Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Runaway Droid is Finnish guitarist-composer ANA's synthwave project. He explores the unique sounds of synthwave and it's subgenres through Runaway Droid. I talked to him about how he creates his music, who he finds inspirational and where he wants to take the project in future.
Karl Magi: What first got you interested in making music?
ANA: It’s the usual story I guess. When I was about 11 or 12 years old we had an acoustic guitar in our classroom at school that we tried to play during recess. By high school, I had gotten into electric guitars and playing rock and metal with school friends. Actually that’s pretty much what I still do at 34.
KM: Tell me about the elements and ideas that attracted you to creating synthwave music.
A: It’s really just an extension of my love for 1980’s pop music and culture. I grew up watching films like The Terminator I & II, the Back to the Future trilogy, Indiana Jones movies on VHS over and over and over again. I think I first heard synthwave in 2012 maybe, or just vividly remember to listening to the Black Waves album by Lost Years and thinking “What is this? I love this!" Years later during the spring and summer of 2018 I had time off from my rock band activities and started thinking about making synthwave myself.
KM: Walk me through your approach to creating new music.
A: When I write music for a band, I always start with a guitar and a music notation software like Guitar Pro and just start doing it. With synthwave and other electronic genres, I have several approaches. A track can be inspired by a cool synth sound or a guitar or keyboard riff. Sometimes I just take a plain piano sound and start putting in notes in Ableton, find a chord rotation I like and start playing melodies over it with a keyboard MIDI controller and work the composition until it's almost ready before starting to make the sounds.
Sometimes I have a melody in my head and do the opposite or any combination of those things. A cool drum beat can be the start too. I like to make more pop-like structured tracks, so I might have a chorus or lead theme in mind before the rest of the song comes along.
KM: Who are the artists, musicians, authors or filmmakers who have influenced you?
A: Huh, there are so many. Growing up it was anything from Michael Jackson to Children of Bodom to Daft Punk to Dimmu Borgir. Later I got into Japanese J-Rock and Visual Kei so I have to mention a super cool band called X Japan that had a big impact on me. Aside from the usual '80s action, adventure and sci-fi films I really liked Quentin Tarantino movies. Nowadays there is so much everything everywhere it’s hard to keep track. Star Wars and Star Trek are some sort of core pillars for me I suppose. The latest Netflix series I can think of was Maniac. I have never enjoyed horror movies which is a big thing in dark synth, though I like the music very much. Film music is also a big influence but there are just too many great composers to list.
KM: Tell me about the ideas behind Giant Space Lasers and how you went about creating the album?
A: I would love to say I had a clear concept in mind, but my albums are pretty much collections of music I wanted to make at the time. I had just released the previous album Explorers which was maybe a bit more cohesive and new tracks just kept coming up. There are some tracks that could have been on Explorers with the more light 80’s pop approach and then there are heavier almost dark synth/cyberpunk tracks and a few ballads.
KM: Where do you want to take your music in future?
A: The next step is to take it on stage and playing live. This seems like a good spot to plug our upcoming Helsinki Synth City Festival here in Finland on November 9th. I will play my first official live show there. Musically speaking all my previous
Synthwave has been instrumental but my next single Memory Core will have vocals I recorded with a vocoder, so vocals are something that I want to have more of, maybe in collaboration with some cool people. I also have a new track coming up I made with a live set in mind that is very guitar heavy, so I might blend in more influences from '80s metal.
KM: Give me your views on the synthwave music scene and the Twitter #synthfam.
A: The scene has been super cool compared to rock and metal where I come from. I love that there are independent people creating playlists and making shows and publications just to support the music and artists. It’s much easier to get into people’s ears when everything isn’t controlled by big labels, radio stations and whatnot. I’ve had a Twitter account for ages but only recently started to use it for synthwave. The Twitter #synthfam is very supportive. Twitter itself as a platform feels a bit confusing at times.
KM: How do you relight your creative fires?
A: I have this manic drive to keep doing music in whatever genre. I’m really bad at just relaxing so I just keep doing stuff. As my day job I do graphic design so creative stuff is really all I’m good for.