“Don’t be afraid to be a singular artist. Be uncompromising. Do your art but do the shit out of it, don’t back down and never take no for an answer.”
Wave Cave admin and musician Kendall Sandhop (of Brothercom), talked to fellow artist and admin Patrick Keller (RED COMET 3) about topics like synthwave, life’s distractions, the internet, and beginner artists. This is the fourth interview hosted by WAVE TV in a series of artist to artist interviews with talented, undiscovered artists.
What is synthwave?
I think it’s an umbrella term. It’s weird it’s kind of an eye of the beholder type of deal, because for a few years everything was chillwave, and then apparently it was outrun, and now it’s synthwave, but maybe those other ones are subgenres now? What’s interesting to me is the fetishization of synthesizers within the genre, like you never hear of “guitar-rock” because it more or less goes without saying that rock will have guitars. I think about that a lot, it seems like a lot of producers like to use the synth as an object or a symbol, which is cool I guess but when you start using the word ‘synth’ in your song names and album titles I think you’ve jumped the shark, I think that shit is tacky and weak as hell.
Where do you think the genre is going?
I don’t know, probably in circles. When your genre is based on a decade what potential is there for significant growth? What’s interesting is that a lot of it seems to be based on a narrow view of what was happening in that decade, I wish I heard more influence from things like Joy Division and The Cure, I think it needs a good dose of post punk, but maybe that’s darkwave? Or coldwave? I mean I listen to a lot of music from that decade but I’m just as likely to listen to an old Melvins or Fugazi record as I am Gary Numan or something like that. There was a lot going on.
Which artists stand out in that scene to you right now?
I would say:
and I can’t not mention Walsh, he’s not that active anymore but his stuff is incredible, changed my life, he also had a band called Coolrunnings for awhile that was fantastic.
What are your favorite aspects of actual retro music compared to new “retro” music?
Well for starters the use of analog equipment, and the patched together feel of it, like when I listen to “Vienna” for instance, it sounds like each section is being performed live, of course with overdubs but each part feels live and then you can tell they pieced it together later. It’s not grid music, it changes time, and speed and keys, I love that.
What are some of your favorite 80s movies?
To me there’s two ways to look at 80’s films, the two Johns: John Carpenter and John Hughes. From Carpenter you get the Sci-fi, horror and mystery. And from Hughes you get the angst, and the romance. Specifically though I would say: The Terminator, They Live, The Thing, Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Godzilla 85′ the list could go on forever.
Do you think the streaming/online aspect enhances the experience of certain types of music?
I don’t know if I really have a strong opinion, streaming is fine I think. It’s certainly helped me, that’s for sure. What’s interesting is internet genres, things like Vaporwave, by its nature it’s virtually impossible for it to transition into the real world save for a few sporadic cassette releases. That’s an interesting phenomenon to me.
Does the craze over new music discovery help or hurt artists who are trying to build a fanbase?
It probably hurts it. I don’t know, I’m not that ravenous, I like what I like and get really into it for awhile. I don’t jump around too much.
How would you describe the overall aesthetic of your project, Red Comet 3?
It’s changed over time, it’s psychedelic. I have no problem combining the aesthetic of say classic psychedelic video stuff with really 80’s sounding music. To me it fits perfectly. It’s lo fi and perhaps a little minimalistic, heavy and loud, but pretty too. It’s basically pop music, a lot of it is. But also usually long and transformative in the sense that the songs slowly morph over long periods of time. I think of my songs as a continuum, they constantly go forward and change. Although more recently it’s started to change a lot, the next album is way different.
How important is presentation?
Vital. At least to me, there’s a charm to being punk rock about it, like there’s a guy I know called Cosmic Clouds, he’s really low key and his songs are like 90 second blasts of 8-bit electro noise grooves, and that’s cool his presentation style absolutely fits his music and I love it. For me though, I admit I do succumb to vanity at times and like a cool presentation, a completed work of art, visual and musical.
What was the first time you remember decided you wanted to make music and how old were you?
I’ve always been interested in it, I put my first band together in I think in seventh or eighth grade, playing drums. But I always wrote music on my own on the side. And by high school I started making tape collages and abstract music. I’d say for the better part of 12 or 13 years I’ve wanted to be involved in music in some way.
What’s it like being part of the music scene in Austin, Texas?
It’s incredible. I’ve met so many amazing people through playing out in this town. And the reaction to my music has been awesome. I can’t overstate how important this city and my friends here have been to me and what I do.
How much of your time do you spend on the Internet? What websites do you visit often other than social media?
Probably too much. I used to frequent several forums, the Slow Nerve Action board which was a Flaming Lips fan board and bmsrfans, a Black Moth Super Rainbow fan board. These days it’s really just the usual suspects. I try to stay away from the toxic side of internet culture, it’s bad for your brain.
How hard is it for you to stay focused on music with all of life’s distractions?
These days pretty hard, I was single for a long time while I was building Red Comet 3, and I knew my work inside and out so I was able to coast in my normal life and focus 110% on making music and building a little career. But now things are a little different. I try to work on things a little here and there but there’s only so many hours in the day, and I have a huge backlog of unreleased material. So I’m able to focus on other areas of my life right now and it feels really great, it’s rewarding in a different kind of way.
Is music itself a distraction from life sometimes?
Of course, if I had a nickel for every time I stayed up balls late working on a song even though I had to be at work early, I wouldn’t need a job. In past relationships, it’s even caused some tension because of how tunnel vision-y I can get, I can get so focused on art and my music shit that other areas like my friends or my significant other can fall by the way side, which isn’t ok. I think I’m better about it now.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your musical career so far?
Getting people to care. I’ve passed the biggest hurdle I think, I have my foot in the door. Now it’s just a matter of not leaving. I have a great group of friends that are supportive of what I do. The next big thing is to get the live show to the next level.
What advice would you give musicians who are just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to be a singular artist. Be uncompromising. Do your art but do the shit out of it, don’t back down and never take no for an answer. Put in the work and it will pay off. A lot of people get caught up in the starting thing, don’t think about it, put something out, my first 3 eps and my first album are pretty much dog shit, doesn’t matter they’re out there. Make your next release better. Also one thing that helped me a lot was this rule: every single song has to have something new about it, a new sound, a new rhythm, a new structure or arrangement, or harmony or anything. Do that. Also, listen to Boards of Canada, you know you’ve been wanting to for a few years but you haven’t gotten to it, stop that shit and get lost in their music and odds are you’ll be inspired to work harder.
Thanks for the chat! Do you have any upcoming news for Red Comet 3 fans?
Thanks for having me! Well I have two shows coming up April 17th at Barracuda in Austin and April 18th at Empire Control Room in Austin. My next album “Sunloops” will be out on cassette on Ghostspace Records in June, I think, more details on that soon! Also I’m on tumblr now for some reason @redcomet3forever
check out Red Comet 3’s music here:
and his last album here: