Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Fatal Empath is a Canadian synthwave producer and instrumentalist who creates a unique brand of synthwave incorporating elements of jazz, classical music and rock. I talked to Fatal Empath about the creative process, future plans and the current state of the Twitter #synthfam.
Karl Magi: How did you first get into making music?
Fatal Empath: I grew up in a very musical family, I always had lots of rock albums around so I would often steal some of my parents CDs and sing along to them. It was always a very musical household. I was about 13 when I picked up my first electric guitar and it kind of took off from there. I went from learning songs to writing them.
KM: From there, how’d you get into making more synth-based music?
FE: That’s a long story but to cut it short. I started learning music on the guitar playing rock songs so synths were kind of an afterthought for me honestly. I started listening to Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead as a kid and I wanted to make those sounds. As a result, flash forward a few years and I started listening to other synth heavy bands like Macintosh plus, Gunship, FM-84 and Hello Meteor, they are really who inspired me and got me into synthwave. I grew to enjoy the introspective retro feeling of it and the nostalgia it conveyed to the listener, so I started writing it myself.
KM: Talk about your artistic inspirations.
FE: My roots were in rock. I grew up listening to a lot of grunge and heavy metal. I was into bands like Alice In Chains, Nirvana, and Soundgarden, some classic rock as well like Ozzy Osborne, Pink Floyd etc; Later in life, I started getting into acts like Frank Zappa and John Coltrane. They are who got me into a lot of the whackier side of music and expanded my musical palette. It was very inspiring for me. I ended up wanting to make music myself in any place I could, so I did.
I have a large-ish library. I have read a lot of Alex Grey’s books and enjoyed many of his different works of art. I became inspired by his view of art in general, so he was a huge influence for me as an artist. I am super into H.R. Giger and H.P Lovecraft’s works. I took some of that morbid influence with my name (Fatal Empath) and the sombre aesthetic in my music.
KM: Give me an idea about how you create new music.
FE: It’s interesting because I treat each track as its own entity, so it’s never the same. Sometimes I’ll start out with a chord progression, sometimes I’ll start out with playing an exercise on guitar or piano and come up with a whole track based on that exercise, like an Etude at times. It varies.
It basically comes down to finding a ‘home’ within the key, the root, emotion or idea that I want to convey. Once I find that, I take it and run with it. I like to use a lot of acoustic instruments. Guitars, percussion, brass whatever I can get my hands on. Cajons, tambourines, shakers. I’ve often used weird samples of things. On the song Morning Coffee off of my first album, Out of Faze I made use of a little metal screwdriver banging against a bunch of nail clippers and sampled it to create a hi-hat sound. No two tracks are ever the same process.
KM: What sort of gear and set up do you use to create your music?
FE: Natively I’m a guitar player but I also play bass and piano as well as a variety of percussion instruments. Software-wise, I pretty much only use FL Studio. When I started writing music, back when I was 15, I wrote a lot of my songs on GuitarPro 5 and paper. Now I primarily use FL Studio, it has everything I could need.
KM: Talk about the current releases on which you’re working.
FE: I’ve taken a while between releases, I was planning on releasing a lot more material this year, however because of things in my life, I had to take a step back. I’ve been compiling and composing daily though, so I will have some more new music available soon. I’m working on another full length album, I’m still doing synthwave, but I want to blend in more jazz and classical influences as well as harkening back to my musical roots.
KM: Where do you want to take Fatal Empath in the future?
FE: I’m hoping to move into film and scoring for video games. Video games were a large influence on my earlier composition and even my current composition style. I’m hoping to get into that eventually. I’ve been a bedroom producer as of late so I’m hoping to get out there and play some shows in the near future. I’m working on a set and I’ve got a new electric keyboard that I’m looking forward to breaking in on stage.
KM: Give me your thoughts on the Twitter #synthfam community.
FE: Considering my experiences on Twitter, it’s been the positive highlight. I’ve enjoyed interacting with others and getting to hear other artists within the spectrum of synthwave and retrowave. It’s been really intriguing to me because I’ve been in a vacuum when it comes to music. When you get stuck in a vacuum, things can feel stale but when you get introduced to new things, it’s like a fresh breath of air. It’s been really cool and positive.
KM: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
FE: I do a variety of things. I meditate, go for nature walks or do anything I can to clear my head. A quiet mind is a creative one. Sometimes I’ll sit down and read a book. I gain a lot of inspiration from the books I read. YouTube helps. It’s kind of a creative force in and of itself. When I’m stuck in a box, I’ll find some musical YT videos or something in general that is a fresh way of looking at things. It’s a mixed bag but a lot of times, it’s just sitting down and plugging away at your instrument or craft even if you’re just doodling, it can be inspiring.