Here’s the interview of a French artist who is part of the origin of Synthwave phenomenon, member of VALERIE Collective since its creation, this is obviously Frederic Riviere aka « Anoraak ». After 3 albums, several EPs and remixes, the multi-instrumentalist and singer knew how to conquer the world with his music and his songs largely influenced by the 80s. The musician tells his debut with his college band « Pony Pony Run Run », some explanations about Valerie, his opinion about Myspace that made him known, his main influences and many more. Happy reading to all!
Retro Synthwave: Hi Frederic, can you introduce yourself to our community of Synthwave lovers who don’t know you yet?
Anoraak: Hey guys, i’m Anoraak, French musician and producer, active since 2007 under this moniker, and my sound is pretty much considered as retrowave/synthpop/dreampop according to reviews 🙂
You said that your stage name « Anoraak » came to you because it evoked memories of childhood. Have you found another meaning of it?
Well i think the meaning is no more than that, i guess that word came to my mind because it resonates with my childhood and memories.
What musical background did you have before Anoraak? What are your favorite instruments and DAW softwares for composing your music?
Before starting Anoraak, i was coming from the rock scene, i’ve played in different bands, as a guitarist and singer, bass player, drummer… And i witnessed the evolution of music in the early 2000’s, when a real crossover between rock and electronic music started, so many bands started to make electronic sounding music with instruments and vice versa, that pretty much when i started Anoraak because i didn’t feel any shame doing a solo project where i could compose, sing and produce everything. I’ve always worked on Logic and Ableton sometimes, my keyboards, guitars and bass.
« i’ve played in different bands, as a guitarist and singer, bass player, drummer »
We knew you as a drummer in ‘Pony Pony Run Run’. What can you tell us about your experience with this band and what are the reasons of your split-up?
Well to make it quick, PPRR was a rock band we built with old friends from school. I was the drummer and we had so much fun for several years, composing, rehearsing, touring in the worst conditions, being broke as fuck but always together and keeping things cool and fun. When that fun started to fade away i decided to go on my own, that’s it!
Before Soundcloud, Spotify, Bandcamp… there was MYSPACE that made you famous in the US with your first album « Nightdrive With You ». Do you regret this media and do you think that the new social networks are as good as this one was?
No i don’t regret it, it was great at the time, and fitted the needs of a period. The good things were this real combination of social media, music, graphics (you could totally tweak you page’s code for those who don’t know about Myspace). It’s been the kickstarter for a new way of communicating and discovering music. Now it’s different but i’m not sure it’s better or worse. For instance, as a musician you didn’t make a single penny out of Myspace plays but it was a total space of liberty, now with Spotify you can make some money, but major label are strong in the equation 😉
Can you tell us how everything began with VALERIE, created by the one who composed the hit from DRIVE? Do you still belong to it while signing on other Labels?
Valerie has never been a label anyway. It’s just an artist collective created by College back in 2006 i believe, and i met him in 2007, along with The Outrunners, Maethelvin, Minitel Rose. For some unexplainable reason, it happened that we all were making music pretty much related to the American culture in the 80’s, so we gathered around this name. Valerie still exists, we threw a Valerie Party last year in Paris with College and Maethelvin, and it was a hell of a success 🙂
You’ve gained an international reputation with three albums, many remixes and more than 6 EPS including the famous « Black Gold Sun ». What can you tell us about this late EP?
I really wanted to go back to my roots on this one, the design is from Alexander « Zonders » Burkhart, the designer of all our Valerie covers, and the sound if a bit more synthwave-esque than my previous EPs i think. But maybe the next EP will be totally different! I don’t want to be stuck into one type of sound.
You said that you were more influenced by the late 70’s but you’ve grew up in the 80’s so your music can be between Disco and New Wave. Why did you choose a rather joyful and romantic style than a dark and violent one?
Because it matches my personality 😀 New Wave is a non violent movement, pretty dark indeed, but totally romantic and smooth.
« New Wave is a non violent movement, pretty dark indeed, but totally romantic and smooth »
What are your main musical influences?
THAT question is so hard to answer haha. I believe it’s a love triangle between disco, indie pop and new wave.
Can you say a few words about DRIVE, Kung Fury or Stranger Things that are the greatest references of the new generation of film/series inspired by the 80’s universe?
I love them all! Drive for this mix-up between L.A. Noire and 80’s references, Kung Fury for this full-on video game related concept, and Stranger Things because it’s the perfect combination of Goonies-like movies and Carpenter-like disturbing feeling. And the music has been so well chosen in each case!
You’re also a singer. With which artist would you like to work as a singer?
Can you tell us the story of your ‘Endless Summer’ label? Any upcoming releases?
I decided to build my own label in 2016, in order to release my music easily, for Anoraak first and also for my other projects, like Outblack. Now there are other names added (Encore, Tonus…), not necessarily in the same genre, i don’t want a niche label, i just want to release music i like, with no boundaries. Some more artists will be released on the label this year, but nothing i can talk about so far 🙂
« i just want to release music i like, with no boundaries »
You lived the launch of the musical genre called « Synthwave », « Outrun » or « Retrowave ». What do you think of this actual hype around the 80’s?
I think it’s cool! I feel i’m closer to the Retrowave thing according to my sound. I’m glad that so many people get to give their own vision of what we call « The 80’s » it gives some very interesting results.
The way you market is as important as the quality of a track itself nowadays. What do you think about this, and what advice could you give to young producers?
There’s no special advice to give, as far as i’m concerned i’m trying to embrace this social media game, while trying to keep my personal life out of it, but that’s my way of doing things.
Many of your tracks have had their music videos. How do you choose the directors?
Most of the time, directors came to me and i give them full artistic liberty, then we talk and agree on a script. O.S.A.K.A.H. did an amazing job on both videos, i love to work with these guys.
About your live tour, can you tell us your best anecdote? Any gig soon?
I think the best one is that day in 2009 when i actually violently fell on stage while saying goodbye at the end of the show haha. My next gigs are Montpellier on Feb 14th for a solo live set, the EDC Mexico festival on Feb 24th for a DJset. More to come later, but nothing to announce right now.
A few words about your future projects? What are you preparing and for when?
Sure, i’m preparing a new EP for spring time, then a 10-years re-issue of Nightdrive With You in September, along with a new duo live set!