Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
A.GE is a French synthwave producer whose music will take you on a journey across the universe and through the depths of outer space. In an email, he told me about his musical background, how he creates new music and the current projects on which he's working.
KM: How did you first become drawn to making music?
A.GE: I started writing songs in the first place when I started to play guitar ten years ago. I had a band at that time and I was writing for them. I had very little musical education when I was young, so everything I have learned of music theory was from either research or experimentation. The band split up for geographical reasons, so then I started to make music on my own and have not stopped since.
KM: From there, what drew you to creating synthwave music?
A.GE: Synthwave is a genre that I have been listening to for a long time now, most likely since I saw the movie 'Drive'. But I think that was just a trigger, because though I was born in 1991, I have always listened to '70s and '80s music whether it was electronic, hard rock, metal, pop, funk or jazz, but after seeing that movie, I started to listen to stuff like Mitch Murder, Rain Sword, Lazerhawk, Com Truise and many others.
Something like three years ago I started to make music with a MicroKORG, but it was not synthwave yet. I don't know why honestly but I was preventing myself from going into this genre. Maybe I was afraid of what it might sound like. It was lack of self-confidence I guess.
During the summer of 2017, I was packing up to go live in Montreal for a year and I made this track, Returning to Earth which clearly sounded like synthwave without me actually planning it. From there, it was obvious that I was going down this path, even unconsciously, so I decided to start something with this track. That was the beginning of A.GE and my first EP Jupiter's Touch.
KM: Tell me about the other artists who have inspired you.
A.GE: I listen to a lot of music so it is hard to determine what influenced me the most, but to stick on the synthwave scene, I would say Mitch Murder and Rain Sword were the most influential for me.
In other genres, I am a big fan of hard rock and heavy metal, stuff like Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Scorpions. I really love Jean-Michel Jarre's early work as well like Equinoxe which is my favourite album of his.
I guess my main influence, especially in composing music is The Alan Parsons Project, which is my absolute favourite band. The orchestrations on those albums, the mixing, everything is so precise that the music reaches its full potential. I own every album in vinyl, except for unreleased stuff, so I am a bit of a fanboy for them!
More recently, I have been really influenced by the artists of the current indie scene, like Alpha Chrome Yayo, Aysyne, Sonicgap, LAZERLVST and many many more I listen to everyday. I find it so interesting to be growing together with those artists and making progress together while listening to each other. It's really interesting to hear where everyone is going with their music, even if we have a common genre, we all have our identity.
I have also been collaborating on a (top secret) EP with The Institute 91' who's a friend of mine. Even if this record is still in progress, I feel it has influenced me quite a bit! He is more into darkwave, but going out of my comfort zone and arranging some of his work made me improve on many levels. I am really looking forward to having other projects like this, it is really inspiring working with another artist, it helps in discovering new things.
KM: Talk to me about how you create new music.
A.GE: I usually start with a chord progression. I play around on the keyboard to find what ideas I could go with, what type of rhythms, BPM and overall sound. Four to eight chords is a good starting point and then I add other layers of synths to it with very rough ideas for melodies, variations in chords and bassline.
Once I feel that I have all of the instruments that I need for the track, I extend the progression to make it more complex, like switching to a minor key if I'm in a major key or a major key if I'm in minor key. It really helps building emotions through the track and that's something I really like to play with.
That way, I have a rough idea of what the track is going sound like. At that point, I can move on to arrangements and adapt all the synths to that progression. The very last part I work on is the lead. This is a crucial point, for me at least, because it plays a huge role in my tracks, I can spent two or three days finding something I like. I usually make many recordings while improvising on the track and once I get one or two basic ideas of cool riffs, it is my base to build the melody through the entire track, following the feel of the progression and what emotions I want to drive.
It's a lot of failed recordings and rather tedious sometimes when I don't feel inspired but it pays off in the end! After I have everything set up, I move on to the mixing and mastering stage.
