2015 saw the creation of one of this scenes literal giants in the form of LAZERDISCS RECORDS. The label itself is primarily focused on the outstanding music styles of the Synthwave, Retrowave, Outrun, Darksynth, Futuresynth, Neodisco, and slow-mo techno genres.
Based in France, Lazerdiscs has carved an incredible spot for itself with a stellar array of artists all of whom are known for their significant talent and musical prowess. Celebrating as it does its 5th year of dominance I reached out to Label Manager and Drive stalwart Mr Darren De Toni to get his perspective on all things Synth and beyond..take a look!
Tell us a little about the label, where you’re from and how you got started in the genre?
Lazerdiscs Records is a Synthwave label that has branched out, since its formation in 2016, into DarkSynth, Cyberpunk, Spacesynth, Techno, Synthpop, and Soundtracks. It definitely feels like it has all happened very quickly, as I started by discovering ‘Lazerhawk’s Theme’ online but chance back in 2012... searching instrumental ‘80s tracks. That’s it! And from listening to Lazerhawk’s album I wanted more! So I swallowed the neon-blue pill and
discovered ‘Drive Radio’. At the top of their website I noticed an advert; they were looking for English speaking reviewers. I got in touch and a year on I’d been helping run the social media channels with posting various news items and creating web content. Then a few years on a fellow Driver approached me, with a musician named Absolute Valentine (you might’ve heard of him) about starting a label, letting me handle the text side of things, as well as making joint 3-way decisions on demos we received (as there are 3 in the team). For 8 years I’ve experienced Synthwave, seeing it try to find its feet, which now feels like at any moment commercial success is within reach. I’ve enjoyed (nearly) every minute, and there is a lot more to come and that thrills me! But I hope that when the scene is accepted by
the mainstream, wiping away a lot of the angry and mindless junk out there, that the heart isn’t ripped out of it.
How would you describe the music you promote and sign?
I’d describe it as good. Very good! Yes I am biased but the artists we have on the label aren’t just talented musicians, they’re wonderful people. Seriously! We only take on those who are on the level, no egos. We respect them for who and what they are, and what they want to do. We expect them to treat everyone else at LDR how they want to be treated. It sounds very old fashioned but we are fortunate to have a collective who all enjoy what each other does, what we do for them, and where we are all heading, together. When you take time with the recipe, plan it all out, boy do you enjoy the taste!
Lazerdiscs impressive Roster - http://lazerdiscs.com/artists/
Who are your personal influences in music today? Who did you listen to when you were growing up?
I don’t like contemporary mainstream music, it is made for money and that is all. The artists are selected purely by means of extraction, and then milked for all their worth until the next comes along. It’s cut throat most pop stars are done by their mid-twenties. With Synthwave you don’t have that. It’s a genre that actively promotes music for music’s sake. Yes we have some hotties and they will no doubt help bring in people to our community, but if you look at the majority of the heavy hitters in the scene most of them wear masks... There are no thoughts to the age of artists, neither. No one cares as long as they like what they hear. With music I listened to growing up it was mainly alternative, I couldn’t hack the charts much then. The sounds played in my room ranged from New Wave to Classical to Rap (a lot
imported by a mate on tapes from the states) to Rave to Ambient. Current favourites (non-Synthwave), to cite a few, would be Simple Minds, the Prodigy, Tangerine Dream, Prince (pre ’90s), the Beatles, Grace Jones, ELO, and Ratpack (old school Rave duo from early ‘90s and still DJ to this day). But I couldn't leave this question without thanking College, Lazerhawk, and Tommy’86/Tommy for showing me the way.
If you couldn’t promote or develop the music you do today what would you be doing? Do you have any hobbies?
I’d still be at my job where my team supports a business consisting of over 600 staff, but with a lot less enjoyment! To keep things fresh I write and have recently had a short story collection published with its very own soundtrack! I am unashamedly still excited about the project, especially as everyone who got involved with the soundtrack - Absolute
Valentine, Powernerd, Z6B3R, Nicky Nine, Aeronexus, Francci, Baldocaster, UntilBen, and John Michael Lowe (who also performed the audio book for ‘Thank You, Mr. President’) - really gave it everything trying to create music they normally wouldn’t, which I encouraged and man it paid off! Apart from writing I play rugby, read many, many, many
books (currently reading ‘Twins’ which became the film ‘Dead Ringers’), and listening to music, predominantly from the early ‘30s to the late ‘90s.
Do you have a day job? How do you balance this with the passion for bringing the best there is on the scene out there?
Not just having a full time job I have children, so trying to balance my days can be tricky. I certainly max out each one, though, and only rest when I eat or when I sleep. There’s plenty out there to be done if you want it, and I like doing! - take that as you will.
What’s next for you as a label?
We will be releasing a vinyl run from Stilz, with another artist soon to follow (you know who you are!). There is also going to be a limited run of tape cassettes for a number of the LDR massive, which look great - just making the final touches. And on the digital side we have at least 1 release coming out every month this year, working on some other demos too. It is just a shame that a few live events we were planning have been put on hold until next year... but who knows how things may pan out this year?!
Favourite Movies and why?
Wowzers! Straight for the jugular with that question! I’ll name a few and contain how wild I could go with this answer... ‘Thief’ by Michael Mann, ‘Videodrome’ by David Cronenberg, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ by Stanley Kubrick, ‘An American Werewolf in London’ by John Landis, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ by Wes Craven, ‘Escape From New York’ by John Carpenter, ‘Hardware/MARK13’ by Richard Stanley, and ‘Batman’ by Tim Burton. If you look at this list you’ll think many things, but the most prominent thing that links them all is that they all have incredible soundtracks. I enjoy with or without the pictures, which works with the kids as they get a taste of what joys they’ll experience when they get to watch them!
How do you feel about the popularity of the Synth Genre as a whole and the new Generation of Producers who keep evolving?
I am thrilled by its popularity! The energy of the genre just flows through all artists and followers alike, and it is infectious! I’d say both established and new producers evolve together, as those budding musicians bring new ideas and the current go-to artists are the core of the movement, both work in tandem. The past year has seen a huge amount of
new followers come to seek out what we are all about, and that just drives me on to do what I can with LDR, as well as on my own, to help them enjoy what they find. Just imagine what Synthwave will look like after this most unsettling year? I imagine the mix of nostalgia and futurism, that healthy blend we have now, will only bring more eager to share
the good vibes. Live events will be different for a while, if not always, but they will still be the sociable events they always have been... no hassle, no arrogance, no pretentiousness, just a family vibe that we all can’t get enough of. By the way, hats off to everyone for putting on home/online events on as this only keeps the party going, and especially to
everyone who has gone out of their way to support all of our artists and the health care industry.
Thank you Ashley, stay synth!
Please consider supporting Darren and the Team at Lazerdiscs records via the following links: