Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Maximus Prime is a synthwave producer based in Oklahoma. He's hooked on the retro vibes of the '80s and uses synthwave as an aural canvas to tell stories. In an interview, we talked about his musical beginnings, his latest projects and how he sees the synthwave scene.
Karl Magi: How did you first get into making music?
Maximus Prime: I guess that would go all the way back to my days in school, playing in the school band. I’ve just always played music, it’s always something I’ve done. Ever since I was a young kid and they let us play in the band, I was all about it.
KM: What are the elements that attracted you to making synthwave music?
MP: Of course, it was the retro ‘80s stuff that I’ve always been obsessed with. I think what really got me into wanting to produce it was hearing what Gunship was doing. I think that was the turning point for me in deciding to produce synthwave. It’s also much easier to produce than other types of music. It was a good jumping off point for me.
I always thought that I wanted to be a DJ. When I was in high school, I saw a dude at a talent show and that was his thing. I thought that was the coolest thing ever, so that’s what I started off doing. Then a friend talked me into trying this thing called Ableton Live! I was like, “I don’t know if I want to do this or not!”
The first three or four times that I looked into it, I couldn’t even get the program to make noise! I gave up and that process happened two or three more times before I even figured out how to get it to make noise and could move forward with it. It took three or four more years of watching YouTube videos and making crappy songs before I even completed a project.
KM: How do you approach creating new music?
MP: Man, I just sit down and start playing normally. If I have source material, I'll start with that but a lot of the time with making music you just sit down and hope something good comes out. Some times it does, a lot of times it doesn’t. I’ve been working on ths new thing with my guitarist and for two days we were just lit on fire and that was it! That doesn’t happen all the time.
KM: Tell me about your guitarist and how you collaborate?
MP: We used to work together in television and he’s a really talented guitarist. He lives in Louisiana so what it consists of is a lot of me laying down a backing track and then saying, “Hey dude! Go to town!” He goes to town, sends it back to me and I’ll chop it up and change it and send it back. We’ll iterate until we’ve got what we feel is the best ideas of the good ideas.
KM: Talk me through the inspirations for your Cyberia project?
MP: There was this anime made back in the 1980's by Mamoru Oshii called Angel’s Egg. It’s got very little dialogue and the idea behind it is that the story is different inside the mind of the viewer. The viewer makes up the story behind the visuals as they go along. I wanted to try and do the same thing but for a record and that was the core idea behind Cyberia. What influenced it definitely would be Serial Experiments Lain and my experiences as a teenager growing up and running a Hotline server for bootleg anime.
I came to co-admin the server through a strange story. 14 year old me wanted to watch anime, and I'd stumbled across this Hotline server that had a lot of it. So I managed to hack in to the server and im sitting in the main lobby, just downloading to my heart’s content. then the owner logs and asks me "Hey Ian, how's it going?" I then had to confess I wasnt Ian, but someone that really just wanted to download some anime. I told him about the vulnerability of his server, and then cracked his trial version to a full version of the software. This guy and myself have been friends ever since, even though we have never met.
KM: Where do you want to take Maximus Prime going forward?
MP: Right now, I’m working on a song that was originally going to be a cover of the theme to “Escape to New York” but ended up being its own beast entirely, so that’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s my first time working with a traditional musician like a guitarist so that was fun.
Moving forward, we both talked about doing more projects that are similar. We’ve got a running list of what we want to do, but we just can’t decide on what.
KM: Give me your thoughts on the current synthwave scene.
MP: Personally, in Oklahoma, it’s got nowhere to go but up in the land of the cows. I really like the people in the community, they’re real people. There’s always that retro ‘80s theme that connects everybody. Not everybody’s into that, but the people who are definitely understand. It connects people across generations. I was talking to a Swiss artist the other day about his record, to help him with the mastering. He’s older and his Soundcloud bio says, “I was there in the ‘80s, I guess I just never left!” I thought that was great.
KM: What do you do to recharge yourself creatively?
KM: Anything that I possibly can is the short answer. The long answer is working on something else. I keep a project file where, for the past five years, everything that I’ve done that is good resides. After a while, you get a collection of stuff that’s good. You’ve got your song starters, your little drum lines and hopefully with all your weapons, you can come up with something because it’s not easy.