- While you have a rich discography that spans many subgenres of vaporwave, one of your relatively more recent releases — Class of ’84 — seems to fit mostly in the eccojams, or ‘classic’ vaporwave mold. Could you tell us a little bit about this record, as well as the thinking and methods that went into its production?
Somewhere in the early 2014 I had the idea of creating a classic vaporwave styled album for the upcoming summer. So I used a childhood memory that has been in my mind forever; the TV-shows my sister used to watch, like Saved By The Bell, and used that as the theme. I combined this with movies like The Breakfast Club and teen movies from the 80’s and came up with: Class of ’84! The idea is that Class of 84 is a fictional TV show set in the 80’s with characters like Tanaka the Japanese exchange student and Alexis from the cheerleader squad. Most of the titles refer to typical teen things. Therefor I wanted it to sound like the 80’s blaster sound and pumped up the tracks to recreate that 80’s pop style.
Unfortunately the album has seen a lot of trouble and is still waiting to be finally released on cassette…
- Did you actually experience much of the ’80s, or does it hold more of, I don’t know, an ‘academic’ fascination for you?
I was born in the year 1989, the last year of the 80’s. this means I grew up in the 90’s and was a teen in the early 00’s. My dad used to film a lot of our holidays and we had many photo albums in our house, so most of my memories from the early 90’s are documented. Those videos are very dear to me and they are a source of inspiration. To answer your question directly; no I did not experience the 80’s. Vice City was my only 80’s experience.
- And while the album, like most other vaporwave records, turns to the past for its source material, it’s noticeable that most of the songs on Class of ’84have a particularly (retro)futuristic vibe to them. Why do you think it is that vaporwave producers have looked to certain past eras so much for their visions of the future? Is it that our current era isn’t forward-looking or optimistic enough to produce its own ideas of what a better world might look like?
I think there’s a specific generation that creates vaporwave. A generation born in the 80’s and early 90’s who witnessed the worlds globalization and grew up with slow dial-up internet. Vaporwave has been, in my opinion, a nostalgic journey to the past. Perhaps a glorification of a past that never was. It’s in the name: vaporwave comes from vaporware.
When I discovered vaporwave in the summer of 2013 I rejected all modern music because it could not evoke the same experience that Architecture in Tokyo evoked. There might be a rejection of modern society deep within ourselves, because come on, what’s the fun of a mp3 file when you can have a cassette or vinyl? And who doesn’t want to dress like the guys from Miami Vice, wear old Nikes and a fake gold watch? Vaporwave relies heavily on 80’s consumerism, fashion, stylish malls with palm trees and late night drives on neon lit streets. An image of a (past) world that we love to escape to because our old world died in 2001. Vaporwave is more than just music, even if Macintosh Plus didn’t intend it to be.
- I notice the album’s Bandcamp page has a picture of the Brian Johnson character from The Breakfast Club on it. Was this film and others like it (e.g. from the ‘Brat Pack’ era) a particular influence on the album?
A huge one! Breakfast Club, Secret Admirer, Porky’s, Saved by the Bell, Fresh Prince; all of them and even the ones I don’t know about were of influence!
- A more recent record for you was the NEWS AT 11 album which, unless I’m misinformed, was released on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Was this meant as some kind of political statement on your part, or at least on how America has changed over the years?
You were not misinformed, this was indeed the subtle, but yet very obvious, theme of the album. America is a very interesting country I only know from movies. When the Twintowers were hit on that day in September the old world died. It’s like the whole planet suddenly opened up and changed., not for the better. Gone were the peaceful days. That day was the first time I heard of the word ‘terrorism’ and I think a lot of people long back to the days before. Therefor I decided to make a 9/11 themed album that hinted to the event.
- Where did you find the samples used on the album? It’s easy enough to pick out the Good Morning America sample at its beginning and also the Al Roker clip on “Downtown,” but which other programs did you source?
I used todays best invention: YouTube. If you listen closely you hear the samples being cut off right before they announce the dreadful event. Like it never happened. Yet it did, but your mind cuts away right before the memory.
One thing I found out when browsing samples was that when a newsstation couldn’t deliver the live image right away, they cut to McDonalds commercials… that reminded me of a movie, I believe South Park, that made fun of sponsored police pursuits and heists. “This pursuit is sponsored by …” almost like: “This act of terrorism is sponsored by McDonalds and Carmax – the way car buying should be.”
- Vaporwave is often said to evoke artificial, unreal or virtual environments. Assuming you agree with this statement, what is it about morning TV that you find particularly fake or simulated?
I used to watch a European TV channel that did nothing else but show weather forecasts and live images of a ski piste in Austria. The Weather Channel is something from the old days we all love. It’s not really simulated, but I’d like to take the listener back to those old days. Speaking about fake, do you remember the morning Teleshopping shows with the supergreat blender and the miracle blade kitchen-knife set? Order now and receive a miracle blade pizzacutter for free!
- And would it be right it to say that you were trying to make a similar point about malls on perhaps your most well-known release, Palm Mall? Is the mall a ‘virtual’ space for you?
Malls are monuments and palaces of consumerism. Escalators are the automated stairs to heaven. Currently we make use of online shopping and hardly visit a real mall anymore. But take the idea of Palm Mall into a MMO world, are you ready to login and start shopping with your friends from all over the world?
- Can you tell us a little about how you actually put the title track of the album together? Did you make any field recordings of actual malls for it, or did you generally sample the ambient noises (e.g. chatter, coughs, footsteps) from somewhere else?
