An Interview with IndiGhost PLUS a full review of Dreamwalker: Part II

One of our favorite artists at Echosynthetic dropped new music this weekend! Australia’s IndiGhost released Dreamwalker: Part II and it went into immediate rotation through my headphones. Not only is it a great follow up to Part I, it also sports a bigger, fuller sound, with further explorations of what you can do in the wonderful world of synthwave. Before we dive into the interview, let’s give Dreamwalker: Part II a look over. What do you say?

What better way to jump into this release than with Daft Pink, an upbeat track that oozes French house music with a crunchy synthwave shell. It’s fun, it’s funky, and it very effectively rolls out the welcome mat to Dreamwalker: Part II. Hyperion follows with a dip into much deeper waters. Once it opens up you get a real feel of speed, possible danger, and the rush of exploration in uncharted territory. Much like the light given off by the Titan god whose namesake shares the song title. The layers of harmony as this song builds are just begging to be heard, to be experienced. I’m sitting here with goosebumps as I listen and write this. Tokyo Night serves as the mid-point of Dreamwalker: Part II and it’s also my favorite song on the album. This could very easily be one of the best synthwave songs of the year. It has all the makings of a stone cold hit…a synth hook that connects with you emotionally (it reminds me of carefree summer nights before “life” took over), echoing drums that add impact and depth, and a guitar solo at the end of the song that sends chills down to my toes.

Myriad is another upbeat song with a bass beat that just won’t stop. It reminds me of something I’ve heard on old Daft Punk releases (before they were music French electronic gods) while still holding firm to the essence that is very much a IndiGhost sound. The guitar work in the song is top notch, and I think the addition of the instrument to these songs truly puts this release into the upper echelon of 2017. Speaking of guitar work, Legend of the Dragon, the closing track of the album, puts on a clinic. It is streaked through with lightning fast riffs, soaring solos, and all of this plays out over synth chords that drive the song toward a frenzied close.

If you couldn’t tell already, I really, really enjoyed Dreamwalker: Part II. I do my best to stay as objective as possible, but sometimes I just can’t contain the inner fan. IndiGhost’s music just hits something inside…something just clicks with me. I hope that you feel it too…and if so, head over to his Bandcamp and check it out (and all his other amazing work).

But wait! We’re not done here. Not even close. We’ve got an exclusive interview with the one and only IndiGhost! Where does this amazing music come from??? Let’s find out together:

Echosynthetic: Dreamwalker: Part II is done! What do you think about the finished product?

IndiGhost: Thanks for having me! First of all, just breathing a huge sigh of relief, haha. I always worry about whatever direction I end up drifting in with these albums and with this one in particular I wanted to set a bar for myself, not just in terms of the production quality but style, variety and general musicianship. I think I’ve managed to dig out a little space for this one, and I’m quite happy with how it went. I think Dreamwalker: Part I was a bit of a watershed moment for me with regard to how I write my music – very little of the process is premeditated and once I found a groove I just went with it.

Echosynthetic: How is it different than Dreamwalker: Part I?

IndiGhost: Well, with Part I the sound I really wanted to go for was pretty straightforward – simple beats with elements gradually being added to them as the songs went on. I was really inspired by many French house songs and artists, chief among them being Daft Punk. They have a very specific sound (especially with Discovery) that I wanted to emulate with Part I and so what I set out to do was analyse how the songs worked, which is a difficult process for me, personally. I’m a very emotional listener and I run on gut feelings. The first listen of a song is usually the kicker for me as to whether I like it and can listen to it on repeat wherever I go, or stop it after the first listen and wander to something else. Turning this process on its head and deliberately parsing my way through hours of music was daunting at first but after a while I started to filter common elements through and gradually figured out a few things that I thought would be useful if I wanted to write something similar. 

Echosynthetic: What is your writing process?

IndiGhost: It used to be pretty chaotic – I waited for ideas to fully form in my head before sitting down and writing them out. It worked for a while, but then my ideas started to lose their shapes quicker than before and before long they were pretty much like smoke; it was difficult to write even the simplest of ideas because they were constantly morphing and reshaping themselves as I was putting them down. I got frustrated and stopped writing for a time, which was probably for the best. One of my worst habits back then was to scrap every single thing if I wasn’t happy with it – it suited me in the short run but I managed to hamstring myself by destroying the skeleton of the song (which in most cases was perfectly fine on its own) which meant that I had to start from scratch multiple times. After I got sick of this I started to begin songs by laying out a very simple framework, even if the song itself would develop into something complex. Once the simple things are done, it’s then easy to provide embellishments and make the song all shiny and complicated. It probably sounds like common sense to most people, but I’m not very bright at the best of times, haha.

Echosynthetic: What do you use to record?

IndiGhost: I use GarageBand exclusively. Probably not something that I’d say if I wanted to be taken seriously, but I liken it to a bottle-cap badge of honour. Along with that DAW, I use an AVID Fast-Track Solo interface for guitar recording and a Yamaha ERG121C electric guitar. My synth work is usually done in the box through GB and its various plugins, but for fiddly things or broad rhythmic work I will usually use my M-Audio KeyStudio 49 just so I can press some keys and be precise. I’m not a keyboard player by any stretch of the imagination but its amazing what effect a little tactile involvement will have on your playing. 

