Here is the interview of Absolute Valentine, founder of the legendary DRIVE Radio media and one of the best Synthwave Label, Lazerdiscs Records. With the release of OMEGA today, it’s the opportunity to know more about the French musician and his new LP. Johann reveals his beginnings in music, his main influences, the origin of his parallel projects and of course, some explanations of some songs of the album that follows « Police Heartbreaker ». Happy reading to all!
Retro Synthwave: Hello Johann, could you present yourself to our community?
Absolute Valentine: Hi Retro Synthwave, I am Absolute Valentine, an electro-synthwave producer. I have been in this musical genre for a while, although I tend to draw on different sources of inspiration such as Electro, Techno, and Chiptune.
You were on the rebound when chose your project name Absolute Valentine. So, could we say that this disappointment brought you a lot, musically speaking?
We totally agree. My feelings have always been the trigger for everything. Sometimes we experience positive or negative trauma, but it creates your universe.
Which musical background brought you to being one of the best Synthwave French artists?
First of all, a big thank you for considering that I am one of the best musicians of the synthwave scene. I started music very young. The piano was my learning instrument but since I was at the conservatory, I had the need for freedom, the training was too rigid. So, I started to play the guitar self-taught and I integrated several groups of extreme metal. And then, I discovered the synthesizer in the 90’s, at the time computer music was at the beginning. But immediately, I could appreciate their potential.
« I discovered the synthesizer in the 90’s, at the time computer music was at the beginning »
We do know that your main influences are the Ed Banger Records people, like Daft Punk, Kavinsky… How did you eventually step away from that and into Synthwave?
These are clearly my main influences. In 2005 I discovered Justice, Sebastian, and Kavinsky. As a metal music fan, how not to fall in love with their sharp and distorted sounds? And then a few years later, I realized that my compositions were very close to the synthwave movement that Niky Nine had made me discover, so I began myself. What reinforced me in this choice is artists like Waveshaper and Robert Parker.
You’ve founded Drive Radio and Lazerdiscs Records, what can you tell us about these two French pioneers of Synthwave music? How do you manage all this?
In 2012, when the Synthwave scene was still very confidential, I contacted the other founding member of Drive Radio, I found the idea very cool to promote all the emerging artists of the scene. The artists’ answer was super positive, so we continued and extended the project. Regarding Lazerdiscs Records, I realized that in France there was no label centered on this type of music, with Darren deToni, we embarked on the adventure. We did not think that our work would be recognized one day, but the label became an icon of the scene alongside New Retro Wave.
Concerning your upcoming album, to be released on April 19th, what it is about? Any Cyberpunk Manga story behind it?
Indeed Omega is the extension of Police Heartbreaker, in the previous album, the girlfriend of Absolute Valentine is dead and in Omega he seeks the sponsors of the crime. The big fight is on!!!
From ‘Resurrect’ to ‘Strange Hope’ we can feel some Chillwave, Synthpop and Darkwave. It’s sweet! Like most artists today, why did you make 10 tracks for this album? Will you play any other unreleased track during your gigs?
I will admit that I have not thought about the number of titles by composing my album. But, I really wanted to give contrast and this time I wanted to include all my influences, at first glance, we say Absolute Valentine is Synthwave, but I also have dubstep, metal and cinematographic influences. Regarding gigs, I have songs that have not been published yet on Lazerdiscs Records, but they will soon be available.
‘Spitfire’ is a powerful kick off with this kind of dark universe and it reminds us ‘Spitfire’ from The Prodigy. What could you tell us about Keith Flint, who just passed away?
Keith Flint, The Prodigy’s singer, is simply a super powerful guy!!! For me, Fat of the land is one of the best albums of all time. I have always enjoyed this mix of electronic music and post-punk energy. Be a Spitfire !!!!
Our favorite track is ‘Panther’. We can image it being made specially for your live performances! The beats are heavy, the bassline is so bold, and the refrain is really memorable. It could be in the soundtrack of a game such as Hotline Miami! What can you tell us about this track?
During my tour in the US last year, I was able to test Panther live and I can tell you that made those buttocks move! The piece represents animal tracking of Absolute Valentine’s enemy fierce and smart at the same time.
‘Your Passenger Forever’, very old fashioned and melodic tracks, it’s evoking those 80’s action or sci-fi films. Do you also have movie references which might influence your music?
I clearly have cinematographic influences, to compose I often need visual or imaginary support. I need to feel real emotions when I create. But I will admit that these 2 titles were composed specifically when I met a person. Sometimes you have emotional impulses that allow you to surpass yourself. As an example, for Paramount Glamor Myth, imagine yourself in the company of a cybernetic female entity and you will understand where the influence comes from.
‘Omega’ could totally fit a game such as ‘Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’. It’s remembering us Power Glove’s work for this game. What do you think? Why is it the name of your album?
I am passionate about everything related to dystopia, everything that could happen during and after the apocalypse. And during the composition of this album, I remembered a verse about it: « I am alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. ». When you’re making music, there no beginning, and no end, it’s infinite. And that’s what I would like for Absolute Valentine. I have another title that could stick very well to this universe, my single DNA War feat Billy Mays Band.
« when you’re making music, there no beginning and no end, it’s infinite »
Is there a link between ‘Powertrust’ and ‘Bad Power’? If so, why?
All the tracks in my album are linked, not just these two. They all represent a picture of my new adventure. Powertrust represents the level just before the final boss, and Bad Power represents the final boss. We can even wonder if Absolute Valentine has not turned to the dark side in this track because he is eager for revenge and victory.
‘Strange Hope’ is an interesting mix between Daft Punk & Kavinsky in a Kung Fury like world. What can you tell us about this last track of the album?
It was important to give a touch of hope, I always believe that there is light where it’s dark, hence the title of the track. Even if sometimes the universe may seem cold, it’s up to us to know what we want to do with it. So, as a human, we always have a strange deep hope inside us, even if everything is lost. I think that’s what sets us apart from the rest.
Synthpop track ‘The Impossible’ contains some non-credited vocals material. Is it your voice?
I am not the singer on this track, but the singer wanted to remain anonymous, since a while I wanted to make a track with vocals. But I never had the opportunity to spark the desired effects, as you can hear we don’t know if it is a man or a woman who’s singing. Maybe there will be other singing collaborations in the future. Who knows…
What were your set-ups for this album, and what are they for your gigs?
For this album, I used the same set up as for the previous one: Ableton Live, a Moog Sub Phatty and an Arturia Mini Brute. I have more and more the tendency to work the ‘all in the box’ because it’s much simpler when you are not in a studio.
For the live shows, I use a Push 2 and another controller to facilitate transport during my trips.
What are your next projects? Any music videos, live shows, remix?
For now, I’m going to focus on promoting Omega. Regarding the gigs I will play in London at the prestigious Underworld club next to Waveshaper, other dates should also be announced soon. I always dream of an animated Absolute Valentine film, we will see what the future holds!