Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Gab Manette is a synthwave producer from Canada. He produces music that evokes a sense of magic and wonder in him, reminiscent to what he experienced growing up. For him, it isn't about pure nostalgia as recent synthwave compositions still evoke similar feelings in him. In an emailed interview, we discussed how he came to music, his creative process and his album Dream Dimension.
Karl Magi: How did you come to be passionate about making music?
Gab Manette: I've been playing music for as long as I can remember. I learned to play piano at a young age, but I was always playing existing songs. I'd sit down and learn them by ear, through trial and error. I've always been very passionate about music yet it had not really occurred to me that I could compose my own, until recently. I asked my good friend Pocaille (who is also a producer) if it was really complicated to use a DAW and if he could show me the ropes. He took me under his wing and helped me get started. I bought a piano MID controller and I was off! It didn't take long before I was hooked and transitioned from performer to producer.
KM: What are the musical and thematic elements of synthwave that drew you towards making it?
GM: Synthwave evokes the sense of magic and wonder that I had growing up. It reminds me of the movies, pop music, TV show themes and even commercial jingles that surrounded me back then, and working with these sounds and themes brings back this feeling that I don't have to look at life with jaded, cynical eyes. It allows me to dream and be hopeful through music. It would be easy to dismiss these feelings as pure nostalgia but I get the same feelings listening to recent composition so there is hopefully more to it than that.
KM: Tell me about your influences. Which artists have helped shape your thinking about music?
GM: My influences are all over the place! from movie composers like John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Vladimir Cosma, to Vangelis, Enya, Depeche Mode, Tom Waits. Also many from contemporaries like Le Matos, Multipac, Lazerhawk and Makeup and Vanity Set. I want to create music that tells a story and these artists excel at it.
KM: Tell me about how you create new music.
GM: I don't really have a set formula, but usually what I'll do is find a synth sound that I like, maybe put a simple drum beat on loop and start improvising, looking for a bassline or a short melody. Once I have something nice, I'll go and find other sounds that inspire more parts/melodies on top. If I end up with a good four to eight bars of a few instruments playing together, I'll start to flesh out the whole track. From there it's anyone's guess, honestly sometimes I feel like the music controls me more than I control it. It's happened that I start with the intent of writing something sad but the composition ends up being super upbeat and cheerful by the time I'm done. Hardware-wise there isn't much to say; It's all in the box, I don't have the room for analog synths in my tiny home studio!
KM: What are the ideas and themes behind your Dream Dimension album and how did you go about producing it?
GM: I pretty much started producing/composing in January 2018, as part of the Weekly Beats challenge. Basically, you have to write and produce one track per week, for the whole year! I didn't really know what I would end up with, let alone completing the challenge. But I did it! it was an incredible experience, frustrating at times but very rewarding. A year later I had 52 tracks under my belt, some of which had a more cinematic, space-like synthwave vibe to them. I selected five and worked on them a bit more, as some were done early in the year and I had learned quite a few things along the way. I felt they all worked well within the same universe and would be a nice musical journey as an EP.
KM: What does the future hold for your musical endeavors?
GM: I'm still unsure if I should release more EPs or go at it with a full album, I have a few completed tracks but a ton of unfinished ones that I'd like to expand on as well. I also have a few collabs in the works but I can't spill the beans on those just yet! A long term project is to get my show on the road, I'd love to do live shows! I don't have the material or knowledge yet to make it happen, but I'm working on it. I'm also part of a vaporwave band with good friends of mine called フライドポテト、チーズ、ソース (fritefromagesauce), we just released our 5th album, there will be more from that project as well in the future!
KM: Give me your thoughts on the state of the global synthwave scene?
GM: It's huge! Every week I keep discovering new bands and artists, and most of the more popular ones that have been there since the beginning are still going strong. I love the fact that the community as a whole is super friendly and positive, this is true both online and offline, at shows and synthwave events I've attended. I'm happy that the genre is reaching more and more people, I hope that it makes them curious and that they decide to explore it fully, as there are many different styles and moods to be found within.
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourself creatively?
GM: I like to remain curious and passionate about all things, I find that learning something new will in turn inspire me in other areas. Working out, cooking, learning new languages, listening to new music; All these things end up giving me energy and inspiration. Inspiration is great! it's fun to ride on it and it makes the creative process easier. I also think it's important to develop discipline, as it'll take you even further. You have to keep doing what you're doing, even when you're tired, when your head is full of doubt, when you think it's not good enough and you want to give up. You keep at it and inspiration will come back, and you'll be ready to make the most out of it.