I first became interested and aware of the electro synth sound back in the early 90s, following a late night encounter with Paul Brickmans, ‘Risky Business’. The soundtrack which featured a wonderful score by Tangerine Dream was unlike anything I’d ever heard before and this became the pivotal moment for which my interest in the sound was firmly established. Everything from mainstream movies to some questionable underground movies of the 1980’s provoked my curiosity and I found myself wholly captivated by the freedom and nostalgia that the sound was able to generate. I would spend considerable time hunting down records by Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, along with obscure action movie soundtracks and shoe string budget horror flicks of the time. It fast became an obsession of mine.
When the internet entered our homes during the 90s, it wasn’t just pornography that was the topic of conversation. Nerd culture had risen to new heights, message boards were formed and every dip shit with fingers and toes had an opinion on something. The real gift was how the internet enabled like minded individuals to come together freely and share their ideas and music instantaneously. Over the passing years, many of these individuals played great rolls in helping form the synth community that we know and love today.
I first noticed a serge in popularity for synth music within the UK just after the release of Nicolas Winding Refn’s hyper stylised film, ‘Drive’. Its soundtrack featuring the likes of Kavinsky, College and Electric Youth appeared to ignite a new interest in synth, pushing it further into the mainstream than it had been for quite some time. Suddenly going into a club at night or into a music store wasn’t complete without hearing songs from that soundtrack being blasted through speakers. It was around this time that I first started noticing inner scene politics erupting online, with newcomers to the scene being labelled as “Poseurs” and falling victim to the crass disapproval of a handful of online dickbags. Whether your into punk rock or classical music, this type of behaviour is far from new and hipster elitists can probably be traced back as far as the dawn of man, where I presume they would grunt profusely and club each other to death over whose cave paintings were the coolest.
Whilst a fraction of hipsynthsters were too busy calling people ‘Gay’ in the comments section of a YouTube video they didn’t like, something far more worth while had began to unfold elsewhere. People had started realising that this movie soundtrack wasn’t the be all and end all; there was this whole ocean of artists that were ready to be discovered just below the surface. Kids started to dig out their old keyboards and download recording software from the internet, they told their friends and their friends told their friends, some even starting their very own Synth nights at local venues. Despite what some had first thought, this fling with the mainstream definitely helped magnify the attention for artists within the scene and in turn helped them sell more tickets, downloads and limited edition tape’s, as well as inspiring a new wave of Synthsters to start making their own music. I strongly believe its vital we try and eliminate these age old and ludicrous debates on who was into what first and whose word is most supreme and instead just enjoy it together. Everyone has different opinions and that’s our earth given right, but what’s more important is that we embrace this amazing scene, rather than divide it from within and isolate others just for being new.
In the past few years mainstream coverage of Synth artists has continued to soar, with high profile remixes and critically acclaimed record reviews pushing some to new levels of success. The number of plays on videos has risen from thousands to hundreds of thousands and more movies have opted for synth based soundtracks. I find it hard not to get excited as the synth wave grows larger and I’m delighted that the sound is no longer just confined to the basement. A great deal of these talented people are finally gaining recognition for what they create and have began collaborating with one another in ways that will only push the sound into new dimensions. Let such opportunities not hinder the scene, but empower it.
by Rhys Pearce