Seth Hailey has defined and escaped synthwave since he started as Com Truise. Wrapping up his space opera trilogy with this year’s Iteration Hailey simplified his gear set to stay creative. After finishing his story Hailey is setting his eyes to different projects and looking at what he can do with real instruments again before he hits the studio. We talked with Hailey ahead of DJ set at Montreal’s Newspeak on December 9, to talk about 80’s nostalgia, connecting his life to lyric-less music and where he’s going next.
Northern Transmissions: Considering your title is a joke on the repetitive nature of electronic music, what did you want to do differently on this record to make it stand out from your previous releases?
Seth Hailey: For the most part I think a lot of the tracks on Iteration are very simplistic in form. I feel like I dialed it back, it was an exercise in less is more. Whether it’s the artwork or the overall feeling. All music is repetitive, so for this album I wanted to showcase my angst at the current trends. This is repetitive enough to get my point across without being annoying.
NT: You’ve said there’s a personal connection to your own life so how does your space-opera connect to Seth here?
SH: For the most part, I definitely use memories, thinking of my childhood and vacations. I draw from those and tie them in. When I write a track about my current life, I just don’t like the output, in the end I won’t think that song means anything. I tend to not really force it in there, it’s going to be in there inevitably. Moving from New York to California will show up in there somehow, I don’t know if it shows up because it’s so simple, but that could be a product of living in California. I think there’s certain topics that I touch on, like about dictators that are pretty self-explanatory in the current state of things. I don’t have lyrics so it’s already less personal in one way, but it’s still in there. I’ll listen to older songs and remember certain times, I just don’t know how it works its way in.
NT: Looking at how open the album sounds, were you trying to limit yourself to open up creatively more?
SH: Listening back to this record has inspired me to try other things on the next album. It was an exercise because I used to be so gungho on getting all this equipment, and I tried to make it all with less stuff this time. I think it was hindering me in the writing process because I would noodle forever. It was a slight debranding of the sound, and it opened doors to go down different avenues. A lot of the sound was some of the software I was using too. I picked a few pieces of gear and focused on their sound, I also stopped sampling for the most part.
NT: With all the eighties revival right now, how are you trying to innovate the sound rather than just emulate it?
SH: From the beginning I’ve been stuck in the synthwave category, but I don’t think my music fits in that sub-genre anymore. My agent credits me with coining the term on Souncloud, but a lot of stuff gets labeled that way just cause there isn’t a word for it. I just wanted to use the equipment because I liked the sounds but I didn’t want to write an eighties song. I wanted to use the tech but update, and manipulate things in a different ways. I use it in a way without trying to be eighties, I’m using the sounds and trying to make something at least a little newer. The way I write and structure things definitely isn’t of the era.
NT: What do your DJ sets give you that playing your music live doesn’t?
SH: I really enjoy doing the sets because I get to share the music that I like with people. I play stuff from the eighties, but it’s weird stuff. I don’t even DJ synthwave stuff, it’s techno, LFO, orbital, random old French-house stuff, drum and bass. I play some of my tunes but I find it really hard to mix my own stuff. It affords me the opportunity to play stuff that I like. People definitely expect me to play some of my own stuff which I’ll do before going on tangents. It’s hard to make people understand that I might not play my own stuff, but I’ll play a bit and then go into some crazy stuff.
NT: Considering you’ve wrapped up the sci-fi trilogy you had been writing, where are you thinking of going next or are you still sorting that out?
SH:I think I’ll start another project for now. I’ve worked in advertizing too. I like all my different aliases because I like doing one thing and trying how it sounds. It can have a different sound that doesn’t necessarily gel. I’ll probably visit some old projects too, I’ve had stuff kicking around that I want to do. I’m pretty excited about real drums right now, and I’ve been doing electronic music for so long, so I’m excited to try my hand at something else.
Words by Owen Maxwell