Last week I reviewed “Destination Dystopia” by NightStalker, an excellent collection of dark and gritty synth work peppered with choice voice samples to create a thrilling experience, and now I’m back this week with an exclusive interview to learn more about this stalker of the night in a raw and unedited Q&A session.
Before jumping right in, I just want to say on a personal level that this is my first interview with hopefully many more to come, and that they would not be possible if it wasn’t for how awesome artists in the synthwave scene are when talking one-on-one. NightStalker has been nothing but helpful and responsive, a pleasure to speak with, and I thank him once again for granting me this interview.
1. Who is the titular NightStalker? What is the story behind this character?
The night stalker is the pale, pimply, skinny guy ominously staring at the popular jocks and their Aquanet reeking high school sweethearts at prom night. Sweaty fists clenched, breathing heavily (partially due to asthma and bad air circulation).
He is the social outcast locked in his room, hikikomori style. Feasting on a diet of pizza, pot, Street Fighter, Ghouls & Ghosts and porn. He enjoys sneaking into the girls dorms at night to stare at the unattainable and ends up with a zip lock bag full of used panties.
Which he -obviously- sniffs at regular intervals.
2. What about the person behind NightStalker? What is your story? How did you come to join the synthwave community?
I’m a thirty something who hopes he looks like a twenty something who spent two decades in the most obscure sewers of the metal underground. From xeroxing my own magazines in the mid nineties to playing over 170 gigs with my old death/black metal band ‘Herfst’.
After burying that band and the painful mourning process that ensued I went through a lot of personal changes and ended up remembering how I kept articles about Evil Dead, Darkman, The Howling, Arnold Schwarzenegger and not to forget Pamela Anderson under my bed.
I remembered how I had all these eighties film posters and a life sized cardboard Robocop cutout in my bedroom. It’s the adult equivalent of building myself a little fortress to keep real life at bay.
I started meddling with synths last year, never actually thinking something good would come out of it. I have no formal training on piano or any instrument for that matter but I think I have a pretty good ear for harmonies and creating ominous soundscapes. Then all of a sudden I got the opportunity to open up for Carpenter Brut in a huge venue in Brussels back in November.
Speaking of a baptism by fire! Since I was extremely apprehensive and afraid to fail a lot of people pushed me to go for it and it turned out great! We played in front of over 500 people and have played quite a few gigs ever since. The last show we played was supporting Wolfgang Flür (Kraftwerk). I had to pinch my arm several times that evening, especially during the four course meal before the show.
I love how open-minded and ‘positive’ this scene is and I appreciate the warm welcome I received. I released my EP on cassette and have sent copies to Spain, Greece, Holland, Sweden, Italy, a whole bunch to the US, etc. Never expected this would happen…
It’s an amazing feeling that someone across the globe understands what you are trying to do, especially if that thing isn’t exactly mainstream.
3. Are there any synthwave acts that you personally enjoy, listen to, and recommend?
Acts that frequent my iPho -uh walkman the most are: Perturbator (for being a spearhead figure and delivering the darkest of beats), Powerglove, Tonebox, Waveshaper, Electric Dragon, DWTD, Dynatron, Vampire Stepdad, Deadlife, OGRE, Meteor, Irving Force, Magic Sword, Mitch Murder, Confrontational, etc.
Most of these acts are forward-thinking and, while having one foot in the eighties, they refuse to repeat/cannibalize themselves like so many acts unfortunately seem to do.
4. What kind of equipment do you use when producing your unique sound?
I recently quit my routine & abysmally paid job in Apple retail to become a freelancer (graphic design, audiovisuals & post production mainly). I am fortunate to have no social life and no money to afford a car so I invested in a really nice desk with my maxed out retina iMac (32 gigs of RAM, baby!). The gear I use mainly is a Kemper Profiling Amplifier for the guitar work and a CODE49 midi keyboard (M-Audio).
I used to have an endorsement with Skervesen guitars so I use my Raptor 7 (loaded with Bareknuckle Aftermath pickups) to track rhythm/lead parts. I’m considering using my Ibanez Universe again too in the future. I work in Logic X mainly but use Ableton live to trigger the samples and clicks.
I have a few audio interfaces (Apogee, Focusrite etc), a Samson mic for vocoding etc but end up using my simple Scarlet 2i4 the most. I work with vst’s/software instruments for now but am secretly brooding on the idea to buy an affordable analog synth by the end of this year. My ultimate dream is to own a top tier Dave Smith Prophet. And a Strymon reverb.
Live I use a Macbook Pro for sampling and visuals, our drummer extraordinaire Steve uses an Alesis Crimson Mesh kit with samples from the record. We work with horror/sleaze/exploitation video projections which I usually just trigger through my iPad.
The uniqueness is a logical consequence of having no idea of what the hell I’m doing 😉
5. What was the creative process like in producing this album?
The creative process for me is like a huge oozing, pulsating zit that is bound to pop sooner or later.
Without this release I might have ended up like Richard Ramirez’ clumsy brother & end up sending perfumed letters to hemdale hairy housewives. Instead I opted to vent with music. I had all these harmonies in my head, opened up an empty Logic file and started to translate those vague ideas and emotions into notes and compositions.
I had a certain dreamlike vibe in my head and ended up with what’s now called ‘Tokyo Nights’. Initially it sounded super lo-fi, a bit like a synth wave Darkthrone (‘A Blaze in the Miami Sky’) since I had no idea how to produce electronic music.
Gradually, and with a little help from my friends, I learned to produce and every day I try to make a bit of progress. By the end of Summer I had 5 tracks mixed and sent them to a really good mastering engineer in Amsterdam.
6. What’s next for you and the NightStalker? What can we expect in the future?
I’m writing new songs and as you have heard they are really different from my previous material.
While the debut EP was focused on the eighties and true crime, the next record will be a full length set in a fictional dystopian future. I’m going to Tokyo in two weeks and I’m sure that will inspire me tremendously. I’m a very visual person and often imagine what world I could try to create and the filthy mutant creatures that dwell in them. I’m thinking constant darkness, mile high skyscrapers, rogue gangs, death squads, smoky sewers, mutated hookers and sleazy red light districts as far as the eye can see.
Musically I’m taking a very different approach: the material is more ominous and with plenty of cinematic atmosphere and textures. Sometimes filmic, sometimes straightforward and bordering on EBM/industrial. I’m merging industrial, synth wave and black metal riffing on my latest track.
Anything is possible and I refuse to copy myself. If everything goes according to plan (which it never does) it will be released somewhere around Halloween this year. I’m aiming for 8-10 tracks on both 12” vinyl and cassette format, which would be a long term dream come true. I will mix and design the whole thing and I will try to make it look super rad.
Meanwhile, our first batch of shirts is being printed right now and will be available in a week at our next show (WaveTeef festival).
7. And, just for fun, what kind of toppings do you prefer on your pizza? What’s in your perfect burrito?
While I had the fortune to feast on the Food of the Gods at plenty authentic Italian eateries I admit: I am one of those scoundrels who shamelessly puts pineapple on top of their pizza pies. That aside: the word ‘fun’ is in fungus for a reason.
The burrito should be like my women: cheap, piping hot, filled with juice and bad for my health. If possible I’d love a dash of fresh guacamole and sour cream too.
Plenty of cheese.