An Interview with UK Synthwave Producer Omegagon
Omegagon is a UK based producer with a passion for the warm sounds of '80s synths and an interest in sharing his unique worldview and perspective through music. I talked to him about how he got started making synthwave music, his latest album entitled Aether Realm and how he recharges his creative batteries.
Karl Magi: How did you first get interested in creating music?
Omegagon: When I was a kid my parents would put on the Beatles or Pink Floyd and I would dance to the music. Cartoons really got me into music. The theme tune for the Transformers was a catalyst for me. I loved that tune. I used to sing the lyrics to it when I was a kid. I was born in 1980 so I was lucky to be a kid all through the '80s.
KM: How did you get into making synth-based music and what drew you towards making it?
O: I got sick when I was a kid which had taken me out of music. I was a bit of a rebellious kid into doing drugs and I went away to London to play gigs with a grunge band. Amidst all of that I also went to music college which I failed because I got diagnosed with bipolar I. I ended up being hospitalized for it. Basically I got out of hospital, started doing music again and decided that I didn't need the drugs they were giving me.
A year later, after not taking the drugs, I relapsed. I decided that, no matter how bad the drugs were, I had to keep taking them to protect my family. That was in 2000, so fast forward to 2014 and the drugs I was taking had brought me down to a level where I wasn't interested in doing anything. The family doctor in the village told me that I'd eventually recover enough to come off the medicine and that's exactly what happened.
I was overweight because all I wanted was pizza and alcohol when I was depressed. I was gaming all the time then as well. One day, I was competitive mode gaming and I tried to give my mum a healthy shopping list and she freaked out. I was in the middle of a League of Legends match and she was moaning outside the door, so I lost it and started punching hoIes in the door. I really upset my dad and I knew something had to change or I'd get kicked out of the house.
They went on holiday and I started working out really hard. In that next year, I went down to 14 stone which is heavy but I was really heavy before that. It was during that phase that my brother, who's a computer programmer, introduced me to Perturbator's music. It was perfect workout music and as I was working out, I realized that I loved the music. He also gave me Carpenter Brut and Dance with the Dead's albums. They reminded me of Metallica, the grunge bands I liked and movies like Blade Runner. I realized that I could make that type of music and I didn't need a band to do it.
At the same time, the doctors were taking me off the medication and I was starting to get my mojo back. I was slowly becoming my old self again, so I got FL Studio and self-trained by watching YouTube videos It was a slow process. If you hear the first version of Force of Darkness that was made in 2015, it's a real muddy mess! This brings us up to 2018 and through that period I had saved up enough by working for my dad to buy a really decent computer to be able to do music. I bought some good analog plugins because, from the beginning, I wanted it to sound like I was playing real synths. I wanted to do what I could to get that warm '80s sound.
KM: Who or what has been a strong creative influence for you?
O: When I was a teenager, I was into Nirvana, Sound Garden, NOFX, Greenday, Oasis and all that stuff. I also love '80s music which is where my synth interest came from I was into the Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode (who are probably my favourite '80s band). Actually I would say that H.R. Giger was a big influence for me. When I was in school, one of the books that my dad got me to look at for art was an H.R. Giger book. One of my friends and I at school always used to talk about dark horror films and dark video games. The goriest and most twisted stuff was what we loved at that time.
Films, even more than music, were another influence of mine. I was influenced by Blade Runner, the Ghost in the Shell anime and Terminator 1 (I prefer Arnold Schwarzenegger as the heel). Pink Floyd was another big influence of mine because my dad was so into Pink Floyd. He'd always put it on when we went for drives.
KM: Tell me more about how you create new music?
O: The crazier situation that's only happened one or two times is that I'll wake up with a tune in my head and I'll have to jump onto the computer to replicate it. I made the tunes but they ended up sitting in a file on my computer! What usually happens is that I'll sit down and it might be that I've been listening to more cyberpunk-y stuff and I think that I'd quite like to make something in that vein. Usually I start off with nice analog leads or pads. I love pads on Diva. I'll do the bass notes on a pad and I'll work out a melody with my fingers.
Once I've got the keys and the melodies going a little bit, I'll switch over to a bass patch and start building a bass and then I'll get a kick going in the right key. Once I've got the bass for that melody done, I'll start building a melody on top of it. 'll get a block of a few bars of this melody and then off we go! The most powerful thing that I can do, which I think can be difficult for some people, is visualizing where I want to go. i can listen to what I've got and visualize and fill or a lead up to the next bit. It's like painting a picture.
KM: Tell me more about the concepts and musical ideas behind your Aether Realm album?
O: The Aether Realm album is supposed to be a mirror/bipolar kind of thing. You've got Shine the Light on one hand, but then you've got The Toymaker. It's supposed to be a mirror between light and darkness. I'm a spiritual person, not a religious person. I have a very personal spirituality that I believe in wholeheartedly. Aether Realm is trying to open people's minds to different ideas.
I had to remix Force of Darkness because I still wasn't happy with the mix. I saved that one until last because there was so much crazy shit going on in that track. I made it when I was amateur, so it was trying to take everything that was going on and try to make it sound professional. Force of Darkness is my favourite track because it's about what happened to me when I ended up in the mental hospital. The lyrics start, "My life has been blighted/Twisted out of shape by the force of darkness" and they're about that time in my life.
KM: Where do you want to go with your future musical endeavours?
O: I've noticed in the synthwave scene that people are trying to put labels on things or put things in boxes. I don't agree with that because I'm never going to be in a box. I'm always going to be doing different things. I might want to do a cyberpunk track, I might to do a cyberpunk/darksynth track because to me synthwave is anything you want with '80s style synths and influences.
KM: How do you think the global synthwave scene is doing?
O: On the whole, I think it's doing extremely well. In fact, I think the whole scene is about to blow up. We had the 1980s musical explosion and I think the 2020's are going to be like the '80s for a lot of kids in the future. Luckily for a guy like me, I came along at the right time to get on that wave. I'm planning to ride that wave right to the top! I think the whole synthwave scene is primed for world domination. We have to get these kids who go through school being indoctrinated with left brain thinking to be doing more creative things.
KM: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
O: Something that I've been getting better at lately is a daily meditation practice. Even though I say that, I haven't actually done it for a couple of weeks because I've been so busy, but I've been trying my best to get back to it. It really does help because it does help recharge my batteries. Another thing that's good for creativity is cold showers. It sounds unpleasant but cold showers are like a reset button on the system. Any form of exercise is good because it gets the dopamine going. I also do fasting which gives me so much energy because the body starts burning fat.