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DIAMOND FIELD | Look to the stars - An Interview

Diamond Field is the musical project of Kiwi Born Big Apple based Andy Diamond.

His emotional synth pop driven tracks draw inspiration from the coolest sounds of the 80's and whilst largely associated with the renowned North American Synth movement seems content to make his own shining mark on the scene with much success to date.

The culmination of several years work saw the long awaited release of his anticipated debut album of the same name having released just singles to begin with. Its a fantastic coming of age release for the man who sees it as a largely collaborative effort with some stellar names guesting to include Cody Carpenter and the incomparable Vocalist Becca Starr who he was incidentally introduced to by another Forged Fav, Sean from Computronic

It's certainly no mean feat when you consider that all 10 tracks on the album have a different vocalist who he describes quite rightly as "ear candy" which adds an altogether different dimension when you work just as hard as Diamond Field has to make it sound so cohesive.

I've been watching his career with interest for awhile so I was super excited he agreed to do this interview, take a look!

Thank you so much for your time today with Forged in Neon, I was turned on to your wonderful music via the Vehlinggo Presents Compilation a couple of years back and the track with Dana Jean Phoenix ‘Freedom Pass’, I’d a lot of great catching up to do so I can’t complain.....

Congratulations on your album ‘Diamond Field’. It seems to have been extraordinarily well received which is fantastic with most physicals of the release selling out. How do you think it went?

Thanks so much Ashley. We had a really good reaction to the release from day one. Streaming numbers were solid on platforms like Spotify, and we pre-sold a few LPs and cassettes on Bandcamp through our partner label Sofa King Vinyl.

Sofa King are really great because they have experience in doing physical product, and doing it well. They have a track record releasing vinyl (and more recently cassettes) for the likes of Client Liaison, OSC and The Motion Epic and their pressings are top notch.

We released a 7” single with them in 2019 as part of their “Synthy Sevens” series that also included singles from Let Em Riot, Teeel, Glitterwolf and Palm Lakes, so we were keen to work with them again. There are still copies of the vinyl and tapes available and we hope to move more of those as word about the album gets out. Like every other artist who’s making vinyl at this time, we are caught in a backlog of manufacturing delays. We can’t do anything about that so we appreciate everyone who has pre-ordered a copy. We worked hard on the packaging so it’ll be worth the wait!

Of course, it was years in the making, I’d imagine you experienced a vortex of emotions when it finally came time to release?

Yeah its a funny situation to be in. The album took a while as we work with number of different artists and I had several other projects running in parallel. I was also spending a lot of time working on the tracks, then leaving them alone to give them some breathing space and coming back to re-evaluate them later.

In order to get things finished I set myself a release date and booked the mastering so that I had a deadline to have all the mixes done by a certain time. I managed to make that work and had a decent amount of lead time to get the album out for reviews, before the release. The promotional process is another set of work in itself, and is ongoing long after the release.

Getting an album out is one thing, but then you have to switch gears and become a PR person! So while it does feel great to get it out there and I’m really happy with the result, the real emotion comes from the effort of getting the music heard (or not heard), and that can be tough. I know artists who have packed it in after they felt like they didn’t make a tangible impact. There’s so much music out there. Even if your music is amazing, it can be really hard on you if nobody gets to hear it! All of this is done online so to counter that, we had a cool album ‘listening party’ at a local bar and it was a great way of celebrating the release with actual humans!

There is a stellar cast of features in this long-awaited album to include Cody Carpenter, I’d say that was quite a lot of hard work to put together, how did you choose whom to feature?

I always envisaged Diamond Field as being collaborative, and having worked with some great musicians on other projects, I was able to call them in to work on my music. That was mainly in a vocal capacity, since I’m not the best singer and I didn’t think I could do justice to the songs singing on them myself! I also brought in Chris Ward (the Saxophone Warrior) on sax and Rodger Cunningham on electric guitar for some extra ear candy. Rodger, along with Nina Luna, Matthew J. Ruys, Miriam Clancy and Chelsea Nenni, are all artists I’ve played in bands with, so there’s a real history of working together. Belinda Bradley is an old friend and I was a big fan of her band Selon Recliner; Kyle Brauch I’d worked on a remix for his MIDWAVE project; I’d done a Twin Peaks tribute track with the Saxophone Warrior and looked after his cat while he was on vacation.

I loved both Nik Brinkman and Cody Carpenter’s work as Junica and Ludrium respectively, and I really wanted to work with them, and Becca Starr is an amazing all-round vocalist who I was introduced to by Sean from Computronic. It was really a matter of matching a vocalist with the right song and it worked out well. The only issue I had was having to change the key of ‘New Situation’ to better suit Nina’s range. It was a mixture of me writing lyrics and a vocal melody and having the singer reinterpret that, and vocalists writing their own lyrics and vocal melodies. In both cases, everyone bought something to the table. Sometimes featured artists don’t get enough credit, but without them there would be no songs – we’re all working together here. Most of the recording process was done remotely with all of us sharing files and dropping them into the mix, although I was able to record vocals with Chelsea and Matt at my own place.

You’re on record as stating that your sound is akin to “21st Century 80’s music”, the sound is certainly unmistakeable, who or what inspired you to start making music in the first place?

I was always into listening to music and collecting albums. I tried piano at a young age but didn’t find the lesson side of things much fun. I decided to pick up the bass guitar at 15 and that became (and still is) my main instrument. Being a bass player allowed me to play a lot of different music with a range of artists – there was always a guitarist around but bass players were harder to come by! I was also into synths and technology, so I figured all that stuff out and made music with it. Diamond Field is where I really get to play up the synth/tech side of my musical brain. I started using the term “21st Century ‘80s music” to describe better what I was doing and I think it fits – it’s ‘80s style music

You’ve been releasing singles since 2014, how do you think your sound has developed over time?