Of course, this is not an exact recipe, it depends on the track really. Sometimes I just start from a bassline, sometimes I have a melodic idea while taking a walk outside and I record it with my voice through my phone, sometimes it is the end of a track that leads me to another one. I recently started to experiment with switching tones within the same track and I can't get enough of the epic feel it gives!
KM: Tell me about the ideas behind 2nd Journey and how you approached creating that single.
A.GE: After Jupiter's Touch, which was about a space mission to Jupiter and back, I had to find a way to go for a second trip to space. This track really came out of a sudden inspiration, I spent quite a bit of time away from making music before that for various reasons and being back at it felt very good. This is what 2nd Journey is all about, it's this exciting moment when you are going back to a place you really liked the first time, you missed it so much that it feels incredible to go back there and that you don't know how you spent so much time without it.
From the musical aspect, hearing it again now really seems like a big improvement to me, I tried new things with it and it works pretty well, such as the evolution of the melody in the second part or the drop just before the chorus in the end, that is the kind of things I learn on the go while making it and that I keep afterward. It is a way of inspiring myself I guess.
Usually I spend so much time listening to the same track over and over during mixing that I can't listen to it for a long time after that. Now it has been a few months and I like it the way it is, it is not perfect but it is the way I was back when I made it. Plus it is the start of what I am up to today!
KM: Where do you want to take your music in the future?
A.GE: With the way that I see things in life in general, I often say, "this is a problem for A.GE of the future to solve!" I try to stay in the present moment as much as I can, but it does not prevent me from having many projects in the works.
In the very near future, I am releasing a new EP entitled Church of the Stars on December 6, which is gonna be three tracks all of connected through transitions. This one means a lot to me because apart from being a record I put a lot of myself into, it also has been a great journey for me musically, spiritually and as a human being.
It is a record about the universe as an infinite concept, where we are all the universe and we are all connected to each other. We have an infinite number of connections with things and living beings that I represent to myself as the rays of light that a star emits. This is where this idea of a cult based on the stars came from and it is a deep reflection that I still have today which goes way beyond just this statement. However, that's an issue for another discussion.
The starting point of this was the idea of creating a genre that would go the opposite direction to darkwave which often has occult scenery. It's like a kind of "saintwave" as I like to call it. I think this record is totally the way I wanted to go!
Further into the future, I have many ideas. I want to make a full length album that I already started and make it a physical release if I can. I want to start to play live in the following months and do some other collabs.
I also plan on making a three other EPs: one darkwave, one chiptune and one ambient. I don't know in what order I will make them but those are in the pipeline.
Since I am revealing top secret things, I have a much bigger project with two good friends of mine to create a synthwave festival here in France. It is really early in the making but we are so looking forward to it and we hope you will hear more about it next year!
KM: Give me your thoughts on the Twitter #synthfam.
A.GE: To be honest, I used to dislike Twitter. It was social media that I had not been on for years and I absolutely did not want to go on.I think it was Glo Vandy (but I'm not sure) who said, "Hey man you should check out the #synthfam community on Twitter, it's incredible!" I figured that I would make myself an account and give it a try. Oh man I was not prepared!
It is the best community I have ever been in! All the love and support you receive everyday is tremendous and I've discovered so many awesome artists there, so much good music to listen to that I cannot keep track of it. I think being there actually has given me access to enough music for the rest of my life, if synthwave keeps on going until then, which I'm sure it will considering the amount of music released every day. I've made some very good friends there and I do not regret joining it one bit!
If any synthwave artist without a Twitter account is reading this, stop reading and join us right now ! #synthfam is the best community ever, I promise you !
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourself creatively?
A.GE: When I am feeling uninspired, that nothing good is coming out of anything, I have found that the best thing to do is to enjoy other things and go back to making music later.
I like simple things honestly. I love to walk down the street with no purpose except for enjoying the moment, have a coffee in a café, draw, read, have drinks with some friends and spend time with my loved one. It is all those moments that I try to enjoy without worrying about yesterday or tomorrow, being there and doing what I do and enjoying it fully.
Funnily enough, I'm often inspired in times when I do not listen to any music at all because silence is sometimes the best music you need.