Music Appreciation

An Interview with U.K. Synthwave Artist Aeronexus

 

Aeronexus (Harry Rowlands) is a synthwave artist based in the U.K. He creates unique synthwave music that incorporates ambient elements as well as strong science-fiction/fantasy influences, I talked to him about how he got started as a music maker, his approach to creating new music and where he finds inspiration.

Karl Magi: How did you first get into making music?

Harry Rowlands: It was in 2012 for a music class in school using software called Music Maker and it was a project for us to make music using loops. It was how I first got interested in making sounds with loops. When 2013 came along, I enjoyed making a lot of sampled music and I put some of that on Soundcloud. I was a fan of synthwave in 2013 when PowerGlove did the soundtrack to FarCry 3: Blood Dragon. At the time, I was already interested in the ‘80s because of hard rock. I made a bit of a sampled EP (that has since been deleted). One day, I started messing around with synth pads in GarageBand on my phone. After I started working with pads, I became very interested in making synthwave myself. I liked to listen to a lot of soundtracks, so the inspiration for me comes from soundtracks mixed with synthwave.

KM: What first drew you towards making synthwave?

HR: Growing up, my mum and dad bought me the DVDs of Thundercats. I loved Thundercats and my favourite movie was the original Transformers movie. The movie was on a disc that came with three different kid’s films. Obviously I was drawn to the movie with giant robots! I really loved Vince DiCola’s soundtrack to that movie. I used to get giddy when I was watching Transformers because there was something very catchy about the ‘80s synthesizers! I was interested in darksynth and that was the music I wanted to make at first, but after I listened to Dynatron and the lighter artists, I got more interested in that sound. I started out making more ambient stuff and that slowly evolved into pure synthwave.

KM: Who are some of the artists that have been influential for you?

HR: People compare my music to Vangelis and I am really inspired by him. I’m also inspired by Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter and Jeremy Soule’s music for the Elder Scrolls games. I’m influenced by an awful lot of video game soundtracks. Mick Gordon’s music for Doom and Wolfenstein was a big influence for me. I’m also influenced by bands like Go West and Duran Duran as well. The slower artists influenced my music, but the darker stuff makes me want to try and make darker music. I don’t want to make darksynth, but I do want to add heavier bass to my tracks while keeping the overall tone light.

KM: Tell me more about how you create music.

HR: I either start off with an orchestral track, break it down and make it more synth-y or I take the completely opposite route, where I create a fully ambient track and synth it up. That’s why some of my songs are spacier and more ambient while others can be really complex. I know I’ve not shown off an awful lot of tracks yet because it’s been a really long production period. It’s been two and a half years, but I want to make the music the best that I can make it.

I made my first demo on GarageBand and then I got an Apple computer. I started working with Logic and uploading my GarageBand demos there, so a lot of my demos got turned into bigger, more complex files with more instruments and more of a dynamic sound. Now I’m starting to dabble in FL Studio. I haven’t worked with Ableton yet but I want to experiment with it too.

KM: What are your plans for your music in the near future?

HR: I wanted to put out an album, but I was very picky and it went down from 12 tracks to seven to four. The four tracks that I ended up with basically turned into an EP. I’ve been playing a lot of fantasy games and listening to fantasy-inspired music so my newer stuff has more prominent melodies and it’s louder, but the ambience is still very much there. I want to go ahead and move from more ambient sounds to music that’s more inspired by soundtracks. I don’t use drums at all right now because I like to make big, spaced out tracks. With the sci-fi/fantasy influences, I’m getting more complex and using more instruments.

I do want to make soundtracks. I want to progress with a story told through my music. I’d like to do more live shows. I’ve done a few and they were fun! I’d like to do shows where I delve more into heavier music, turning my ambient tracks into heavier tracks. I’d really love to release some vinyl. If I could get my music out on vinyl, that’d be the peak.

KM: What are your thoughts about the U.K. synthwave scene and where its at?

HR: I think it’s good. There’s a lot of talented synthwave artists in the U.K. There’s a lot of upcoming artists as well. Electric Dragon’s one of my favourites from the U.K. I really love their dark fantasy sound. There’s also people like Brandon, Michael Oakley and Contre-Attaque. It’s just really varied, but I think synthwave’s going to be like that anywhere. There are things like RetroFuture Fest, Steel City and TechNoir in Scotland. The gigs are coming up. I go to all the gigs in Manchester and they’re really fun.

KM: How do you recharge your creative batteries?

HR: If I’ve got a bit of writer’s block, I normally just watch TV and play games. I also enjoy drawing. Once I’m sitting down and there’s something I really enjoy, it can definitely inspire something back. I recently watched the Castlevania series on Netflix, so that’s got me wanting to work with more organ sounds. Whether I’m playing games, watching movies or going to new places, I’m always getting inspiration. I also listen to a lot of artists who don’t do synthwave because sometimes I’ll hear a particular instrument or a sound that I want to explore in my own music