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4 jun. 2019

Interview met Alpha Chrome Yayo

Alpha Chrome Yayo is een synthwave producer uit Belfast, een stad waar ik graag een keer naar toe wil. Vanuit Belfast maakt Alpha Chrome Yayo de meest spannende synthwave muziek van dit moment. Zijn laatste EP Take My Advice is onlangs uitgekomen en het is tijd om meer te weten te komen over deze muzikale alleskunner.

Alpha Chrome Yayo is a synthwave producer from Belfast, a city that I would like to visit one day. From Belfast, Alpha Chrome Yayo makes the most exciting synthwave music of this moment. His latest EP Take My Advice has recently been released and it's time to find out more about this musical all-rounder.

Alpha Chrome Yayo - Take My Advice EP

Well, first of all congratulations on your new EP Take My Advice. How did you come up with the concept for this EP?
Thanks a lot! ‘Take My Advice’ is my love letter to gritty cop movies - you know the type, huge cars hurtling through back alleys, sirens wailing … mismatched partners and police chiefs bustin’ balls.

I love that whole world where crime pays and morality is murkier than the office decor, yet there’s always a flawed-but-tough cop ready to cut through the grime.

I really wanted it to sound like it landed somewhere between Miami Vice and Lethal Weapon, with a big .44 slug of Dirty Harry in there too.

In fact, that’s where a couple of the track names come from, the fourth Dirty Harry movie, Sudden Impact. There’s a bit where a couple of goons are trying to get one over on Harry, and he threatens them in a really unusual way.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but ‘cos it’s Harry Callahan you let it slide. I love it, you can check it out here.

Hopefully I nailed that sort of sound, Jan Hammer style emotional keys and soaring axe licks, playing off some squealin’ latter era Lalo Schifrin sax.


The last track is called MAHONEY and I think this is your honor to the Police Academy movies. Are you a big fan of movies from the ´80s and what genres in particular?
Oh man, I adore movies. And you’re totally right, the last track is a kind-of-almost cover of Robert Folk’s Police Academy March.

It was actually my wife’s idea. I figured it wouldn’t quite sit with the rest of the slightly more serious sounding EP, so I snuck it in there as a bonus track that comes with the Bandcamp download. Honestly I was laughing my ass off the whole time I was making it, I could barely play the guitar solo I was giggling so hard.

In terms of favourite movies … the ‘80s are big for me for sure, a great era for late-night movies with killer soundtracks to boot. The likes of Lucio Fulci’s psychedelic splatterfests Zombi 2 and The Beyond are hugely influential on me, especially those mind-bending Fabio Frizzi scores. In fact, I’m about to sit down here and watch House By The Cemetery on VHS. There’s something so great about tapes, they feel so much more alive than discs or downloads. They’ve got mechanics, moving parts, literal guts. That’s cool!

I draw a lot of influence from cinema outside the usual ‘synthwavey’ areas though. Don’t get me wrong, I love Scarface as much as the net guy, but I’ve also got a soft spot for Randy Edelman’s kinda cheesy scores for stuff like Twins and My Cousin Vinny. I don’t really like the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ as I don’t think people should feel any shame for liking the music they like, but I guess I’d describe that as ‘uncharacteristic enjoyment’ for me!

And of course I love movies outside of the ‘80s as well. I think it’s a shame when people let one era define them - both their sound, and their personalities. Yeah, the ‘80s were awesome, including the movies. But the great thing about living in the period we do is that we’ve got access to an absurd amount of art, in all forms. So cast your net wide!

How did you first get into making music?
To bring it back to the cinema (I can’t help myself), the first movie I remember seeing was Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and I was obsessed with it when I was young. I still am!

As long as I can remember, I wanted to make sounds like I heard in that movie. The music was like nothing I ever heard before; rad axe solos sure, but it sounded futuristic too. Which is obviously intentional, given the time travellin’ chaos of the film.

Those sounds seemed so unreachable though. I had a few piano and sax lessons when I was young, which definitely held me in good stead, but it was when my eternally supportive parents gifted me an electric guitar and practice amp for Christmas that everything just exploded.

I mean even just plugging this thing in sounded amazing! And I never looked back. I don’t know if I’m making the wild futuristic sounds I dreamt of, but I did do a cover of ‘In Time’ by Robbi Robb, from Excellent Adventure, to celebrate it turning 30 years old. I did it in conjunction with Danny Madigan, who lends it his bass guitar and kickass vocals.


What were your musical influences?
Oh just so many. So, so many! As I’ve said, movie scores are a huge influence on me. Aside from the ones I’ve already mentioned, another huge one is Tangerine Dream’s incredible soundtrack to Michael Mann’s safe-bustin’ saga ‘Thief’.

It was really divisive at the time, and a lot of people rubbished the score, which I think is criminal (pun not intended). In fact, to go a step further I don’t think synthwave as we know it would exist without that movie. We likely wouldn’t have Heat, and Drive borrows very heavily from it too. It’s a beautiful film with a score to match; tough and muscular, but with major elements of emotion and romance. Perfect. I’d compare it to Giorgio Moroder’s Scarface soundtrack in that respect - super taught and even mean, but with moments of tenderness that’s just heartbreaking.

