More Synthwave Sunday Fun: A Conversation with Mono Memory

I had WAY too much going on this week to have just one Synthwave Sunday post. So instead of the normal feature we’re mixing it up with TWO major interviews, and with good reason! It’s hard for me to be objective with this one because Mono Memory is easily one of my favorites on the scene right now. I feel like his music is tapped into whatever my inner frequency is because this stuff is made for me. Speaking of his music, did you know he released a megamix on YouTube of what was meant to be his second EP? Well here it is, Living the Dream, and I don’t know about you, but I want this in some sort of digital download form.

These tracks are amazing and I really want them on the go! Hit him up folks! If enough of us request it we might get him to cave. In the meantime, I present to you my conversation with Mono Memory!

Who is Mono Memory?

I’m a 30 year old, Aussie/Scottish hybrid dude, currently residing in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mono Memory was devised mostly out of frustration with trying to be a songwriter in mid-2016, so I decided to delve into the world of synthwave to see if I could produce something that sounded half-decent. This change of direction was also brought on by my fixation with Com Truise and Lazerhawk (it’s all I would listen to for a good few months). Then I started to dig a bit deeper in relation to the actual process of how I would go about attempting to put some of this music together. This involved compiling a list of the go-to plug-ins and building a better computer for the horsepower – U-HE’s Diva is thirsty for processor power. The other main factor: I finally realised that I can’t sing very well. The idea of concentrating on instrumental productions is something that instantly appealed to me.

Your ’85 EP has been a big hit in the synth community. Were you surprised by how well received it was?

Well, ‘big hit’ may be stretching a little, but I can definitely confirm that I was very surprised with the reaction and on-going sales via Bandcamp. I had the idea pretty early on of incorporating old family footage to form a concept for my debut EP and enjoyed the process of making a seamless experience – maybe my Floyd influences coming out there. Nostalgia is quite a critical component of synthwave music, so that was my only goal really, to make something I felt had a nostalgic quality to it. As any musician/artist will tell you, it is very difficult to make money from music, especially digital downloads, so I can only extend my sincerest thanks to everyone within this very supportive community that has offered to pay for the downloads. I definitely haven’t experienced anything quite like it with the other genres I’ve dabbled in. With that said, I don’t believe in blocking people behind paywalls either and do offer most of what I’ve done for free download on my Bandcamp page. Obviously, this is not the case with the F80’s release of ’85, but it’s a label after all.

Mono Memory '85 Q2

You’ve done some pretty great covers. What can you tell us about them?

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that SEO is part of it. On the other hand, I genuinely enjoy taking a piece of music I love and attempting to do something different with it. My best adaptation, I think anyway, is the Resident Evil 2 Save Room theme I did a while back. I’ve been a big gamer since the age of 7 after getting the original NES for Christmas. I like going back to certain themes that resonated with me then, and still do today. It’s something that I will endeavor to pursue moving forward, but it really does come down to how much spare time I have, with the creation of original music still taking precedence.

You’re based in the UK. What’s the scene like there?

I know of recent events in London and I have my ticket to see Com Truise this December in Glasgow. In terms of more local ventures, I’m pretty sure there are a few nights on in clubs that cater to the synthwave-minded folks of Edinburgh, but it’s not something I’ve explored thoroughly. I also know that notable synthwaver ‘ALEX’ is another Edinburgh-based producer.

What is your writing process? How do you come up with your songs?

I usually start with a basic beat and work on the bassline second. These two elements really play a big part in dictating the flow of the music and where it’s headed. I then like to layer chords and melodies. SFX and toms are usually always last on the agenda – I find it easier to slot these in last for some reason. One thing I will say is that I am terrible for mixing as I go. I find it very hard to create all of the melodic/rhythmic content without tweaking and molding the sounds into something that is appealing from the get-go. If the patches I’m working with are not exciting enough, I rarely continue until I can nail down that one synth that has character. It sounds cliche, but sometimes it’s the happy accidents that stick the most; I’ve often deleted or muted certain regions by mistake, only to discover that it totally works and takes the track in a new direction. Or flicking through presets to stumble upon that one hi-hat patch that manages to cut through the mix. I am also a great believer in finding sounds that work well together before going to town with the processing. I find it very useful to save certain session templates that embody their own mixing style, especially important for consistency. I’ve been working on an indie game soundtrack recently (10 tracks long) and taking this approach has been a life saver because a lot of the core tracks are already in place, compression settings how I like them, and off I go.

