#Synthfam Interview: MicroMatScenes
MicroMatScenes is an Italian synthwave producer who creates unique music influenced by a wide variety of different styles and eras from current synthwave, vaporwave and Future Funk to the great rock and pop bands of the '80s and even by video game soundtracks. In an emailed interview, he told me about how he got started with music, who he's been influenced by and his latest album SCENES.
KM: How'd you first get interested in making music?
MicroMatScenes: My first approach to music was when I was a kid; I was four when my parents bought me a Disney themed little piano. It had a distinct sound that I still remember, very similar to some toy piano presets from various sound libraries. Then, since I seemed to like music, they bought me the first Bontempi keyboard, and my father started to teach me some chords to play along with the LP's. When I was eight, I started attending the music school in my hometown; that was fundamental because I learnt music theory and played the euphonium, which I still play today for work in the Italian Air Force Military Band.
KM: What lead to your interest in synthwave/retrowave music?
MMS: Although I mostly studied classical music, I never lost my love for keyboards and pop music; listening to a lot of 80s music and surfing late at night on YouTube eventually lead me to v a p o r w a v e first, then some retrowave classics by FM84 and Mitch Murder. When I realized the '80s sound was so popular, I decided to jump onto the retrowave train. I like the word “retrowave” because it feels like a bigger container than just “synthwave”. I like many retro genres, like synthwave, v a p o r w a v e, and Future Funk, but I never like talking about subgenres.
KM: Which musical artists have been influential for you?
MMS: I grew up in a house full of '80s music blasting from my parents’ hi-fi; my mom did housework listening to Queen, Spandau Ballet, Madonna, Elton John, Double U, but also great '70s classics like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. My father was more into Italian songwriters like Antonello Venditti, Zucchero and Franco Battiato, still great music! I think my all-time favorites will always be Queen and the Italian songwriter Mango. The soundtracks of some video games also had a great influence.
KM: Tell me about how you create new music.
MMS: Most of the time I start playing different sounds in my DAW on the keyboard controller, changing parameters here and there until I find something that inspires me like a melody or a rhythmic pattern, or I set up a virtual Linn Drum with a lot of reverb and start playing on the keyboard. It’s fun and always gives me inspiration with its unique timbre. I like to improvise. Very rarely I wake up in the morning with a melody or something in my head.
Sometimes the tracks just flow and take shape without any effort; other times I find myself just looping around the same musical cell over and over, and that means the project has to be trashed. Music has to be fresh! If I work with it too much, it becomes an artifact.
When I have an idea that just… works, it’s easy to build a musical landscape around it. The first thing I try to focus on is the main atmosphere of the piece, then I start recording melodies and patterns until I get a structure. When the main skeleton is done I just smile and enjoy the creation until it comes to an end. Then the nightmare of mixing begins, but that's another story!
KM: Talk to me about your SCENES album. What are the ideas behind it and how did you go about producing it?
MMS: SCENES is like a tribute to the entire retrowave scene: there’s something coming from every (o.k. I’ll say it) subgenre. That doesn’t mean it’s not natural or that it’s a style exercise, but when I listen to it I can recognize influences coming from a lot of retrowave artists I like: there’s some Mitch Murder in Saturday Morning, a VECTOR GRAPHICS tribute in Vapor Dreams. There are also influences coming from the '80s as well, especially from artists like Vince Di Cola and the Italian Mike Francis.
Every track has a different personality, but you’ll find synth guitar solos very often as a fil rouge* in the whole album. That’s my infinite love for Brian May’s guitar solos. SCENES is my musical beating heart speaking. Thoughts At Night was the first track I completed, then Neon Blades came to me as the idea of two guitars dueling like neon swords, fighting for more space in the mix! After two songs I said, “Okay, maybe I should try to do an album… or at least an EP and there it is.
I have to say thank you to Daniel Nicolau, aka Midnight Driver, who first appreciated my work and included SCENES in the Future 80’s Records catalogue.
*literally a 'red wire' or a guiding thread
KM: What are your future plans?
MMS: Maybe it’s too soon to talk about it but my next EP is already finished! It won’t come out until next spring, but we can talk about it if you want. The overall sound has slightly changed, and the album is mainly focused on my childhood memories of '80s and '90s TV. There’s more saturation to bring back some tape and VHS vibes and there’s a vocal track too! It’s in Italian, and the title is Tra le fiamme e le stelle From the flames to the stars, a song about teen-age love fantasies. I think the retrowave scene is changing, but the '80s and early '90s aesthetic is pretty strong, so I hope this next album won’t be outdated before ever being released!
KM: Give me your thoughts on the Twitter #synthfam and what it means to you.
MMS: The #synthfam community is full of beautiful, kind and talented people, and being part of it helps a lot in many ways: First, listening to others’ music puts me in healthy competition which always pushes my skills a little further; second, being in contact with the #synthfam helps with visibility. Sonic Gap made a lot of cool Spotify playlists for every day of the week, and Xennon (one of the first to support me) has a huge playlist with a lot of followers and even a YouTube Channel with videoclips. I've had the opportunity to hear and study the music of amazing artists like Crü Jones, Gab Manette, Mike Templar, Backfrom84, Alpha Chrome Yayo, Board Sports, Tioux79 and CoolAM7. I’m sure I forgot someone, but I hope they will forgive me!
Future 80's Records is working on a “synthfam” compilation with a planned release for next summer, so stay tuned and follow Future 80s on Bandcamp and Instagram!
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourself creatively?
MMS: Every member of this amazing #synthfam has their personal influences and makes very different kinds of retrowave sounds: listening to their music is a great opportunity to always stay hungry. I’m very curious about where this wonderful genre is going, and I think this curiosity is my main source of inspiration and creativity.