Wolves in Synth Clothing | GLITTERWØLF - Interview
The Wølves are back and on the prowl and boy they have been sorely missed! Much has being said about the untimely departure of the Synth Maestro himself Graham Waller now of Strike Eagle fame but GW 2.0 has sprinted out of the gate in glorious style with a stomper of a track 'Wolves never die' and much more is expected down the way from them which I'm really excited for.
GlitterWølf in their current form are now essentially a transatlantic pairing consisting of Mike Orvis from the UK and Jon Anthony Thompson of 'Ethereal Delusions'. Both of similar mindset in their quest to re-define the 80's genre. I was delighted to interview them both as I had a sneaking suspicion they had a lot to say so here goes!
Tell us a little about you, where you’re from and how you got started in Music?
MIKE: For me, I started super young- as far back as I can remember I was massively into Rock N’ Roll and Movie soundtracks. Then it progressed and got heavier in my teens, as these things often do, and I started playing drums at 14 to get me through music class at school. Since then I’ve been in a round 20 different bands, I managed to fanagle myself into a few magazines over the years in various bands, and made the jump to full time musician in the middle of 2018. As for where I’m from? Kent. Never left, because I’m sad.
JON: I'm a musician, audio engineer and photographer. I was born in Boise, Idaho, USA but grew up all over the country, primarily Alabama and Indiana. When I was 22 I moved to Oregon for college and I've lived in Corvallis, OR since.
I've played music my whole life. I sang in my church choir when I was little, I played clarinet in my school orchestra through high school, when I picked up playing guitar. Then I went to Oregon State University and majored in Music Production and Jazz Theory.
Jon Anthony Thompson
How has your sound developed over the years? & has the current market been of any influence in that?
MIKE: I was into Rock, Metal, and Prog for the longest time! (still am). One of the bands I adored was Fightstar. I loved the mix of heavy and clean vocals, so I followed everything they did, even going to their reunion show. When Alex and Dan made Gunship I was intrigued. From the intro of Tech Noir I was absolutely hooked. GlitterWølf started because of that. My then-good friend Graham was kind of on the fence, and then a game of D&D happened, where my character cast Faerie Fire on a wolf, and thus the name was born. He went and bought a few loop packs, and I recorded vocals initially on a Blue Yeti. Within a month, the first single was out. It seemed like a great idea at the time. It gave me more reasons to hang out with a guy who was one of my best friends, and gave him the confidence to step out of his shell and finally make some music after 15 years of just recording it.
As for the current market- I am really into a handful of pop acts such as Kim Petras, Carly Rae-Jepson, Billie Eillish, Betty Who and Jude. I also still listen to copious amounts of prog, rock, and of course some of my synth compadres. I’m listening to Ollie’s “Thanks In Advance” as I write this!
JON: My sound has changed a lot since I started but the core has always been similar. When I started playing around with writing music, I wrote a lot of hip hop beats, but started experimenting with Synthwave. I have released music as 'Ethereal Delusions' since 2015. Over that time period, my style shifted from Synthwave to a more hybrid of House, IDM and Synthwave. As of late I've been writing more closely to contemporary Progressive House and hip hop.
Most of my influences are found in House, with Feed Me, Deadmau5, No Mana and Julian Grey being my favorites. But I like to really pay attention to the production and engineers too. Biggest influences from those would be Illangelo (the Weeknd), F a l l e n (Saint Jhn, Summer Walker, Doja Cat), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Opeth), Jon Gooch (Feed Me, Spor), and MADE IN CHINA (Kim Petras).
How would you describe the music you make?
MIKE: The first album was called “Spectrum” for a reason. The songs we make are a spectrum of 80’s influenced jams. The influences come from across the 80’s, which in itself had such a diverse pool to collect from. The whole decade was experimentation, from gender fluidity, to genre-bending. People were literally throwing sounds in to see what stuck- look at Madonna’s first album and tell me they weren’t just having fun and hoping for the best!
Since Jon took up the mantle of Synth Wrangler after Graham’s very sudden (and still unexplained) departure, The direction has definitely gone in a more EDM, Pop direction. This may seem controversial, but we don’t want to just mine your nostalgia, we want to have a foot firmly planted in both the 80’s and today.
JON: It's hard for me to place my music, since I am influenced by a wide range of music. But I have been told it feels very IDM since I use a lot of poly-rhythms and counterpoint. With GlitterWølf now, I feel we make a good hybrid of Synthwave, electro-pop and House.
How has your 2020 been? With the Gig situation how have you managed to stay reasonably sane?
