Earlier this year this malicious, trouble-bringing entity named Volkor X landed on our galaxy and delivered an excellent debut album, This Means War, with which he established his presence on the synthwave game as one of the strongest. For the evil-minded intergalactic being that he is, he's also proven himself to be a great interviewee.
Who is Volkor X - the character? What's his story?
Volkor X is a world ender. He travels from galaxy to galaxy in search of planets to destroy, peoples to enslave, worlds to conquer. He does not come in peace. At all.
Has the production process for the full length album been any different than for your previous, shorter in length releases?
Absolutely. My first EP, Badass Inc., was a sort of proof of concept. I didn't really expect to go much further than that. But I enjoyed making it. Immensely. To my surprise, I received a lot of support from other producers and fans, and it actually drove me to start working on a new EP. I was aiming for a 5-6 tracks EP, but it quickly turned into a full length, when I realized the song This Means War was going to be well over 10 minutes.
On Badass Inc., I tried to sound as 80's as I could. I wanted to sound retro, as it was going to be used in a retro looking cyberpunk video game. But for the album, I just wanted to make synth music, without restricting myself to a specific genre or sound. I wanted to be able to go dark, like on Masked Death, or to explore a more emotional side of synthwave with tracks like Beacon or Hypersleep, or even go progressive and epic like I did on This Means War. Also, I wanted the album to flow like a sort of concept album, as if it were a 45-minute long musical journey.
On The Bomb you used a dialogue sample from the 1965 film Attack From Space. Similarly on Beacon there's a sample from the 1950 radio drama Earth Abides. How do you feel about the sci-fi works of that era? Which ones would you name as your favorites?
I'm a big sci-fi fan. As a kid, my father was taking me to the cinema to see sci-fi movies, and it remains my favorite genre today. I really love old sci-fi movies. They have that naive touch which makes them so charming, and actors had so much class and character back then. The plots and scientific claims were often ludicrous, but who cares! Some of my favorite movies from that time would be films like Forbidden Planet (Fred Wilcox, 1956) or Planet of the Vampires (Mario Bava, 1965). A bit more recent, The Black Hole (Gary Nelson, 1979) is also a fantastic movie, and I've been waiting for a HD release for a long time. I remember seeing this at the cinema with my father when it was released, and it blew my (young) mind! It was surprisingly dark for a Disney movie, and John Barry's soundtrack is so haunting!
Old sci-fi is cool, but I'm always on the hunt for new sci-fi movies. Of course, I love Star Trek and Star Wars movies as much as anyone. But looking a few years back, I can't think of any sci-fi movie that moved me as much as Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009) did.
One of the highlight moments of This Means War is the title track featuring Soilwork’s Sylvain Coudret. How did the collaboration happen?
Oh, it's very simple. I've been knowing Sylvain for a while. It goes back to his previous band, Scarve, in which he was already playing, notably, with Dirk Verbeuren (drumming in Soilwork and now, Megadeth) and Guillaume Bideau who later became singer in Mnemic. Sylvain is a good friend, and a fantastic guitarist.
When I composed This Means War, I knew it would be the album closing track. The song was a bit more than 11 minutes long, but I felt something was missing. It was missing an epic guitar solo to conclude both the track and the album. It didn't take me long to decide who I wanted to do it. Sylvain was my first choice, and I am so happy he accepted. I told him what kind of solo I was after and he sent me a couple of raw takes to check if he was in the right direction. He was, of course. When he sent me the final solo, I think I cried the first 3-4 times I listened to it. It's so amazing. Beautiful, melodic, epic, touching... He pushed the track, and the album, to the next level, I can't thank him enough.
Why do you think synthwave appeals so much to metalheads? Are you a metal fan?
Yes, I'm a metalhead, always have been. That's really odd. I have no idea why metalheads like synthwave so much. Especially when you remember how much synthesizers were considered not metal at all in the 80's. You could read « No synthesizers!» on more than one album back cover ! But yet, I've been to quite a few concerts from Carpenter Brut and Perturbator and each time, I was surprised by the number of metalheads in the audience. Now that I'm more familiar with the synthwave scene, I see some of my metalhead friends getting drawn to this as well. This is so strange... Even I can't really say why I love this so much. For me it all started with Carpenter Brut. I fell in love with his music when he released his first EP. Most metalheads I know are more interested in the darker side of synthwave. It's not metal, but some songs sound like metal songs played with synths instead of guitars. There's some serious riffage on some Carpenter Brut or GosT tracks for example.
|On the back cover of Queen's debut there's a clear statement about the record's lack of synthesizers...|
Do you think synthwave is ever going to be bigger than it is now or is it destined to always stay underground?