Palm Mall was created with all the online sources I could find. The ambient noises you hear are used so many times before and after Palm Mall that they have become the new Wilhelm scream. On the Mallsoft Reddit page somebody even suggested a “Mallsoft Drinking Game” where you have to take a sip every time you hear “I’m gonna grab my laptop and put it over here…”
Because Palm Mall started something for me, and maybe inspired more people to make mallsoft, I challenged myself to come up with more albums like this. I want the mallsoft to sound as plastic as possible, it should feel corporate and luxurious. And then one day I walk into FORUM in Helsinki and haven’t felt so inspired like that for a long time! Then I created: ショップ @ ヘルシンキ. Roughly translated to Shop@Helsinki. The difference from Palm Mall is that this time I recorded most of the ambient noises myself. My girlfriend recorded extra mall ambient from other malls in Helsinki – simply because of the fact she lives there and I don’t. She also took photo’s for the jcard inlay. The photo of the stairs on the cover of the album has become an iconic image of mallsoft and is easy to recognize. A fan even took the cassette to FORUM and held it in front of the stairs and took a picture; mallception.
- When listening to the album, I’m often reminded of that old Simpsons episode where, after refusing to do actual yard work, Bart rushes to a ‘Yard Work Simulator’ at a carnival. Are malls something you prefer to experience via the ‘simulations’ of music, or do you genuinely enjoy visiting them and doing a little shopping?
Good question. In fact, I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately. Because I found out that the image mallsoft portraits feels better than the real world and that the mallsoft sound is not a reflection of a real mall.
But ofcourse I am a good consumer and I love to walk around stores and malls. There’s awesome places who make good use of glass, marble and plants. When listening to mallsoft on my ipod it feels great.
Also, when I recorded videos for my upcoming VHS project it felt that I enjoyed the locations more when the whole simulation with mallsoft music was created. The same goes for the videos my dad used to record, they became a world and memory on its own. The VHS will be all about this and I hope the viewer will be dragged into my simulated Hiraeth world.
- I also noticed that, on the Bandcamp page for the album, there’s reference to Palm Mall being the “biggest shopping mall in Hiraeth.” HIRAETHis also the name of an excellent 2014 album of yours, and as you rightly state, the word refers to “a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return.” Is this sense of “homesickness” a common theme to much of your work, or was it restricted mainly to HIRAETH and Palm Mall?
Correct, if you look at the meaning behind the word ‘hiraeth’ it means that the album is about memories of a place that doesn’t exist. About nostalgic feelings of the past. (note to you: im going to include a list that explains each track from hiraeth)
Each track on the album resembles a memory from my youth combined with a memory that’s not real. Hiraeth is a fictional world, an Utopian world. If you listen very closely to the album you can find many references to Vanilla Sky. I’m not going to spoil the movie for those who haven’t watched it yet, but that’s the theme in the Hiraeth series. Class of 84, Palm Mall and Cosmopolitan Dreams takes place in the same universe. But don’t you think it’s weird the announcer announces in both English and Japanese? Only in dreams and your own perfect world that is possible. Cosmopolitan Dreams (just the A side) is based upon the same ideas, but if you listen carefully again you will hear sounds that are out of place. Did you look up the titles? Does the last track remind you of something?
I have been contradicting myself a few times here though; I enjoy the good old pre-internet days but I also like the whole new virtual reality world; two very strong themes within vaporwave!
- Continuing on from the above, I checked the origin of the term, and found that it happens to be Welsh, so the question has to be: do you have any links to Wales at all? If not, where do your origins lie, or do you prefer not to identify yourself in terms of a particular nation or place?
I’m from the land of tulips, wooden shoes and weed. I guess most people know which country that is haha. But that’s just my location, the real Corp exist only on the internet and in your memories.
- Finally, could you tell us about what you have lined up for the future? Will it be further development of your distinctive mallsoft/ambient style, as was on display with the excellent [지오 프론트] v3.1 from November, or can you see yourself exploring different territory in 2017?
I would prefer to continue this virtual world/mallsoft journey. The recent 3.1 release has a very different production method than everything else I made. I’m not going to give the recipe, but it’s really something different I’m going to use more often. The artwork I created for it is the most weirdest thing I ever made. I combined photo’s I took with images from the web. As if the real world is slowly crumbling and the digital world behind it gets visible. I took the artwork idea from the movie The 13th Floor, which I won’t spoil, but if you’re into The Matrix, go check it out! In the summer of 2017 there will be an hour long mallsoft movie on VHS. Soon I’m going to Helsinki again to film around the same shopping centres from ショップ @ ヘルシンキ.
- And also, what do you think about the trajectories vaporwave itself has taken as of late, what with offshoots like hardvapour and Simpsonwave? Did you ever think the genre would ever have the longevity and fertility it’s recently shown?
I guess it happens to every genre! People discover it and work on it. Same thing from rock and roll to metal. And metal is just the name that holds many different subgenres of metal; black, death, etc. Same will go for vaporwave. Some ideas are more sustainable and will become something real, where some other ideas will fade away. I think Simpsonwave is a funny thing, but not a real subgenre. But the way they make videos is awesome.
Hardvapour sounds more like the opposite of vaporwave, but if it gets good releases and a solid fanbase it can become something sustainable. Although it might sound a bit more like stuff that has already been released 20 years ago in the 90’s techno scene; the image it portraits is cool. They should perform at Chernobyl, Chernorave Fest 2k17, that would suit the image. Maybe even chernobylwave could become something. It’s all about the experience the creative maker wants to share with the world.