“I hate hopelessly naive people and I hate having to explain the basics of how music exposure works.” - A Karate King Interview with VHS Dreams

Karate King, label boss, music producer, and owner of the extremely successful Karate King YouTube channel, had a virtual sit-down with popular Electronic music artist VHS Dreams, asking him questions nobody else would dare to ask. Karate and VHS Dreams take stock of the so-called “synthwave” scene. Are “Name Your Price” producers dragging the scene down? Was Wikipedia right in deeming “Synthwave” irrelevant? Is making 80′s music in 2015 artistically immature? Find out in this interview!

Your track “Miami’s Finest” was uploaded to the Maniac Synth YouTube channel and has gotten more than 14.000 views so far. How much has that exposure helped you in terms of getting new fans/followers on your social media profiles?

Not much. Just like anyone else obviously. As far as I’ve monitored that, out of 14k views I have got around 30 people as die-hard fans, and around 200 liking some page of mine. Most of them followed me on Soundcloud, which is where the traffic goes from YouTube usually. A video on Youtube isn’t real exposure unless you have a good video to accompany your sound. I think I’ve read somewhere that around 80% of the views are just views i.e people that skipped instantly.

Is Neon Vice doing a disservice to the scene by being overly boring and predictable in their reviews and interviews?

Hahahaha! I supported Neon Vice from the start considering their interviews were better than whatever was out there, but then Karate King came lol. I don’t think any interview can do a disservice, but some of their interviews are too “sterilized”. They could be improved. Their video interviews could be improved too, I have to admit cause I would set the bar really high for content released, and better planning can achieve that on their part. Interviewing artists who are ready to showcase their work in the studio and have some established fanbase should be their priority. The only thing I do really hate about Neon Vice interviews are the headlines; they’re always like “Interview: VHS Dreams”… C'mon, now that’s boring. I’ve told them already myself, change this headline format ASAP!

Of the 100+ people who liked your Redbubble merch post on Facebook, how many have actually bought a shirt?

Three. On the one hand some people dislike Redbubble cause they know most money goes to production and not on artists’ pockets. On the other hand, it’s Synthwave and people don’t buy much, what kind of question is that??

Do you think synthwave artists are plain dumb for believing “Kung Fury” will help them break out of obscurity?

Oh god, those questions! YES!! I even feel stupid that I am compelled to explain that, but to hell with it, I will, just for you and for the producers that I appreciate out there. How much did Blood Dragon and Hotline Miami help artists to break out of obscurity? It helped only the artists featured on them. How much it helped this scene at all? “Synthwave” wasn’t even mentioned in any serious media, even when all those artists like Power Glove and Perturbator were mentioned again and again. The scene saw an increase in fandom that if you could put it in a graph it’d be less than 5%, big deal. Unless you count 20 likes in your FB as “exposure” this is not gonna help you at all. Kung Fury is already viral, and this scene or anyone in it has not been mentioned or even hinted in any serious media coverage. Even Mitch Murder himself is getting almost no mentions! And after it’s out, people who see it, and bother to like the 80’s already, and bother to look for the soundtrack, and bother to look into the scene that shows up after they like Mitch, and bother to check all the big names first obviously, and bother to like them too so they bother to check less known producers so they finally BOTHER to look closely enough will discover “Random producer #784”. Also people who think that the viewer will recognize all those 80’s elements, it’s like watching Family Guy and thinking that everyone gets the references you get yourself. No, they don’t! You hear Synthwave in the Hoff’s track cause you already know what Synthwave is, nobody else recognizes what you identify with, and you wouldn’t either if you were in their place with their knowledge. The general public a.k.a 99% of the people that’ll see this movie will be like “that’s 80’s hahaha” and that’s it. It’s my character to hate hopelessly naive people and I hate having to explain the basics of how music exposure works all the time, I don’t wanna get asked about this question ever again or bother with people who are delusional cause they can’t face the fact that they’ll be in obsurity forever cause of their own bad career management. I hate you KK!!! Just don’t ask!!! Nevermore!!!

Do you think Kavinsky is more “synthwave” than any “name your price” producer hanging out on Facebook?

Musically he’s not 100% Synthwave. But neither is Perturbator or GosT, yet many involve them with Synthwave. I think some people hate that Kavinsky is the only one that’s actually associated so much with the 80’s sound in public eyes, while Synthwave is largely ignored. But he deserves to be where he is.

Why do Rick Shithouse’s backyard crafting projects collect more likes on Facebook than any synthwave album ever recorded?

Hahahahah! Could it be the devotion around Rick? Could it be that they care more about stuff like that than music itself? Could be both at the same type? Is Rick the Immortan Joe of synth?

