Liam Leon, a synth pop producer has just released Memories for the Future, his first album, on Lazerdiscs Records.
We had the chance to ask him a few questions.
Check out the interview!
Headphones For Robots: Who is Liam Leon? Where do you come from? Where do you live?
LIAMLEON: LIAMLEON is the artist name I go by, I choose this name as my real name is Liam, but too many times in my life I’ve been accidentally called Leon, so I decided to merge them both together which meant even if people think my name is Leon they’re still at least calling me by my artist name either way. But also, I do like this name too.
I’m originally from a small city called Hull up in the north of England, but I currently reside in Leeds which isn’t too far away. Hull is well known for having a strong ‘Yorkshire accent’ and I like to think I’ve left that behind. Alas, it always finds a way to return whenever I’m visiting family and friend’s haha.
HFR: How did you start making music? Could you tell us a bit about your influences?
LIAMLEON: I started making music probably around the time I started University in 2012. I actually studied Music Production and I remember blowing off so many written essays because I just wanted to simply make my music instead. Any assignments were I could produce music I got top marks! If only I’d have put that much attention into the written side of things.
My university playlist was made up of so much music by the band Owl City! Adam Young the lead vocalist and producer of Owl City has influenced me in so many ways over the years. His musically engineering skills are in my opinion absolute perfection and it has always given me something to strive towards in regards to my own music. A fun side note, people often tell me how much my vocals are very similar to Adams, which to me is a huge compliment!
Most recently I have been listening to a lot of The Midnight, particularly their latest album ‘Kids’. I remember hearing them for the first time by a happy mistake on YouTube and I just instantly fell in love with the synthwave, 80’s nostalgia genre! It’s what prompted me to switch my sound to this style.
HFR: You have just released Memories from the Future, a 9 tracks EP. What was better in the future?
LIAMLEON: Well the name of the album contradicts itself. While writing and producing the album I was trying to look through the eyes of someone who grew up during the 80’s. There is so much imagery that comes with retro and 80’s sci-fi and it is usually these amazing futuristic neon-lit cityscapes and digital landscapes. I think it’s called ‘Retro-Futurism’!
But to me the future in general simply symbolises an optimistic approach to what the future could potentially hold for us. People who grew up in the 80’s seemed so passionate, free and full of anticipation, it’s like they were looking towards their futures through a rose coloured lens.
HFR: How did you approach writing the songs for your album? What was your approach to write the lyrics?
LIAMLEON: I wanted some sort of story to be told throughout the album and I think I achieved that with the lyrics I wrote for each song. A lot of influence came from the imagery that is associated with synthwave music. The futuristic cityscapes and neon lit streets look so inviting and can make you want to exist in that world.
We all sometimes feel a little trapped and we have that urge to head out there and discover something amazing and new. I wanted my album to be able to simulate that for the listener and allow them to go on this journey with me through the lyrics and story of the album.
There were plenty of times lyric ideas came to me while I was at work. I couldn’t pass up the chance to stop working for a few minutes and write my ideas down, needless to say I got into trouble about it a few times but ultimately I don’t have any regrets haha.
HFR: Could you tell us a bit about your “go-to” equipment? What do you use when writing a song and which are your favourite instruments? Do you prefer Software or Hardware?
LIAMLEON: I definitely prefer software. I’m not fully practiced in any instrument apart from a keyboard or piano, and even there I have limitations.
I normally start my tracks off by experimenting with different synths and keys on my DAW using the piano roll. I enjoy creating interesting chords and melodies, constantly playing it over and over until I’m happy with what I have. It’s probably my most favourite part of producing!
Once I have a finished melody and at least 4 to 8 bars worth of song, I can usually already start to hear a vocal melody in my head that I goes along with it. People have heard me randomly humming in my studio so many times it’s embarrassing!
HFR: What is the one plug-in (effect or instrument) you would bring on a desert island?
LIAMLEON: There are so many essentials to choose from!
I think it would have to be XferRecords’ plug-in ‘Serum’. Almost every sound in its library is so unique and real. I installed a Synthwave preset pack before I started on this album and I would just spend hours scrolling through its different sounds because they were just so good!
Of course the other things I’d like to bring on a deserted island with me would a computer, my DAW installed and access to some electricity haha!
HFR: Are you confined? If so, what do you do? How do you feel?
LIAMLEON: Yes, unfortunately we are still confined to our homes and have been for nearly a month now and it’s due to continue for much longer. I’m definitely still trying to stay productive and not allow this time to go to waste. I’ve already started producing segments for a new album!
What’s difficult is when you have nothing to do but produce music your creativeness and ideas can disappear. I usually find I have my best ideas when I’m out doing things, then I’ll quickly either write my ideas down or hum the tune in my head until I get into the studio.
I think being a producer means even before this quarantine and lockdown started I spent a lot of time inside anyway, so it hasn’t fazed me too much thankfully. I think it’s due to us BEING TOLD we’re NOT ALLOWED to venture outside that’s the problem, it feels like your freedom has been taken away. But ultimately #STAYHOME is all for the greater good so I’m going to continue to do it!
HFR: Will we have the chance to see you performing on the internet (as live shows are a bit restricted at the time)?
LIAMLEON: You know I haven’t really thought about doing that, yet… Maybe when the album is released and people have gotten to know the tracks and lyrics more I might decide to put on a small performance from home.
If I can entertain the rest of the community who are also staying home during this lockdown then it’s definitely something I might consider!
HFR: Do you have other projects?
LIAMLEON: Well I have started work on a new album but that is still very early stages. I believe one full instrumental is complete; it just needs some lyrics and vocals.
I have in fact been asked by another artist called ‘Castroe’ to record vocals for one of his tracks on a new album which is exciting! I have recorded vocals for a few other artists over time which is pretty fun work.
HFR: Last words?
LIAMLEON: Just thank you for allowing me to introduce myself to the synthwave community! I really hope the people that hear the album really enjoy it and experience the journey that I intended the album to do.
There will be more music and more of LIAMLEON to come really soon so I hope you decide to follow me!
Thank you again!
WHERE TO FIND THE ALBUM – https://lazerdiscs.bandcamp.com/album/memories-from-the-future
INSTAGRAM – https://www.instagram.com/_liamleon_