Iterations is one of musician and producer Eric Garwood's synthwave projecs (the other being his band Velocity 128). He creates unique music that combines the synthwave sounds with a post-punk influenced approach to the songs. In an email, he told me about his creative background, how he makes new music and his views on the Twitter #synthfam.
Karl Magi: What lit your initial fire to create music?
Eric Garwood: I’ve been playing drums/guitar and writing songs since I was about 15. Whether it’s the process of writing something new by myself, or working on something collaborative with other artists or bandmates, the pure excitement and surprise of creating something new is what drives me.
KM: From there, how did you get into making synthwave/synth-based music?
EG: Since 1996 I’ve been recording shoegaze/post-punk inspired drum/guitar/bass tracks, but not releasing them (always as “Iterations”). Synthesizers were never really part of my sound, except maybe a Moog-ish pad in the background of a track.
Jump to 2017, a friend of mine (producer Jonathan Lim), invited me to a monthly event in Washington DC called Betamax Video Club where they show '80s B-movies. He invited me to bring a synth (I started with an iPad app, controller, and a Roland TR8), and we improvised some synthy stuff before and after the movie played. The show runners introduced me to synthwave music (Mitch Murder), and asked if we could create stuff like that.
This eventually led to the formal creation of our band Velocity 128. We perform live synthwave, playing a combination of Iterations and Velocity 128 tracks before/after the movie. I began writing/producing/releasing synthwave under my solo artist moniker Iterations mid-2018, bought a bunch of synths, and am officially hooked.
KM: Tell me about your artistic influences (can be music, art, movies, books etc;)
EG: I grew up on a heavy dose of post-punk; The Cure, Ride, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. Jurassic Park is my favorite book, my artist name “Iterations” comes from the names of the chapter sections (1st Iteration, 2nd Iteration, and so on).
KM: Give me an idea of how you go about creating new music.
EG: Sometimes I’m humming ideas, and I run downstairs to lay down the melody, or beat. I use 99% hardware, often starting with drum patterns on my TR-8S step sequencer, then moving on to arps etc; I use Ableton and try to create 75% of the song arrangement using Scenes, but exclusively as MIDI clips.
I then work on the arrangement until it’s completely done, using each of my nine hardware synths once per song, so that the entire arrangement is being fed through the hardware in real time. Once I’m satisfied with the arrangement, I record the audio from all of the synths. Sometimes I will layer in an Arturia V Collection synth on top of a real synth, just to thicken things up, or add clarity to an idea.
KM: Tell me more about the projects you've been working on lately.
EG: I’ve released 22 synthwave (and four shoegaze) tracks in the last 13 months. Nine of those tracks were released as my first synthwave album Particle Movement Theory, which is inspired by early '80s sci-fi TV shows. I’ve also released Marauders an Italo disco track that was picked for one of the Astral Throb YouTube mixes, it’s a thrill to get that much exposure, as their mixes garner about 10,000 views per week.
KM: Where do you want to take your music into the future?
EG: I always hope that my post-punk influences shine through in my synthwave releases, as they certainly aren’t influenced at all by other artists in the current synthwave scene. I want to continue to dig deeper into what I love about music, tapping into as many of my influences as possible which hopefully leads to bringing something unique to this genre. I have a real love for movie and TV soundtracks, and I expect that no matter what I do, it will continue to have a soundtrack feel.
KM: Talk to me about the Twitter #synthfam and your feelings on it.
EG: The Twitter #synthfam is an incredibly supportive community. All of the Spotify playlists that my synthwave songs have found themselves on were due to submissions via Twitter. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this community which truly helps give Indie artists like me a real chance to be heard. It’s great to see the artists and fans largely controlling the scene, as opposed to big labels.
KM: How do you recharge your creative batteries?
EG: Stepping away from the computer. If I don’t feel the inspiration after a bit, then it’s time to turn off the synths and come back another day. If I don’t feel anything when I’m writing ANY part of my tracks, then I don’t feel I should continue. If I don’t like what I created then it’s not worth my time. Playing live every month and improvising parts (which we do for every song) is a great way to experiment and push the limits of songwriting. Oh, and beer, beer helps too…