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An Interview with Synthwave Producer The Less Dead


Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

The Less Dead (Gareth Perkins) is a synthwave producer currently based in Japan. He creates what he describes as, "big instrumental synthwave magic." Via email, he shared why he started making music, how he creates new music and his view on the current state of the synthwave scene.

Karl Magi: How did you first get started making music?

Gareth Perkins: I've been making music since I was in my early teens. I started out on bass, and I got very into funk and slap. I moved onto guitar after a few years, as it offered the ability to make entire songs that stood alone. That can be done with bass, but you really need to be on another level. Despite having a band at university, music really moved into the background for many years.

Unfortunately, I deal with depression. I'm lucky in a sense, because It's not a regular thing, but it's something I need to deal with on occasion. A couple of years ago I was on the upswing from one of these episodes and I needed a creative outlet. I needed to be making something with meaning. I started recording alt-rock and instrumental stuff and immediately I found myself getting sucked deeply into the process. It is a meditative and joyous thing for me. I sound like an asshole saying it, but I need to make time for my other hobbies. There's never a point where I have to force myself into the studio.

KM: What are the elements that have drawn you to making synthwave music?

GP: I have been listening to synthwave for years. I first started with College and FM Attack, and I've always been in love with Carpenter Brut and '80s music. I gravitated towards synthwave as it's all about nostalgia, atmosphere and passion. It's about evoking your first crush, or watching a fight unfold in slow motion. Who wouldn't want to make music that did that?

KM: Tell me more about the musicians who you consider to be your strongest influences and why that is.

GP: My biggest influence at the moment is probably Disasterpeace. I love the way he mixes chip-tune, synth and elements of classical composition. His soundtracks for It Follows and Hyper Light Drifter are huge influences on me. Other than that, I love composers like Max Richter and the late, great Johan Johannson. I listen to a ton of FM Attack, Mogwai, Gunship and The Midnight -to name a few. I definitely like to think that I am influenced by a mixture of genres.

KM: How do you go about creating new music?

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GP: I make a lot of mouth music. I walk around humming and making up tunes in my head. It ca be be deeply annoying for friends and family. I usually record these songs onto my phone mic and then sit at the studio and build a basic structure. And then it's all about building the layers, cutting, changing and rearranging. It's not unusual for one of my songs to be completely different by the end of the recording process. One of my secret weapons is not being overly precious. Kill your darlings.

KM: How did the Off Chance album come about and what are the ideas and themes behind it?

GP: Off Chance was my first stab at making a proper synthwave album, but even then, it sits a little uncomfortably in the genre as it's not as shiny as most synthwave. My goal with this album was to make something catchy that travels from upbeat, to introspective, and then back again.

KM: What does the future hold for your musical career?

GP: I like to think that I am just getting started. I love making music, and I love meeting other musicians and listeners. I am currently working on a new concept album and it's really taking shape. I can't really say where I'll be in five years, but I know that I'll be following what interests and excites me.

KM: How do you view the synthwave scene at the moment?

GP: The synthwave scene is one of the most welcoming, kind places and it is bursting with talent. It would be intimidating, if everyone wasn't so up for helping each other and giving advice. As for the genre itself, I think there are some inherent problems. Some artists rely too much on nostalgia. Cramming a hundred references to roller blades and tape-decks into your songs isn't going to make them good. That said, when it's done with an element of tongue in cheek and genuinely awesome music, it can work. I just think the focus needs to be more on the music, less on the period.

KM: How do you recharge your creative batteries?

GP:Horror movies and chocolate chip cookies.

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