Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Chase Yesterday is a synthwave producer based in Malta. He takes an approach to synthwave that combines darker, heavier elements with a strong storytelling sensibility. In an email, he told me about how he approaches the creation of music, what he does to keep inspired to create new things and his take on the current synthwave scene.
Karl Magi: How and why did you come to realize that you wanted to create music as something more than just a hobby?
Chase Yesterday: For me, it is a matter of being able to do something that I love and having fun doing it. Making music started as an escape from the daily grind, whether it be learning an instrument, getting some new gear (and I can somewhat blame Gear Acquisition Syndrome for that as well) or playing around with music production software.
With time, as I felt that I got better and built more confidence in my music, I saw there was nothing to lose with starting to release my music instead of keeping it to myself.
KM: After that, what aspects of synthwave-style music drew you into wanting to make it?
CY: '80s music was a staple in my household, but my first exposure to synthwave was Hotline Miami 2. I can still remember the first time I heard Carpenter Brut there and feeling that pure adrenaline. There was whole spectrum of retro-inspired music and visuals in that game. From there I discovered Outrun, and then synthwave.
At that point I had to check out what that kind of music was, and more importantly, how I could do my take of that style.
KM: Which other creators do you find inspirational and why?
CY: I tend to inspire myself either from what other musicians are doing or from video games, which I find are a great medium for music that just captures a moment or a theme and also allows me to dwell in it for as much as I want with it being an interactive medium. I am always looking to try something new.
I tend to listen to a very wide variety of music so my influences are quite widespread. Recently, the artists that have left the most direct impact on me are Carpenter Brut, Timecop1983 and Kavinsky. I also find other influences in early 2000s trance music, NIN, Depeche Mode, Motörhead and DreamTheater.
KM: How do you approach the creation of new music?
CY: I tend to write to a theme, with each song working off the other to convey a concept or story. It is why I prefer to release EPs in lieu of many separate singles, though I guess that goes against current trends.The actual writing process for me is split in two parts. The first part is the artistic part, where I start to lay down a particular sound that I have in my head. Off of that very loose idea, I start building a song bit by bit, and seeing where I can take it. It is very free-flowing, basing my production on what I feel like doing. After that is the second part, where I start being more of a perfectionist. I work iteratively, refining what I have created more and more with each iteration until the song, to my ears, takes its final shape.
KM: Please elaborate on the idea of ONE as, "a synth-driven ride evoking bittersweet memories of nostalgic freedom of the 80s." I'm interested to know about the process you went through in creating the tracks for ONE as well as any particular thoughts about what inspired it?
CY: I do not want to give to much away as a big part of the fun of ONE is the individual interpretation of the music and accompanying text. ONE tells a story of escape, albeit in a more cheesy-80s romanticised way. Once the story was all laid out, I could soundtrack it, each song capturing a scene of that story.
KM: Where do you want to take your music in the future?
CY: This might sound a bit selfish, but the key part of making music for me is the fun of making it and discovering new things in the process. I have to feel like the music I am creating, else it sounds fake to me.
Currently I am focusing on a more heavier, darker side of synthwave, like dark-synth and cyber-punk inspired dystopian themes. I do not like to dwell inside a comfort zone for too long, and new challenges always help my creative process. For the immediate future, that is where I see my music headed.
KM: When you need to reinvigorate your creativity, how do you do it?
CY: Believe it or not, I find myself working better under stress. I seek out new challenges, learn new things and keep myself interested in the work. With interest, comes energy, and with that productivity, then creativity. It does not always have to be a completely new song from A to Z. It could be a new synth patch, or a mixing technique, or a melody, as long as there is output.
KM: Tell me about how you view the current synthwave scene.
CY: There are so many talented artists that keeping up with everything is a real issue. The following and support is there at a level that is unbelievable for a genre that is so young. We can already see the effects that it is leaving on the mainstream. My biggest concern is since the scene is retro and thus so steeped in nostalgia, there is a risk of becoming too cliché. As an artist myself, I push to produce fresh ideas and content, something I view as a necessity and that I hope all producers and content aggregators in this scene do.