Interview by Maya-Rose Torrão
Timecop1983’s unique synthwave sound washes over the listener like an 80’s dream; steeped in romantic nostalgia and vintage sounds, this musician has taken the genre and made it completely his own. Timecop1983 has been making music since as young as 12 years old, without any background in music; by working hard and experimenting with a myriad of genres, from hardrock to classical, this synthwave mastermind began to focus solely on 80’s-inspired music and has now managed to carve out his own dreamy and retro sound within the retrowave and synthwave genres.
Timecop1983 has recently released his album ‘Night Drive’, an 11-track journey of melancholic and romantic synthwave featuring talented artists including The Midnight, Lebrock and Kinnie Lane. The whole album has also been released as an instrumental release, which is just as powerful and nostalgic as the first version.
Listen to Timecop1983’s track ‘On The Run’, a cinematic-inspired wave of synth and 80’s bass, from his album ‘Night Drive’, below.
We caught up with Timecop1983 and chatted about soundtrack music, 80’s mixtapes and crazy fans.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts? Why music?
Music is life for me. Music has the ability to take you back to the past and to instantly make you relive emotions, feelings and situations in your mind. That’s what I love about music.
The name Timecop1983 invokes all sorts of vintage sci-fi images – tell us a bit more about this name and how it became yours. Have you ever played under any other name?
The name Timecop1983 was born in a split-second to be honest. I had some Synthwave snippets and decided to post them on Soundcloud. But I needed a nickname for the account.
I was listening to Futurecop! at that moment and decided to use that as an inspiration for my nickname. So I came up with Timecop and added my birth year, 1983, to it. Little did I know Timecop is also a Jean Claude van Damme movie (found that out about a year after).
Before Timecop1983 I used to work on a lot of music, but never released anything. So I didn’t expect much from it. But then it was picked up by NewRetroWave and things went really fast. Everyday I’m baffled by all the great response I get from my fans, it’s amazing!
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
Usually it’s the sound that comes first. I’m always working on new ideas, which is my way to not get a writer’s block (and which has resulted in thousands of snippets and loops on my computer). I’m also always browsing my presets and when I find I sound I like I start jamming with it until an idea is born. Once I have a bassline, chord progression or melody I start working from there and see where it brings me.
When I have the middle / chorus part of a song I save it and let it rest for a few hours or days and start working on something else. After that I load it up again and if it still sounds good I start arranging the loop into a track. This method works best for me.
Tell us about three albums that were the most influential to your unique synthwave sound.
1. Drive soundtrack: The Drive soundtrack was the single album that sparked my love for Synthwave. Before discovering Synthwave I listened to Justice, Daft Punk and Ed Banger. Of course they had a certain retro vibe, but when I heard the Drive soundtrack I had never heard so much emotion and longing for the past in any music. I heard the soundtrack before I saw the film, but especially after seeing how the soundtrack works with the cinematography of the film I knew this is what I wanted to do.
2. My parent’s 80’s mixtape: When I was young my parents had a mixtape which they used to play in the car. It had songs like ‘Abracadabra’, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ on it and I could sing along to it front to back. When I’m creating music I always have that tape in the back of my mind.
3. Chromatics – ‘Drumless’: I love all the works of Johnny Jewel, but this album is magnificent. It amazes me how he turned already great songs into drumless versions and made them even better (in my opinion). It’s a very cinematic sound which has influenced me a lot.
What’s on your current playlist?
On my current playlist is The Wild Wind. I just found out about them this week and I’ve been hooked since. I don’t know anything about them, apart from that they sound great!
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I’m getting there… At my first gig I was so stressed out I didn’t even notice people dancing on stage behind me. But I’m forcing myself to make contact with the audience while I’m performing. It’s great to be talking to people before and after my gig, but on stage I’m not very confident. But to see people enjoying my music is great!
Any wild/obsessed fan stories you can share with us?
A few years ago, relatively in the beginning, this guy sent me a message on Facebook asking me permission to get a Timecop1983 tattoo. I told him that he would have my full approval if he was stupid enough to do it. A few days later I got a photo from him with my logo prominently tattooed onto the side of his leg. That impressed me a lot, especially since I didn’t release that much back then…
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
My best technique to create my sound is to keep working on new ideas. Even when i’m working on finishing songs i’m always trying to add new melodies or elements to the track. Sometimes I like those extra elements so much I take them from the project and try to create a new track with it. And I’m also constantly jamming along with tracks I like.
Take us through a day in the studio with Timecop1983.
No day is the same in my studio. But usually it’s turning on my computer, wait for 4000 hours because it’s so slow to boot, check my email, turn on my hardware synths and start up FL Studio. From there it’s just work, work, work.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
Yes! When I first saw Drive (in 2013). I had been listening to songs from the soundtrack a lot prior to seeing the movie. But when I saw it I finally saw how the music worked with the film I just fell in love. That’s when I decided to focus on Synthwave.
You’ve been playing some really exciting shows this year with some great artists and have just had your set of US shows – tell us about one of your favourite shows this year. Why did it rock?
Yeah, it has been a crazy year! I had my first tour ever and played in almost every major city on both US coasts (except for New York, where i’ll be in October). It’s amazing to see how many people come to my shows, it’s very humbling.
All shows where great, but the best one was in Los Angeles during my US tour. My music is not known as party music, but LA went crazy. There was this one guy stage diving (and landing on the floor) and during River of Darkness there was even a mosh-pit. This was a first for me and I loved it!
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
There’s not much apart from my gear. But usually it’s a beer or a Red Bull.
Any emerging/unknown/upcoming artists on your radar?
One of my favorites of the moment is Kidburn. He has been around for a while, but is not as known within the Synthwave scene as he should be. His work sounds very professional and is very very catchy.
What gets your creative juices flowing? What do you do to get in the mood to create?
Just keep jamming and let my creative juices flow. Usually I get my best ideas from doing that.
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or not, who would it be and why?
There’re so many people I want to work with. But my biggest dream would be to create a soundtrack with guys like Johnny Jewel or Clint Mansell.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I have various hardware synths. Both digital and analogue and modern and vintage ones. It has become a kind of addiction for me and I’m always on the lookout for new gear. It’s an expensive hobby, but when I buy something new I get instant inspiration.
Although I do have a array of hardware synths I mostly use software to create my music. Just because it’s so much easier and faster to work with than hardware. And the software I use just sounds so great. My current favorites are PG-8x (free), U-he Zebra2 and Xfer Serum. All sequenced in FL Studio 7.
Any side projects you’re working on?
I started a side-project, called Division, some years ago, but I just don’t have the time to work on it anymore. It’s a more dark sound, more spacey.
I am also playing with the idea of starting a new one, but first I need more time.
Timecop1983 has been going for about six years now; how have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
I have learned a lot over the years. Not only about Synthwave, but also about techniques like mastering. I have mastered most my music myself and I know it’s not perfect, but i’m learning it as I go.
Break down the news for us: what can we expect from you next year?
At the moment I am working with TimeSlave Records to get ‘Night Drive’ on vinyl and I just started working on a new EP. Not sure when it will be out, but it will probably be early 2019. I also hope to do more shows around the world. I will be working on a soundtrack for a very cool project and I have been thinking of creating a imaginary soundtrack for a while now. So lots of things to do in 2019!
Listen to one of Timecop1983’s most popular releases, ‘Dreams (feat. Dana Jean Phoenix)’, below.