Almost exactly a year ago, when I started Volkor X, I didn't know what synthwave was, and I had no idea there even was a synthwave scene. A few days after the release of my first EP, I noticed people were coming to my Bandcamp page from a website called Synthetix.FM. I paid them a visit, and discovered my track Tony Chew is Dead had been picked by Rick Thorpe to be featured on the site's weekly podcast Synthetix Sundays. This is how I discovered the synthwave scene and the incredible number of artists releasing new music everyday. It's still very underground, but there's so much new music popping up each day... It's almost as if there were more people producing synthwave than people listening to it. Any given day, you can have up to 4-5 new albums or EPs released. When I decided to release my album on June 3rd, I crossed my fingers, hoping there wouldn't be too many releases that day. Of course, a few days/weeks later, I found out ORAX, Code Elektro and Oceanside85 were releasing their albums the same day. But any other day, it would have been someone else...
The impressive quantity of music produced each day in the synthwave scene could make you think it will explode soon, but I don't think synthwave is really a genre. It's more of a general term that encompasses a LOT of musical styles, which can be extremely different from one another (some I like, some I hate). REDM, darkwave, vaporwave, outrun... There are so many... I don't know if synthwave will ever become more popular, but there are already people complaining it's not underground anymore. But it's definitely expanding. There are more and more artists trying to bring something new to the table, this scene is a wonderful playground.
All three physical editions of the album (CD, vinyl and cassette) look absolutely amazing! How do you feel about physical media over digital when it comes to music distribution?
I find it sad that more and more artists release their music as digital downloads only. I can't resign myself to buying digital music. Of course, I do buy some digital-only releases on Bandcamp from time to time, but I prefer buying physical media. You might find that odd, but if I don't have a physical object to remind me I have bought an album, I often forget to listen to it. I just bought OGRE and Dallas Campbell's All Hallows' that was just released on cassette, and remembered I had bought the digital release months ago, and had never listened to it. A shame, really, it's such a great album. But yeah, I really like having an object to touch and to look at when I buy some music. When I listen to an album, I love to look at the artwork, and to read the album info in the booklet or on the back cover. More than once, I have bought an album because it looked good, on top of containing great music. And there are albums which I haven't bought because they were just too damn ugly.
So yeah, I really wanted to make a beautiful release. I found out about Guile93 on the web, loved his work, so I asked him if he wanted to make a portrait of Volkor X. He was very excited about the project. When he sent me the result of his magic, I thought it would make a perfect vinyl cover. That's pretty much why I decided to release the album on vinyl, on top of CD and cassettes. I'll always release my albums on physical media. I'm selling more physical than digital anyway. And I'll always make sure the media looks good, because I know I'm not the only one who likes to look at his records. Can't wait to receive the Gunship picture disc, the Furi Soundtrack vinyl, can't wait for Confrontational to release Dance of Shadows on vinyl... I'm definitely a physical person!
You have previously scored the Badass Inc video game. We'd love to know about your taste in video games and which ones are your favorites.
I'm an avid gamer. Can't play as much as I would want to, though. I have a collection of old game consoles, and I like to have a retro-gaming session once in a while. But I play a lot more on PS3/PS4 and PC. I like a lot of different games. One of my favorite game series ever is the Mass Effect Trilogy, and I'm really excited about Mass Effect Andromeda which should come out next year. I also loved the Dead Space game series. Defense Grid, FTL, Terraria, Bloodborne, the Uncharted series, The Last Of Us, the Ratchet and Clank games... So many games, so little time... I really want to play Elite Dangerous, but haven't found the time yet. Looking forward to No Man's Sky, this looks amazing ! Oh and I'm playing Devil Daggers a lot at the moment...
What does the near future hold for Volkor X?
For the past 6 months, I've been working with a french pixel artist called Gyhyom on a music video which should be released in a few weeks. Some of my music will also be released in a couple of video games, but I can't disclose anything yet. As I speak, I'm just finishing mastering the new album from Electric Dragon (synthwave project of an ex-Vallenfyre member), for which I also remixed a track. My good friend Hollywood Burns who did the amazing teaser video for my album, and who just released a kick-ass EP is also working on some t-shirt designs for me.
Of course, I will start working on a new album as soon as possible. Can't wait, actually. But there might be a split EP coming before that. Also thinking of playing my music live, but there's a lot of work to be done before it happens.
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