Interview by Shannon Lawlor
George Dervenagas, better known as VHS Dreams, is an electronic producer currently based in Hartlepool, United Kingdom. The retro-futuristic ethos of Dervenagas’ understated love-affair for eighties-and-nineties electronic music scenes has VHS Dreams– his aptly nostalgic-inducing recording moniker, into the visionary, cast of glowing and upbeat resonance it has evolved into today.
To date, VHS Dreams has released an array of genre-bending singles, remixes and LPs, including this year’s captivating and entrancing record Lost World, released by The VHS Dream Foundation – an initiative founded by Dervenagas himself, as means to facilitate, release and offer assistance to the ever-growing synthwave community. On April 27, Aztec Records will release a 20-track compilation titled Pure Synthwave Vol.1, curated by electronic songstress NINA, featuring genre-favourites Futurecop!, Oscillian, Sunglasses Kid and of course, VHS Dreams.
We caught up with VHS Dreams on genre-revival and the upcoming Pure Synthwave compilation:
For anyone foreign to the VHS Dreams’ wistful hypnosis, how would you personally describe the music you create?
I create electronic music that is heavily reminiscent of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The sonic transition between these two decades was something of a personal “Golden Age”, and I’m bringing back the ‘80s EBM and ‘90s Ambient House elements into modern Synthwave and Electronica. The goal is to take the listener back, but through an inward journey that focuses less on the peak of pop culture and more on personal, distant experiences of childhood.
VHS Dreams’ latest LP Lost World was self-released in January 2018. Could you detail this recording process, and how it may have differed to recording 2017’s VHS Dreams: The Bundle Vol.1?
The tracks featured in The Bundle Vol.1 were recorded in various times during my “dance” phase around 2015-2016, and as such they are representative of the time I kept a high-profile in the scene. The recording sessions were swift and full of energy. In direct contrast to this, Lost World was conceived 8 years before it was released. The final recording sessions began in 2017 after I went on a personal pilgrimage through places of childhood. In that sense, recording it was a much more introspective experience compared to the previous albums. It took so long, because I had to wait until I was fully bathed in nostalgia before I could even feel ready to start recording it.
VHS Dreams has just been enlisted by synthwave-queen NINA to feature on the upcoming compilation Pure Synthwave Vol. 1 for Aztec Records. What are you most excited for about this release? And how was your contribution “Nightdrive” initially conceived?
Actually the fact that NINA curated this compilation is what I’m most excited about. I was contacted by Aztec Records and made all arrangements directly with them, so at first I didn’t know she was behind it – finding this out later was delightful. I just want to specifically highlight that having women on the helm is a change and a step forward that I think highly of. “Nightdrive” was part of my album TRANS AM and has unexpectedly become my most streamed track on Spotify to this day.
Your imagery is very nostalgic, retro and aesthetically appealing. How important do you feel imagery or portrayal is in expressing your musical outlook?
The importance cannot be stressed enough! I’ve always been what is referred to as a “visual person”, and as such, I thought that sound and imagery had to go hand-in-hand, to the point that I’d say imagery is half of the whole deal when you create a record. Images can tell a story, the story of your music and yourself, and by mastering visual cues and aesthetic – you can convey direct emotions that compliment your music. It’s like a symbiotic relationship between the two. Beyond their artistic importance, imagery also conveys your identity as an artist to the audience.
Could you detail the meaning, or influence surrounding the track “The Long Way Home”?
This track was sonically influenced by late ‘80s House music, but I also consider it a noteworthy example from my catalog because it makes extensive use of samples (some of which include a guitar from The KLF’s ambient classic Madrugada Eterna), and effects taken from Supertramp’s album Crime Of The Century, as well as a spoken phrase taken from a Vietnam documentary, re-recorded by my friend Ken Synthrock. It’s representative of a wide range of influences that come from my old record collection. But of course, being part of Lost World, it deals with the theme of homecoming. The original meaning of the word “nostalgia” can be loosely translated in English to “longing to return home”, this is the thematic core that drove the album and consequently, this track.
If VHS Dreams could collaborate with anyone on the planet, who would it be, and why?
The first artist that comes to mind is Yanni. Although Jean Michel Jarre is also up there at the top of my all-time favorites. Although I’d probably be more interested to work with Yanni and blend his affinity for world-music, with my renewed interest in early ‘90s Electronica revival.
Care to name some of your personal favourite releases of 2018 so far?
I don’t really listen to much new music, and to be honest there hasn’t been anything that has caught my ear in 2018 yet. But the last release that I was hooked on was MURALS by OGRE, released in 2017.
What does the future hold for VHS Dreams?
Currently I’m focusing on getting ready for performing at festivals Outland Glasgow 2018 and Retro Future in London, as well as plans to release the event’s recordings as a live album after Summer. As for plans on a greater scope – I want to focus on fully developing my newly found identity as a proponent of introspective-nostalgia with, two follow-up releases to Lost World, which are already in the works!
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