An Interview with Finnish Synthwave Producer Ferus Melek
Ferus Melek is a Finnish synthwave producer who creates what he calls "pre-apocalyptic synth music" that has a retro '80s flair to it. In an emailed interview, we discussed his influences and approach to creating music. We also talked about his latest album We Don't Belong Here.
Karl Magi: How was your passion for making music first kindled?
Ferus Melek: I was a pretty typical kid who listened whatever I could get my hands on. After putting some serious pressure on my dad, he bought me the Commodore64 which was my gateway drug to synthetic sounds. At first I just played games, but pretty soon I realized that I was more drawn to those catchy game themes composed by legends such as Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway and Ben Daglish. Then I found some crappy music software and started doing my own little tunes.
Later on, I started playing in typical school bands, mostly drums and bass. Eventually all of those bands ended up being dead and buried, so I went back to world of synths and sequencers, but the spirit for music was lost. I sold all my gear and totally forgot music for almost a decade, until the flame was rekindled back in 2016.
KM: What are the elements of synthwave music that drew you into making it?
FM: You could say that synth is my first love because I started making music in ‘86 with very plain synthetic sounds as I said above. It’s kind of coming back to something familiar and yet doing it very differently, but I don’t know if I ever really made a conscious decision that synthwave was something that I wanted to do, it was more that my music has some synthwave elements which seem to be suitable for the synthwave audience. For me, it’s basically just synth music, I don’t need any more labels for myself.
KM: Who are the artists that have inspired you as a musician?
FM: There are so many and most of them are not even synth-related. I like the composers who have the ability to build worlds of their own like those iconic game music composers that I already mentioned, but also artists/bands like Nik Kershaw, Ultravox, Duran Duran, Goblin, John Carpenter, Vangelis, and Jarre. Don’t forget about the heavier influences like Black Sabbath, Kiss, Mötley Crüe, and Iron Maiden. What a mess actually!
KM: In general, how do you go about creating new music?
FM: It’s different every time I guess. Sometimes a short piece of melody or bass line hits my mind and I put it down. Sometimes I just get a plain 4/4 beat running and start jamming something over it. It is actually great that there is no formula for inspiration.
KM: Tell me more about Decay of the Mainframe. What are the ideas behind it and how did it evolve?
FM: There's a place called Octoparis in a distant future. Humans, both living and the dead are long gone and the evil mainframe rules the global network of computers. Until one day...
If we dive into the concept of the dramatic structure (which has six different phases) it’s pretty obvious that you can use that in order to make an EP by starting from the introduction and ending up with the resolution. I had that in mind when I wrote six songs for the album, but I had to take one song down because it just didn’t work with the others. When I look back now after a year from its release, it still feels very cohesive as a whole (and if you skip that ’a’, it’s pronounced ’asshole’…well…)
KM: Tell us something about your upcoming album We Don't Belong Here?
FM: I will release it on June 19th and it has nine songs with total running time of 28 minutes, so it’s really easy to listen and forget…or keep repeating I mean!
There is no big theme this time, just the best songs that I wrote between December 2018 - March 2019. The sound I was looking for is more organic than before and with the influences I went even further than the ‘80s. For the first time, I also made some songs by jamming with different instruments. Thematically, the dystopian future is left behind for now, as I was reflecting more on what’s going on in the world today. Thus the emotional range on the album might be even bigger that earlier.
So I think this is very different kind of beast than Decay of the Mainframe, which I did not want to re-create. I just wanted to have some serious fun and I really did.
KM: What are your future plans for your musical career?
FM: I have too many plans in my life already, so I’ve been trying to make less plans with my music, but my short-term plan is to release my first full-length album in June with some kind of a promo video and after that I will start building my live-set. Hopefully I will have my first gig in 2019.
KM: What do you think about the state of the synthwave scene lately?
FM: I don’t know, I have a lot of catching up to do! In 2019, I’ve been mostly living in isolation because of the album writing process, so I’m not really on the map. I think there are plenty of great synthwave songs around but less enjoyable synthwave albums. The artists seem to be more production oriented geeks compared to other genres at the expense of actual song-writing skills and that is something we should practice a lot more.
Producers like to talk about their latest toys, but for me the more interesting topic is what made you do the song and what it makes you (and me) feel, not so much the technical side. When you get a rich and interesting composition, it takes a lot of pressure off from the production, but if your composition is boring, repetitive and plain empty, you have a lot of work to do in order to get the listener excited.
KM: How do you recharge your creative batteries?
FM: I don’t know, do I recharge at all? For me, it happens by doing something else entirely or doing nothing at all, which is obviously damn hard but I am getting better at it. I’m not the first person who finds creativity out of solitude and boredom. The mind starts to create stories when you have zero stimulation around.