What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come tobe in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
I started making music when I was in junior high. I’d taken piano lessons from my mom, and one day working through music theory exercises she showed me (after I’d been at it a few years), how chord progressions worked. Something in my brain clicked at that point: “Wait, you can just play these chords, one bar at a time, and then any notes that sound good over them?”
From there, things get a little more complicated. I played in several failed bands through high school and college. Those were inspired by a mix of Radiohead, prog rock, and alternative and indie music. I also tried going the academic music route: I was a composition major, and wrote a lot of little pieces in that setting. But didn’t stick with it past the first two years (I was more interested in film scores and rock music, not academic stuff so much). I played around with some solo production for a while doing more shoe gaze or indie stuff, nothing released, and my workflows weren’t very sophisticated.
As for present day, producing music as PatternShift — I’d been listening to some synth heavy bands from the indie and shoegaze side for a bit — M83 in particular — when the Drive film and soundtrack came out. I was immersed in that (and the resulting retrowave music surge that came after) in multiple places at once: gaming groups, companies I was working as a programmer at, and the brazilian jiu jitsu club I was going to. So I had it coming from all sides.
After kids and full time work, I hadn’t been making much music. I’d been writing down lots ofl ideas over the years but was never able to commit to the work of practice or production with a band. After listening to synthwave and related music awhile, then learning how other people did it, I was inspired by the amount of work that you could get done as one person, doing all the production in the box with softsynths, modern DAWs, etc. So I started giving it a try, and I was hooked, and really happy at the quality of what I could actually get finished on my own.
There are some other bits there — I started writing shortly after getting back into producing music, and the projects have merged together a bit. So there’s writing and music that go together (a story to support more of the cinematic, sci-fi side of things). My last EP (Rites of the Renouncer) also had a concurrent novella release, for instance. I try to keep albums a mix of more ambient/soundtrack bits (chill or dark), and straight forward electronic music with more drive and energy.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
Neuromodulators is a track from my upcoming album, Wake of the Wanderer. While it’s a standalone album, it’s also meant as a soundtrack of sorts for an upcoming novel by the same title, which is a continuation of the story started in the novella, Rites of the Renouncer. I’ve finished a draft of the novel and am working through edits, hoping to release it in November (a few months after the album comes out).
For Neuromodulators, I wanted to layer some indie downtempo sound design over retrowave elements. So there’s a retro 80’s drum feel, with almost a bit of a new wave flavor to it (esp. In the use of a Linn Drum pattern), but there are some modern touches throughout. It matches a scene in the novel where the old techniques for sleep hacking are coupled with some modern changes, so the different sound design components match that.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
I grew up with my dad making me listen to as much classic rock and prog rock as I could stomach. So I had some early influences from the bands (of those he would play) that resonated with me, Pink Floyd and King Crimson at the top of that. Not that it shapes my current sound a ton, mind you.
After that, I’m one of these kids that was in high school when Radiohead’s OK Computer came out, which I experienced as one of those big, self-defining musical moments. Then (like most of the others) I got into indie rock from there. But where I got tilted on the synth path was definitely listening to the first three albums from M83, esp. the first two ambient works, on repeat a lot on travel. I really liked the transportive, cinematic feel of the synthesizer use in those.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
I create a cinematic and expansive synthesizer sound landscape. My goal is for you to play a PatternShift album start to finish and be transported somewhere else. A lot of other synthwave is oriented around delivering on the EDM energy curve, grabbing your attention for 3-4 minutes and getting you amped. I don’t mind doing that per se – sometimes it’s what the song needs! So I venture there in some of the tracks (Neuromodulators being one that hits some of that, at least in a downtempo sense). But given my goal, when given the choice between a big, evolving pad vs. the drop, riser, and drum fill ever 8-16 bar patterns, I usually go for the big, evolving pad.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
TV Series: Stranger Things, The Expanse, Cowboy Bebop [Dark is a close runner up]
Films: Blade Runner, Terminator, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Books: Revelation Space (Alastair Reynolds), The Player of Games (Iain M. Banks), Neuromancer (William Gibson).
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
Definitely studio at the moment! I’m venturing out back into live, but doing the self-DJ thing or playing against backing tracks feels a bit odd to me, since I was more used to the 4-5 piece indie band deal, where everything is played live — even if parts are looped, the loop is set up interactively.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
My first instrument after piano was drums, and I played drums longest, in several bands, did percussion through school and a year and a half at University. It’s also the instrument I think I have the least natural affinity to, but thank God I put that time in, I’d have no sense of rhythm if I hadn’t built one up doing it artificially.
An amusing bit is that, despite tons of time put into practice on drums, and a much shorter time on from scratch sound design, music production, etc., if there’s one thing people call out or dislike in the music, it seems to be drums. If people have a favorite part, it’s the synth arrangement or sound design (what I’ve been doing the least amount of time). I think I must just have some of the weirdest (or most off-genre) opinions when it comes to drums, probably.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
Upcoming: Most different from my own and other synthwave stuff, it would definitely be A Dream of the Makers [link: https://soundcloud.com/patternshift/a-dream-of-the-makers ] from the upcoming album — some of the modulation and the use of physical modeling synth makes it sound different. It is supposed to be a bit alien, though.
From previous albums, Dream Exit from Vaskania Prime [link: https://soundcloud.com/patternshift/dream-exit ], my most controversial track, apparently. One of the few that a couple fans actually bothered to tell me they liked (favorite level) or disliked. But the beginning bit, where it’s distorted and bitcrushed to sound like it’s coming out of an AM radio, until the song breaks out — I think that’s the thing people find either alienating or compelling.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
There’s gonna be a bit of a quiet spell while I finish the edits on the novel. I’m looking to find some score work in the side, possibly in the indie film or game territory, as I think it’s a good fit for the cinematic stuff I’m doing. But over the next stretch of months they, you can expect a few more singles expanding on the story and sound so far.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Given that you’re writing and making music as a joint project, what exactly is the relationship between the music and books?
With my PatternShift project, I’ve been focused on the cinematic feel, but I think with the earlier stuff, there was some limited transfer, with others not having matching stories or visuals to go along with it. So the writing was initially motivated to produce some kind of story anchor for the music, given that it’s instrumental and there aren’t lyrics to go along with it.
I do try to make sure that the writing and the music are independent. I.e., you don’t have to read anything to get the music, and vice versa. But my goal is that immersive, transportive feel, and so I want to have things setup so if people want to dive in, they can. I have a podcast where I match the fiction narration (serial audiobook) with selections of music from the albums. And I’m doing some work to provide visual art/more direct cinematic stuff in the future. So, stay tuned!
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
Connect with PatternShift:
Spotify Artist link: https://open.spotify.