“Music has reached such a low point that newcomer artists are actually AFRAID to ask for a price when they put their music online, out of fear that they’ll be criticized… That’s so unacceptable! Ask a few bucks, you’re making a statement…”
Brendon Hicks, producer and Wave Cave admin (Crystal Bear!) engaged in a conversation with one of the coolest personas in the scene right now: George Dervenagas (VHS DREAMS). Such topics as the validity of vaporwave’s ironic consumerist mentality, how the era of Name Your Price has affected musicians, and cliche Synthwave tropes were not safe from this interview! This is the sixth interview hosted by WAVE TV in a series of artist to artist interviews with talented, undiscovered artists.
Artist to Artist with Crystal Bear! (that other Canadian Synthwave artist)
Many of us have heard of George Dervenagas A.K.A. VHS Dreams, whose latest remastered release “TRANS AM” was released to much fanfare. I’ve always had a deep respect for him and I loved the shit out of his latest release. The artist also heads “Pool House Ltd.”, a music label that specializes in bringing a multitude of genres (Vaporwave, Future Funk) to the forefront. Some of the incredible talents include Bubble Keiki バブル景気 , GH, LifeMod and of course Karate King空手王 . Pool House Ltd. seeks to separate itself from other electronic indie labels with interesting and risque artists/releases.As a jealous untalented artist who wants to steal his stems, I have been given the opportunity to ask a few questions.
Why are you so mysterious Mr. Dreams?
Mysterious? Me? I am a whore of publicity, I love exposing myself* to the public! Every aspect of my personality and life is reflected on the music I make obviously therefore, by gaining an insight in all of this, one can understand my music in a deeper extent; maybe even to the extent I perceive my own work right? Interestingly enough, last night as I was sleeping I had a dream where I was supposedly having an exhibition in some gallery or something, but had no artworks there at all. Someone was asking me why I haven’t got any art made, ever, yet call myself an artist. I said “I am the art itself”. What an amazing dream that is, isn’t it?
What would constitute a perfect day for you? (I would assume it would be not having to answer inane questions from an idiotic Canadian who is a complete hack/fraud and sellout)
Doing nothing else but daydreaming while lying on the beach during a hot day, under the shade of a pine tree. That’s my ideal day. I’ve actually done this before. It would also have to not involve answering inane questions from an idiotic Canadian who is a complete hack/fraud and sellout!
Do artists just like hearing themselves talk? 😉
I sure do. Everyone else does too, but they won’t admit it. If you talk too much about yourself you risk of being considered self-indulgent which can be frowned upon. But at the end of the day, who cares really? Look, I was born in a shitty country, raised in a shitty village, fought depression for seven years and went through tons of shit after that just to manage and get the little recognition I’ve got so far. Boasting and bragging about your accomplishments is an act of rebellion in itself when society has tried to shut you down on every occasion. Hmm, I think I’m gonna take the “post ‘n’ boast” approach on social media from now on.
Do you ever find the drama in the scene tiring?
No, I quite enjoy it! It gives me the laughs. Is life interesting without drama? As long as people are honest and not afraid to express opinions, speak out or criticize others there will be drama, people will clash with each other for their different stances in life, art, everything. Both harmony and chaos are welcome. So I say let there be drama, otherwise your scene will be as socially interesting as a tea party in Buckingham Palace.
What was the main motivating factor in starting Pool House Ltd? Is it the best thing since Casco’s Cybernetic Love?
On the conceptual side, the label is pledged into promoting and continuing one of the main styles of Vaporwave that I can briefly describe as slowed-down old tracks that evoke summer and “feel-good” vibes. We certainly lean more on the Floral Shoppe sound than ambient or experimental Vaporwave. On the ideological side of things, the label is in favor of sampled material and preferably as cheap and lazy as possible because it was born out of my need to exercise my ideas against extreme copyright control and traditional “art-making” notions. It really was a plunderphonics ideal that gave birth to the label. About “Cybernetic Love”; asking an irrelevant second question after the first is an obvious ripoff of Karate King’s interview style.
What makes your label different from other labels, specifically, what separates you from the labels who steal from their artists?
That I don’t steal from my artists! (laughs) Vaporwave labels commonly do not charge for music, so there’s nothing to steal like some Synthwave labels do. However I always put a minimum price on my artists’ releases, 1 pound, to make a small statement and hopefully incite the fans to think like “Hey this guy makes cool stuff I enjoy, I’ll toss him 2-3 bucks for that”. You should see the artists’ reaction when at the end of each month they receive any money their fans give to them. It makes them feel tangibly rewarded, and gives them hope that they could become full-time artists in the future! Even better, they might make a living out of slowing down other people’s songs. What else do you want in life?
Why should people care about physical releases in relation to the common person who doesn’t give a fuck about things like tapes or even Vinyls/CD’s? Are you trying to get rich off the backs of hard-working fans who spend 20 thousand dollars on synths they never use?
