece them all back together. Now I always make sure to print stems when I finish a track. Lesson learned.
KM: Where would you like to take your music in the future?
AO: My goal is to keep growing as a songwriter/performer and to also be continually improving my production skills. I feel very fortunate there are people that enjoying listening to the music. At the end of the day I think that’s the most important thing to remember and its the thing that keeps me motivated. Anything else that comes along is just an added bonus.
KM: How do you keep your creative batteries recharged?
AO: I make sure to take plenty of breaks. If I find that I keep hitting a creative wall, I’ll take an extended break of a couple of days or maybe even a couple of weeks. Sometimes not thinking about music for an extended period of time is the best way to beat a creative block.