Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Hunter Complex produces hooky synthwave that paints cinematic pictures with his use of a wide range of synth-driven colours and textures. In this emailed interview, he tells me about his creative inspirations, his approach to making music and talks about his Open Sea album.
Karl Magi: How did you first become passionate about music creation?
Hunter Complex: I think I was about seven years old. A-ha just released Hunting High and Low and I wanted to play synths just like Magne Furuholmen. My parents got me a small Yamaha keyboard and when I bought my first double tape deck, I found out how to do dub recordings and how to record one sound over another. Because of the difference in speed of the tape, the sound was not always in tune, but that didn't matter to me, I finally could create. And after that I didn't stop. I made a lot of music throughout my life, but I feel that with Heat and Open Sea I finally am doing what I wanted to do all my life. But A-ha made a deep impact on me. I recently got completely lost in their track Rolling Thunder, same goes for Wild Horses by Gino Vannelli. That's music that will change your perspective on things, on life. That's the music you feel in your gut. I recently got that from the albums Heaven in Las Vegas by Cocteau Twins and U.F.O.F. by Big Thief. Music is so powerful.
KM: Tell me more about what elements and ideas in synth music drew you into creating it?
HC: Synths are pure magic. Back in the Eighties, I used to listen to Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis a lot. They created completely new worlds with the sounds from their synthesizers. And synths still do that for me. I really like going through preset banks and let a sound take me somewhere.
KM: Tell me more about how you create new music?
HC: I start out very intuitively with a chord progression or a melody, and I just let it happen. From there on I start to build a track. I'm a sucker for hooks. My tracks need to have hooks. That's what I got from Robert Pollard of the indie rock band Guided by Voices. He's the king of hooks.
KM: Talk to me about your Open Sea album. What are the ideas behind it and how did you go about making it?
HC: Open Sea started out a as a fictional soundtrack to the novel Neuromancer by William Gibson. The world he creates in your mind is stunning. Night City, the first track on the album, is a reference to a place in the book. It's dark, grim, neon, futuristic, Asian, like Ridley Scott's Black Rain movie from '86 with Michael Douglas, but even more desolate and displaced. I did another track about Neuromancer, Television Sky, but that one didn't fit with the rest of the tracks on the album and will end up on EP that will be released early next year. Open Sea eventually broadened in flavours and colours. There's a track about architecture (Original Vision), living on Mars or any other planet (Account of the Moon), birds of prey (Crows Zero) and the thrill of the big city and the quest for the buzz (Chase Manhattan).
KM: What does the future hold for your musical career?
HC: The follow-up to Open Sea will be out in January. It's going to be called Dead Calm and Zero Degrees. It's the twin record to Open Sea. The songs originated around the same time, but I finished them later. But thematically and feeling-wise they are very much connected. It would be a perfect double album. The last track on Dead Calm ends with the rain and the melody of the first rack of Open Sea is really proggy, Currently I'm working on the record after that. I got a lot of new synths the past year, so my sound will gradually change, but I also use more improvisation these days. I have become a better player, so my hands do what my heart wants them to do. That maybe sounds a bit woolly, but I really feel that way.
KM: Give me your thoughts on how the global synth music scene is doing? Pros and cons?
HC: There's a lot of beautiful music being made with synthesizers these days. After the guitar dominated 90s, synths are no longer just a novelty. I'm a big fan of the British label Burning Witches Records. They release records by synth artists that are not genre specific. They are not synthwave, vaporwave or whateverwave, they just try - like myself - to create great music primarily using synths, but they don't shy away from using analog instruments like percussion, guitar, piano, etc;
As an artist you should soak up all your influences and run with them. You can hear when an artist creates his music with a mouse click or actually plays the stuff himself. I like the latter better. Music needs to be organic. Of course, you can quantize yourself. I'm not the tightest musician myself, but the fact that the music is created with the heart and not the mind is so important. I'm also a big fan of the album format. A lot of artists in the synth scene just drop single tracks. I could never do that. My tracks need each other to create a bigger picture.
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourself creatively?
HC: Buy new synths and try not to sleep too much! I create my best stuff when I'm half awake. Also, I like to watch movies a lot, and read books. If you cannot travel all year through, you shuld use art to have new experiences and to get you out of your comfort zone. And all of my friends are music, movie, art lovers. We feed each other with new stuff. That's crucial.