An Interview with Swedish Synthwave Artist NeverMann
NeverMann (David Clausson) is a synthwave artist based in Sweden. He combines a passion for the sounds, look and feel of the '80s and early '90s with a deep interest in electronic music. In an email, he told me what drew him towards synthwave music, how he creates his music and how he views the current synthwave scene.
Karl Magi: What first lead you to want to make music a big part of your life?
David Clausson: It's hard to find a specific point when it became important to me because it's actually always been a big part of my life. My mom sang in a choir and always sang for us kids at home. I've been playing the drums since I was seven years old and I was trained at a music school in my home town. I was constantly close to music in some form, be it playing in a marching band, rock band, school shows and finally when I started making my own songs in high gh school. My uncle and my brother consumed all the latest music and I more or less listened to everything in every style and every genre.
KM: Tell me why synthwave-style music is something that you've become interested in creating?
DC: Since I grew up in the '80's the sounds, the look and the feel of that era had always been there. During the '80s and early '90s, I was drawn to the electronic sound, whether it be all the artists in the Tabu records roster like the S.O.S. Band, Alexander O'Neal, or the major pop stars of the time like Prince or Michael and Janet Jackson. I was also really into watching movies and the music of those '80s movies really shaped me. Later I started listening to hip hop and when I heard Roger Troutman and his Talk Box on 2Pacs California Love it really resonated with me. I always reacted with joy when I heard songs during the 90's and 00's that dared to include 80's sounds and themes. At that point, it was mostly C64 inspired music, groups like Instant Remedy for example. I started making music on my PC with the tracker program Fasttracker 2 in the mid- 90'. I was mostly trying to make R&B music since that was my main influence at the time. I slowly realized that the stuff I was making always had a retro vibe to it. I'm not sure if it was me or the limitations of the program that made it sound that way, but still...
I remember re-watching Miami Vice in the early '00s and just wanting to go back in time, to the '80s that really wasn't, a dream version of the '80's. the movie Drive was the catalyst for me entering the synthwave world, like for everyone else. Kavinsky and his song Nightcall went straight to my soul when I heard it the first time. I also listened to artists like Chromeo and got into the whole retro scene. It wasn't really until I started my project NeverMann that I realised the scope of the retro scene. I discovered Mitch Murder, The MIdnight, FM-84 and fell in love with the scene. As you probably hear in my first EP I had more of an R&B vibe, probably because I hadn't been shaped by the synthwave scene yet.
KM: Who are the musical artists that have had the strongest influence on how you approach music and music-making?
DC: Prince is my house god. In my opinion, he's the main crossover artist. Everyone and I mean everyone has a Prince song that they think is amazing. I dare anyone to listen through his catalogue and not find a song that goes straight to your core. I'm nowhere as talented as he was, but no one is so I try to be interested in every musical genre and be open to all music. Thankfully I got to see him live in Gothenburg before he died and it was amazing. Another main influence on me is Ennio Morricone. He's got an amazing sense of melody in his scores that I believe inspire a lot of my instrumental work, within the retro scene or with the projects I was part of before the NeverMann adventure.
KM: Tell me more about the ways in which creating music happens for you.
DC: It mostly starts with instrumentals. I have worked with my producer Rickard Bonde Truumeel a lot on the NeverMann project. For example, on my song Andrea, we first created an instrumental, then started working on the sung melody and finally added the lyrics. I often write the lyrics last since they are based on the sound of the song. On Andrea, we suddenly felt we needed it to be a duet so we called one of Rickard's collaborators Hilda Denny and she came straight from the gym and performed the most amazing vocals on the spot. The sax player Anton Krutov crushed the sax solo on the song also. It's always a collaboration when making great music. Sometimes I make songs alone in my studio, but I always need input from others to bring it to the next level.
KM: What does the future hold for your musical career?
DC: I've started producing for the Swedish artist ifred. It's not synthwave, but it has a synthpop sound to it. I also have some collaborations in the works with other synthwave artists that you'll get a taste of later in the year I think. I'm also working on a new EP that is hopefully coming out in the fall. I'm really excited to let you guys hear it! I've got some great stuff in the works!
KM: How do you view the current state of synthwave music globally?
DC: I recently went to the Retro Future Festival in Malmö, Sweden. It was a great show that included NINA, Midnight Danger, Dynatron, Irving Force, Damokles and HyprDrivr. it was so obvious that the scene is alive and vibrant with many types of artists and sounds. The crowd was quite mixed also and very enthusiastic. The risk, as with all genres of music, is when it falls into trying to define what "real synthwave" is and what it isn't. Great music is great music! Hopefully we continue listening and making this stuff until we're in our graves. '60s sounding music has never gone away so why should synthwave not continue in the future?
I went to The Midnight's show in Copenhagen in February and by looking at the audience it was quite obvious that they are breaking through and beyond the synthwave scene. Some might see that as a problem but I don't. It is positive for the scene! It was an amazing show by the way! They had two f***ing sax players!
KM: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
DC: I spend time with my kids and my family. They ground me and make me a better person. I run a lot right now and try to keep my health at a reasonable level. I also watch a lot of movies. I listen to the '80s All Over podcast where they re-watch all the movies released theatrically in the 'States during the '80s and I get a lot of tips on that movies I never watched back then. I recommend it strongly!