Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Observer Drift (Collin Ward) is a synthwave/retrowave producer from Minneapolis, MN. He combines his passion for the overall vibe of '80s films and music with sharp, modern production to create a unique sound. In an email, he talked about his musical roots, how he creates new music and his view of the Twitter #synthfam.
Karl Magi: How'd the musical fires first get lit for you?
Collin Ward: If you wanna dial the clocks back to my high school days, that’s when I was in my first band. It was your typical garage band. we did a lot of covers but before the band fizzled out, we started playing a few original songs that I wrote. I’d say that was the definitive moment of the “fires” being lit for me. Suddenly, I was like, “I can make my own music and it actually sounds OK.”
KM: Talk about the elements and ideas that drew you towards making synthwave/retrowave music.
CW: I have always been a huge fan of synth-based music and especially movie soundtracks that incorporate synth elements, so this naturally drew me into listening to '80s film soundtracks, watching the movies from that period and just lingering in the overall culture of that time period.
KM: Who are your artistic influences (musicians, authors, visual artists or filmmakers)?
CW: When I first started making music as a solo musician, I was really inspired by people doing the same thing. Chaz from Toro y Moi and Anthony Gonzales from M83 were big ones. I saw these dudes making lush full sounding music and it was a solo project, seeing that gave me a ton of motivation to push my own project into a bigger space and actually complete something, specifically in the genre of retrowave,
I also have to mention Com Truise. I was really obsessed with his work when I first heard it. I didn’t even really associate it with synthwave or that scene because I honestly didn’t even know about it yet. His music just oozed nostalgia and '80s atmosphere. but it also was such a fresh and innovative sound. Other notable mentions would be Futurecop!, Power Glove and SelloRekt/LA Dreams.
KM: Tell me more about how you create new music.
CW: My process is all over the place, but currently I’m really hooked on the idea of concepts and concept albums, creating a story and writing music that accompanies it or even tells the story.
KM: Tell me about your latest single Not Tonight.
This single was one of my singles from a series. I never really released many singles before, so it was fun to write a few songs that didn’t need to fit anywhere in an album. I wanted to try writing a pop duet-type track since it was much different than my usual approach. I also wanted to try recording someone else’s vocals and I wanted really powerful ones to drive the song.
My friend Natasha had expressed interest in recording a track and after we started some trial runs of recording ,it was instantly apparent to me that her vocal style fit perfectly with Not Tonight. It was a super fun process and I’m really happy with how it turned out.
KM: Where did the idea come from and how did you about producing it?
CW: The idea for this track came from classic high-school emotions and drama. Having a crush on someone and not knowing exactly how they feel. Hiding away in our rooms thinking about what could be. It just makes for great pop music (laughs).
KM: Where do you want to take your music in the future?
CW: I want to focus on my production and becoming more skilled in that department. I’ve learned a lot from some close friends and currently am in the process of basically rewiring the way I approach producing, recording and mixing. My good friend Tim mixed my last album Nightfall-91 and I got to sit and learn from him during the process.
KM: Give me your thoughts on the #synthfam and what it means to you.
CW: It’s a really cool scene. I started off recording music that was much more lo-fi and kinda dreampop inspired. Honestly though, I always wanted to create more polished synth music but I just didn’t understand it. It's really cool to see how much it’s growing. I’ve been able to do some really fun collaborations too. I got to collab on a track for The Electric Shadows’ debut album and more recently I worked with Lucy in Disguise on the track Dusk from his latest album.
KM: How do you recharge yourself creatively?
CW: I like to be active and get outside. I’m really into rock climbing these days. It’s a great way to clear my mind and level out.