Why do synthwave artists panic if you ask them for a picture of themselves?

Cause they’re amateurs. But what does that have to do with a picture you may ask? Allow me to explain. In every other scene I’ve been into, even upcoming producers will throw in at least some 50$ to get some professional pictures. Looking best does not only serve as a promotional tool cause it looks professional, but also it’s been studied and proved that people tend to identify much better with a face or a human being in general. Letting your fans see you (preferably looking your best) initiates a connection; they feel they know you, it’s more personal in a way. Now being a logo without face, and actually promoting this as your persona is something I’ve only encountered once, in the Greek underground Nitzhonot scene, which objectively was one of the most pathetic scenes ever to exist on the planet. And also that was in the freaking 90’s-ealy 00’s. Before someone replies to this by saying that “Daft Punk doesn’t show their face but they’re not amateurs”, Daft Punk (or GosT if you prefer) don’t show their face cause they have replaced it with an equally characteristic imagery and persona! They are also there, standing in front of you when playing live or giving interviews on video, they are real tangible people. Does your logo do this? If not, go get some photos, post them on your profile, let people see and connect with YOU, not your logo. And send a photo on Karate King for the yearbook hahaha!

Do you think there should be an age limit for producing synthwave?

No. But there are many middle-aged family men in Synthwave and they don’t contibute much to it. How could they anyway, I mean of course they got families to take care of! But I asked Alpha Boy 3-4 times in the comments on his page to do some shows together in Berlin last year, and he didn’t even respond. Probably he has his family and all, but I don’t care cause if you say the big words “it’s more than a passion” then get out there and spread the scene, you’re in Berlin goddammit, the music Mekka of the world! If you’re so well-received and famous as you try to convince everyone you are then why not help spread the sound? Is it the age thing referred in the question? If yes, then stop saying big words and focus on other things, and don’t wonder why the audience abandoned you. Harold Faltermeyer still rocks his shows!

Do you think people who put their music on Bandcamp for free are dragging the scene down?

Generally not. But here’s the thing; if the people who share music for free in a specific genre are much more that those who sell it, then yes that scene gets dragged down. That is because money is essential to any scene or movement growth. The problem with Synthwave is that “Name your price” (NYP) mostly equals zero. It’s not the people’s fault, it’s us to blame for not promoting the truth; we need money! Putting up NYP and thinking people will magically want to support you financially won’t happen. This scene needs a total revamp in this aspect, I know that people will start supporting us, but you gotta ask. I never put NYP but I make sure I tell people why to get my stuff and why it matters to me.  I praise your move KK of setting the price for Annihilator, and I do it here publicly. You sold well and gave us a lesson; that asking for money is not bad, it is only reasonable to get paid for your work. And trust me, most people know it.

Was Wikipedia right in deeming “Synthwave” irrelevant?

Even though it was a kinda bitchy move (they could just leave it there, it wouldn’t hurt) they were right. It’s the point I made before. Where is Synthwave mentioned in any established serious source outside this closed circle? Nowhere. Either many producers will hopefully realize that we’re not even an actual scene yet and so work hard to make it big, or just keep on make believe that this is the Malibu Club while it’s Skumole Shack! (Whoever got that reference exactly as it was meant to be taken, please make a new comment on my page about it, proving you got it. The first one will get a gift!).

Do you think Synthwave is a parody genre?

Hahahaha! Some aspects of it are indeed quite….hmm I covered that part on my previous answer. Some things I see being proposed that will supposedly “increase sales” or “bring exposure” are hilarious and I can’t help not admitting it. I think a FB page that gives actual advice on all those matters would be an awesome idea, cause the community sometimes seems to be in a state of delirium regarding how to promote the stuff. Think about it KK, your next branch!

Do you think your EP would have been more successful if it hadn’t been stuck in the 80’s aesthetically?

Yes. It was my intention from the start to go “full 80’s” with it, so I don’t regret it but I’ve already moved on from that sound. I incorporate house and electro elements in my tracks now, and on the track I’m making for High School Holocaust I’ve opened the door to my Psytrance influences too. Speaking of those names, I think “Synthwave” is not a good term. I now prefer “Retrowave” because it could encompass a wider spectrum of sounds. Anything from Mitch Murder’s soothing synth-balads to Power Glove’s roaring beats could be simply called “Retrowave” and be done with it, plus it’ll be easier to define to newcomers and easier to market. I’ve already replaced Synthwave with Retrowave in my profiles (and no I’m not trying to eat whatever leftovers are coming out of New Retro Wave’s sewage system hahaha).

Do you think doing an EP every year is enough?

