Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Gregory Clement Jr. is a New Orleans based drummer and budding synthwave producer. His music is influenced by video game soundtracks, rock and metal as well as the aural aesthetics of the '80s. In an email, he told me about how he got started making music, his approach to its creation and his Synthesism project.
Karl Magi: How were you first drawn to making music?
Gregory Clement: My dad was a drummer for some local rock bands in the '80s and '90s, and he has continued to play drums ever since. He plays along to songs on his sound system at home. So I grew up hearing him play and I developed an ear for music through that. I've always been creative ever since I could remember. I drew pictures, I wrote stories, and I always envisioned myself making some kind of career with my creativity. Now I'm doing that as a synthwave artist, and by taking after my dad as a drummer.
KM: Tell me about the elements and ideas (musically and otherwise) that drew you towards producing synthwave music.
GC: Until recently, I never paid much attention to synthwave. It was actually my love for video game soundtracks that inspired me to make this kind of music. Being from a rock and metal background, I wasn't into electronic music, aside from what I heard in video games. I didn't know that much about electronic genres or any of the artists in those genres. I just knew that I really liked the wide range of music styles that were in video games and those influences are what you hear in my music. Now that I'm into synthwave, I like it a lot. My favorite thing about synthwave is the sounds of the synthesizers. That's why I started using them in the first place. They're so nice! The synthwave aesthetics are also really cool.
KM: Who are the artists (in music, literature, visual arts) that inspire you and why?
GC: There are so many of them. I could type up a really long list. So I'll just say one of them, and that would be my dad. I took after him in so many ways. His love for music is what inspired me the most.
KM: Talk about Synthesism. What are the roots of the project and how have you gone about creating it?
GC: When I was 14, I downloaded the demo version of FL Studio. There was no trial for it, so I could use it whenever I wanted. The main difference between the demo version and the full versions is the ability to save a project and work on it later. With the demo version, I could only record audio files. So I had what was essentially an entire production program that I could play around with, as long as I finished my tracks quickly. So I picked up music production as a hobby. It was really fun to be able to make my own music after growing up as a huge fan of it. I never intended to make a career out of it. I had plans for a more practical career in something like architecture or graphic design. Then as I got older, I started to open up to the idea of actually doing something with my music. At that point, I had developed some real skills as a producer, and I realized I should be more than a casual hobbyist. So in 2017, I started Synthesism.
KM: Where do you want to go in the future with your music?
GC: My goal is to play live shows someday, but instead of playing on a keyboard like most solo synthwave artists seem to, I want to play synthwave shows on drums. I'm not sure how likely it is that I would do that any time soon, but that's definitely something I would want to do. For now, I'm working on my second album. This time around I have the Producer Edition of FL Studio, so I'm going to focus on making this album as good as it can possibly be.
KM: Give me your thoughts on the current state of the synthwave scene.
GC: The synthwave scene is an amazing community. These artists are great musicians who appreciate the art form. They support each other because they know how important that is for independent artists. They're just really cool people. I've only known about this community for a little over a month now, and I'm very glad I found out about it.
I feel like a lot of people on the scene still consider themselves to be hobbyists, and as someone who was like that before, I know the importance of realizing your talents and why you should make the most of them. I would suggest that more of these artists get their music published onto the major platforms and see what happens!
KM: What are the things you do to recharge your creative batteries?
GC: I listen to a lot of different kinds of music for new inspiration, especially music that I haven't heard before. Hearing a good new song that actually sounds like something new is really refreshing for my creativity.
Something else that really helps me with this is going to see a movie. Hearing the soundtracks in the theater feels so intense, and I want to bring that sort of intensity to my music.