It’s with great pride that we present our new exclusive interview of one of the founders of Synthwave music with Valerie collective and Kavinsky, namely Laurent Ash aka Lifelike the King of Nu-Disco. For the occasion of his Kickstarter campaign to release his first album « Electronic Dreams », the musician confides himself by delivering his main influences and fetish instruments, his point of view about the marketing side of music, the added values of collaborations with A-Trak, Chromeo, Oliver, Electric Youth, Yota for this first LP, the main upcoming releases of his Computer Science Label, a big project around Synthwave music and much more. Wishing you a happy reading and don’t forget to pump up the volume and press Play on the players of this page!
Retro Synthwave: Hi Laurent, can you introduce yourself to our community of ‘Synthwave’ lovers who don’t know you yet?
Lifelike: My name is Laurent ASH, im an electronic music producer, I have released a dozen of single records like “Discopolis”, who was a worldwide club hit on Vulture the label from french touch icon Alan Braxe, and later on “So Electric” who happened to become one of the first synthwave anthem back in 2007. I have remixed and collaborated with many high profile indie and major labels like Ed Banger, Kitsuné, Modular, Universal, Sony etc, and remixed or produced music for other artists like Giorgio Moroder, Daft Punk, Moby, Mitch Murder, Sia, Empire Of The Sun, Chromeo, etc…
About your stage name ‘Lifelike’, you said that you used a word generator with a friend to find it, and you liked the meaning. If you had a time machine, would you go back and still choose the same name?
Yes, I still think it’s a brilliant name, thanks to the computers who generated it.
Could you tell us what musical background you have which made you a French-House, Nu-Disco and even Synthwave icon? Best influences?
I have started to play in small bands in the mid 90’s, pop bands, as a keyboard player and bass player, my influences are from the late 70’s to the early 90’s, disco funk, eigthies pop music, Giorgio Moroder, Chic, Daft Punk, LFO, New Order, Jan Hammer and anything synth related, this can also be Jean-Michel Jarre or Vangelis any kind of music with style has influenced me, including jazz records from Miles Davis or John Coltrane, oldschool hiphop like Grandmaster Flash, you see it’s quite large.
« my influences are from the late 70’s to the early 90’s, disco funk, eigthies pop music »
What are your favorite instruments to produce your music with, and why?
I love samplers more than synthesizers, just because you can record any sound and synthesize it, but my favorite synth is actually the TX-802, it’s a kind of 8 Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer all together in one box, its sound amazing. On the sampler side I love the old E-mu Emax sampler, it sounds totally analog and is so limited that you have to workaround hours to get what you want out of it.
What do you think about the Synthwave universe that has emerged worldwide since the release of ‘DRIVE’, more recently the NETFLIX ‘Stranger Things’ series or even ‘Kung Fury’ which would never existed without Kickstarter?
I think its just amazing what is happening now, I was dreaming of a whole scene doing 80’s influenced music years ago. “Drive” was actually the start of this scene, as the movie reached such a large audience pushingthe artists that were on the tracklist into a new wider audience, than before when it was only limited to a very small group of music producer like me, Alan Braxe, Fred Falke or Kris Menace.
You said that you find surprising that we could link you to ‘Synthwave’ music. But in France, you’re one of the first musicians to have composed this style of music with Kavinsky and the ‘Valérie Collective’ from College. Do you feel closer to 70’s Disco than to 80’s New Wave?
You know, you never know when you’re inventing a new style of music or genre, it usually comes later one when people/journalists or fans are putting a name on your music style.
In terms of influence im no closer to 70’s disco than 80’s new wave, for me you can melt both, like using a real bass on synthesizers theme, or real drums with a synth bass, it maks the music even classier in my opinion. Yes we were the first to compose this type of music with Kavinsky and the Valerie collective, I remember being invited to a Valerie party in Paris to play, that must be like 2009 or 2010, at that time nobody was talking about synthwave, we were just trying to do something original and fun.
Do you have any other project with Kris Menace with whom you composed the legendary ‘Discopolis’?
Not at the moment, im at the moment working on starting a new synthwave label called Synthelectric. We are discussing with a friend of mine about how to start this the right way.
You’ve done many remixes for many famous bands like Chromeo, Sia, Empire Of The Sun, Vitalic, Moby, The Presets, Cerrone and Daft Punk (over 40). How did you get in touch with these ones? Any particular story?
Luckily most of the request came from the artist themselves, and all are very nice people, I recall Vitalic who suddenly sent me a texto out of nowhere as I was djing in Roma(Italy) he was there with friends and came to the party to tell me how much he liked my music.
Another nice story is with legendary producer Cerrone, I met him thru a friend, he happened to live actually 10min from my street only, I just loved the guy and all his 70’s disco stories, he got hundred of those to tell, he asked me to produce one of his single and remix it, it was such an honor for me.
You’ve released more than 20 EP’s since your debut in 2002 but never an album. Your fans have always been waiting for it. Is there any reason for that?
Well I never planned anything in my career, like other artists do. I mean, you release 2/3 singles, one gets successful, you sign a record deal with a major label and go worldwide, buy sports cars, swimming pools and end up in rehab after taking too much drugs or you become an alcoholic.