Yes. The reason that I do this is because an artist and especially a release needs time to grow. Watch how artists get promoted and managed in the real world, in labels. The usual life cycle for an album is 2-3 years. EP’s can be more frequently released, like twice a year. This allows the EP to collect all the gainings it can. I still got people who discover my EP and buy it and become fans. I wouldn’t want to drown a release with a next release before the first one lives up to its potential. From the producing side of things, I take months to produce an EP at least cause I’m a perfectionist and I want everything that gets out there to be as good as possible. Too many synthwavers underestimate mastering and other elements that for me are essential. Great mixing takes time, mastering takes time, choosing tracks and their row for an album and making sure it works takes time. I still can’t believe that so many albums and compilations with kick-ass ideas are released in such a bad state of mastering where one track plays silent, and the other blows your speakers out. Quality check takes time too. But here’s a hint; I got many tracks 99% ready for a next release. Until they’re at 100% they won’t be out and it might take 2-3 months more since this interview is done. I definitely want to see more producers taking their time, especially young ones. It is worth the wait for all the reasons mentioned, and it raises the scene’s standards too!

Do you think synthwave is emotionally empty?

No. But I think in general it lacks intellectual depth. I come from a painting background and I prefer a piece of art when being “multi-dimensional” i.e. with many levels of interpretations. My music serves mostly as a re-imagining of the 80’s decadence and hypercontexualization, and I try to achive that through a mishmash of elements that defined the decadent yuppie and high-class culture of that era, namely extravagant hobbies, supercars, glorified consumerism and other characteristic components of that life style.

Do you think doing 80’s music in 2015 is artistically immature?

If you’re talking about “80’s music” as purely 80’s devoted in sound then yes. An artist is relevant to the things ongoing in his era. He criticises, redefines, recontextualizes, reconstructs/deconstructs aspects of life that surround him. Synthwave is (or at least should be) “80’s inspired” and that’s a huge difference. Like I said before, I re-imagine 80’s high-class cliches as a way to comment on 2015, on the cultural decadence and glorification of the shallow aspects of high-class (and capitalist even) way of life. I think not being in line with the current existentialist, cultural and social problems is artistically immature, but then again I rarely see artists whose art and themes have nothing to do with a contemporary issue. Their art is at least indirectly affected by 2015 or any year, decade, era. 

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Io ruberei tutte le stelle dell'universo
A te che sei come la notte di San Lorenzo
Illuminata come un cocktail di cielo immenso
É stupido negarlo, ancora ci penso
Come fare un salto fino a Mercurio
Per te che ho preso botte sotto al diluvio
I segni sull'asfalto li vedi al buio
Sei la mia luce nella notte: plenilunio
Lei non capisce che splende
Piú di un pendente di perle
Ascolta il mio canto ribelle
Sto qui sotto un manto di stelle
Lo dico sapendo di avere ragione
É un atto di venerazione
Ti porto sull'Orsa Maggiore
Per questa scommessa d'amore

Strofa La nuova stella di Broadway di Briga.

La notte, ritorno a casa
E io, non sono in me
La notte, se lei non chiama
C'è un bar che fa le tre
Se tu avessi avuto il tempo per reagire ancora
E tutto ciò che è stato, non colpire ancora
Che io ti vorrei ma non è niente di speciale
Se non sei con me

Se fossi stata l'unica, ti avrei dato me
Ma non sei più la solita ed io non sono in me
Se fossi stato un angelo, caduto insieme a me
Raccolto dietro un angolo
Ed io non sono in me
Ed io non sono in me
Non sono in me
Ed io non sono in me

Dicembre Roma
Le botte ed i tagli su noi
La notte dei falsi eroi

Lo sai, la vita a volte è strana
Non va come vorresti te
E poi se la tensione uccide non ti fa volare
Che già è difficile
Sopravvivo nonostante te
Io che sorrido solo se sto bene
Ed il mattino se non vuoi non c'è
Se sono rose fioriranno insieme, fioriranno insieme

Se fossi stata l'unica, ti avrei dato me
Ma non sei più la solita ed io non sono in me
Se fossi stato un angelo, caduto insieme a me
Raccolto dietro un angolo
Ed io non sono in me

Ricordi e mezzi amori non ne voglio più
E tutto quello che ho perso non eri tu
Verso nuovi giorni muovo i passi miei
E vado avanti lo stesso se non ci sei
Ambulanze, fari della polizia
Non ti ricambio l'affetto e la cortesia
So che non è il caso di pensarci su
Se vedo solo deserto e non sono in me
Ed io non sono in me
Non sono in me
Ed io non sono in me

Dicembre Roma
Le botte ed i tagli su noi
Le notte dei falsi eroi
Le botte ed i tagli su noi
La notte dei falsi eroi

—  Briga, Dicembre Roma.