Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Kage is a Scottish synthwave producer who expresses a strong love for the '80s musical (and general) aesthetic in his songs. In an email, we discussed how he started making music, his approach to making music and why he loves the current state of the synthwave scene.
Karl Magi: How did the fire to make music get lit under you in the first place?
Kage: Wow, if I can remember! I've been playing music for a long time now, since I was kid basically. My family was always somewhat musically inclined so it was pretty much inevitable. My sister taught me the basics of playing bass guitar when I was around 8/9 years old and since I was about 12/13, I've played in a number of different bands, usually within the rock/metal scene.
I always had an interest in darker genres of electronic music, although I only really started with synth in recent years after being shown the foundations of synthesis by the synth player in my previous band, Neon Runners, which in itself was heavily inspired by early synthwave.
KM: What are the elements that drew you into producing synthwave music?
K: Well, as with a lot of synthwave producers, I've always had a thing for '80s/retro culture and aesthetics. There's definitely a sort of romanticism attached to it. So when I discovered synthwave and artists that shared that love and drew heavily on that, I was hooked and felt like I was in my element!
As for the specific moment I decided I wanted to create synthwave? It was after I saw Carpenter Brut live in Glasgow a few years back, I became inspired to go out and do it on my own.
KM: Tell me about the artists who influenced your approach to music.
K: I don't know, I'm all over the gaff, man! Seriously though, obviously the influence of soundtracks from the likes John Carpenter and Dario Argento are important (as they are for most synthwave artists) but I tend to draw influence from all over the board. I try to incorporate different techniques from different genres which are related to '80s music. Mostly from the likes of hair metal and post-punk bands alongside synthpop and New Wave artists.
KM: Talk to me about how you create new music.
K: Often I start with a title or a concept. From that, I'll choose which key and scales to use (I often find setting loose limitations actually helps) then I'll grab my bass guitar and play over some drum machine samples to feel out a basic bassline and rhythm. Then add chords and arps and just layer it up with different elements, tweaking things as I go. Normally a track just tends to evolve on its own as I add things and turns out nothing like it was originally in my head. My melodies usually come last, which isn't a surprise really since I come from playing bass.
KM: How did your Recall album come about and what was your approach to making it?
K: Basically just building blocks. After doing two EPs beforehand, I just wanted to push a little higher and tried putting together tracks that had a certain flow to them. For releases, I often view them as like stories, where they have to have certain "beats" and flowing up and down with things like energy and feeling while trying to make it a cohesive experience.
KM: Where do you want to take Kage as a project going forward?
K: Just keeping doing what I'm doing really. Make new music, work with new people, expand my network and just keep creating things that hopefully others will enjoy.
KM: Give me your thoughts on the current state of the synthwave scene?
K: I actually love the current state of the synthwave scene. I hear some people online complain about over-saturation of artists in the scene but I don't see it that way at all. I see that as the beauty of the synthwave scene, that it's very accessible. It's almost like a mini revolution, giving practically anyone a way to express themselves. Anyone with a computer can make synthwave and carve out their little corner of hell and do their thing, and they do! And with the level of support everyone seems to give each other. People from all walks of life, all different countries; it's actually a great scene to be a part of, be it as a fan and an artist.
KM: How do you recharge your creative batteries?
K: Downtime is important when you're creative I think, otherwise it's easy to get burned out. I've seen it happen before with many bands I've either been a part of or been friends with. Taking some time away and listening to different kinds of music that maybe you haven't really looked into before or really just experiencing any kind of art I find is often pretty inspiring and recharges my creativity.