MIKE: Honestly? 2020 started terribly. As most are aware by now, just before the end of the year Graham broke up with me. An interesting phrase for 2 folks who weren’t romantically involved, but honestly that’s how it felt. I posted about in on the page a few days after, but that’s a tiny part of the story. About two weeks after he blocked me on everything (and I mean EVERYTHING- who blocks a man on PSN??) I received a package. It had a melodica that I’d leant to Graham, the spare key to my house, and a very short note. It read:
“Mike here are the facts:
1 I am no longer involved in GlitterWølf (he then told me the log ins he’d changed)
2 We are done
3 You are not getting a reason
4 If you continue to harass me or come to my home, the police will be involved”
No sign off, no reason, nothing. I came to my best friend of 9 years house to check that something terrible hadn’t happened, and then knocked on his door 3 days later, on a date we’d booked into the diary. Hardly harassment. Really. I was sure GlitterWølf would no longer continue, and it cut like a knife to see him continuing on like I didn’t exist, re-writing history like one day we just went “solo projects?” to each other, and seeing my friends in the scene singing his praises. He just moved on, like it was nothing, while I sat there, devastated. It was like mourning a death. On top of that he had the stems to an album’s worth of nearly-finished material that now lays dormant- no one will ever hear the work put into that.
JON: I've missed gigging so much. Both playing and working as a sound and stage tech. Mostly I've been playing a lot of video games, mostly Cites: Skylines and The Sims 4. I've been watching a lot of horror films with my fiancée Becca. We just watched Sinister for the first time (liked it) and The Babadook (loved it). Otherwise, I've worked on music a bit, had a couple freelance mix and design gigs and grocery shopped. It very honestly hasn't changed my daily routine much except I can’t go to the weight room. My fiancee & I are both shut ins, so we’re Quaran-thriving.
Who are your influences in music today? Who did you listen to when you were growing up?
MIKE: Influences today are Mike Portnoy, Devin Townsend, Matt Halpern, Benny Greb, Jay Postones, Sarah T, Travis Orbin, Rob Brown, and Every Member of Haken. Growing up I listened to predominantly King Crimson, Led Zep, Dream Theater and, for my sins, Evanescence.
JON: Besides the artists and producers I listed above, I used to listen to a lot of British indie music when I was a teen like Bloc Party and Keane. I still listen to a lot of RnB, Hip-Hop and pop. Especially SAINT jhn, Summer Walker and Demi Lovato. My fiancee Becca has introduced me to some great music like Joanna Newsome and Dorian Gray.
Growing up I also listened to a lot of Country music like Garth Brooks and George Strait. My parents both really love western swing music so I heard a lot of that. My dad Ron gave me a great love of yacht rock like Hall and Oates and Steely Dan. My mom Joanna has a very varied taste as well. She introduced me to Opera and a lot of 60's rock music.
Tell us your best and worse gig experience?
MIKE: I played in Faversham last year in front of 4,000 people. I had to run to my next gig, and was stopped the whole way there for autographs (??) and to shake hands and stuff. Never have a felt more like a Rock-star ha-ha.
As for worse gig? The year was 2009. My metal band were asked to play The Shed in Leicester. We drove for 5 hours to a PACKED venue. must’ve been 1000 people. A band were already on, so we walked all the way to the side of the stage through the crowd and tried to get in. After security denied us passage, we went to the sound guy. He said he hadn’t heard of us. After being persistent he went and got the promoter. The promoter came out top talk to us : “Oh!” he said “You must be the metal lot! You’re playing downstairs”.
So downstairs we go. We are met with a room smaller than your nan’s living room, with a 6’x4’ stage, atop which a 16 year old boy in a Megadeth tee shirt sat, crying. Aside from him and us, the room was empty. This crying chap was, in fact, the promoter. He then proceeded to inform us that the other two bands weren’t coming, and neither was a crowd, because there was a bigger show going on. Presumably, the one upstairs...
JON: Best gig experience was playing with Centric81 at the Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Ave in Los Angeles. The sound system was so big and well mixed. After my set, there were a bunch of the employees that came up to me telling me that they were worried my bass was going to knock things off the walls. That was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received.
Worst gig experience was at a vegan goth bar in Portland (if you live here you know the one I’m talking about). Promoter was 2 hrs late, there was no soundcheck and the engineer ruined my set, the sound system sucked and the bartenders were assholes.
Is there anything new you’re working on currently that you’d like to share a little bit about?
MIKE: We’re finding our feet at the moment. I want to do a million things, so we’ll see. Previously I released a few tracks I was just satisfied with, This time it’s nothing less than ecstatic!
JON: Beyond Glitterwølf, I'm developing a yet-to-be-announced solo project and then doing freelance mixing and mastering.
If you couldn’t make the great music you are making today what would you be doing?
