Perturbator pumps with the sound of rain-slick cyberpunk streets and omniscient neon lights. The reigning king of retrofuturism produces music that channels trans-human anarchy and William Gibson’s comical failure to anticipate the mobile phone in Neuromancer. I fell over the 21-year-old Parisian’s vibe on Bandcamp one such real-life night, and it paved the way to synthwave’s emergent, disjointed underground.
Noisey: You’ve been my gateway drug to a brave new world of synth music. How long has this stuff been going on?
Perturbator: I started four years ago but I know some dudes like Power Glove who've been doing similar sounds since around 2009. I believe what started it all was the French Valerie Collective founded in 2007 by College and pals.
What do you call this excellent shit? Does ‘synthcore’ work?
Yeah, that’s good, it could be worse. It seems like the general consensus on the name is ‘synthwave,’ but I think it sounds pretty bad. I'm not really fond of genre names anyway. If you Google ‘synthwave’ you'll find a lot of weird shit going from trance music to pop, so it's useless. I just call it electro-synth. I had one dude describe my stuff as "Cyber Doom New Wave.” Now we're talking!
Is there a scene for this?
There is a small one that's not in good shape and has no real coherence, but it's still one-ha! It used to be good but now, for every Mitch Murder or Dance With The Dead there’s a hundred others who release the same clichéd ‘80s synthwave albums with horrible artwork or who release an album a week.
So where’s the best stuff at?
Noir Deco is my favourite of the whole bunch. There's also GosT, who doesn't fuck around. Le Cassette , Judge Bitch, Reznyck, Dan Terminus, all these guys put a lot of work into their music and have unique sounds. We're all good friends too.
What about specialist record labels?
Telefuture is the only one I know that provides physical copies of their artists’ music. There's other labels who are mostly Bandcamp ‘labels,’ like they just put your stuff on their Bandcamp, take 50 per cent and that’s it. Hopefully this'll get better as it seems that legit labels are getting more interested in this music. I recently signed with Blood-Music and Mitch signed with Mad Decent, which is both hilarious and awesome. So I think the future looks bright on the label side.
What do you use to make all those great synth sounds?
Mostly software. I get emulators of old vintage synths like the OB-X or the CS-80, which I modulate to my liking. Synths are extremely versatile instruments so then it's all about taste and preference. I'm a huge fan of those dirty-as-fuck John Carpenter-esque saw pads, so you'll most likely find more of these in my music for example.
This whole thing is the most bizarre case of retro-as-modern.
Electronic music has lost a lot of its musicality lately. It's all drops and bass lines looped for five minutes non-stop. Back in the ‘80s, you had classic themes and iconic melodies. I try to take the best of ‘80s music and the best of what modern electro has. The 80s were the golden age of synths too, with master composers like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, who are huge inspirations for most of us in this genre. There’s this special imagery that comes up in your mind when you think about this decade. There's a lot of ‘80s cliché that I find to be extremely cool, like gory practical effects or over-saturated neon colours.
It also reminds me of old school anime.
I love that shit, Akira, Ghost In The Shell, The Running Man. Also movie soundtracks for the mood, metal music for how powerful it all sounds, video game music too... lots of other stuff. It doesn't even have to be retro. Again, you can do almost anything you want with synths. I sometimes find the inspiration in riffs from bands like Cult Of Luna or Mr. Bungle, and turn that into my own thing.
And cyberpunk. You are totally into that.
Sci-fi in general is a bottomless pit of inspiration and imagination, visually and musically. Anyone can make their own interpretation of what the future will look like and come up with some crazy shit and people can relate to those interpretations. You look at a movie like Blade Runner and can't help but think, "What if this is really how our future will look like ?" And the fact that the world we are living in is already pretty fucked up (I mean, Michael Jackson just released a new album and everyone is like, "Oh cool.”) that it makes it easier to imagine our future to be dark and weird. You don't even need drugs to be trippin' anymore, just take a look outside. I'll sound like a jackass, but sometimes I even find beauty in looking at an ugly building, trying to imagine how it'll look like in 2088. I hope people have the same imagination when listening to my music.
Go name your price for Perturbator’s new record ‘Dangerous Days’ via Bandcamp.
Follow Toby on Twitter: @jane_tobes
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