Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
XENNON is a synthwave producer and music teacher based in Tokyo. I talked to him about his debut concept album MIAMI COP. He told me about the ideas behind it, how he went about creating it and what he hopes the album will bring to listeners.
Karl Magi: Tell me a bit about where the whole Jack Lancer story concept came from for MIAMI COP?
XENNON: MIAMI COP and the whole concept came from my love of sci-fi, cyberpunk and '80s movies. I always wanted to make a concept album someday and when I started producing synthwave music it seemed like the perfect opportunity to turn my vision into reality. In terms of the story, I wanted to write something that would be found in a number of '80s sci-fi/action movies, whilst at the same time trying to relate it to elements of my own life experiences, so the song writing process remained personal to me.
KM: Synthwave is many things to many people. What is it about synthwave that has drawn you to using it as your means of musical expression?
X: As soon as I discovered synthwave I became hooked, I think the first synthwave track I heard was Gunship’s Tech Noir a few years back, and I instantly fell in love with not only the music but the whole aesthetic and nostalgic aspect of it. I think nostalgia is a big part of a lot of people’s love for the genre, hearing those sounds that take us back to the past.
KM: Where did you decide to draw the line between '80s sounds and modern sensibilities on MIAMI COP?
X: Because MIAMI COP is set in an alternate ’80s with futuristic and cyberpunk elements, I wanted to reflect that in the music on the album. I stuck with using a lot of ‘80s synths for the most part, but I wanted that modern feel to shine through at times with the vocals and certain production techniques. I also wanted the album to appeal to not only listeners of the synthwave genre but to reach a wider audience too.
KM: In terms of the songs, what are the various elements that you've tried to balance in order to help tell Jack Lancer's story?
X: I wanted each track on MIAMI COP to be vastly different from one another. Like a movie, I wanted to keep the listener guessing and to be surprised to hear what happens next, whilst at the same time keeping the tracks close enough together in style that the album remains flowing. I tried to think of it like creating a score; adding surprises and new directions often while also sticking to an overall theme. I think the album is quite pop-like, with a progressive feel stemming from my love of bands like Rush, and also incorporating some darker elements here and there.
KM: How did you find a balance between serving the story of the album and still allowing the tracks to work on a standalone basis?
X: I wanted to allow the listeners to read the story online as they play the album, so that they can imagine the plot in their head like a movie, however this is entirely optional. The lyrics in most of the tracks actually have a double meaning and relate to my own personal experiences that I’m sure many people can relate to, so if you want to listen to the album as a stand-alone record then it’s no problem!
KM: Walk me through the process of creating the album. What was your approach to writing the tracks? How did you approach the overall production of the record?
X: The production proved really tricky at first as this was was my first synthwave album, so I was still learning in terms of getting the right balance of sounds and techniques to achieve my goal. After I found my feet it started to flow really well and I was producing new tracks pretty quickly. In terms of the song writing, I tried to think of that scene in the story and what kind of style would match that particular scene. Usually I have a hook and just work from there. It usually comes pretty naturally in my head after that first hook is down.
KM: What do you hope the listeners take away from MIAMI COP as an album?
X: I just hope that people enjoy it, and they can take away whatever they want from it. I’m sure the songs will have different meanings to them than they do to somebody else and to myself, and that’s part of the beauty of music.