MIKE: I’m assuming I’d be living in the woods, naked, ripped, with a bear as my best friend. That or a writer. Or Podcaster? Or Comedian? I dunno, really.
JON: I'm genuinely not sure. Probably playing a lot of video games and doing any number of hobbies that I do. Music has always been my true path since I was little. Through music I’ve discovered so many things I love doing like Photography and graphic design, so I really credit music for saving my life.
Who would you like to play you in a movie of your life?
JON: If they made a movie about me, I'd probably like someone like Jason Schwartzman. Make it in the style of Rushmore.
MIKE: I’d love the Hercules-Era Dwayne Johnson, or the guy who played Rollo in Vikings, but honestly it would probably be Jack Black.
What sound do you love the most?
MIKE: The silence of an empty road after you’ve come home from a gig. Or rain.
JON: Pads and big spacey sounds from the Prophet V are my favorite sounds. Second to that are big bass tones you can get out of Xfer Serum.
Do you have a day job? How do you balance this with the passion for creating the great music that you do?
MIKE: I luckily get to hit things and tell jokes for a living, so that’s nice.
JON: During the day to pay the bills I work as a Barista at Starbucks. It's a fun job and is flexible enough it allows me time to work on music and other creative pursuits. It's hard sometimes because it can be a very chaotic job. Some days are slow, some days are insane. I try to dedicate as much of my days off to it as I can and try to do a little something creative every day. Exercise and copious amounts of marijuana help to keep my anxiety controlled and able to focus on music.
If you’re having a bad day what do you do to make yourself feel better?
MIKE: I eat my feelings and watch either a Kevin Smith or John Hughes movie. Or Power Rangers.
JON: I try to just come home, potentially go to the gym or for a run. Then try to just relax with Becca and center. I like to just chill, cook dinner and watch a horror film or You Tube.
Who is your celebrity crush?
MIKE: Danny Avidan, from the YouTube show Game Grumps. He’s dreamy.
JON: I honestly don't know if I have one. Summer Walker is pretty good looking I guess. Though I’ve always been head over heels for Shirley Manson from Garbage.
What’s next for you as an artist?
MIKE: Live shows, and an album after maybe 2 more singles.
JON: Lots more GlitterWølf . I am working on developing a duo project with a friend and also working on my own solo project I've yet to announce.
If you could collaborate with anyone else on the scene who would it be and why?
MIKE: I would LOVE Ollie Wride. His voice is like wiping your arse with silk. It’s vulnerable, and powerful, and I think you become 16% sexier just by being in the same room as him.
JON: I've been bugging Glitbiter to collab for years but she's always so busy with school. I would love to do something with Gregorio Franco or Cemetery Gates. I would love to do something with Elay Arson as well.
Favourite Movie and why?
MIKE: Oooh, tough... I have “37” tattooed on my wrist, so I guess Clerks? But also The Shining? I don’t know.
JON: 2001 A Space Odyssey. I’m a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick and his films. It’s a close race between 2001 and something goofy like Clue.
How do you feel about the popularity of the Synth Genre as a whole and the new Generation of Producers who keep evolving?
MIKE: Let it grow! It will wax and wane over time as all things do. We are always looking in the direction of what’s hot now that we like, so perpetually moving isn’t really a foreign concept to us.
JON: I think as far as synth music goes, the future is bright as a way of creating sounds in music and any genre you can find. I think, for me, the consistently best sound design and engineer comes from Progressive House and EDM, especially from people like Jon Gooch and No Mana. But as you’ve seen over the last 10 years, synthesizers have become more used in creating great music. I can only see that becoming more prevalent with the ease of access to high quality software, hardware and techniques are more widely available to people.
What type of Hardware/Software to you use, do you have a preference?
MIKE: I’m not a gear nerd unless it’s drums. Whatever gets the job done to a level I can send it off to Jon who makes it into proper music, with proper VSTs and vocal pre amps. I Like pop using formant at the moment, though.
JON: I started on FL Studio 12, and after using all the big software DAWs, I never found one that could match my workflow like FL Studio. As software goes, I primarily use Xfer Serum and U-he Repro 5 for sound design. For processing, I am a HUGE fan of the Fabfilter suite, I use a lot of Waves emulations of vintage hardware that I don’t own (yet 😉 ) and Image Lines built in processing VSTs.
For Hardware, I’ve been building my setup for a few years, with big help from my best friend and creative partner Luke Yokoyama. He’s a very talented engineer who has taught me SO much, especially about hardware. My setup is a pretty modest one but it gives me what I need!
Custom built PC w/ 32 gb ram and an i7 7700k overclocked
Tannoy 501a Monitors
Art Pro VLA II Compressor
M-Audio Oxygen 49
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