Today, we had the chance to talk to Damokles, a pure 80’s synth player and singer. He has just released Time Machine, a new album on Future 80’s records.
Headphones For Robots: Who is Damokles?
Damokles: Good question! I guess Damokles is me in a retro synth armor. I have gone by many names for my music over the years starting with “Andy Z Okey” in -87, but have been under the name Damokles since the end of the nineties. As a matter of fact, the reason why I use the name Damokles is because I stumbled across that available domain name after having spent hours testing the most odd words that were all taken as “.com” back in 1997. After buying it I didn’t know what to do with it so I set up a “temple” on the web (it is still there, although a bit more hidden). in 1999 I needed an artist name and thought “Well, I already have this domain so why not?”.
HFR: How did you start making music? Could you tell us a bit about your influences?
D: My parents bought me an electric organ when I was seven. Even though I really wanted a piano I guess I should be grateful since that set me on the path, experimenting with different sounds and beats (mind you, the sounds and beats were cool back then but with today’s measure they were very poor). I did write my first song at the age of seven.
The real take off for me as a composer was when I bought my first synth and a drum machine back in 1980. I soon after incorporated that and more machines into my act as a DJ.
When it comes to influences the list is sooooo long.
My synth influences stretch way back in time to the release of Hot Butter’s – Popcorn but I guess the milestones are JMJ – Oxygene, Kraftwerk – Man Machine, Space – Magic Fly for starters. The dawn of synthpop back in 81 with giants like Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Soft Cell to mention a few left a big mark in my soul. As did the entire hip-hop and electro scene. But let’s not forget one of my huge loves – FUNK. I have always loved it since I first got wind of a guy named James Brown.
Favorite songs are tricky since there are so many. But Yazoo – Situation and Don’t Go are high up in the list. As is Jimmy Bo Horne – Dance across the floor, Blue Monday by New Order, Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics, Love Song by Simple Minds, 19 by Paul Hardcastle, Funky Town by Lipps Inc, Don’t You Want Me? – Human League, Things Can Only Get Better – Howard Jones, Planet Rock by Soul Sonic Force, Rockit by Herbie Hancock, and many many more. Still, my influences also come from ballads, rock, blues, reggae, classical music and much much more.
HFR: Can you tell us about Time Machine – your last release on Future 80’s records?
D: It is a 14 track concept album with different takes on the idea of time travel. I am and have always been, a sci-fi geek and time travel is a central part of that I guess.
It tickles the mind in a certain way with its paradoxes. There are lots of different styles on the album even though I call it “synthwave” altogether. Even a slow track for those who like that (dance close together on the floor!). A bit more than half the tracks are instrumental and the rest are vocal with occasional rap as well. Naturally, there is a bit of scratching as well. All done by hand in the studio. I have spent a lifetime searching for the perfect sound and I must say that I believe I am close now.
HFR: What is your approach on writing music? Which are the steps you make when songwriting? What do you like to write about?
D: I have different approaches. Sometimes a track just “appears” in my mind and I go from there. Other times I decide to make a track in a specific mood. A bass line can be a good foundation for a track. I tend to make a lot of “embryos” that I return to when I have more inspiration. Just messing about with a new synth gives me a lot of inspiration. Back in February, I had a bunch of new synths to play with so I set out to make twenty half-finished tracks to make an album of fourteen tracks. Mind you, all tracks were allowed to evolve as they “wanted”. After that, I put together a “Track Selection Committee” with twelve very knowledgeable people in the field who helped me select which tracks should go on the album. I then finished these tracks instrumentally. Having heard them a couple of times I knew which ones should have lyrics and which should remain instrumental. Writing lyrics is tricky for me but I can thank my cooperation with Damiano Chief-Pink Storelli for having made it easier since writing rap lyrics on given topics for the next Batch Sound album sort of “un locked” my thoughts about taking lyrics so seriously.
HFR: Could you tell us a bit about your “go to” equipment? Do you use your keytar to write music?
D: I am afraid I don’t use the keytar, apart from performing, even though the thought is romantic. In the studio, I use virtual synths only in Propellerheads Reason using an AKAI MPK 261, ROLAND FP2 and a ROLAND OCTAPAD. For me, Reason is more or less the answer to all my dreams I had back in the 80’s. I can virtually have as many synths, drums, and effects as I could possibly want. The sound is totally without noise and there are no cables to trip over. I have loads and loads of synths to choose from but tend to end up using the ones that sound 80s, even though I am not trying to do that. Still, the sound of the Linn, the 707 and 808 is a “must have”. As is the Juno and Jupiter and some 303 to top it off. Lately, I have allowed piano to be part of my music. That might sound odd coming from a piano player but for a long time I felt it did not fit the “synth sound” I was looking for. I have a very nice setup nowadays allowing me to start making music immediately in the DAW without spending time setting it up.
HFR: Where were you in the eighties? Are you nostalgic? Was it better then?
D: I was a DJ in Sweden in the beginning, both in clubs and on the radio. In 1983 I was offered a job as DJ in Tenerife where I stayed for about eight months (learning Spanish along the way). After a short time being a party DJ in Sweden in -84 I went to Norway for about three and a half years. At the end of that period, I left the wheels of steel to become a piano bar entertainer instead. But still, I entered the DMC championships in DJ-mixing and came to the finals in 1987. That same year I released my first vinyl single (Lost In Space) and started a record company called OK Records. In 1988 I built a recording studio and started producing others apart from myself, still playing the piano in bars though.
In many ways, I think the 80s were better when it comes to music. I believe that synths were still a source of experimentation and inspiration bringing forth a wide variety of music – anything went! Today music has become quite stereotyped and manufactured so to speak. One thing that I am surprised over is that young people do not dance slow dances close together anymore. What a loss!
Yes, of course, I am nostalgic! I was at my peak in the 80s! Young, good-looking, energetic and successful, who wouldn’t be? Still, age is not an issue for me. I am still in my “twenties”, although a bit more wrinkled and gray. Today I get to have the studio of my dreams to compensate 🙂
HFR: Damokles in a near future? Are there any shows coming up within 2017?
D: I am part of many projects that will be released during this fall and the beginning of next year. There is a vinyl release coming soon of “Bring Out The Funk”, the coming album with Batch Sound where I do the scratch, rapping and singing, “synth love affair vol 3” where I will show yet an example of my softer side, “Neon Wolves II: Lost City” where I have written the music to one of the chapters and a generation project with my former protege Amplitude Problem and his son Max James spanning three generations of synth!
I have been invited to play in the US a couple of times but, sadly, the pay will not cover my costs of getting there even. Sweden is quite far away from the US but the UK is much closer so if I get an invitation from there, who knows what will happen?
HFR: Last words?
D: I have been making this kind of music since the actual 80s and I must say that I am so pleased that people are appreciating it now. For many years it was quite a lonely art form because that is what it is for me – art. I will not try to copy anyone, alter my style for better exposure or in any way “sell out”, and will probably be doing this long after people’s interest has faded away.
Check out Time Machine – my new album here:
You will find me here:
Keep experimenting and make awesome music guys!