An Interview with Benny Rose of Synthwave Band Neon Arcadia
Benny Rose is one of the founding members of the synthwave band Neon Arcadia. The band describes their music as, "synthwave meets video game music with no rules." I talked to Benny about how the band came into being, their approach to making music and his views on the synthwave scene.
KM: How did Neon Arcadia come about as a project?
Benny Rose: Neon Arcadia started off as a solo project that I’ve wanted to do for years. I’ve been in various rock or metal bands since 1999 and played everything from guitar and bass to drums. A part of me always wanted to incorporate keys of some sort and usually would do so by creating an intro or interlude in some way. I ended up having a lapse in playing when my last band Ghosts of Eden, broke up due to our singer moving to the west coast (I’m from NYC/NJ). I lost the drive to play music four years ago and it wasn’t until I discovered Mitch Murder and Gunship that the spark in my creative heart came back.
I started experimenting with new music via my work commute using Garageband for my iPhone and shared the ideas with Rich who is my former bandmate from Ghosts of Eden. I asked him to collaborate on some guitars fpr the first track Metrocore, which is available on our Soundcloud page. The project grew from there and he became my partner on the venture. The original name was The Arkadian, which evolved into Neon Arcadia. Since then, we have added Bill Fore, (Mutiny Within, Vext, Angel Vivaldi) and Tom Pino (Ghosts of Eden) to our roster.
KM: What drew you into making synthwave music?
BR: The sheer love of 80’s music, movie scores and video games has been a passion that I have wanted to write and share for as long as I can remember. I’ve done work in the past for myself but never published it. It’s amazing to see this genre be so supported and loved. The #Synthfam community was another factor in wanting to be part of such a supportive community of fans and artists alike.
KM: How did your interest in video game music develop?
BR: When I was a kid, my late father owned a comic book store that also sold and rented video games. I’ve been around them all my life and the music are something I always gravitated toward. I see art for an old game and start humming the music if I know it in my head. Friends and supporters of my music have always encouraged me to embrace my love of video games and find a way to incorporate it into my music. My previous metal band No Change for Machines had most of its songs named after video games thanks to yours truly. Song names like Blood Code and Dead Space are an example.
KM: Who are some of the main artists/composers who have influenced you musically and why have they done so?
BR: This list is too long to name them all but I will focus on the most important influencers:
Phil Collins – He is one of the biggest reasons why I learned to play other instruments and to be able to play drums and sing at the same time.
Buckethead – One of the main reasons I fell in love with instrumental music and an inspiration for writing quick short jam tracks that are in the moment.
Dream Theater – My introduction into progressive music and more instrumental experimental music.
Angel Vivaldi – My biggest guitar influence and more recent instrumentalist.
Gunship – One of the gateways into synthwave. Been a fan ever since hearing Fly for your Life on Youtube Life changing moment in my musical journey. Learning about how some members came from a heavy band prior shows the relatability to myself and my bandmates.
Mitch Murder – Mitch Murder is where it began for me. Listening to 5 of his albums on continuous rotation for at least 3 months along with Gunship and Powerglove’s Far Cry Blood Dragon soundtrack. These all paved the way into showing me that I could write music that I love, and others may embrace.
KM: Tell me about how the music creation process works for you in Neon Arcadia?
BR: There isn’t a formula per se, but it usually starts with either Rich or myself coming up with an idea on our Garageband, share with each other and if we like it, we add to it gradually. Once we have a solid foundation, I will move it to my home studio on Logic and incorporate my other keys and/or plugins. Since we started a little over a year ago, we have over 100 song ideas to pick from.
KM: What are some of the projects on which you're working lately?
BR: Right now, we are focusing on releasing as much music as we can. We don’t have a full time singer in the group and we know the fans want more with vocals so we have be having a blast with collaborating with fellow synthwave artists and composers like Farrahmon, Megan McDuffee and more we can’t share just yet. I have something I may try to release soon where I do some vocals on to see how the world feels about it.
KM: What are your future plans for Neon Arcadia?
BR: We have been taking it day by day and really looked at this as a passion project that has evolved into so much more in less than a year. The community has been incredible, and we embrace the feedback and hope we can focus on giving them what they want. I love to do video game covers and we have a couple regular covers in the works as well. I would say we hope to put out an EP or two before the year is out.
KM: Where do you think the synthwave scene is at these days? What are your impressions of it?
BR: The synthwave scene is an ever-evolving machine that will never be the same. It’s one of the few genres that has a vast number of subgenres that continues to grow. Seeing more and more people embrace it along with the demand for live performances shows that the future is bright. In a perfect world, the only way I see myself ever performing live again would be for this scene. It’s no easy feat, but I welcome the challenge if it were to ever present itself.
KM: How do you recharge your creative batteries?
BR: I find myself going back to music I wrote over the last 20 years to reignite inspiration since there is so much I have written that never saw the light of day. It’s common for Rich and I to inspire each other when we get into musical funks. I tend to share early ideas with close friends and other artists in the scene, which helps get honest feedback on where to go next.