Wave // Breaker – The G

The G, an “LA guy in Singapore,” burst onto the scene this year with his debut album Postcards from LA which the man himself describes as “a love letter to the California coast. I made it while I was preparing to leave, and wanted to express my feelings for the stretch of coast from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara—which has so much romance for me. It’s a deeply nostalgic record, which to me conveys warmth with maybe a touch of sadness.” His sophomore release, Cosmopolis, is very much attuned in the same way as it’s been touted as a “retro-futuristic road trip” since its release. “It’s still road music” The G declared. “So in that sense it is similar to Postcards. But it’s about the future, with all its promise and foreboding, and it’s about the romance of looking up to the stars and wondering what’s out there.” The G went on to elaborate, explaining that “I think it has a lot more emotional range than Postcards. So much synthwave is emotionally monotonic—like, “summer, summer, summer” or “dark, dark, dark.” Cosmopolis is a bit of both. There are upbeat songs, like “Arcology” or “Reunited,” and moody ones, like “Shadows in the Neon Rain” or “Stars That Fade.” I’m not always in the same mood, so why should my music be? I’d rather take listeners on a journey. A lot of my favorite albums take that approach, like 88:88.”

88:88, an album by Makeup and Vanity Set, was one of The G’s earliest influences and forays into synthwave. “Makeup and Vanity Set is still my absolute favorite” The G reiterated, “I’d even say 88:88 and Wilderness are the two greatest synthwave albums I’ve ever heard. Both albums have such great atmosphere and texture. But what I love most about them is their emotional core. I try to make honest music, which reflects the emotional state I’m in at the moment of creation. MAVS does that better than anymore. I just hope that, one day, my tunes will resonate with someone the way his do with me. College is another one” The G went on to add after being asked about more of his influences. “His songs are very techno in their arrangement—a single groove with evolving textures and rhythms. A lot of my music has a similar structure. And then there’s Timecop1983 and SyntaxCosmopolis shares a dreamy, “wonder of space” aesthetic with both of them. Also great synth albums from the ‘80s, like New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies or old Detroit techno and Chicago house cuts. I listen to Cybotron’s Enter all the time. It’s very cyberpunk—released a year before Neuromancer, actually.”

When The G is not producing music he is also writing for a science-fiction blog which he helped start with a friend called Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. It has become quite the success, in fact, having just this year been nominated as a finalist for “Best Fanzine” at the 2017 Hugo Awards. While they would eventually come in third, The G was static to even be nominated, saying that it was “not bad for a first time nominee, and in fact the winners (Lady Business) are good friends of ours. They were runners-up last year, so this was definitely their year. Maybe next year will be ours! In the end, it felt great to be shortlisted—I just wish I’d been able to attend. Plus every year George R. R. Martin throws a party for all the shortlisted people who didn’t win, so that would have been fun.” It was through his blog, in late 2014, when The G took a turn onto that road towards synthwave which he has been traveling down ever since. “We did a special on cyberpunk,” The G recollected. “I started looking for music that fit that aesthetic. I discovered Makeup and Vanity Set, who kind of blew my mind. From there it was a quick trip down the rabbit hole. Actually, I already knew some synthwave artists—College, for example—but I’d always classified his stuff as late incarnation electroclash, which is another scene I’d been involved in. I DJ’d techno for years, and always favored tracks with prominent synths. I was producing too, making stuff that, in retrospect, was sort of synthwave-ish. Linn Drum samples, analog synth chords, etc.”

 

“I’ve always had a thing for ‘80s music and stuff that vibes off ‘80s music” The G admitted as he continued to wax nostalgia. “When I started listening to music seriously, I gravitated toward New Order, Depeche Mode, The Cure—all that synth-heavy, mopey British stuff. Around the same time I started playing guitar in my school jazz combo. They had a JX-8P, a Juno 106 and Casio CZ-1 in the practice room. I was entranced; I used to sneak in whenever it was unlocked to mess around, sometimes just hitting a bass note and moving the filter up and down for like 20 minutes. Since then I’ve always had an interest in synths and synth music.” As far as what equipment he uses these days to create his sound, The G showed what was under the hood by stating that “I’ve gone back and forth between hardware and software. At one point I was all hardware, sequencing with an MPC. Now I’m mostly software, though I do have a couple of hardware synths as well. In terms of DAW, I use both Reason and Logic. Sometimes together but more frequently I’ll just pick one for a project and use it exclusively. I used Reason for Cosmopolis, but am using Logic for the next album. Both are very powerful, but offer different workflows. Sometimes one suits me better, and sometimes the other. I do have my eye on a few more pieces of kit. I miss using a proper mixing desk, and I’m also thinking about a JX-3P. Prices are good and they sound amazing—basically a cross between a Juno and a Jupiter.”

