An Interview with Retro/Synth Artist iamManolis
iamManolis is a musician and music producer based in Greece. He's got a passion for creating synth-based music that's strongly influenced by '70s/'80s funk and electronic music. I asked him about how he got started making music, his creative process and how he views the re-emergence of synth-based music.
Interview with iamManolis
Karl Magi: How did you first become interested in making music?
iamManolis: I’d studied piano since I was seven years old. Even though my teacher insisted that I should practice the classics, I always preferred to play around with my own improvisations and making my own tunes. After some time, I started to record them using two tape recorders and a Yamaha PSR-37 electronic keyboard, trying to multi-track by recording a tape and then playing the tape through speakers while playing along.
KM: What is it about retro-style synth music that draws you to making it?
iM: I love it ‘cause it is the soundtrack of my childhood. I love the sounds, the synth electro funk production style and the warm sounding synthesizers and drum machines that were used during ‘70s and ‘80s.
KM: Who are the major musical artists who influenced you and why were they so influential for you?
iM: There are so many artists I admire, but my major influences are ‘70s and ‘80s R&B and funk artists, producers and songwriters. Prince, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Hall & Oates, Rod Temperton and Chick Corea. They are so influential for me ‘cause I learned a lot by studying their work, their compositions and their arrangements. I was also amazed by the fact that Prince played all of the instruments on his tracks and that’s why I started playing bass, guitar and drums.
KM: Tell me about how the creative process works for you as you make new tracks.
iM: Most of my synth-heavy tracks are actually composed on an acoustic instrument. I play/practice on acoustic instruments a lot and I believe that if a track sounds good with an acoustic instrument then it has a solid harmony and melody. I switch to synthesizers and try to make the chords shine as much as I can by shaping the synth sounds, deciding on a sonic vision of the track and creating some more melodies and musical phrases. I also spend quite some time on bass and drums especially on syncopated bass lines for more groove and a funk feeling.
KM: What’s the story behind your latest track Jul 83?
iM: The story is the photo for the track. That is me during July 1983 in my dad’s car, listening to some music. I recall being extremely happy during that era and the photo inspired me to record something uplifting and joyful.
KM: What are your future career plans?
iM: I’m working on a full album right now that I believe it will be ready in a couple of months. I’m also working on a video game theme track and a documentary soundtrack. I’m also interested in producing music for other artists as well as doing remixes.
KM: What are your views on the seeming resurgence of synth-based music?
iM:I was pretty sure that it would come back one day. People always look at the past as a source of past greatness or escapism. Nostalgia, a bittersweet yearning for the things of the past, is a very strong feeling. I love the fact that more and more people are discovering new synth-based music and I also love the fact that artists are creating beautiful music by keeping the ‘70s-‘80s synth music forms but also adding some interesting new musical elements that move the whole genre forward.
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourself creatively?
iM: By listening to a lot of music of all genres and experimenting with different recording and arranging techniques. I also try to create barriers for myself and use minimal music gear for my tracks ‘cause I believe that restrictions breed creativity.