Rick James once said "Funkers are people who dig the funk; Little funkers, Big funkers, Old funkers, Young funkers, Foxy funkers, Papa funkers."
Well it's 2020 and it's the dawn of the Sexy Mother funkers.
Enter 'Swayze', A Retro Funk project by a man who shall remain nameless (in efforts to protect his modesty) who now lives in The Big Easy, U.S.A.
He shimmied into our collective consciousness back in 2019 with gems such as 'Your love is like a lone wolf' & 'Overdrive' the latter being one of my very first singles of the week when I started this project. Both of these tracks and more can be found on his debut album 'The Beginning' which has garnered huge attention in the retrowave community and has become a literal stand out in a year where there has been so many stellar releases.
Make no mistake about it my little Swayzettes this guy pours every bead of sweat and soul into his releases so I was very happy during a bout of caffeinated adrenaline that he took time out from re-charging his funk levels for this interview, take a look its a goodun!
So tell us a little more about how 'Swayze' came to be?
Swayze came about as a result of living a nomadic life for the last few years after graduating college. I was an Outward Bound instructor in the Southeastern USA, sleeping in canoes in the Florida Everglades or tramping up and down the Blue Ridge Mountains. We lived and traveled from base to base and it didn’t lend itself very well to making music with a band (which other than playing solo acoustically, was my main experience making music). That all changed when a friend of mine, Blaine Weiss, introduced me to Chromeo, a funk duo that makes a huge 80s synth-funk sound just with a computer and a couple of synths. I knew that if I could get my hands on a midi keyboard and a DAW, then I could at least try to make people move too. Thus a new music project was born out of necessity to release all of the pent-up creative and sexual frustration building up inside of me.
It was also about that time that I discovered Synthwave and absolutely loved the distillation of all the best things about the 80's. I knew I wanted that to be a part of my new project - the cheese and the neon feelings. I needed a name, and not wanting to waste anytime, I chose Swayze. It fit well and suddenly, I was off to the races. It wasn’t until after I started releasing tunes, that I noticed some odd similarities between me and the real Patrick Swayze and then a concept story began developing in my head. Thus, “The Beginning”.
How do you feel you’ve been embraced by the scene after a year?
Not sure how it’s happened, but I feel extremely accepted. After ignoring Neon Fawkes urgings to join the Twitter #synthfam, I finally gave in after a few months. In the time since, I have met amazing collaborators, friends, and dare I say it, fans?? I’m eternally grateful-to you as well! I didn’t really expect to make any money off of my music, but the release of The Beginning has proven me somehow wrong. I can’t believe how dedicated people are to supporting the scene and I’m excited to continue those relationships and see where it leads down the road.
What is your creative process like? Lyrics or melody first?
Almost always melodies first. I think the best songs come from strong melodies where the harmony and rhythm can be formed and shaped around them. Once I hear something in my head, I jot it down or record it on my phone as quickly as possible. After that, I try to expand the song while staying out of the way as much as possible. I don’t believe a song can be forced too much. Spontaneity is the name of the game! Then again, I slaved over Sidewalk for ages and really forced the chord progressions on the verse and then it became one of my favorites on the album.
So I guess I’m a hypocrite, but that’s the fun of songwriting and Swayze in general! Each experience is totally new and I learn something new each time! For example, I’ve been writing a lot of songs recently by establishing the title first. A new song that really has my excited is “U Make Me Wanna Bite U” and I don’t even know where that came from, but the words inspired the melody which inspired a simple, yet jazzy harmonic idea. So yeah...basically I dunno. I’m just throwing seeds in the dirt and seeing what starts growing.
What songs are you most proud of to date?
I mentioned Sidewalk because I think it epitomizes what I want Swayze to be and it was the first song that I felt truly nervous to release. It’s not really synthwave, it’s bright and sunshine-y and fun. It’s reflective of my personality and I could see a lot of Swayze songs going that way in the future. It was as much inspired by 70’s era Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 as much as it was 80’s synth stuff. I was worried what people would think, but I’m delighted that they really resonated with it.
I’m also very proud of Oh Jenni. I like writing ballads and trying to keep them exciting with spicy chord changes and energizing hooks. I think it came together well and it was fun to write lyrics about a potential off-screen romance between Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey on the set of Dirty Dancing. Oh, and The Beginning. I think it finds a nice balance between synth-funk and Synthwave. It also delves “begins” to tell the story of Swayze.
Who Were Your Musical Inspirations Growing Up and Why?
I’m a huge Rock n’ Roller. Classic Rock radio is what got me hooked on music as a little 5th grader. I remember going to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in my hometown of Ohio and coming home and telling my mom that I wanted to be a rockstar. For some reason she wasn’t very enthusiastic about that idea. My first ever CDs were Queen and Steve Miller Band (Greatest Hits of course).
As a teenager, I started a punk rock band called The Zombie Killers because at the time, The Clash and The Ramones showed me how to express all my teenage angst, anger, and rebellion. Then I started getting into Bowie and The Strokes. After that, I started learning a little jazz on the Piano and I came to funk later in life. But the fun thing about funk is that it can be an amalgamation of all the genres I love–rock, blues, jazz, Hall and Oates, ska, latin, and even Bluegrass (just listen to Cory Wong’s newest album). That’s why in recent years, Prince has become such an inspiration to me. He was funky too his core, but his music encompassed anything he wanted it to encompass. I dig that unchained style.
