In a digital world with a music industry that encourages and fosters overproduction, “glitz, and glam” over honest craftsmanship, a select few are reacting and ushering in a new movement of songwriting that pays respect to the simplicity and freshness of the past several decades. One such act, whose homage to all things analog has garnered praise from fans and fellow producer alike, is Com Truise.
I had the opportunity to talk with Seth Haley, the mastermind behind the cassette-synth stylings of Com Truise, about his genesis into the world of electronic music, his nostalgia for the feel of the 80s and his relationship between design and music.
The title of your site says, “Melting Circuits since 1985″. Can you talk about your musical roots, what got you interested in creating electronic music or music in general?
I can still remember the first time I heard electronic music that made me think, “I want to do this.” I was watching MTV, when they still played videos. The Chemical Brothers – “Block Rockin’ Beats” came on, it was an unreal moment, I think as soon as the video ended I made my Mother take me to the record shop and buy it. I definitely believe that song made me love electronic music.
Your music is fairly complex in terms of instrumentation and composition. Can you describe your songwriting process?
Honestly I am constantly switching it up. I always use the same techniques to achieve that overall sound for Com Truise. The actual songwriting process is more like a big experiment, and sometimes the outcome is exactly what I planned and sometimes it takes on its own shape, in which I learn something new or let go of my “rules” and try something different.
There’s definitely a sense of nostalgia to your music. It’s considerably 80s! There seems to be a lot of that going on these days with bands like Washed Out, Toro Y Moi, etc. What’s your take on the whole concept of “chillwave”? I’ve read articles that have grouped you in with that whole movement and I wonder how you feel about that?
For the most part the whole “chillwave” thing doesn’t bother me. People will find a box and force you in it. It’s really out of my hands what people decide to call my music. It seems anything remotely 80s or nostalgic sounding released last year gets tagged as chillwave, which I think is laziness on the large part of the blogs. I strive for the sound, the production quality, and often exaggerated simplicity of 80s music. I’m not trying to be a pop band or anything of the sort. I’m an electronic music producer first and foremost.
“I strive for the sound, the production quality, and often exaggerated simplicity of 80s music.”
Your music has been featured on the revered design/art/music blog ISO50 on more than one occasion. I can’t help but think of the association between your music and the art style that’s featured so often on the ISO50 blog, not to mention your own website. How important is design for you and how does it relate or factor in to your music? Is there a connection?
I’ve been working with art seriously for at least 11 years. It’s a major part of my life. Aside from music, I work in the advertising industry. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to how I represent myself visually; it’s my way or none at all. I think it stems from my belief that no one knows what the sound “looks like” better than the musician who made it, so I like to handle that aspect. I’m big on branding. But it’s also fun to have people interpret my sound as well, given the amount of amazing fan videos that have been made since last June.
The music videos for your releases have a unique look, utilizing sci-fi imagery along with abstract retro images. Again, I’m thinking about the 80s throwback mentality. They fit perfectly with the music. How involved are you with making these videos?
Yeah, I love the videos! However, I can’t say I had any part in most of them besides providing the music and the feel. I really only asked AAVV if they would make a video for one of my tracks, they picked “Iwywaw” and a few days later they sent it back–and I was blown away. As for the rest of the videos, there really is no direct connection. It’s just people taking my music and being more creative. I’m glad people do it. It’s fun to see what people envision for my music. I see new ones every day.
You’ve done remixes for acts like Neon Indian and Twin Shadow. What do you look for in a song when you’re looking for something to remix?
Doing those remixes was amazing and the positive responses I got were really satisfying for me. But generally, if someone comes to me with a track I really enjoy then I will probably not remix it. It’s like someone asking you to remix your favorite song, which, in your mind, is already perfect. I’ve tried it–it’s a mentally exhausting process. I like to remix tracks that I think would sound better if I had a hand in it, not putting anyone’s productions down. I’m just ultra picky.
I’m always interested to see how musicians in this genre attempt to perform live. For the viewer, there’s a huge difference in what to expect when you go to see a live show of a full band versus a DJ/producer. It seems to be an on-going challenge in the DJ/producer community to create a compelling atmosphere in the live setting despite the “guy-and-a-laptop” appearance. How do you feel about this issue and what is your approach to performing your set live to varying audiences?
I’ve been to a lot of shows where it is just a guy, a laptop, a MIDI controller. If I love the music, I don’t really care, but I have seen so many people just hit play on their laptop and pretend to twist buttons. I guess it’s tough, to breakdown electronic music enough so that one person can handle playing all of it, enough so that it’s in correlation with the studio track. I think you have to do something extra special to really grab people or it can get a little boring. I have lots of ideas for my live set!
Your latest single, “Glawio”, is a pretty epic track. Is this indicative of what to expect for the Com Truise release? What’s next for you, Mr. Truise?
To clarify, “Glawio” is not a single yet, it’s just another track that has been embraced by one of my fans in an amazing video. I had put “Glawio” on one of my Komputer Casts and someone bothered to chop it out and make a video for it. The results were ace, very happy with that one. Honestly, I feel like there are like three different Com Truise styles within the project, all of them working together to create the whole. “Glawio” is definitely one of the more dramatic tracks. I’m just finishing up a few projects–I’ve been on planet remix for a while and will be, I feel, for a bit. But I’m always working on my own stuff and there an album and more out in the world real soon!
Before we go, we have one request. Since 2011 is now upon us, we thought it would be fun if you would reflect on the past year and share your personal favorite releases from 2010.
It’s been quite a year in music, that’s for sure!
- VHS Head – Trademark Ribbons of Gold
- Gatekeeper – Giza
- Letherette – Letherette EP
- The Away Team / Panabrite – Split
- Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
- Games – That We Can Play
- Danger – 09/17/ 2007
- Satomi Taniyama – Portopia
- The Samps – The Samps
- 813 - Back In Space Jungle
To continue cruising in analog, be sure to check out his website at www.comtruise.com where he regularly posts Com Truise releases and design/music inspiration.
Listen to “IWYWAW” from Com Truise.