I think the main reason someone wouldn’t give a fuck about physical releases is that they haven’t been initiated into it. The question could be something like; why should people care about collecting stuff? Should they care? I don’t know. I just think it’s great to have a collection of music records. Most people have a collection of things they like anyway if you think about it, be it clothes, video games, shoes, gadgets et cetera. If you really like music and you like to own things you’ll end up buying CD’s anyway. It’s a tangible object and feels better than simply listening to music on YouTube; you now own it, it’s yours. I wouldn’t try to convert people into getting cassettes or vinyl if they don’t care about music enough. These items are collectibles designed for a specific type of music lover anyway. And wait.. are there any fans who spend 20.000$ on synths they won’t use, but buy music? Where do I find them?
How does Pool House Ltd. help to foster the communication between listener and artist…between label and artist? How do you ignore people who want free music all the time and who just want to “Collab bro”?
I just ignore them, that’s all (laughs)! I try to bring the artists closer to the audience by letting the people identify with an artist’s themes, music and persona. It’s important for me that I take time with each artist that comes through the label to create this recognizable and distinct persona that gets transmitted via imagery, leitmotifs and music. LifeMod equals clouds in a cyber landscape, Bubble Keikiバブル景気 is a virtual plaza’s dream, GH comes out as an online party of some alternate 90’s and Karate King空手王 is a sensual experience on an internetic tropical shore. I find the key elements each artist brings to me and package them accordingly so that the listener can connect to them in special ways. I can only hope that our fans enjoy that experience!
Should music be made for purely artistic reasons? Do artists just inherently like starving themselves to death?
I don’t understand that concept. The ideal of the starving and suffering artist is a leftover of sad and ruined people that glorify failure. Instead, making your dreams come true through perseverance and determination; now that’s the true romantic ideal.
What’s your opinion on artists/labels who choose to follow the “Name Your Price” method of selling their music? Should it instead be renamed to “Free?”
If everyone has a “NYP” on their releases the scene will be left with no money, and money is what’s needed for a scene to begin taking off. Fans need to be shown that you need that money of course, ’cause if you give them the option to get everything for free you’re essentially telling them that you don’t need it. Which is good if you really don’t, as an individual, but if this happens on a “scene” level then expect no more that staying an internet niche for ever. Music has reached such a low point that newcomer artists are actually AFRAID to ask for a price when they put their music online, out of fear that they’ll be criticized… That’s so unacceptable! Ask a few bucks, you’re making a statement that you need that money to keep on making music and that people who contribute to you are actually helping you make your dreams come true. And of course true fans always reward their favorite artists tangibly.
Why do you charge so much for your music?
Because I deserve it! Also I’m in a constant risk of giving up if I don’t make a living off music. I might also be a money-grabber, but that’s something you’ll only speculate about and never have a definite answer hehehe.
Will you be taking Gold Doubloons as currency?
Sure! Roman Sestertii are also accepted! Anything that can be then sold and make even more money for me is accepted.
Adam Harper of Electronic Beats.net had written that “There are those who suggest (as I did) that vaporwave can be heard as an evocative conceptual project, and there are those (many of them the musicians themselves) that maintain that it’s just a bit of fun. Both sides are right and wrong, depending on the release in question, what you’re looking for, and how you want to listen.”
Do you agree with this statement? Is Vaporwave really a criticism on commercial culture or a creative re-appropriation and celebration of it, or does it depend on the release itself? What separates the Macintosh Pluses from your 2814s?
I totally agree with that statement, it’s down to each artist depending on what he/she wants to do and say through it. For me what really separates Macintosh Pluses from 2814’s is that making Vaporwave with original compositions and instrumentation has no point ’cause this way it becomes just another genre that favors traditional music-making processes and ideals. The joy of sampling and making weird fun out of whatever track you sample is a unique aspect of it I think. The world needs this. The world has had enough of traditional music-making output and its ideals forced upon us. The world needs order-defying fun and a heavy dose of absurdism right now. I seriously prompt everyone to get into Vaporwave, Witch House and other internet genres that don’t require talent to be made at their basic level. Why should art be something only the talented few can do?
On the nature of copyright law, John Oswald stated that “Professional developers of the musical landscape know and lobby for the loopholes in copyright. On the other hand, many artistic endeavours would benefit creatively from a state of music without fences, but where, as in scholarship, acknowledgement is insisted upon.”
Do you think that copyright law should be circumvented in the pursuit of creative expression and is acknowledgement of the sources used required? Why use samples as opposed to just original material entirely? (i.e What is Plunderphonics?) and is giving something a fancy term (Plunderphonics) just another way of dressing up copyright infringement?