What is the one guilty pleasure you can’t live without?
That changes based on the season it seems. It used to be Hair Metal, but now I’m no longer afraid to be myself. If you don’t like “Cherry Pie” by Warrant, then you can eat my shorts. Then it was horror movies, but now I just hang out with people who share that common interest. Truthfully, since moving to New Orleans, I think it's fried shrimp po-boys. I definitely am guilty of eating way too many of them. They’re so good. Probably gonna pick one up after this interview actually.
How Long did it to make 'The Beginning'?
I had those songs in the works for about a year. Overdrive came together in a matter of weeks, followed swiftly by A Little Story. After that, I was working on ideas that trickled in, but I wasn’t focused on any one song specifically; I was letting each song percolate. Then I moved to New Orleans and there is nothing like a huge life upheaval to throw you off of your game when it comes to music. I didn’t release anything for almost a year until Sidewalk and then the rest of the songs were finalized in the few quarantine months after that.
Honestly, I can write songs in a day. It’s the production that slows me way down. I’m currently in the process of really learning how to produce, so hopefully I can add that as a part of my songwriting flow. I would be nowhere without my buddy Shaun Livingston (@launshivingston) for doing the heavy lifting on mixing and mastering The Beginning. A lot of times I’ll start a project and have no idea how to do it or end it. It’s like an adventure and he helped me figure it out as we went along.
Most cherished career memory to date?
For Swayze? That time Pylot shouted tweeted at me and said my album is fire, and when Millenium Falck called me: “The Artist of 2020.” Oh and every single time someone buys my stuff on Bandcamp or adds me to a cool playlist. Also, all the fun collabs I’ve done. And the friends I’ve made. Wow...lots of cherished memories, thanks you guys!
What do you enjoy Most about being a musician?
I enjoy tapping into this liminal space between reality and magic. Tom Petty said that music is the only real magic he encountered in his life and I tend to agree. It heals, it communicates, it excites, it relaxes, and it expresses emotions in a way that words often cannot. I like when hours pass me by, barely noticed, and once they’re gone, I have a song sitting in front of me. Then when I play the song for someone else, I can see them getting just as much enjoyment (or heartache, or excitement) from it as I did. People tend to synchronize during music. Imagine if the world all stopped what it was doing for a second, and then collectively listened to one really good song for a few minutes. And danced. And didn’t care how they looked. I bet your day would be better. I bet the whole year would be better. I bet the World would be a little better too.
If you could open a show for anyone on the Synth scene right now who would it be? Why?
They would be opening for me.
Lol JK! I would like to open for Myrone. And I’d like Dimi Kaye to be in attendance. I think three-part guitar dueling harmonies would make everyone lose their minds and virginities. Hopefully mine at least…
How do you like to relax when not working on music?
Honestly, I’ve been so bad at this recently. I’ve been so busy with Swayze, other music projects, and my normal everyday life, that I have felt incredibly out of balance. It’s why it’s taken me so long to sit down with you and it’s made me stay away from Social Media and promoting the album. Balance is so important, so I’m looking forward to a few things:
Making and Eating really good food with friends
Throwing a party (socially distanced of course)
Smoking a pipe while sitting on my back porch.
Retreating to the wilderness. Preferably by myself and for an extended period of time.
Eating a shrimp po-boy
Making love to myself
Practicing guitar and piano (not for songwriting, just to be a better musician)
If you could collaborate with anyone on the scene right now who would it be? Why?
Eliana D’Angelo. Frankly, because I am right now. Keep your eyes peeled for a Halloween EP full of funky, spoopy fun.
Also, throwing it back to Millenium Falck. Dude just gets me and I can sense the funk inside him. Also, Droid Bishop. Little bit out there, but I’ve really been pulled to his stuff lately. Also...everyone.
What’s your favourite film?
I feel like I’m supposed to answer with a Swayze movie, but since I can’t even determine what my favorite of those are (it’s at a stalemate between Roadhouse and Point Break), I’m gonna go with the Evil Dead movies. Mostly Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. If you watch those movies, you’ll essentially understand why I am the why that I am.
Tell us a little more about your current projects and what we can expect from Swayze Funk HQ in 2021?
I have about 100 songs in the works. Hoping to start releasing some new singles come Christmas time. The songs are a bit eclectic, even more so than The Beginning. I’m excited to explore, to experiment, and find my true voice. I can’t wait to see who comes along for the ride.
In the meantime, stay tuned for that Halloween EP with Eliana.
I’d love to expand the visual side of Swayze as well. Some artwork, animation, cool concepts. Also going to greatly expand my You tube channel with covers, maybe a few lesson videos, and hopefully some music vids. Maybe some cool vinyl, t-shirts, and other merchandise along the way as well. Too many collabs to mention.
Super-sexy Swayze splatter on a super soft tri-blend shirt. 3 left..miss it..miss out!
Any message for your fans?
I love you. I seriously love you. Please keep giving me money and I will keep giving you tunes.
He'll lead you to moonlight only to burn you with the sun...that journey costs money though so feel free to support Swayze in ways you can. Links below: