#Synthfam Interview: Euan Ellis
Euan Ellis is an electronic music producer from Manchester UK. He creates synth-driven, chilled out musical landscapes. In an email, he told me about how he became interested in creating music, his creative process and the themes and musical ideas that went into his latest EP entitled Undiscovered.
Karl Magi: What are the factors that made you want to start creating music in the first place?
Euan Ellis: Although I had always had a love for music from a young age, after trying out the clarinet for the first time, quickly realised that music was something I wanted to pursue. Soon after I got a clarinet, I joined a local music establishment with multiple different ensembles ranging from amateur to experienced which I attended this for seven years, making my way up to the more experienced bands through high school. In 2014, I became somewhat obsessed with synthesizers for whatever reason and this lead me to wanting to create my own music. The first synth I got was the Korg Kaossilator 2S, a handheld loop-recording digital synth. At the time, I was completely new to creating music and didn’t even know what a DAW was, so I was just making silly loops with the Kaossilator. I soon advanced to a midi keyboard (Novation Launchkey 49) which came with a free version of ableton live and that’s when I really started to make electronic music. So, it’s taken me around 5 years to get to where I am now, yet I still feel I have a long way to go.
KM: How and why did you start making more synth-driven electronic music?
EE: I think I’ve always done synth based music but my style and genre has changed, especially in the last 2 years. For example, back in 2015-17 I didn’t really know what I wanted to make. Like I would go from tropical House (bad tropical house) to synthwave to D'n'B etc;. I regret releasing some of the early tracks I made because it no longer reflects my style. Now though, I stick to genres like chillwave and synthwave and try to evoke some sort of emotion.
KM: Tell me more about your sources of creative inspiration.
EE: Usually, to fuel my creativity, I listen to other artist that are making the style of music that I am aiming for, artists such as ‘Hello Meteor’, ‘A.L.I.S.O.N’, ‘HOME’, ‘Voyage’ and more. Another way I get inspiration is by taking something from the outside world, weather that be a place or environment, and try to turn that into music. My latest EP Undiscovered is a good example of where I did exactly that. The first track on the EP Mirage is based on the desert. For this, I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be in that environment in the present moment and then then turning those feelings into music. I would also pull up an image of that environment off of Google and try to turn it into music.
KM: How do you go about creating new music?
EE: I usually start with the sound design because I find it helps me get an idea of what the main elements of the track are going to sound like. This could be a pad or main synth chords. Once I’ve got a rough ‘sketch’ of the main synths, I’ll start to write a chord progression for the chorus section of the song because I like to start with the main idea. Next, I’ll add drums and suddenly the song is coming together. After that I polish the main idea and start the intro and verse. A lot of the time, the music I start doesn’t get finished because I come up with a new, better idea than the last which is something that most music creators struggle with.
KM: Let's talk about Undiscovered. What are the ideas/themes/musical concepts behind it and how did you go about making it?
EE: The main idea behind Undiscovered was to try to capture the essence of different environments and transport my listeners to that place through the music. Like I said earlier, I used pictures and mental images of those places to inspire the sound and feel of the tracks. The difficulty was maintaining my musical style whilst creating something that’s quite original and unique. The Cabin in the Snow is different to what I normally make, being a more ambient track, but I think it fits nicely with the rest, acting as a moment of calm and a break from the synthy beats. I thought it would be cool to have the art as five terrariums representing each track and the different biomes.
KM: Musically, where do you want to go in the future?
EE: Now, my aims are to keep getting better at creating music, more specifically, sound design, mixing and song structure and hopefully grow my fan base. I’m currently studying Creative Music Technology at Salford University and when I graduate, I want to have the necessary skills to be able to take on roles such sound engineer, film composer, game composer, sound designer, recording engineer and more. Also, now I’ve started to get more of a following, I’m thinking of getting a live set together with my best songs to perform.
KM: What's your take on the current synth-based electronic music scene?
EE: It seems to be doing great especially on YouTube channels like Electronic Gems where I’ve had music featured and had over 250k views on my most popular track. I think people are more exploratory in the type of music they listen to these days and chillwave/synthwave is a well-liked alternate to mainstream music.
KM: How do you re-light the creative fires when they start to go out?
EE: I often go through these periods of writer’s block but I always find a way to overcome it. Whether that’s by listening to other music, taking a break for a day or two, taking the dog for a walk or simply trying to come up with something new every day until I get something I like. When I can’t come up with any ideas I want to make into a full track, I’ll just open Ableton and see what I come up with until I get something I really like.