Reimagining 80’s electronica as futuristic synth wave, New York producer Seth Harley has been touring world over since the release of Com Truise‘s 2011 EP Galactic Melt on Ghostly International.
With shimmering synths and bass heavy slow grooves Harley’s work has captured the imagination of analogue enthusiasts and quickly cemented his cult status.
Looking to find out a little more about Harley’s Com Truise project, Howl & Echoes caught up with the producer ahead of his Australian tour to discuss studio preferences, dystopian futures and his favourite Australian bands.
You have said in past that you sometimes get a little nervous before performances. 5 to 10 minutes before you go on stage what are you usually doing?
Well you know, I kind of just like to be in my own space. I’m thinking about what I want to do out there, maybe having a beer or two. A strange sort of mediation.
There is a strong sci-fi narrative behind your music, and your visuals also evoke a distinctively futuristic aesthetic. Is there a particular sci-fi film, book, or artwork that continually captures your imagination?
Blade Runner. I can watch it at any time and still be inspired. I’ve seen it more than a hundred times. Usually I put it on and just fall asleep, but each time it’s a whole new level of inspiration.
What is it about synthesised timbres and drum machines that create associations with artificial and dystopian futures?
It’s kind of a cultural thing. I think it’s like the uncanny valley, but with music. These instruments are like robots in the sense that they only need a little human input or direction to be productive. *laughs* They really are just like little robots.
Coming from a background in design, you create most of your album artwork and visuals yourself. Do you feel that these visuals are an integral aspect of Com Truise?
I do. It’s just as important as the music, if not more so within a live setting. It’s important to make the experience worth it. Being a kind of one-man-band, I really enjoy the feeling of controlling it all.
If you could work with anyone for your next project who would it be?
Bruce Hornsby. He’s an amazing pianist. It would be great to work with him. David Frank, the producer of The System, would be amazing too. He’s the Oberheim master! He really made that band! Listening to them, I think it would be great to go in and sequence all those instruments the old fashioned way.
You’ve played with Neon Indian in past, have you had a chance to listen to Vega Intl. Night School? What did you think?
Yes! Actually we have a lot of contact, we’ve been friends since day one. I was listening to an advance copy album a while putting together some Ikea furniture, it’s crazy! Different too. I heard some of the early stuff at Alan Palamo’s place back when I lived in Brooklyn. It is difficult comparing what I heard then to the final thing. It’s really come together as a cohesive body and it’s definitely grown on me. It’s got this nitrous oxide, floaty movement about it. As weird as it all is, it’s still really accessible. I couldn’t be happier for them!
A common characteristic of your music is a seductively slow groove. It must be great to look out over a massive crowd getting down to your tracks. Is this something you envision when you’re putting together your music? Do you think of it as dance music?
I used to feel that way at the beginning, I thought of people dancing. Nowadays I feel a bit more removed. At the moment I’m a lot more focused on melodies and how they make me feel. If something comes to me, I’ll loop it for an hour while I walk around the house. If it gives me goosebumps then I’ll flesh it out.
You’re coming back to Australia on New Year’s Day for both Field Day and Let Them Eat Cake. Is there a particular activity you look forward to when you visit the country?
When I was last in Australia, it was a bit of a rush. I didn’t get to take it in. We only had one day off in Sydney. We went to a rugby match, which was fun. Then we wandered around for a bit. This time I have some more time to do things, but don’t have too much planned. I’ll take it as it comes, it’s going to be a blast.
You have remixed Aussie acts Flight Facilities and Client Liaison. Do you have a favourite Australian artist?
Tame Impala, I love the new record. I’ve also always been a fan of Empire of the Sun (the early stuff). I DJ’d some of their early songs in Philadelphia right before I started the Com Truise project. Looking further back, INXS and Crowded House. You know, the classics! Icehouse as well.
A lot of big name music brands are releasing or reimagining classic synths. Do you think we’re starting to break free of some of the old clichés associating certain instruments with particular eras or genres?
I think that we are kind of breaking free. It’s rare to see a performance these days without a synthesiser, keyboard or drum machine. I’m excited for it. I was in the studio today, looking across all of my instruments thinking, “Do I use all of this stuff?” Just considering the new stuff, it works and sounds just as good! No one would be able to tell, but then again sometimes I want to use the old stuff. I do like that they’re being made, it’s also giving a lot of people the opportunity to use some instruments they might have missed out on otherwise.
You produce your music at home, but would you ever consider a studio EP?
I like the idea of being alone with all the tools of a full studio, especially one of those large vintage mixing desks and all that outboard gear. It would be fun, but I never feel I have the time. I like to play around and discover things as they come. Studios are always a rush, I don’t know if I could work under the pressure.
Are you currently working on a follow up to 2014’s Wave 1?
A new EP is coming out in April, then an album towards fall 2016.
A full length album?!
Yeah, I’ve been working on both. Once I get back from the Australian and European tours, there’s a few U.S. dates and then I’ll probably lock myself inside and work on finishing them. Not that I’ll rush things, it’s done when it feels right. I’m excited, but I need to sit down and get comfortable.