I’ve done several interviews over the past few years, and I’m happy to present this as the first one I’ve conducted in the name of Garage Band Gamers. It is with the founder of the FiXT record label, the mastermind behind Celldweller, Circle of Dust, Scandroid, FreqGen, and all around cool guy Klayton. We discuss the tools used for his music, the origins of Scandroid, the possibility of a video game, and more. Without wasting any more time, lets get into it.
With so much modular hardware in addition to keyboard/desktop synths, how do you decide on what to use to produce the sounds in your mind? If it doesn’t yield what you are hoping for, do you start over with something else? Have you ever ended up creating a new song based on something you didn’t expect when attempting to create a particular sound?
Having modular synths, analog synths and software are all there just to give me options. Sometimes I’ll have an idea of a sound I want and know exactly what piece of gear to reach for to get that sound. Other times I have no idea and a thought will pop into my head about a synth I want to mess with to try to come up with a sound. Often times with less predictable gear, like modular synths, I may have a sound in mind and end up with something completely different. I generally will make that sound work even though it’s not what I was originally intending. I love that aspect of sound design; a sound you weren’t expecting suddenly takes a track in a direction you weren’t envisioning and the result is usually better than the original intended idea.
Do you feel the artists on your label influence your own sound at all? Do you think the opposite happens?
I’m a firm believer in the Proverb that states : “Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I don’t know that it comes down to “influence” as much as good advice or a simple suggestion that triggers a different idea. Since signing Blue Stahli for instance, there would be many times I’d be stuck on an idea and I’d call Bret into my studio. I’d play him something and get his reaction to it. He’d make a suggestion based on what he was hearing that might trigger an idea I ordinarily wouldn’t have had. I do the same for him and other artists on the label and so far, so good.
Did the success of Stranger Things have any effect on Scandroid coming to life?
None whatsoever. Scandroid was in motion long before Stranger Things. I love the show and am excited about a resurgence in 80s culture, but I didn’t make Scandroid to jump on any bandwagon or be a part of any scene. I’ve never cared about that across my projects throughout my career. Scandroid was conceived in 2012 when I commissioned a novel to be written around my Celldweller album “Wish Upon a Blackstar.” This Sci-Fi novel (written by Joshua Viola) was titled “Blackstar” and through the process of it being written I decided I wanted to create a musical score that would place people in this world when they read the book. I was a child of the 80s and though I loved metal during that time, New Wave was that illusive sound that I wished I could make, but just had no idea how to. I shelved the “New Wave” idea for a long time, but when I started making tracks for this Blackstar score, I pulled that idea off my mental shelf and decided this was the perfect excuse for me to finally make some 80s inspired music. I quickly realized after making a few tracks that I wanted to have a whole project dedicated to my very own New Wave band. I wanted to write songs with vocals etc that were inspired by all the New Wave music I loved in the 80s. Thus, Scandroid was born. Sometime after that I discover what was being called “Outrun / Synthwave” and realized there was a small collection of other artists doing 80s flavored music. Most of it was instrumental, but I was glad that what I was doing was somewhat timely, although It wouldn’t have mattered to me if I were the only one doing it. I’m quite thankful and fortunate to be an artist that makes the music he wants to make without having to chase trends or be concerned about pop success.
What is your goal for the upcoming Scandroid album in terms of tone? The newest Celldweller has taken a hard turn in terms of what people are used to – will that also be true of Scandroid?
The new Scandroid album, “Monochrome,” is similar in vibe to the debut album, but definitely it’s own statement. I’m not really interested in making the same thing over and over and over. I touched on some new feels on this album but it stands right along side the debut. I was mainly concerned about writing good songs and spending lots of quality time with my beloved analog synthesizers.
You have several monikers for different genres – any future ones you have in mind, or will you be sticking with the ones you have for the time being? Are there any genres you want to break into that you haven’t?
I don’t really think in terms of genre. I just hear music in my head and attempt to bring it to life. To this day I’m not sure anyone knows what genre Celldweller belongs in. It would be much easier for me to just sell out to one genre and dumb it down so it’s more easily digestible for music listeners. I’ve just never been terribly concerned about being in the cool kids club, being part of a “scene” or fitting in with pop culture. I’ve been a loner for the most part in my personal life and it fits me just fine to follow suit in my professional life as well. I have created different production names mainly so I can have “destinations” for all of the sounds and styles I want to make, so If I’m feeling even remotely “80s” that ends up being Scandroid. If I’m in an experimental or ambient analog / modular mood, that’s FreqGen. Modern electronic meets metal would be Celldweller and old school metal / electronic noise would be Circle of Dust. So if in the future I want to create music that doesn’t fit one of these destinations, I’ll make a new project but it’s not about breaking into a genre per se, but more about having a way for me organize my musical ideas by project.
You’re no stranger to contributing music to movies and video games. Have you ever been approached to score something in its entirety? If not, which director would you most want to do a score for?
I have. I scored the upcoming movie “The Dunes” and really enjoyed finally scoring to picture, which is something I have on my long term bucket list. If you search “Klayton” on IMDB you’ll see the stuff I’ve worked on and am working on. I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, so in a perfect world guys like Neill Blomkamp, Denis Villeneuve and JJ Abrams are directors I feel I would fit naturally with.
Being featured in video games, and with songs like G4M3 0V3R, have you ever considered making a game, or collaborating with a developer to do so? Characters like Red already have built up backstories, and some of the lyric videos present a fantastic aesthetic.
Haha, yes. I often find myself trying to do too many things outside of just making music, because I can’t seem to help myself. Creating a game is one of those things but it would consume so much of my time it would probably be career suicide if I tried – lol. I’d love to work on the score for a game that would be tightly integrated with gameplay to create an immersive world of not just the game itself, but the music playing an integral role.
You heard him folks. If you’re in the business of games (*cough*Harmonix*cough*), get in touch with this guy.
You’ve been making music for a long time, and your sound has obviously evolved. For people that are looking to get into the industry, what’s your advice?
MAKE MUSIC! If you really want to pursue making music, then do it. Don’t worry about people’s opinions, whether you’ll succeed or fail or even haters. Who cares. You can bank on the fact that you will fail on some levels, but those are the things that lead you to success. Sometimes I wonder if anyone in the industry has failed as many times as I feel like I have. But I didn’t quit – I used those failures to navigate my own success. I also found out that many other musicians feel the same way, so you’re not alone when you’re in your downtimes. Just push through, keep creating and you will carve out your own success along the way.
How is releasing music different today than it was when you first started out? Do you miss anything from the initial days?
It’s completely different. The main thing I miss was the ability to stay relatively anonymous. I rarely included photos of myself in my early albums, on the web and social media didn’t exist, so there was no need to think about it. Fortunately I’ve become more sociable over the years as social media was coming into it’s own, so the timing worked out for me.
Who are the top three artists you’ve been listening to the past few months?
Although I’m still a fan of listening to artist albums in their entirety, I’ve really been mostly listening to a playlist I made with a few hundred songs from the 80s that I loved and still love. Men Without Hats, Howard Jones, Thompson Twins, Duran Duran, Ultravox, Kenny Loggins… The list goes on and on…
How many hours a day do you put into creating music? Has that changed over the years? Do you find yourself taking more or less time to create now?
As many as possible. Most days it’s around 10, could go up to 16 depending on how inspired I am by the idea I’m working on. I don’t ever think about it – I just work and then I quit when I feel like I’ve made enough progress for the day.
Anything else we haven’t touched on you’d like the readers to know?
The newest musical thing I’m about to release is the new Scandroid album “Monochrome.” Full album out October 27th. I covered “The Force Theme” by John Williams as well as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Excited for the world to hear the album. I have new singles for FreqGen and Circle of Dust that I hope to release before year ends and I’m starting to work on some brand new Celldweller.
Thank you so much to Klayton for the time dedicated to this review; it’s a hot commodity, and we’re gracious to have been given it. Thank you also to James, who helped me in being able to setup the interview. You can find all the music from Klayton and the artists he’s enlisted to his label on the FiXT store. For all of our FiXT coverage, past and future (once it’s written), make sure to search the music section of the site, or search FiXT.