The Synth is mightier with the Sword - Damokles | An Interview
Updated: Jun 1, 2020
Synthronicity: Say what you like about the man but you cannot deny the pure work ethic. In his heart lies a true musician. As one of the OG's of the scene starting way back in 1979 he is truly immersed in the 80's and I had the greatest pleasure in interviewing him..read on!
Tell us a little about you, where you’re from and how you got started in Music?
I am a 57 year old Swede who started playing on everything when I was just a few years old. At the age of seven I got an electric organ with a rhythm box. That was my entry into electronic music I guess.
How has your sound developed over the years? & has the current market been of any influence in that?
As a performance DJ in the 80's (I started in '79) I fell in love with that sound. All of it, not just one genre. I released my first record in '87 and you can still recognize me in that I think. What has happened over the years is that I now have access to virtually any sound I want, and as much of it as I need. Back in the day I was limited to the hardware I could afford. Interestingly enough I have been making this kind of music since the 80's, although for a very small crowd, but about then years ago people started calling it “Synthwave” and suddenly my
audience grew which, in turn, inspired me to do more.
How would you describe the music you make?
80's inspired, synth based music with DNA from a wider range of the genres of that time than is common in Synthwave in general. About 50% of what I release is vocal but all of it has melody. I use a lot of layering in the sounds.
How has your 2020 been? With the Gig situation how have you managed to stay reasonably sane?
The good thing is that I was never sane to begin with :-) Apart from my “ordinary” job and being a Synthwave artist, I am also an active DJ and a piano entertainer. Those gigs vanished quite soon into the outbreak as did the ongoing discussions of me to perform live as “Damokles”. I was in the middle of making a six-track EP (Hyperwave) when Corona came and, as a consequence of the pandemic, I am now working only 40% (and from home). This has given me the time to finish that EP. But I miss going to work and my colleagues.
Who are your influences in music today? Who did you listen to when you were growing up?
As a DJ I listen to a very wide range of contemporary music. As an artist I listen to what the “genre” is doing but try not to listen too much since I don't want to be influenced in my own art. I still listen to a lot of “real” 80's too. Well, growing up is a long time to specify, but leading up to my debut as a DJ in 79 I had been listening to Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder
David Bowie, James Brown, Status Quo, Space, Bob Marley and.... well the list goes on.
Tell us your best and worse gig experience?
Best: I was on holiday in Turkey and we were sitting in a bar on the roof of a building where there was a band playing. When they were going to take a break I asked if I could play for a while on the keyboard. Oddly enough they let me. Very soon I had over a hundred people swaying their lighters and suddenly the band returned (and skipped their food) and joined into what would become an awesome musical memory.
Worst: I was doing a live performance in Vienna a couple of years ago and had brought a lot of equipment with me. The problem was that I was given very little time to set it up since the local band, that was going on after me, also should set up their. This led to me not getting any time for sound check until 15 minutes before I was going to play. As soon as we started with the sound check my sound card died!! Normally a quick “off and on” does the trick but not this time. After having rebooted, reinstalled drivers, reconnected and crawling around
on the stage floor I finally got it working just in time to start to play. On the second track it turned out that my keytar had a one second delay rendering it useless. Luckily I had a lot of keyboards to perfom on instead but the entire plan for the performance went down the drain. Still, the show must go on, and it did.
Is there anything new you’re working on currently that you’d like to share a little bit about?
Yes, as I mentioned I just finished a six-track EP that I am quite pleased with called Hyperwave. As many of my previous releases it includes DNA from many different genres of the 80s; electro, high energy, synthpop etc. I have found myself in a somewhat dissonant phase lately and have been exploring odder chord progressions than I usually do on this release.
If you couldn’t make the great music you are making today what would you be doing?
I would probably be making graphic art and animations instead. I do that for a living actually, working with digital marketing.
Who would you like to play you in a movie of your life?
That took me a while. I would say that Ryan Reynolds could pull it off.
What sound do you love the most?
The first birds singing in the spring.
Do you have a day job? How do you balance this with the passion for creating the great music that you do?
I was an entrepreneur for almost 40 years and as such I had control over my time. But since December last year I am employed working eight hours a day in an office. I am (or was until Corona) loving doing that since having colleagues really brightened my day after having been working alone in my basement for three years. During my employment I found myself not having as much energy for my art as I was used to. But now I am right back in my
basement with time to spare and there you have it. I would rather be back at work though.
If you’re having a bad day what do you do to make yourself feel better?
I play Civilization
Who is your celebrity crush?
What’s next for you as an artist?
Next stop is the release of my E.P & I would love to come out and play live more.
If you could collaborate with anyone else on the scene who would it be and why?
I am collaborating with people already. Just a while ago with Finnish artist Turbo Knight and I did a remix of a track for The Midnight (as did everyone else it seems). I would like to collaborate with a female singer and make a classic 80's power ballad at some point.
Favourite Movie and why?
The Matrix. Because, who knows... maybe that is what we are in?
Who or what got you into the Synth scene initially?
I guess the real mile stones were; Kraftwerk – Man Machine, Donna Summer – I Feel Love, Space – Magic Fly, and finally the synthpop revolution in '81.
How do you feel about the popularity of the Synth Genre as a whole and the new Generation of Producers who keep evolving?
Sadly, as the scene has grown, it has also become quite narrow leaving just a few artists in the spotlight. In the beginning there was such a love, warmth, interest and support from the entire scene. This has faded I feel. There is also a lot of copying the “winning sound” going on instead of breaking new ground. For me the 80s was all about experimenting with sounds and styles and that is what I keep doing. I would hope that people would open their eyes (or rather ears) for the wider range of the scene so that artists could evolve and get heard. As of late we have seen mainstream performers like Lady Gaga using the aesthetics of synthwave and I fear that once it really becomes mainsteam, it will be the “establishment” stealing it and the rest of us will be left in the dust. I will still be doing what I have been doing though.
What type of Hardware/Software to you use, do you have a preference?
Having done the entire hardware era I am now very pleased with having virtual synths without cables and completely noise-free. I use Reason as DAW and it really covers my every need. This way I can record every single tweak I do. On stage I use my Roland AX-Edge keytar of course!
Damokles Livestream - May 8th. An incredible watch
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