Sorry, I digress. Outside of movie scores, other huge influences on me are Steve Vai, Van Halen, Art of Noise, The Cure, Judas Priest, John Zorn … I mean, it’s a weird mixed bag, but I think that’s true of everyone. And I love that, everyone has their own musical DNA and it’s very cool.

In my review on your Malediction Boulevard EP I called you ¨synthwave´s hottest producer¨. I think this is totally true as you are such a versatile artist combining many different styles in your music. Where do you find the inspiration to explore every time new territories within the synthwave genre?
First up, thank you, so much. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to read that! It blew me away.

I guess I’m very quick to latch onto something and just lose myself in it. Malediction Boulevard is probably my ‘darkest’ release - it’s really gothic and dramatic sounding.

I was having kind of a difficult time around the time I was recording that record, and I found myself listening to a lot of gothic rock. Haha wallowing, basically! And I wanted to see how I could make those sounds work within an ostensibly synthwave context.

But I was still self-aware enough to realise that there’s something inherently kind of silly and funny about a pissed off guy glooming about listening to loads of (brilliant) goth. Which, in a way, has always been the best thing about goth. It can be bleak, and flowery, and wonderful, but there’s always been something intentionally joyous, even humorous, buried in there too. If you’re feeling rubbish, I heartily endorse turning up My Dying Bride or Type O Negative, enjoy the gloom, let it wash over you in the wonderful soothing way that it does. And then crack a smile.

Shit, see what I mean? Off on a tangent again! But that’s the way I approach my music. I want to paint pictures with each release. It doesn’t have to be a full ‘concept album’ to be conceptual - I just want to paint clear pictures and tell stories. Whether it’s a full blown gothic melodrama revolving around humanity mirroring insect society, or if it’s taking people to a dayglo racetrack on a scorching summer day.


What equipment do you use in your studio?
It varies from release to release, but in general I’ve got a pretty stripped back setup! It’s a modest studio with a few trusty hardware synths but I use a lot of softsynths too. I’m a huge fan of Propellerhead’s Reason - it just feels like a sonic playground, and I love how it looks (and in many way feels) like hardware.

I used to be crazy for collecting guitars (and gear in general), but now 99.9% of the time I’m using an ice white Ibanez RG350DXZ, which I adore. It’s not a wildly fancy guitar, but it’s perfect for me - I love how it looks and feels. It’s got a really ‘fast’ neck to facilitate fun shredding, and the floating trem is better than any Floyd Rose I’ve ever played. I never get sick of playing it. In fact, I just restrung it, I’m looking at it right now, and I’m gonna plug it in and crank it up the second we’re done with this interview!

For Take My Advice I dug out my Trevor Horn alto sax too for the first time in a looooong time. It’s picked up a bit of wear since I last played, but I like that. It’s a nice patina. Feels like it’s seen some shit.

Oh also, lemme give a shoutout to the Korg Volca FM as well. I was gifted one a while back and I figured it would be awesome for music on the go and/or DAWless jams - which it is - but I’ve also used it very heavily on a bunch of tracks. I’m continually surprised at what a powerhouse it is, cranking out lovely metallic basslines and glassy lead sounds. I love the sound of the DX7 (and would certainly like to have one) but, honestly, this little guy delivers a lot of that, with instant knob-twiddlin’ fun to boot.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love gear, but I’m really loving how much can be done with so little now. I’ve gone from eyeing up god-tier guitars and impossibly OTT FX rigs to getting wildly excited about the Behringer Crave coming out.

As you are from Belfast in Northern Ireland I am very curious on the synthwave scene over there and which other artist we should keep an eye on?
There absolutely are! I already mentioned my partner in crime Danny Madigan, who I did the cover of ‘In Time’ with. He’s an immensely talented musician, and has just put out ‘Hunter’ - a synth rock masterpiece.

There’s also the magnificent Transpacifica, and Tripp Mirror who I believe is set to release some new material later in the year. And Aysyne absolutely rules - that guy is just incredible, and scratches that axe-lovin’ itch of mine too. Red Marker is another guy bringing the noise too and sometimes-stylistically-related is Arvo Party who is unbelievable. He’s got a third album coming out soon!

Can you tell us something about your future plans?
Keepin’ on keepin’ on! I make music that isn’t always totally serious, but I am 100% totally serious about doing it. I’m unbelievably thrilled and grateful for my small but dedicated fanbase - it blows me away even typing that. The idea of having fans is wild! And I’ll be taking that as far as I can, hopefully the wonderful people already listening will stick around.

I’ve got a bunch of projects in the pipeline - both my own, and a bucketload of interesting collaborations. I’m very keen to branch out into soundtrack work too, both film/tv and video games, and am making a few strides in that direction too.

Apologies for sounding vague but, in a nutshell, this train ain’t stoppin’ and I’m delighted about that.

And finally any last words to the Dutch synthwave community?
Thank you for reading! I appreciate it very much. If you’d like to check out my music, I’d love that. I’m not gonna pretend it’ll solve any problems you might have, but hopefully I can take you somewhere cool for a short time.

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