Echosynthetic: Who is IndiGhost?

IndiGhost: IndiGhost is currently a young Australian dude in his first year of university, struggling to figure out how the world works and attempting to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Echosynthetic: When you aren’t writing, what does a normal day look like?

IndiGhost: Studying for my latest assignment, watching Netflix, reading books (really been into Murakami lately) and chilling out with my family.

Echosynthetic: How long have you been writing music?

IndiGhost: That’s a tough one. My earliest memories of writing music are on my mum’s old phone, back in the days when they had buttons. Mum had a little Nokia or Sony Ericsson – one of those – and it had an application where you could arrange short loops to create songs of your own. They sounded tinny and screechy but they were probably my first exposure to a program resembling a DAW. I had never heard of Pro Tools or Ableton or anything like this at the time (plus, I was around seven or eight – when Saturday morning cartoons were on at 5 a.m., what else mattered in life?!) so I was pretty content with that state of affairs. I started taking songwriting more seriously when I was around fourteen. I had been into Andy McKee since I was nine and it was around 2010 or 2011 when I started to write my own weird acoustic instrumentals. Those slowly developed into more elaborate songs that had some semblance of structure, and then I stumbled onto GarageBand in 2012. It seemed pretty awesome to me that I could just record track after track after track individually and each with their own different sound – plus, it was around then that I discovered what MIDI was all about. It’s been around six or seven years, give or take; more than ten if you count my little flirtation with the silly little phone application that allowed me to mix up techno and samba music with some horrific results. 

Echosynthetic: What drew you into synthwave?

IndiGhost: I’m 19 right now so I’m not an ‘80s kid, not even close; but that decade always seemed so cool to me. I’m a huge fan of many movies that came out during the time – Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Back to the Future, and the list goes on. I watched those when I was very young and for a long time I absorbed the music that went with those movies without giving them any thought. They were just part of the background. I really liked them, but they were simply ornamentation to me at the time. Thinking back, it’s really weird that I ended up in such an electronic-heavy scene because as a child I detested electronica. I had this strangely elitist attitude (well, as elitist as a 10-year-old can be about liking classic rock over radio pop/EDM) and I always maintained that the songs on the radio were trash and that Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, Dream Theater and other rock/metal bands were the best thing to happen to planet Earth since sliced bread. I was a very contradictory child – for all my bluster about rock and metal being the saviours of mankind I was inundating myself with Europop and ‘90s/early 2000’s pop, which I still listen to nowadays. The contrasts were very clear and I feel like subconsciously I was setting myself up to be more accepting of programmed drums and synthesizer parts in music. I feel like those experiences as a child really helped prepare me for a broader variety of songwriting possibilities.

Echosynthetic: Who are some of your favorite artists?

IndiGhost: Well, let’s start with Vampire Step-Dad, shall we?

I heard from him first through the subreddit of synthwave producers. He was always offering helpful criticism and useful tips to get through synthwave as a genre, and as time went by he became sort of a mentor to me, which I’ll always be very thankful for. What stuck out to me about him was that he always seemed to know what he was doing. That kind of order and structure really seemed cool to me, and it also helps that his songs are amazing.

Then there are the greats – VHS Dreams, Timecop1983, FM-84, The Midnight, Com Truise, Mitch Murder, Absinth3, Vincenzo Salvia, Lazerhawk, Droid Bishop, HOME, Format-440, Robert Parker, Bart Graft and Silent Gloves – they all helped me to form an idea of what kind of genre synthwave was. They helped me to take it seriously.

Then there are those that I’ve connected with online that also make amazing music, like Slicarus, The Aquaerials, Duveteux, Night Raptor, Mikael Malmqvist, MYRONE, Dimi Kaye, Primorph, Fatal Friction, Nightlights, Ethereal Delusions, Azriel – I could go on. But that’s one of the best parts of this scene. There’s just so much good music out there.

Echosynthetic: Now that the Power Rangers are back, everyone wants to know (and by everyone, I mean me)…Who is your favorite Ranger? (Editor’s Note: The correct answer is, and always will be, the White Ranger)

IndiGhost: Hmm… I think it’d have to be Billy Cranston/Blue Ranger because blue’s my favourite colour! (Editor’s Note: I will allow it, but he’s not even close to as cool as Tommy, the White Ranger)

Echosynthetic: What does the future hold for IndiGhost?

IndiGhost: More music! Planning some big things at the moment – I’m leaning towards producing more radio-friendly stuff, but with a synthwave edge. It can’t hurt to experiment, right? Alongside this, I’ll hopefully be able to do some live shows here in Perth.

Echosynthetic: Anyone you’d like to thank?

IndiGhost: First of all, my family for putting up with me shutting myself in my room for hours and hours while I’m writing. They’re great, and I love them to bits.

My friends, for being supportive and sometimes giving me a kick to the behind when I’m feeling too negative. Thanks, y’all.

The online synthwave community, full of lovely humans who are funny and friendly – not just the musicians and producers. People who run blogs and podcasts help keep this scene alive and help artists like me stop feeling like they’re just screaming into a void.

And last, everyone who’s ever supported me by buying my albums or tracks. It’s a very humbling thing, so I look forward to making the best music I can in return.

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