I stand against copyright the way it’s implemented in general. Worse than that there are generations of musicians, many of them geniuses, that have been brought up by this idea of “this is mine” when it comes to music. It’s not only yours, it’s also everyone else’s. It belongs to the public conscience. Music and art would benefit from acknowledgements instead of lawyers and publishing companies trying to place walls and grab money. Plunderphonics are essentially a radical reaction to this, a protest via deliberate plagiarism and unauthorized sampling for creative purposes. I’m all for that. Most of my retro-inspired and Synthwave works plagiarize the “vibe” of other tracks and in some occasions contain unauthorized samples (examples include “Miami’s Finest” mimicking Jan Hammer’s “Payback” and Trans A.M. using slap-bass and kick samples from a popular 80’s track while at the same time mimicking Dance 2 Trance’s “We Came In Peace” in many aspects). My next release will include a lot more obvious sample use.
What kind of pirated VSTS do you use?
Those that are too expensive to currently buy. Usually it’s those that also have many presets. VHS Dreams is built on presets EQ’d on a ridiculously absurd level. I don’t think I’ll ever waste much time creating sounds from scratch, I’d rather just entertain people.
Is “Synthwave” dead? How many times can one person listen to “A Real Hero” without physically exploding? (I still like that track btw.)
I started listening to Synthwave at early 2013. Admittedly there were more interesting stuff back then ’cause it was the beginning of the formation of this core of producers doing this. Now it has been reduced to formulaic tracks and low standards are accepted. Those producers could stop making “80’s music” and instead make something interesting that hasn’t been done before. They could also stop being so hostile against anything that doesn’t abide by the formula. Identifying your sound with a certain era is cool, but look at what Chromeo or Lifelike do and compare it to the general standards of Synthwave, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Is Facebook even necessary for promoting ones music? How many dog/cat videos can one watch before physically exploding?
At the start it is a great way to promote yourself. Especially when it comes to scenes like the aforementioned, where the press doesn’t give a damn it is quite a necessity. It’s sad that it is hard to escape it as a promotional tool, but it’s even harder to find outlets that are interested in covering these types of music. I personally find it a great way to directly communicate with fans, it’s great!
Do you blame Canada for Synthwave? (Famous hunk Ryan Gosling is Canadian.)
Miami Nights 1984 is also from Canada so yeah I blame you guys for unleashing this 80’s travesty upon us!
You mentioned in a recent podcast (Jonathan Hayes from Deep Web, check it out here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YysIS4h3jgQ) that Synthwave artists are logos making music.
Am I a logo that makes music? (Life as a triangle can be physically demanding…)
Everyone will go through that, it’s the first stage in someone’s career, then artists move into expanding and presenting themselves in a whole and more direct manner as they grow. Most Synthwave artists are hiding behind a logo. You don’t know who they are, what they say, what they stand for. They try to separate the artist from the art. In a way, it’s funny to watch this happening. It’s also sad ’cause it’s the artist that matters. Without him/her there is no art. Remember what I said above about how the artist is the art itself. If you’re afraid to express personal opinions or make a stand ’cause you might spook fans away, or prefer to hide behind some myth you created for your moniker then I don’t know what to think. Where they prefer a myth for themselves, I prefer reality for VHS Dreams.
Do you find the reliance of retro tropes and aesthetics (i.e action movies, and sci-fi imagery, grids, and scantily clad women) in regards to the “Synthwave ” scene to be
overused? Should we embrace or just say “Fuck it?” to the overused cliches?
Cliches are fun to work with, but they bore me after a while, not to mention how they over-saturate the picture. The most entertaining thing to do is to take cliches and put them out of context though, or just present them in a new way. There’s no need anymore for overdone cliches of course. It’s time for Synthwave producers to get unstuck from the 80’s action movie trope and do something that’s new.
Should we just find new things to steal from in regards to the 80s culture that we were never apart of?
There are things to steal from the 80’s culture that most retro-influenced producers totally ignore, like House and Techno, there’s much more to that decade than cinematic soundtracks and lovey-dovey Synthpop. I personally love to steal from eras I haven’t lived or experienced. It’s like being a pseudo-archeologist, like.
To finish off, what upcoming and recent Pool House Ltd. releases should people be on the lookout for ? Any new plans for VHS Dreams?
We got two new artists, Perla Blue and Y2K coming soon, followed by our biggest thing yet; Volume 2 of “BUY NOW! Summer Vapors”, a compilation that includes some top tier names of the scene. in August. As for VHS Dreams, the rest of 2016 will be devoted on bringing TRANS AM into wax and releasing a couple of remixes and singles for the winter season. A new EP is coming in the summer of 2017, a continuation of the themes from TRANS AM and a lot different from what I’ve done in the past so far. Thank you for supporting me and I hope to see you around everyone!
Special thanks to George for letting me pointlessly waste his time. Please check out the Pool House Ltd. bandcamp at http://poolhouseltdmusic.com/ and VHS Dreams latest release “TRANS AM” at http://future80s.bandcamp.com/album/trans-am
[formatted and edited by Kaebl of Wave TV and the Wave Cave]
Harper, Adam “Pattern Recognition Vol. 8.5: The Year in Vaporwave” URL:http://www.electronicbeats.net/vol-8-5-the-year-in-vaporwave/
Oswald, John “Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative”
Hayes, Jonathan “Live From The Deep Web!”