What did you grow up listening to?

I was a kid during the 90’s so I think the first album I owned was the debut from the Spice Girls – Shhhh don’t tell anyone! I was subjected to lots of pop from cable television, I think it was a channel called The Box – Music Television That You Control. Each music video had a three digit code that you had to punch in upon calling some dodgy number that was probably charging my folks £10 a second. Then….you would just wait and hope your selected music video would come on. In terms of my 80’s influences, these came thick and fast between the ages of 8 and 14 because my parents had these cool music video compilation tapes of 80’s artists. Anything from Whitesnake to China Crisis were on those tapes – the video for ‘Black Man Ray’ still sticks in my mind vividly and is one of my favourite tracks of the period. So I’d sit and absorb all of this absurd music from what felt like a bygone era, desperately trying to understand it. That laid the foundation and fondness for the 80’s genre of music, I guess. After that, I started to learn guitar at the age of 16 and began playing anything from Pop Punk, to Nu Metal, to Classic Rock (I was a little bit too obsessed with Led Zeppelin and met Jimmy Page at a guitar competition I took part in).

Mono Memory Jimmy Page Q6
Proof positive that Mono Memory is just as cool as I thought he was

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

I would love to collaborate with Com Truise or Lazerhawk, but I doubt this will ever be happening. However, I should be collaborating with a very notable artist in the scene soon, but still have to figure out the logistics. TBC

What’s your recording set up?

I am totally in the box with everything I produce. I have a decent I7 PC, Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 preamp, Alesis keyboard, Audio Technica M50X headphones and bunch of awesome plug-ins, it’s all you need eh? I sold my monitors a while back because I didn’t want to piss my neighbours off any longer. I use Pro Tools for my DAW as it stuck with me from university when I studied for my BA. I plan to use monitors again when I manage to build a proper studio in a garage somewhere. I will probably buy a better keyboard peripheral next as the Alesis Q49 is not that versatile, to be perfectly honest. I would definitely like to get my hands of synth hardware at some point, but don’t get too bogged down by authenticity as I feel the VST’s we have available now are pretty outstanding.

Mono Memory Setup - Q8

Where do you see your music headed?

I want to keep Mono Memory for synthwave and video game composing, the latter of which I have been exploring a lot recently by virtue of landing some paid gigs – more will be revealed on this soon once I have permission to talk about it. I just released a three-track mixtape that I worked on back in November 2016. It was going to form the bulk of my second EP but the whole thing lost momentum so I abandoned it. It’s only recently that I thought it would be a shame not to get the tracks out there in the open, so I decided to sync the music to some funny 80’s commercials, Purple Rain footage, and scenes from the Black Mirror episode San Junipero. Again, I wanted to go for that kind of seamless approach and play on different themes. I am also working on another five track EP that will feature a more polished production style and is sounding quite dancey and chilled at the same time. This should be finished by September now that I have completed some other projects. In terms of exploring other avenues/genres, it’s definitely on the cards and can’t see myself doing the same thing indefinitely. I’ve been listening to the likes of Gesaffelstein a lot recently and have been toying with the idea of making some Dark Techno myself. Time will tell.

Favorite television show?

Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Stranger Things (so far), Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Dexter, Banshee. That’s a few off the top of my head.

What is a regular day for Mono Memory like?

Eat. Synth. Sleep. Repeat. Nah, in all honesty, my days are fairly average. I work 9-5 as a communications manager for a medical company during the week. I spend a lot of my free time making music, enjoying good food, hanging out with my partner and keeping active. I like to run and cycle regularly to keep my spirits up, especially when I spend so much time sitting down for my job and music production. The other plans I have in mind consist of travelling more and getting on the property ladder, which is proving to be a nightmare for first time buyers in Edinburgh. What can I say? If this paragraph isn’t the definition of rock n roll, I don’t know what is!

Anyone you’d like to thank or shout out?

I’d like to thank everyone that has shown me any kind of support over the past year since starting this MM thing. I still have a lot to learn and will continue to explore the genre and hone my craft as much as I can. I’d also like to thank you, sir, for taking the time to feature my music and conduct this interview, hopefully we can talk again soon in the near future. Cheers!

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