Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
NETRVNNER is a synthwave producer based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He builds on the retrofuture aesthetic and attitude of synthwave and takes it in new, unique directions. In an emailed interview, he told me about getting started in music, his creative process and his Terminated EP.
Karl Magi: How did your passion for making music first get kindled?
Netrvnner: I began recording music when I was 12, I only had a cheap computer microphone set up directly in front of my guitar amp. I’d record countless blunders but I had plenty of fun doing it. As I got more familiar with guitar and recording software I began to learn and analyse my favorite songs. I’d emulate the sounds I’d hear and look up the gear that was used.
KM: What are the elements and ideas that drew you towards creating synthwave music?
N: When I was just getting into synthwave, my friends and I began to learn the tabletop roleplaying game, Cyberpunk 2020, and a lot of the lingo, the attitude and the retrofuture aesthetic tied very closely to synthwave. I’d curate synthwave playlists for each session and the over-the-top style of the game coupled with the music really sold me. The gothic hair metal / electro vibe really stuck with me but I felt there was more you can show with that style of music.
KM: Which artists have shaped your thinking about music and why?
N: S U R V I V E shaped my approach to songwriting because it blended the Tangerine Dream ambient style with a more modern synthwave approach. Perturbator and Power Glove solidified the doom and gloom of the cyberpunk aesthetic but Timecop 1983 and Lazerhawk expressed the lighter more nostalgic side of synthwave to me. More broadly, bands like This Will Destroy You and Godspeed You Black Emperor! moulded my sound palette early after my metal phase, so in combination with the more cinematic and ambient style that I mentioned before I found a slice of synth music that wasn’t tapped into too heavily.
KM: How do you generally approach the creation of new music?
N: Generally, I start by sketching ideas on my keyboard; usually meaningless until the song itself starts to take shape. What I listen to around me, what I feel in me is what inspires my music in the first place. Musical ideas start out as a basic framework of the introduction, the wood in the firepit. The way it ignites and burns is all up to what is used and how it’s burning, paving the way for the song to create itself. More often than not it’s a subconscious expression of a mood or a moment, not exactly something I’m doing purposefully and more something that my heart wants to convey. Often I’ll be inspired by imagery or a particular emotion and go from there.
KM: Tell me more about Terminated? How did it come about and how did you approach creating the tracks on it?
N: My friend, Erin Hall is an artist and was going to a design program at the time. One of her assignments had been a T-shirt design and I lent her my logo to use for it. Turned out I adored the artwork she made with the logo. Immediately upon seeing it I was inspired to write a single based on The Terminator. Originally intended to be a purely dark release, what turned out was a more subversive but powerful anthem. With Terminated I wanted to maintain this gloomy perspective while the song went into a more lighthearted approach. Tech Noir is a little more self-explanatory and closer to what I had originally envisioned: menacing, overwhelming and an embodiment of technological power. The two felt very complimentary with a play on light vs. dark. Where Terminated was lighter with the impending doom on the horizon and Tech Noir was conquering the darkness with light.
KM: What are your plans for your musical career going forward?
N: At the moment I’m continuing to release music. I’ll be releasing one more shorter release towards the fall and working on Episode 3. Eventually I want to be able to have all three Episode releases to be on a physical although it’s going to be quite difficult and costly. Other than that, I’m hoping to play more shows anywhere I can, especially internationally.
KM: How do you think the synthwave scene is doing as a whole?
N: I think the synthwave scene is a little overwhelming and a bit saturated but I’d argue it’s coming out of its infancy and there are positive steps being made. More people are interested, there’s a growing taste for the retrofuture aesthetic and the people who’ve been jumping on have been bringing really compelling perspectives. I’ve consistently found innovation as time moves on, people try different things and it's great to hear something new, something that doesn’t sound like it’s been done before but still sounds very familiar. The online synthwave community is very loyal, supportive and inclusive. There’s a feeling of family, like your music is being heard and it’s being appreciated. There’s always someone looking for underrated or unheard artists. However, I think that the grassroots movement is just as important. Creating the demand for this type of music on a local level gives the incentive to higher profile artists to visit.
KM: What do you do to recharge yourself creatively?
N: Honestly, sometimes I take a massive break from songwriting, it can be up to a month long where I refuse to do any writing. During this time I’m usually practising the set list for live shows, playing video games with friends or spending time with loved ones. I strongly believe in taking breaks from my passion in order to approach it from different angles. While I’m in that state I absorb inspirations from just about anything and it really helps when I feel ready to approach my creative side.