Beyond expanding his own repertoire, and progressing naturally as an artist, The G has also started to collaborate with other producers in the synthwave scene which the fruits of such labor can be heard on Cosmopolis in two specific tracks. On “The Color of Television” The G teamed up with Vampire Step-Dad, an Atlanta based synthwave artist, who supplied a killer guitar solo that really gave the song an extra bit of kick behind the wheels. “I do mastering work for Vampire Step-Dad” The G explained, “and I’ve always loved the way he integrates guitar into his music—it’s sort of his signature. So while we were putting the finishing touches on [Vampire Step-Dad’s album] Love Bites, I told him I had this one song that needed some extra kick and asked if he’d play guitar on it. And yeah, I agree—that solo is killer! Now I can’t imagine what it would be like without it.”

 

The other collaborative track on the album, “Stars that Fade,” was done with a notable California based vocalist in the synthwave scene named Vandal Moon. Making a name for himself by being featured on a number of synthwave albums at this point, Vandal Moon brings a hauntingly beautiful voice to each track that he’s apart of and “Stars that Fade” is no different. “I’ve wanted to do a song with him for ages” The G said when asked about working with Vandal Moon, “because he’s got this really emotive, Robert Smith-style of singing. But I also wanted to grow the song around his vocals rather than slot them in to a mostly finished arrangement. So I sent him a sketch, he sent me scratch tracks and then the song evolved through a back-and- forth that lasted for maybe a month. His voice just lends so much weight—I couldn’t be happier with how it worked out, both in terms of the end result and the experience of working together.” When asked if he has any plans to collaborate with anyone else in the future, The G said that “I’ve got a few more collaborations in the works for my next album. I’m doing a song with [vocalist] JJ Mist that I’m really excited about, and there are some others as well.”

 

Speaking of working together with others in the scene, much of The G’s success in terms of getting his name and music out there can be attributed to his partnership with TimeSlave Recordings, an independent music label that specializes in not only the distribution of synthwave music through digital avenues but physical releases as well. “It’s been great” The G remarked when asked about signing with TimeSlave Recordings. “The hardest thing about coming up late in the scene is getting noticed. It seems like every other fan is also a producer, and there aren’t many outlets to get your stuff heard. Some people can navigate that successfully on their own, but I felt that I needed a partner—who could then free up more time for making music. So when Enzo [Co-Founder of TSR] reached out to me, I was immediately interested. Plus Ethereal Delusions [a synthwave producer from Oregon] was already on TSR, and we were in touch, so I felt pretty comfortable with the idea. Since then the support’s been top notch, and I’m really excited about how the label is growing.”

A major aspect of that growth is in how the label has gone from simply offering digital releases in it’s early days to then making the leap to cassettes and now going above and beyond with vinyl. While Cosmopolis is being offered on cassette, much like Postcards from LA was, it will also have the distinction of being released on vinyl as well. “I think that was Enzo’s goal all along” The G muses when discussing the rise of once thought dead media formats coming to prominence in the synthwave scene. “Like me, he’s got experience in other dance music scenes, where vinyl is more central to the culture. He knew there was demand for more vinyl releases in the scene—and if you look around, a lot of other labels and independent artists are coming to the same conclusion. To be honest, in a nerdy niche scene like ours, it just makes sense to offer physical media. There’s a whole ritual to putting on a record, or a cassette, that doesn’t exist with digital files. And nerds are all inveterate collectors, right? Records and tapes make everything more fun.”

You know what’s also fun? Questions about food! So, what is on The G’s perfect pizza and inside his ideal burrito? “Oh man, now this is a hard question!” The G exclaimed. “Pizza-wise I’m really into the real deal Neapolitan stuff right now. My favorite is a Napolitana, which is mozzarella, anchovies and capers—with a side of Calabrian chili spread. As for burritos, I’m actually more of a taco guy, but there’s a spot in LA that does these spicy garlic shrimp—I don’t know what they cook them in, but I think there’s a touch of tamarind in the sauce, plus lots of butter. You can get them on a taco or in a burrito, and they’re basically perfect. So that’s my answer!”

Good answer, as they say on Family Feud.