Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
DIAMONDCAT is a synthwave producer with a passion for creating music that's melodically driven and incorporates a wide range of different musical influences. In an interview, we discussed his start in music, the ideas behind his latest singles and his view of the Twitter #synthfam.
Karl Magi: How’d you first get interesting in making music?
DIAMONDCAT: I took a class on digital production techniques when I was in college and really liked it. I’d taken piano lessons when I was a kid, so I had some experience with music but didn’t take it too seriously. I think it was that class that really got me into it.
KM: From that point, what drew you toward making synth-based music?
D: I’ve always listened to a lot electronic music, so I was coming from that angle. I liked how synthwave was focused on the past but also looked to the future. It seemed like a lot of people in the scene were really good at making music, but they also weren’t taking themselves too seriosuly. It had this fun vibe that I really gravitated to.
Discovering all of these synthwave artists on Bandcamp reminded me of the old days of finding new artists on mySpace. There was all this crazy artwork and people had crazy profiles on Bandcamp. It was such a fun experience finding these artists.
I was listening to a lot of random Bandcamp releases. I just kept hitting synthwave and listening to all of the new releases in the car. At first I was like, “Oh this is a lot of fun and the music’s cool!” Then I wanted to make that kind of music because I was always listening to it.
KM: Who are your musical inspirations?
D: I’ve always liked ‘80s music like Depeche Mode and New Order. I’ve listened to those artists for a long time. I actually have Violator on cassette which is pretty cool. I also like a lot of Italo disco and European disco from the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s. There was this band called Space that was really cool. I think they were around in the late ‘70s and they’d all be dressed in space suits playing synthesizers. That stuff kind of interested me for a while.
I’m also into a lot of French electro like Daft Punk and Justice. I’ve listened to it for a while. I always liked that style of music. I also take influence from random stuff like Flying Lotus, Massive Attack and Portishead. Some of the newer artists that I like are Ohneotrix Point Never, Charlie XCX, Amnesia Scanner and Nina Kraviz.
KM: Talk about how you create new music.
D: It’s usually pretty open ended. I use Ableton Live so a lot of times I’ll start with a good beat so that I can get the rhythm correct. Then I’ll often play my synthesizer and find a melody or a chord progression that I really like. However this isn’t always the case, sometimes I’ll just start by experimenting with a sample or something.
I love melody. I think that’s what got me into synthwave. A lot of people in electronic music weren’t working with melody. I found that interesting for a while when I was listening to all of this dark techno, but then I wanted to hear more melody. I really do like a catchy hook. I enjoy that in music.
KM: Tell me more about your singles Jaguar and Ataraxia.
D: Jaguar is really influenced by Joseph Campbell and the power of myth. He talks about the hero’s journey. I wanted the track to be like the hero’s journey and each part of the track is a different stage in the journey. I also wanted it to be danceable and to have this really fun hook. I redid the hook a few times or at least what I consider the chorus of the song so it was on point.
Ataraxia is about having a cool mindset while you’re doing something stressful. The term comes from Classical Greek and translates to a state of serene calm. It was considered the ideal mentality for soldiers going into battle. I just imagined a race car driver in a race. Certain parts of the song are like the outside world and the chorus part is the world inside his head where he’s cool, collected and enjoying himself.
KM: What are your future plans for your music?
D: I want to make an album that’s just a solid, fun synthwave album where each song just brings it! I’d also like to get a live show set up but I’m still figuring out how to incorporate electronic music into a live setting in a way that’s interesting. Eventually I’d like to push my music in a little bit more of an experimental direction at times. I want to push the boundaries on music in general and look to the future while still keeping it fun, exciting and accessible.
KM: Give me your thoughts on the Twitter #synthfam.
D: Synthfam is awesome, straight up! I think the synthwave community is super cool. I can’t say enough good things abou tthem. Everyone is promoting each other, they take interest in each other’s work but they’re also putting out really interesting, creative work. The level of quality in the work is high but people are also super nice and supportive. It’s really cool!
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourself creatively?
D: If I feel like I’ve hit a writer’s block or I’m starting to not enjoy working on music, I’ll take a couple days off and not make any music. Sometimes I’ll just go for a day without doing anything creative. By the end of that day, I’ll get so agitated that the next day I’ll wake up ready to go into it.
I try to keep my inspiration high. Recently I’ve been playing Persona 5 which has been really inspiring. It’s a really cool game with a great story and strong characters. I also watch movies and read books. I’ve been reading 1984 lately. It’s a fascinating book!