Synthwave composer VHS Glitch is on a mission to capture the magic, fun, and electronic thrills that made music back in the 80s and 90 so goddamn great.
Whether he’s doing that by producing an independent album or working on a video game soundtrack, the musician – who’s rumoured to be more man than machine these days – is determined to bring the sounds of his childhood to an era obsessed with manufactured pop hits that lack an ounce of creativity, spark, or soul.
Side One: “Synthwave Composer” is quite possibly one of the most unique job titles on the planet. What inspired you to start writing music?
VHS Glitch: Well, synthwave composer is really just another tag in a world full of them, to help get a clear understanding of what it is I do.
Music has been always in me. I can’t remember a moment that sparked my interest. It’s always been there. If I had to explain why I need to write music though, I would say that I need the feeling of creating something from nothing. That’s what inspires me on a day to day basis.
What was it about the genre that captured your imagination?
I’m a music lover. I love Rock music, Pop music, Heavy metal music, Techno, House: the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, a lot of modern music doesn’t sound as cool and as badass as it did back in the 80’s and early 90’s. A fact I can only attribute to the good use of synthesizers.
So, after been working on some other genres way before the VHS Glitch project, I didn’t feel comfortable at all. I wasn’t happy in the slightest, and I felt like a robot ghostwriting and composing music that I didn’t feel at all, so I decided to quit.
After one year of wondering what I should do next, I asked myself “when did I have the best time of my entire life?”. The answer was during my childhood, so I grabbed my synths, hooked them all up, and started writing electronic music inspired by the 80’s and early 90’s: a time of video games, movies, and, well, fun.
Did you always intend to score games, or was it an opportunity that presented itself naturally?
That was something I always wanted to do but I didn’t realise I could until I started writing synthwave songs.
Video games always been a part of that “fun era” of my life, and they’ve always been a huge inspiration. You can see that, in a lot of my compositions, I really take care of those catchy leads and synth solos to add more velocity and power, imbuing tracks with that old-school”pursuit” vibe.
You’ve previously worked on Chrome Death, and now you’re working on Demons with Shotguns, so could you talk a little bit about what it’s been like writing music for those titles?
Both experiences were absolutely amazing.
Michael James Short was the first game developer to ask me to work on the OST for a video game, so Chrome Death will always be a very special title for me. He came with some screenshots and a short press kit that explained how the game would work, and I just really loved the idea.
He wanted fast tracks, or as we call them in the genre Outrun songs, that would add pressure and velocity to the game. I had a lot of fun writing the whole OST, because it let me immerse myself in fond memories of time spent playing Outrun and Spy Hunter.
Nick Dimucci’s message was a huge surprise to be honest. I’d been following his game Demons With Shotguns from day one. I’m a huge fan of multiplayer shooters, especially if they have the 8-bit look, so Demons was another title that allowed me to get back in touch with my adolescence, which was mostly spent playing Doom, Unreal Tournament, Duke Nukem, and Wolfenstein.
It was so easy to write that soundtrack. I told him when we first met that I’d had all the songs in my head from the first time I saw the game. Like Michael, Nick let me do whatever I wanted. He placed his faith in me, and after a couple of months I’d finished 4 songs for each individual arena, the main theme, and the “after match” song.
Where do you look for inspiration when scoring games? Do you use the art, the story, or perhaps even your own influences?
I use all of those things, but I try and put the story first and use that as a foundation I can build on using my own artistic influences.
The first thing I do is get a pen and paper and start writing down anything striking about the game. For example: story, characters, look, vibe, atmosphere, and color. After that, what I put all of those things in order to start making some images, landscapes, pictures that’ll help me tap into the music.
Every single detail is so important. A simple colour can be translated into notes, a texture can add some effects to those notes, and story lends context to melodies.
Creatively speaking, do you prefer writing your own music, or working on soundtracks? Does each role demand different things?
This is a very nice question because I work the same way when I do my own music.
A huge percentage of my listeners tell me they feel like they are watching a movie or a documentary while listening to my albums. The main reason they feel that way is because I build my albums based on a story. It helps makes the album more dynamic, but it also lets me combine lots of different musical styles, to create an engaging, varied album.
What are your plans for the future? Are you working on any top-secret projects that you could talk to us about?
There are a lot of things that I want to do. Music is a huge part of my life, and I need to create as much of it as humanly possible.
A new VHS Glitch album is on its way in the next 3 or 4 months, and it’ll be a very special release. I can’t say too much about it right now, but it’s going to be good, trust me.
The Demons With Shotguns OST is going to be available right here on June 25th, and the Chrome Death OST is going to be available in the next two months on my Bandcamp as well. I’m also working on another short videogame OST that should be available soon.
Finally, what’s your favourite game, and favourite album, of all time? I know, it’s a tough one.
Tetris is my favourite game of all time, and it will always be. Games are made for us to enjoy. They’re meant to be fun. After all these years, Tetris still ticks those boxes.
It’s really hard to pick just one album, but I would probably say Vince Dicola’s Rocky IV original soundtrack is the one. There are a lot of records that’re probably way better technically than that score, but for some reason it’s been on my daily playlist for years and years.
Thanks to VHS for his time. Don’t forget to follow VHS on Twitter to find out more about his work.
Want more articles like these? Get your voice heard by following us on Twitter. The more the merrier, right?