Photo of Seattle by Joe Mabel
In the 1980s my mom commuted downtown to Shell to work as a secretary and eventually an accounting assistant. I fondly remember gazing in awe at the towering skyscrapers and bustle of professional people making purposeful strides to their final destinations. One day I accompanied my mother to work after everyone clocked out for the day. I don’t remember why. I just remember that we were the only ones on the floor and the lights were dimmed. There was enough light, however, to view the surface of each desk in the cubicles. Paperweights, photos of family members, tape dispensers, scissors, and IBM computers were the order of the floor. Quite a few desks had Newton’s Cradles on them while others had colored liquid motion timers and moving sand art frames. As a child, I was fascinated with this world and thought adults must have a great time at the office. I now know that this is not always the case, but I can’t help but think that the music of Michael Weber if played then, would have powered them through their shifts. It would fit in perfectly with the music of the day.
Michael Weber is a newcomer to producing synthwave, but already has a third music project underway: Back to Business! At twenty-three years old, this producer makes music completely by ear. Michael Weber doesn’t have any formal music training, but what he does have is an appreciation for synthwave and for Japanese food. Michael enjoys takoyaki, katsu curry, tori senbei, and gyūtan. His favorites, however, are ramen and teriyaki. Besides possessing knowledge of the best Japanese eats, he also knows how to make music that you can play in the background.
On June 27, 2017, Weber released his four track Office Life EP that I imagine would have been the soundtrack to my mom’s day back in the early 80s. Just six months earlier he came out with Executive Suites, a complete album written and produced by Weber himself. One of my favorite tracks off Executive Suites is “Start Dialing!” which samples a phone ringing. High Financial Risks transports me to those early mornings driving back down I-45 with the sun just beginning to peak over the buildings downtown. For a guy born in the 1990s, Weber knows his 1980s music.
I was able to sit down with Michael and learn more about this self taught producer who didn’t get a diploma, but is still forging ahead in life. The goal, he told me, was to a self taught producer and has worked hard to define his own path in life and acheive success in his own right. Michael did not ever obtain his diploma, but his goal, he says, is to show the world you can be successful at life without a piece of paper saying you slaved 13 years of your life away. Indeed, Weber has set his mind to making some of the best music on this planet, paying attention to sound design and detail. Below is my interview with him. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did conducting it.
It’s my understanding that you have only been producing a year. What made you take that leap of faith to start producing your own music?
The story of how I started producing is interesting. I usually jump between hobbies every few years and before I started producing I was into training for MMA fighting. I had my first fight December of 2015 and after the fight, I got really sick with tonsillitis. I was bed ridden for awhile and really lost all passion and willpower to get back out and continue MMA training. As I recall, I remember I was laying in bed with my tonsils just ripped out and I was listening to Synthwave because it’s my favorite genre of music, and I was thinking to myself that it must not be that hard to make Synthwave. So I pulled out my laptop and started researching into what I needed in order to start producing and boom! A year later still doing it. I think it’s the best hobby I’ve ever had so far!
What tools do you use to produce? Do you use any hardware? If not, have you thought about it?
Currently, for my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) I use FL Studio for writing my music, also more commonly known as Fruity Loops. Then, I use Ableton to mix and master my tracks. As for synth software, I use mainly U-He Diva for all my basslines, synth rhythm and leads. I do use Kontakt and Korg Polysix sometimes. As for my drums, I use a sample pack from some company on the internet who makes drum sample packs! As for actual physical hardware I have a pair of Yamaha HS8’s, an Avid Mbox Mini for my audio interface and just a really cool midi keyboard that looks like a Korg MS-20! So basically all my music is 100% created on the computer.
What brought you to synthwave/retrowave?
The story of how I discovered Synthwave goes way back. Well, my mom grew me up on Miami Vice and Michael Jackson and really just everything 1980s so that really helped me take a liking to the synth music of the 1980s. It wasn’t until 2007 that I discovered Synthwave and back then there was really no title for it until maybe 2008 or 2009 when NewRetroWave really started. I found out about Synthwave in 2007 because of Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 tour. I was really young and just a kid and I wanted to go to the concert so bad but couldn’t because it was sold out. So back then my mother would take me to the library every day because we didn’t have internet in the house yet. So I spent every day in there looking up the Alive 2007 tour. I found out this guy named Kavinsky was opening for Daft Punk on their tour. I looked him up and when I heard his Teddy Boy EP I was pretty like blown away because it was this weird retro synth music with a modern touch to it. And then maybe about a year later I was listening to Kavinsky on Youtube and then the “You may also like…” section on the side of YouTube showed a ton of Synthwave artists like Miami Nights 1984, Electric Youth, Mitch Murder, etc. The Youtube rabbit hole is what helped me discover Synthwave.
Why do you think interest and production in synthwave are growing?
I honestly think the main reason why synthwave is starting to grow and get much bigger is because of one decade called the 1980s. It was the greatest decade for music and there is a ton of aspects from the 1980s that touches through every single track by every synthwave artist and people just love that retro trait that speaks through our music. But what is even cooler is that we have all this new modern technology to add to it and make it our own. I feel it really is the best genre of music.
Mizucat is designing the next album artwork for your upcoming album Back in Business!. Did she do the artwork for the Office Life EP? How did you guys connect? What made you decide on Mizucat?
I actually did the artwork for the Office Life EP. What made me decide on her is her style. It’s funny because I felt at first she didn’t want to do the art mainly because she doesn’t draw any male figures very often. She does more the anime style but of female figures. I am really excited to eventually show the public my next full-length album because the artwork and the music is going to be killer.
Did you take a different approach to making the Office Life EP than you did to putting out Executive Suites?
Office Life EP is actually four tracks left over from Executive Suites I decided not to put in, mainly because they were unfinished. So I finished them up and just made something out of it to help keep people interested while I get Back in Business! finished.
Is there a meaning behind the titles of your latest releases, Office Life and Executive Suites?
Executive Suites was actually named by my friend Thomas, who is also a synthwave producer under the artist name Mythical Vigilante. He helped me pin the title Executive Suites. I am really obsessed with Wall Street and entrepreneurship. I just love the aesthetics of 1980s business life. Everything is just so awesome looking! That’s really the meaning behind my music in general. Just Music for the workplace. Haha!
If you could hang out with any 80s icon in their prime, who would it be?
Oh man. This is an easy and a hard one. Well, it would have to be Michael Jackson. He was bigger than you’d ever think life could ever be. I would’ve loved to just meet the guy at least once in my life. Another 80s icon I would love to meet is George Michaels. I love Wham! It’s just sad that such great artists have passed on. Oh, I would actually love to meet Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer as well!
If you were reincarnated into the 80s television universe, what show would you want to be in?
Miami Vice is a given. There is a movie from the 80s I would love to live in which is Top Gun. That movie was amazing to watch as a kid and still amazing to watch.
Any other exciting developments in the life of Michael Weber?
I hope to have the next full-length out before the end of the year and I am 100% positive it will be on a label but can’t discuss which one just yet! I hope to start playing live once I get Back in Business! released. Nothing super exciting! I consider myself a bedroom producer and just do this for fun! I don’t expect to become some huge artist! I would really like to make some tracks for a video game, tv show, or movie though!
Thank you, Michael. Till we chat again!