Atlanta’s Gregorio Franco has been busy since he released War Machine in May. What exactly has he been up to? Crafting a masterpiece of dark synthwave, that’s what. The Dark Beyond is by far his most ambitious work to date and serves as a high water mark for the underbelly of synthwave. While there are artists out there that write their music about neon soaked sunsets and summer drives in warm nostalgia, Gregorio Franco is exploring what’s going on in the alleyways after dark with a very strong push toward pushing synthwave forward. Not to say that neon soaked sunsets are bad, but they do need a counter balance, and The Dark Beyond is exactly that.
I’ve been a big fan of Gregorio since we first met earlier this year right before he was set to open for GosT. A lot has happened in the meantime, most of which has been a steady flow of releases into his catalogue. He’s been a busy man! War Machine hit in May and right on its heels we have The Dark Beyond, two albums that are so good that it boggles my mind. How can that much quality come out in such quick succession?!? I don’t know, but I can tell you that as someone who listens to music on a professional level every single day, it’s rare that someone is able to continually grow their music at the rate Gregorio has managed to do so far. That’s a great thing for listeners, because let me tell you, The Dark Beyond is something special.
When you think about dark synthwave your mind immediately goes to artists like Perturbator, GosT, and Carpenter Brut. They’ve each carved out a niche for themselves in the synthwave universe, creating soundscapes that are distinct and immediately identifiable as their own. I’m telling you right now…The Dark Beyond stands shoulder to shoulder with the works of these artists. What’s even more impressive is that Gregorio has managed to create this album without sounding like any of the major players I’ve just discussed. This album is his and he’s doing a fine job at carving out his own niche. There is an aggressive tilt to this work that is unrivaled by anyone else making synthwave today. It makes the music sound dangerous, like maybe you shouldn’t be listening to it…perhaps you’ve stumbled onto some sort of musical pandora’s box. The problem? You can’t stop listening! This is an album that gets its hooks into you immediately and will not let go.
The Dark Beyond is available right now over at Gregorio’s Bandcamp page and I obviously highly recommend it. In this big #SummerofSynth, The Dark Beyond is the inevitable sunset, and the perfect record to balance out your collection. It’s certainly on the short list for one of the year’s best releases and a must own for anyone who enjoys banging their head to keyboards (yes…this is possible…how it works as a fan of metal, I’m not entirely sure, but this record hits just as hard as any metal record you’re going to hear).
But wait! We’re not done! We’ve recently had an conversation with Gregorio Franco and I’d love to share that with you right now:
When we last talked you were about to open for GosT. You’ve been very busy since then! Can you tell us what you’ve been up to?
Man, that was a great show. Since then I’ve been writing music nonstop. I just moved into a new place where I can have my own studio, so I’m very excited about that. Beyond that, it’s business as usual for Franco. Always writing and designing. I’ve just made a ton of new physical merch, like stickers, pins, business cards, patches, etc.. Some new shirts are on the way very soon as well.
You’ve just released a beast of a new album in The Dark Beyond. How do you feel about the finished product?
Thank you for saying so! I think that this album contains some of the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I mean that in both senses. I put more effort into The Dark Beyond than I have any other release to date. I consider all my music special, but I’m the most proud of this one.
Your last album, War Machine, was released in May. How did you find the time to follow it up so quickly?
Since I’m writing music most of the time, I tend to have a surplus of music. Since War Machine, I wrote most of The Dark Beyond in about a month, but there were a few songs on the album that I’ve had in my back catalog for around 6 months. Sometimes my songs are like tattoos; I have to sit on them for a little while before I think they’re a good idea.
The Dark Beyond is easily one of the darkest synthwave albums to hit this year. What was the inspiration behind the work?
I’ve had a lot of things happen in my life in the last couple of years. Some good, some bad. There was a very long time where I was in a bad place, mentally and physically. I was very sick, depressed, and I didn’t have much to live for. I didn’t write any music for a long time as well. After I made the decision to turn my life around, a flood of new musical ideas came to me. A lot of this new music comes from there.
Synthwave seems to have serious staying power as it spawns countless sub-genres of its own. Where do you see your niche in all of this?
Frankly? I see a lot of people getting into my music who are fans of the darker half of life; Those who have a love of horror, suspense, and the night. Not to get all melodramatic about it, but honestly this shit isn’t about some neon, sun-kissed Ferrari driving by some purple palm trees. This is not happy music. I think it feels pretty cold, honestly. But that’s just what I dig, and I hope other people can appreciate it too.
Physical media seems to be all the rage, with limited edition vinyl and cassette releases frequently selling out completely. Any plans for a physical media release?
Man, I’d love to do everything! Vinyl, cassette, floppy disc.. Vinyl is just way too expensive to press right now. I do have ideas for a cassette release, and I just got my hands on 100 copies of The Dark Beyond on CD, which will be available at any live shows I play, with plans for a possible webstore release in the future.
Who are some bands you’ve been listening to lately?
The new stuff from Waveshaper, Occam’s Laser and FacexHugger stay in pretty constant rotation in my house. Also I’ve enjoyed the new album from Memoriam, which is a new project by former members of Bolt Thrower. Other than that, it’s just Entombed, Carcass, At The Gates. You know. The classics.
It’s been a crazy year for you so far…what are your plans for the rest of 2017?
I plan on trying my damnedest to get on that Perturbator show at Terminal West! Haha. If i could nail that gig it would be awesome. But let’s not forget the AWESOME Echosynthetic Fest coming up in November! I am so happy to be a part of it, and it feels like it’s getting bigger every day! Can’t wait for this one. Other than that, maybe I’ll write another album. And finally finish Dragon Age: Inquisition. And plant a garden. an EVIL one.
Why do you think the synthwave artist community is so close with its fanbase? I’ve never really experienced anything like it.
The synthwave community feels a lot like the punk scene for me. Everyone is involved on a much more personal level, and it is perpetuated by the passion of its fans. The idea that anyone can be an artist, anyone can design it, build it, create it, makes it very accessible. I feel like it’s an evolution of the punk rock lifestyle. DIY. Making it happen for yourself when no one else can or will help. It’s beautiful.
Anyone you’d like to thank or shout out?
First of all, I want to thank you for asking me to do this interview! I feel so special. Also thanks to Vampire Step-Dad (The hyphen rules!) for helping us make Atlanta a force to be reckoned with in synthwave. And, to everyone who bought a copy of any of my music, shirts, or anything else, whether it be digital or otherwise, THANK YOU. You mean the world to me. You and everyone else involved in this scene make it possible and keep it alive. BANG YOUR HEAD!