Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Martin Ahm, creator of Code Elektro. He was anxiously awaiting the test pressing of his upcoming vinyl release “Triads” that will be available on September 29. I’ve got a full review coming around release day, so stay tuned. Its proving to be a killer album. All of his previous releases are available at his website here.
Firstly, thanks for chatting with Echosynthetic. I have been listening to your upcoming release Triads all weekend, and Ive got to say it makes for a great album, with a beautifully developed and rich montage of soundscapes, and synthesis.
Now tell me a little bit about the project Code Elektro.
Thank you so much! Really glad that you like it.
Code Elektro is an electronic band where I’m the only member. For some reason, I always think of Code Elektro as a band even though I’m the only member.
The genre is electronic – and people often call it synthwave. The music is very much inspired from the Sci-Fi movies from the 70s and 80s. And I really like artists such as John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream.
I notice you hail from Denmark, and have much acclaim there. Is it a style that is popular throughout Scandinavia in general?
It’s still is a very small genre here in Denmark. But I think that the synthwave genre is on the rise and getting more and more popular here all over the world. Actually, USA is my biggest market. I think that almost 2/3 of all the vinyl we sell every month goes to the US.
What led you to form Code Elektro, and have you been pleased with the response?
I have been making music for commercials for almost 10 years – and at some point, I wanted to make my own music…where I was in creative control – and where I didn’t have to think about target groups etc. That’s why I started Code Elektro…I just create music that I want to hear myself, and I’m very lucky when somebody else also like it.
The response has been really great – and it has been much more rewarding than making music for commercials. It’s amazing when people share my music, or if they take time to write an email to tell me what the music means to them…that’s a part that I never get tired of – and it gets me through the hard times.
Now as an audio engineer I can honestly say that you have a very good grasp on the technology, what is your background and run me through the audio setup you use?
Thank you so much! I’m really glad you like it. As I said before I have been making music for TV for a long time – and also mixing audio for TV…so that has given me some skills…although mixing music is very different! So, I try to learn as much as I can. That’s an important part of being an artist I think.
The heart in my audio setup is my old trusty RME Fireface400 soundcard and Cubase. I also have two UA TwinFinity preamps and a GSSL 4000 hardware comp. (DIY SLL compressor). For monitors I use ADAM A7x.
Do you mix, master and produce all your own material?
I always mix all of my own material…because it’s such a big part of my artistic expression – and then I get someone else to master it. I find that it’s really great to have a different set of ears to check your mix. For the TRIADS album, I asked Emil Thomsen who’s also testing and advising GYRAF (producer of high studio gear) – and he also had a few new GYRAF prototypes in one of his racks…and they all sounded awesome and added some grit and attitude to the sound.
These days it’s so easy to mix everything in the box (computer) – but it’s hard to get that analogue feel and and 3D feeling that a skilled mastering engineer can create with his outboard gear…at least in my experience.
And finally, since I’m releasing on two platforms (stream and vinyl), I need two different masters.
I notice Triads will again be offered on vinyl. Thats a pretty costly medium to release material on these days, what led you to that choice, and how do you find vinyl lends itself to electronic music?
YES! On the one side, it’s very very expensive! There’s the extra mastering sessions, the cover is larger and has a b-side – and there’s the vinyl pressing…so every post gets more expensive when you release on vinyl.
On the other hand, it’s a really great medium to communicate with people who follow you. The physical cover itself is a piece of art. And people will have to listen to the album in the order that I have decided…so it’s very different than listening to a playlist on Spotify.
Lastly, I think it’s a good way to show your fans that you are committed…and in it for the long term! And I think that if you want people to pay you their hard-earned money then I have to give them my best.
I can hear many familiar Synths, along with great use of sequences, arps and extremely rich pads. Very analog synth driven, do you work with hardware vintage synths, or are you “in the box”. I can hear Jupiter 8’s, CS80’s , Sh101, and Prophets, perhaps some Wavestation pads, amid more modern VA synths like Serum, Repro1 and Diva. amongst others.
Very good ears you have there! Haha!
For softsynths the ones I use the most are U-He DIVA, Omnisphere, Predator2 and the Arturia Vintage Collection. And for hardware synths I have a Moog Subphatty, Roland JX3P, KORG MS20, Korg Minilogue, Oberheim Matrix 1000, KORG S3000XL. For the TRIADS album, I also used my Yamaha Fretless bass, Ibanez Guitar, Fender P-Bass and my TUNE Bass. And I have a pedal FX board that I also use.
I have a handful of plugins that I use. U-he Satin, Eventide Blackhole, Voxengo Elephant, Waves H-Delay to name a few.
The times where I had 1000 plugins or so are over…now I just have a handful that I really know how to use.
The beats combined with the sequences and arps, make for a very nice futuristic sounding result. I can hear a lot of John Carpenter, Wendy Carlos and Vangelis. What are your main influences?
Thank you so much!
My main influences are Vangelis, John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, Daft Punk, Juno Reactor, Kraftwerk, Jean Michel-Jarre, Dan Quayle (Mr.Robot). Almost all of it are pretty old I guess.
I notice Project Elektro refered to as cyberpunk, I would add to this futuresynth, synthwave and electro house. I personally feel uncomfortable with genre classification, but its important these days as you always get “that question”, “How would you classify your music?” Do you find it easy to classify your own material?
The genre-question is always hard to answer. If I had to decide I would classify my music as Sci-Fi music in a broader sense…with some inspiration from 80s and a LOT from the 70s.
For me the genre is not that important. It’s much more important for me to write good music that connects with people.
What lie’s in the future for Code Elektro, and Martin Ahm?
I have been working really hard on the TRIADS release – and it always surprises me how much work there is…never learn I guess!
So maybe I will take a few days of…get bored…and then start to think about some new projects. I have a few ideas 😉
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
I just want to say thank you such much for doing this interview on your awesome blog. Is has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of this. And I hope that we will talk again soon!
A full review will be out around the release date (September 29) and I urge you to get across this epic release. It’s a glorious sounding album.
As well as being a reviewer for Echosynthetic, Jamie writes and produces synthpop/futuresynth as JJ.Christie
You can hear all his stuff here