I think I always got scared by having too much success. With “Discopolis” me and Kris embraced a sudden wave of success that went far beyond what we had expected, TV interviews, videos, all the biggest clubs wanted us to play, lots of attention from the media, but at the same time I started to understand that being on the top of a wave is riding it too high. You see, it goes a little bit up your nose and you start to get an attitude, not frankly the best one if you know what I mean.
So I thought that for me, to be happy, I got to keep it all low profile, Im not comfortable with being super famous and will never be, so I decided to not go the big way, major label, money and press photos, it goes against my vision of what the electronic music producer should be.
Music comes first.
I like to be behind the scene, in my studio and produce my music the way I want, that’s why I only released singles, it allows me to change the concept of the singles on each release and keep things simple. No big crowd, no press agent, no big press campaign, I like the underground stuff, confidential and trendy.
Im no commercial artist.
« Music comes first, I like to be behind the scene, in my studio and produce my music the way I want »
Can you tell us more about your first great album project named ‘Electronic Dreams’?
It’s a friends project. I’ve written and produced tracks with A-Trak, Chromeo, Oliver, Electric Youth, Yota, and two new artist called Benjamin Dante and a band I signed on Computer Science a few years ago called Audio District. The music is like a taste of french touch with that heavy synthwave and disco influences.
Regarding this very long-awaited LP, it is now finished and you’re even signed under ‘Universal’. So why do you need any crowdfunding with ‘Kickstarter’?
No im not signed with Universal as an artist in that sense, I only signed a licence for one single with them called « Overdrive ».
I have no running deal with Universal or any other major label at the moment. I wanted to go with crowdfunding because, after experimenting how majors label are working and even indie labels, I thought the best is too keep 100% control over what im going to write as a music producer, how I will mix it, with who im writing music, and what video will we produce with which directors, at what costs, etc… the same for the way I wanna this album to be marketed and sold.
Working with a major label was always a disapointment on that controlling plan, they want you to do what you don’t want to do and this ends up doing an album you’re not proud of.
Plus on the marketing side, they are totally lost today when it comes to the new way to promote the music, social networks etc… they don’t understand at all what they have to do and if you don’t keep control over that your album will end up in shops without the clients even noticing it, and it could ruin your entire carreer, not to mention the stress around that.
So I preferred to go with Kickstarter, pre-sell the album directly to the fans and interact with them, let them be a part of the development of the launch of the album and make this a friends project.
For this LP you’ve collaborated with great music electronic music people like A-Trak, Oliver, Chrome, Electric Youth, Audio District and your wife Yota, whose vocals are on many tracks. What have these people brought to your album?
They did all co-write parts of the songs, like Chromeo and Oliver especially added talk box, and rewrote some parts of the songs. I know both for a long time and we have very comon way of looking at producing music.
Electric youth are incredible song write, they wrote and singon one track. Audio District co-wrote music and lyrics, yota is a confirmed songwriter, she wrote songs for and with other music producers like John Dalhback, DJ Yellow, John Acquaviva, Alan Braxe.
YOTA should release her first album very soon on your Label ‘Computer Science’ and obviously you have worked a lot on it as well as ‘Douze’ has. A very good musician. What can you tell us about this project?
This project sounds amazing. It’s a real artistic album, it got style and integrity and more than certainly a romantic synthwave feeling.
We have 13 songs on it, I co-wrote some of them, as well as Douze, Popular Computer, David Alexander, Johan Emmoth (from Zoo Brazil). It’s no dancefloor album, no club album.
First single is “Til The Night Fades Out”, will be release Dec 18th with a video directed by Hector Prats del Castro (who directed a video for Roosevelt, on the label Greco Roman from Joe Goddard).
The album will be out on the 22th of December, so shortly after the single.
On ‘Computer Science’ label you are going to release an EP from the French Touch ‘Superfunk’ band. This EP is called ‘Bangalter’. We have the feeling that it’s going to be some filtered-House music like Bangalter (1/2 Daft Punk) himself used to release on his Roulé label. What can you tell us about this?
Yes you’re totally right, I met Superfunk this summer and they gave me this demo called “Bangalter”, and said “Laurent I want to release this on Computer Science, tell me if you like it”.
I loved the track and so I thought for christmas we could do a special french touch gathering release, with that Superfunk EP, I asked my good old friend Sedat The Turkish Avenger, who used to be signed on Crydamoure (Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo ‘s label) to remix it, it will be out on the 4th of December, and if you’re into filtered house, you got to have it.
A few words about your future projects after the release of the LP?
As said we are now starting a new synthwave label, right now its called Synthelectric, Im at the moment asking other synthwave artists to remix the classic synthwave “So Electric”, this morning I talked to Robert Parker and he’s now onboard for that.
I have also a synthwave EP that is now ready to be released, called “Miami Nice”, looking forward to 2018 and the label.
« we are now starting a new synthwave label, right now its called Synthelectric »
About your Lives & DJ sets, can you tell us your best memory? And are you planning to go around the world with ‘Electronic Dreams’?
Its too early to tell you anything about touring with the ablum right now, of course once the album is out we will plan a tour for it and make sure everyone will be able to see the show. One of my best memory of a show has been at the Social Club in Paris at Alan’s Braxe vulture night, the crowd went mad on most classic french house records, its always a pleasure to play them. Thanks.