Synthronicity: Fresh from some pretty awesome live-streams of recent weeks, I was delighted to get a chance to chat to the man himself 'The Subtheory' to theorise about all things from his retro-neo dystopia....
Tell us a little about you, where you’re from and how you got started in Music?
My name is Andy and I’ve been a music addict since I was first able to play with my parent’s record collection (not that they willingly let me). I used to create on the fly remixes of these old stereo records by using the balance control on the record player to cut out bits of the track, very basic but it lit my imagination that music could be a thing to be physically involving not just to listen to. I then discovered pause tapes which used 2 tape decks, one as the source and one to record onto. I’d hold pause on the recording deck until the bit of the source tape I wanted then recorded, rewound and started again. Hours of fun to make these little tape loops. I could then record bits of a cheap Casio synth over the top of the whole thing to glue it together. I am from the UK originally although I consider myself a citizen of the world. I split my time between Oxford in the UK and Los Angeles in the US although with the current restrictions on travel in place I’m mostly rooted for now.
How has your sound developed over the years? & has the current market been of any influence in that?
I’ve been obsessed with synths since I was a kid in the 80's and so have always used them in whatever music I was making but I had no idea that there was a whole movement or scene based around that same thing until just a few short years back. I was listening to what I thought at the time was called French House, which is people like Justice, SMD and Kavinsky. Unbeknownst to me there was a blurring of the genre lines and this was in fact the nascent Synthwave scene. I thought I was making this weird throwback mish mash music on my own and it was amazing to find there were like-minded people who dug this stuff too.
How would you describe the music you make?
It’s a tricky question and I don’t want to sound pretentious in the slightest which is always hard when talking about anything you create. Some people have told me that what I make is not strictly Synthwave and they might be right. I’ve just always made music which has been a reflection of both my influences and my frame of mind at the time. If I had to describe it I’d say I make electronic music that occupies the space somewhere between Synthwave and dark electronica. It’s all made as if I’m making the soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist so you could maybe call it Synthtrack. I’ve totally just made up a new subgenre!!
How has your 2020 been? With the Gig situation how have you managed to stay reasonably sane?
2020 has been an unusual year, although it’s nearly May as I type this it feels like January was about 2 years ago. Life is strange at the best of times and I can only hope we keep ourselves and each other safe, well and emerge from this to a new day where perhaps we are a little kinder to people, a little more tolerant and empathetic and also ready to party like it was 1999! Who are your influences in music today? Who did you listen to when you were growing up?
I love so much of the music that people are making both in and out of the Synthwave scene, I’m a huge fan of artists such as Todd Terje, Chromeo, Harrison BDP, Jon Hopkins and Caribou as well as Czarina, Xennon, Carpenter Brut and Makeup and Vanity Set. Oh and a massive shout out to my label mate; Dark Smoke Signal!!
Is there anything new you’re working on currently that you’d like to share a little bit about?
I released my EP; Ventura Blvd at the end of March and I was planning to follow it up with another EP at the end of May however the lock-down meant I started writing a bit more and I think I have turned something that was nearly finished into a different piece of work altogether so I’m considering it as a late June/July mini album instead. An E-EP if such a thing exists.
If you couldn’t make the great music you are making today what would you be doing?
I would be playing endless hours of video games and watching Werner Hertzog documentaries…. oh wait….
Who would you like to play you in a movie of your life?
Screech from Saved by the Bell
What sound do you love the most?
The sound of wind blowing the trees gently on a warm summers day
Do you have a day job? How do you balance this with the passion for creating the great music that you do?
I could tell you but my boss might find out that I was writing this instead of working so I daren’t!
If you’re having a bad day what do you do to make yourself feel better?
I like to pretend I’m a different member of the Breakfast club and re-enact the dancing scene. In fact I could re-enact most of the film except the embarrassing accent that Anthony Michael-Hall does. If that doesn’t raise your spirits then nothing will, I’m afraid.
Who is your celebrity crush?
I’m not sure if I have crushes on people as such as I admire their work or their philosophy. Except for Jurgen Klopp who I think is pretty much the best human being ever. If we’re talking about the 80s however then I loved with a passion; Princess Leia, Debbie Harry, Janet Ellis and Wonder Woman.
Favourite Movie and why?
This is such a tricky question as it’s like choosing your favourite song or child. It’s an impossible ask. If I was absolutely pressed on it and had to decide then I think it’d probably be Blade Runner. Or maybe Weekend at Bernies 2
Who or what got you into the Synth scene initially?
My desperate yearning to own a Ferrari Testarossa and drive up and down PCH with the wind blowing my hair, or possibly to wear all black and wave a keytar (retrofitted with lasers of course)! There’s also a high number of awesome people involved in the scene and thankfully very few d-bags.
How do you feel about the popularity of the Synth Genre as a whole and the new Generation of Producers who keep evolving?
I think it’s a very exciting time for the scene, love it or loathe it, the Mainstream is seriously digging the scene right now. The aesthetic is used everywhere from adverts to games to TV and films, etc and artists like Lady Gaga and the Weeknd borrowing heavily. I know people can feel precious about this co-opting of the culture but I personally think it can only strengthen the scene as it may pique people’s interest to dip in and find a new favourite artist of the back of it.
What type of Hardware/Software to you use, do you have a preference?
The EP used a lot of outboard gear in the mixing process as well as a Moog hardware synth to add depth to it but I’m a computer geek at heart so I tend to mostly use software. In this case a combination of Cubase (for Shiny Things) and Logic Pro (for the rest). My go to synths are Serum, Synthmaster, Battery, various Synthsquad synths and Helm. I have a whole bunch of others like Hybrid, Massive, etc but I tend to mostly lean on the synths I know best. I’m far too lazy to actually learn how all of them work and it’s usually trial and error. I do love the odd surprise FX plugin though and am a big fan of NI’s Raum reverb. I do love splashing it over everything plus I just discovered the McDSP plugins (especially the Saturation). Sorry I got swept away by a moment of technological geekery. It’s the bane of my existence!
Forged in Neon would like to thank The Subtheory for his time
You can listen to more of the Artist via the following links: