William Henley is a newcomer in the synthwave scene. He has released ONE, his first album in early July, this year. We had the chance to chat a bit. Check out the interview.
Headphones For Robots: Who is William Henley?
William Henley: I am a 33-year-old native of Huntsville, Alabama. I’m a bit of an odd duck, being one of a handful of electronic musicians in the buckle of the Bible Belt, which is overwhelmingly dominated with rock, country and jam bands. My day-job is legal assistant, and at night I make awesome music =D
HFR: How did you start making music? What’s the earliest memory you have of music? Could you tell us a bit about your influences? What/who has led you to synthwave?
WH: My earliest memory of music was playing my dad’s keyboards when I was young. I was a band kid in high school and played percussion, but I first started playing and programming synthesizers when I was 18 back in 2002. My original influences involved a lot of industrial music (Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, Front Line Assembly and the like), but over time I began to warm up to synthpop (Depeche Mode, Erasure, Yaz, Pet Shop Boys, etc.). Even though I played and was familiar with music theory, I was not really much of a songwriter; I couldn’t find many fellow electronic musicians where I live, and I wound up taking a long break from music.
I decided to get back into music this year, and this time around I’ve had much greater success with songwriting. I don’t know what “clicked” in my head that hadn’t before, but let’s just say I’m making up for lost time. I discovered Synthwave while browsing around Reddit one day and decided it was a genre that I was well-suited for.
HFR: Can you tell us about One, your first EP? How long have you been working on it?
WH: ONE was an album I powered out over six weeks. I had gotten together a couple of monosynths and a good bit of music software since January of this year, and I wrote the first track of what would become ONE in the middle of May. I published ONE on Bandcamp in early July of this year. Looking back at the album, I was surprised that I was able to get a dozen tracks produced so quickly, and I learned a lot in the process which I hope to apply to the next album.
HFR: What is your approach on writing music? Which are the steps you make when songwriting?
WH: There isn’t really any “magic” to my songwriting process. I typically start with a part; be it a chord progression, lead or bassline; and then start building parts that complement that part, build parts to complement those parts, and so on until I finally arrive at a complete song. I typically produce a song from start to finish in a single evening, but sometimes may take two or three days.
HFR: Could you tell us a bit about your “go to” equipment? What do you use when writing a song and which are your favorite instruments?
WH: For the production of ONE, my go-tos were Arturia V Collection (specifically, Jup 8 V and Prophet V), Native Instruments Battery (for drums) and the Novation Bass Station II. I also used a Korg MS-20 Mini on some songs, as well as a few other plugins. My DAW of choice is Reaper.
I do have a couple of special mention plugins. The first is u-he’s Repro-1, which is an amazing monosynth plugin. The second is Sonic Charge’s Microtonic, which is a drum synthesizer with x0x style sequencing. I wrote a lot of synthpop using Microtonic for drums before I veered into Synthwave, which calls for sampled drums.
I recently acquired a Dave Smith Instruments Prophet REV2, which is a phenomenal polysynth and will be all over my next album. It manages to have both analog warmth and a modern edge. I’m madly in love with it. You can hear it on my more recent tracks on SoundCloud.
HFR: You in a near future? Are there any shows coming up within 2017?
WH: The near future for me involves writing tracks until I have enough material for another album. I hadn’t really thought much of playing live, but I met another local synthwave musician and we’re discussing putting together a live show featuring songs from both of us. His music can be found at https://soundcloud.com/benjamin-jarrell . We’re still in the planning stages, but I’ll be sure to let you know when we get everything together and have dates.
HFR: Last words?
WH: HEY Y’ALL WATCH THIS!
Though seriously, thanks to my family for being supportive of my music habit, thanks to The Encounter for the minimalist-yet-striking album art for ONE https://www.behance.net/nigelsilva , and thanks to everybody across various Discord servers who have taught me so much.
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