Synthwave Sunday: An Interview with The Powerwalker

I wanted to give a special Synthwave Sunday welcome to one of the most positive and supportive acts on the scene. The Powerwalker is not only a great guy, he happens to be pretty talented as well. Be sure to check out his Bandcamp page before we start the interview. If you like your synths with a cyberpunk/dark edge to it, you’re going to find a lot to love there! So go ahead and get some Powerwalker pumping through your headphones and we’ll get started!

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! For those who aren’t familiar with you already, what can you tell us about The Powerwalker?

Thank you for talking with me as well! Powerwalker is my cyberpunk/darksynth/slasherwave (has the community started agreeing on names yet so I can use less slashes?) solo project, which I started just over a year ago. Stylistically, I think it trends more towards the cyberpunk side of things, albeit I like mixing in a fair bit of metal influence because I guess I just can’t escape that. So far there have been a few singles, an EP, and a full-length album released, with more on the way.

You have one of the best names on the scene. What made it stick?

I’ve always had an issue with looking like I take things seriously, even when I do, as is the case with my music. The Powerwalker was a joke on the whole tendency in the synthwave genre to apply 80’s marketing buzzwords and sci-fi tropes to naming conventions, and besides that, powerwalking is something that sounds like it should be kinda cool, but in reality is just rather dorky and hilarious to observe. You can’t say my name and not sound somewhat awkward or get a quick laughing snort from whoever you are talking with. I honestly don’t know what makes it stick for others, possibly because it’s a long-dead fad that is quickly being forgotten for good reason. Or maybe it’s because it sounds like a very underwhelming superhero or the world’s least menacing slasher-movie villain.

You’re based out of Seattle, which is well known for its roots in grunge music. Is synthwave starting to leave its mark there yet?

In the year this project has been around, I’ve seen some notable changes. We now have a smattering of synthwave-oriented events, and we get more bands and acts coming through with each passing month. The pacific northwest scene in general is growing, which gets me pretty excited. Right now it’s pretty compact, it seems like we all know each other and talk with one another, and I love that aspect since I come from a background of California bay-area metal and punk music scenes where the population bloat of the scenes creates gaps and cliques. I really do think it is starting to leave a mark here and will continue to grow and evolve. Washington and Oregon are, from what I’ve observed, full of musical artists trying out new things and exploring new territories, and the introduction of new avenues for growth will inevitably lead to interesting outcomes. And I’m happy that at least one time in my life, I get to be a part of a scene that is relatively fledgling and in a state such that artists collaborating, chatting, supporting, promoting, and encouraging one another is the norm rather than the exception.

You recently collaborated with Ethereal Delusions on the amazing Hominem Ex Machina single. What was that like?

I had a blast with it, and it was rather out of the blue. One day I came up with the skeleton of a song, sent it over to Ethereal Delusions, and he immediately was excited about it and so we decided to make it a team effort. It’s also the first Powerwalker track with vocals in it, and I have him to thank for that, and there likely will be more of that in the future as a result. I was very happy with the rather cinematic feel that came from the track, and it was a blast to get to work on stuff with a good friend. I look forward to working more with him in the future.

You bring a cyberpunk feel to your music (which there isn’t enough of out there, so thank you). Where do your influences lie?

My influences on the cyberpunk side are somewhat all over the place. When I was a teenager I really loved industrial metal, and still do to this day really, but there are the other classics like Vangelis’ Bladerunner soundtrack, the original System Shock and Deus Ex soundtracks, etc. On the maybe-not-so-expected side are some random things like the 007 Goldeneye soundtrack, SPK, Judas Priest, even (believe it or not) the soundtrack to Batman Beyond, a show I watched excessively as a child.

Really, the whole cyberpunk direction I try to aim towards is more the result of me mixing in heavier or darker feeling compositional directions with the idea of primarily using retro-feeling synth setups. Of course there are tons of synthwave artists who got me interested in this in the first place, but my biggest influences are metal bands and old soundtracks. I am eager to keep exploring this side of the synth genres as I move forward.

Who are some artists you’ve been enjoying lately?

There’s quite a few, I’m still trying to catch up on all the releases that happen from my peers. Some include Ethereal Delusions, Gregorio Franco, Wolftron, Europaweite Aussichten, Michael Weber, 3Force, and Occam’s Lazer. Really overall it’s pretty random, I like to leave my player on shuffle and just let it run along as I go through my workday.

Outside synthwave, I’ve been listening to a fair bit of black metal as of late. I’m on a bit of an Urgehal, Vesania, and YGG kick at the moment, lots of nostalgia there.

What is your recording setup?

I do everything in FL Studio, and manually program out every track, riff, pattern, whatever you want to refer to it as, via mouse and keyboard. I have a couple controllers and a keyboard, which are used for trying out ideas and playing over looping stuff or tweaking and adjusting tones, but I am not the best with keeping rhythm on keys so I opt to memorize whatever I just played once I like it, and then write it out. Granted, for guitar work on new material I will need to do actual recording so I am working on shaking off the rust.

Speaking of recording…anything around the corner you can give us some clues about?

Indeed! I am currently at work on my largest project to-date, a trilogy album falling under the series name ‘The Black Sun’. I am aiming to release part 1 in December. Stylistically, it goes back towards the horror-ish feel of my first album, Strange Depths, but also aims to get heavier at some points, and more into soundscapes. It is looking to be more on the cyberpunk side, and thanks to the large number of tracks will cover a decent variety of branches along that central style. I’ve so far put out one preview track, an early version of a song off the first part, titled ‘An Uninvited Guest’ on my Soundcloud, though I think given the intended breadth of styles it isn’t the best representation of what’s to come. More previews will be released in the coming months as the main release date approaches. Additionally, I’m extra excited about this album in particular because I have several other synthwave artists of whom I am a big fan who will be collaborating on various tracks.

Where do you see synthwave headed as a genre?

It’s fun to watch a genre in its early years as it still lacks much in the way of definition or ‘rules’ because you can get that sociological observational opportunity to see how people will choose to move it forward. As I see it, given my relatively short time of being involved and based on what I’ve seen happen in the past, I think it will continue to cross-pollinate with other genres as more artists from other backgrounds come in with their own experience and skills, more sub-genres will pop up and develop, and eventually you’ll see artists who are taking their very first steps via synthwave, which will be fascinating, to see what happens when someone isn’t inspired by metal, rock, punk, movie soundtracks, or the like but rather purely by synthwave.

Any parting words?

Well, thanks again for interviewing me, and for the work you do for the scene as a whole. I’m eager to see what the future brings, and can’t wait to get this next album all put together and out there for folks to listen and harshly judge my life decisions. In the meantime, keep an eye out for more previews.

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