I’ve been making music for many years, so Diamond Field isn’t my “first gig” if you like. I knew from the start the sound I was going for, so there hasn’t been a drastic shift in the ethos or a change in direction to try and fit with other music around me. It’s pretty much me just making the kind of music I like to listen to. I think the first single ‘Neon Summer’ and any of the others that followed would easily sit on the Diamond Field album now. What I have refined is my production and mixing process which has really helped me to actually get my songs finished!

Tell us a little about your creative processes, who or what do you draw inspiration from?

Mostly it’s a feeling I’m going for so I fire-up the computer (which I treat like a giant tape deck) and just put stuff in. I consciously write in ‘sections’ so I might think “this is a verse” or “this is a chorus” and then build a song around that. Drums and bass are really important to me and I use a lot of ‘real drums’ to get a bit more of a live feel. I love rigid drum machines and sequencers too but I’m particularly fond of blending electronic and traditional instruments. That was pretty common practice with a lot of the ‘80s music I like – Duran Duran, New Order, Wang Chung – they all combined synths and drums and guitars. Of course those types of artists are a big inspiration for me, along with ABBA, but my main influences are less about a particular artist and more about a sound, and that often comes down to who the producer was.

I’m really taking cues from production styles and techniques that created the sound of that era. Trevor Horn (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Hugh Padgham (Phil Collins), Rupert Hine (Howard Jones), Peter Wolf (Wang Chung), Chris Hughes (Tears For Fears) – the list is extensive, and when you see all their credits stack up you can start to see how they shaped the sound of the records they worked on. So I’m taking cues from all of the production methods and just as importantly, how the songs were written. Song structure is really important if you’re creating pop songs. A lot of modern pop songs don’t have middle eights (bridges), intros, pre-choruses or even solos. I find that a bit boring, especially when you read the credits and see that seven people were involved in writing the song! I guess I’m taking all these things and channelling them into Diamond Field!

What would you say has been the most cherished memory of your career to date?

That’s a tough one. I can say I treat every play, purchase or compliment about a Diamond Field song very humbly. Musicians are always the harshest critics of their own work, so if someone else likes what you have done, that’s pretty cool. Having people with no “genre awareness” from completely outside your scene liking your music is also amazing. A good song is a good song. But I think the best moments have been with the friends I’ve made through the Synthwave music community. Going to shows, meeting people from the online space in person and being part of it all. It’s not just about the music!

Of your entire discography what one track are you most proud of?

I’m pretty proud of them all and think they all stand up well (luckily if you’re working in the style of the ‘80s the songs don’t really date lol). Again, this also has to do with the featured artists who helped make the songs what they are. There are a couple of cover versions I did with Rat Rios that turned out really well. ‘The Nightingale’ is a cover of the Julee Cruise song from “Twin Peaks” and was given the synth pop treatment. It just keeps finding more fans everyday and I think we did a great job on it.

The other song ‘Closer’, is a cover of a song by friends of mine Sloan and Sonna Robison that I always loved but they had never released. I really wanted to give it the Diamond Field treatment and with Rat Rios on vocals it was almost like doing a ‘Nightingale Pt. II’. I’m hoping to work with Rat Rios again in the future but on an original song this time!

The Music Industry has changed immeasurably over the years, being on the scene for the length of time you have if you had the power to change one thing what would it be? Why?

That’s another tough question. The internet has been amazing to get music out to people. Getting your music in front of people couldn’t be done as easily back when you had to get your music on radio, into brick and mortar stores via a record label and in the press to make an impact. Studios were expensive. Now you don’t have to do all of that, to at least be out there on the same streaming platform as any big name artist. Anyone can now access your music. With that comes a gazillion other artists that you are competing for attention with and that creates its own issues. So much great music never gets to the ears it deserves. And so it’s mostly those with the biggest promo budgets, connections and label support that get the views. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!

That game is hard to play and I don’t have an answer on how to play it except for maybe ‘luck’ but I would like to change that attitude that music creation is a ‘hobby’ and should be ‘free’, that albums don’t count and people “only like singles”, and most importantly that all artists should be paid fairly for their streams. It has been bought to light that smaller artists aren’t getting a fair chunk of what’s due to them, and larger artists are getting more via to the pro rata system used in streaming, rather than specific plays for your song. It is an ongoing issue that I hope gets resolved.

At long last we’re beginning to see the green shoots of events popping up worldwide, do you plan to tour this album at some point?

Absolutely. I love playing live so that is what I’m working on. I really did make it difficult for myself by using different vocalists on each song! There’s no way I can have all of the singers in the same place in the same time, so my solution is to have one singer who can cover all the songs. I’ve found an amazing singer to do just that so we are in the process of making it happen! Initially it’ll be a mix of backing sequences with live vocals, and I’ll cover bass, guitars and synths (depending on the song) and then we’ll expand it out into a fuller band as we go. With some luck we’ll have a show in NYC in the near future and I’d love to play a festival like NEON sometime soon!

Of course, we’re all over here listening to Diamond Field, who are you listening to at the moment?

Oh I’m listening to lots of stuff all the time - new and old. I’m back into collecting vinyl again so I’m picking up legacy titles along with the new stuff. For instance I just got the Motion Epic’s “Boardwalk Arcadia” and the new Steven Wilson mix of Ultravox’s “Vienna” both on vinyl – that’s a 40 year spread of music. I’ll always try to listen to new music across all genres so I know what’s going on out there and have been known to buy an album purely based on its cover!

Message to your fans?

Fans are the best! Thanks so much for the support. I love making the music so if you dig it, you’re more than a fan - you’re a musical friend! Let’s hang!

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