An Interview with Synthwave Producer Stefan Huber
Ion Star is a project from synthwave producer Stefan Huber based in Vienna, Austria. As he puts it, his music will take you "through the hypergates to outer synthspace." In an email, I asked him about why he enjoys making synthwave, how he creates new music and where he finds inspiration.
Karl Magi: What first made you passionate about music?
Stefan Huber: I guess the ‘80s music that my father used to play and sing along with when I was a child. Songs by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Billy Idol, Phil Collins, Depeche Mode and such.
I also learned some instruments starting when I was in school, so I practiced piano for eight years until I switched to electric guitar lessons when I was 16. I always liked to try making my own compositions and playing something until I found some nice melodies, rather than practicing.
KM: What are the elements of synth-based, '80s influenced music that interest you and why?
SH: There are many elements that are interesting: the mixing techniques, the arpeggiated melodies, and the mixture of older and more modern music. A big part of it is that it’s also fun to play around with synthesizers and see what sounds can be created.
What is probably most interesting about synthwave is that it’s a whole new genre. It’s one which is especially interesting for people who grew up with 80's music, old computer game music, Italo-disco and screeching electric guitar solos. It’s a memory of all of those old movies and old times that’s somehow renewed with a fresh spark that runs within the scene. I was into metal for more than 18 years and didn't think there would be something else that I would enjoy musically as much as I enjoy synthwave now.
KM: Who are the main artists who have most influenced your approach to music?
SH: I think it was Lazerhawk's Redline album that really made me decide to try my own approach to synthwave. Other artists that I liked from the beginning were Dynatron, Megadrive, Zombie Hyperlane, Virtucaster, Neonskylines and many others.
KM: Tell me about the process of making Corsair Hyperlane and what ideas/themes you wanted to explore on it?
SH: The album title and the second song are an homage to the Star Wars universe which is also easily recognizable by the cover of the album. Each song is based on what I wanted to try out at the time. The first two songs for example were experiments in making artificial electric guitar sounds (there are only synths playing in them as opposed to the other songs).
I wouldn't say that I had a certain story in mind when I started with a new song, rather the sound and the elements started to define in which direction it would evolve. In certain songs, I was adding movie samples during the process. Those songs had more of a story approach as you also need to make sure that the samples make sense throughout the whole song.
KM: Do you have a specific process for creating new music or does it vary depending on mood/inspiration?
SH: I usually start with one element like an idea for a bass melody, some chords or just playing around with some sounds, progressing into a riff and adding more elements until after a while (sometimes weeks) there’s a finished song. Sometimes I want to try out what another artist did with a certain riff. It usually doesn't depend on a particular mood, but rather what comes out of playing around.
KM: What are your future plans for your musical career?
SH: I am currently making a track in collaboration with Simon the Wave. He played the guitar solo for Psychodeathbot. He also has a good understanding of sound creation and mixing, so it’s great to have someone to talk with and try out different things. So far it has worked out fine, so we’ll see if we make more tracks together.
Besides that I am always thinking about the possibility of playing live, I would need to have some people interested in joining me to play live. It would be cool, but it would also take a bit of work to bring everything together. Let’s see what the future brings.
I’ll probably also continue with my next metal album at some point.
KM: What's the state of the global synthwave scene in your opinion?
SH: It keeps getting bigger and gaining more attention. There are a lot of synthwave concerts in Vienna and we have quite some enthusiastic people organizing them and also bands like Powernerd, Ultraboss, Edictum and Nightshifter who keep releasing awesome stuff. I would say that there are so many good artists out there that still need to be explored. I'd like to see more variety and different approaches out on the bigger channels however.
KM: How do you refresh yourself creatively?
SH: I listen to other synthwave artists or different kind of music. I go to concerts, play computer games, drink beer, go hiking, watch movies and sleep. I don't know! I do everything that someone does when they’re not currently making music