With great pleasure, we bring you our latest interview dedicated to one of the cornerstones of the Synthwave universe, the talented Garrett Hays, better known as Lazerhawk, hailing from Austin, Texas. In this interview, the musician shares insights into how he established his presence in the music scene through the web since 2010. He discusses the recurring sci-fi theme in his albums, provides details about his collaborations with MN84 and GUNSHIP, explains why he has never released music in EP format, talks about the software he uses to compose music, reveals his strongest influence from the 80s, mentions his favorite graphic designer, and much more. As we eagerly await the release of his upcoming album (currently in progress), we invite you to enjoy the read.
Retro Synthwave: Could you introduce yourself to Synthwave lovers who don’t know you yet?
Lazerhawk: Hi Synthwave lovers! My name is Garrett Hays aka Lazerhawk. I’m a synthwave producer from Austin TX and have been making music as Lazerhawk since 2009.
Concerning your artist name, can you tell us its origins and why did you choose it?
I wanted something that was simple, something that people would remember and something that evoked the 80’s. I was having lunch with some friends trying out names and ideas when I came up with the name. It was the one name that really stood out from the rest. I don’t even remember what the other ideas were at this point.
You became famous on Myspace where you found a solution to put online your tracks. Was this a good memory?
Myspace was what really got me started in the genre. I found out about other artists through myspace and eventually started connecting with them through Myspace. It’s were I met Miami Nights 1984 aka Actrazer. Myspace was the first place I debuted new tracks I was working on for Redline as the demo’s were finished. It was a great community until it was overtaken by relentless spam and eventually replaced by better social media sites. I have good memories of Myspace.
For each album you focus on a specific theme. For your second album, ‘Visitors’ (2012) you chose UFO’s, why? Do you believe in it, and did you have any particular experience with UFO’s?
Some of the tracks on Redline had a sci-fi theme like Interstellar and Space Trash. I think those were some of the last tracks I finished for Redline so I had sci-fi on my mind. Then I saw a youtube video of a missile test gone wrong somewhere in Europe. Someone recorded a giant spiral in the sky that looked like a portal of some sort opening up. I wrote the title track to the album soon after that. I personally don’t believe that anyone has seen an actual UFO or that our planet has been visited. I do believe that there are spacefaring civilizations somewhere in the universe but, I would imagine they’d have far more interesting things to do than to visit Earth. It would be an incredible experience if they did though.
‘Dreamrider’ was released a while now, in January 2017. What can you tell us about this album? Why did you choose GUNSHIP as your only collaborators?
Dreamrider was the first album where the concept isn’t as tangible as supercars, aliens or monsters. Instead I decided to go with a feeling that would tie the tracks together. I wanted the album to have a lower tempo than previous albums and be more relaxed and minimal. I didn’t initially have the theme of dreams in mind until my wife recalled a memory of her first new bicycle given to her on her birthday. The foundation of the track Dreamrider was the soundtrack to what I visualized in my mind as she told her story. The name given to her bicycle by the manufacturer was Dreamrider.
GUNSHIP contacted me years earlier and asked that I collaborate on a track with them. I’m really terrible at collaboration and despite my best efforts couldn’t come up with an idea that worked with their track. I had a few Dreamrider tracks that I thought could use vocals and remembered their excellent vocal tracks from our earlier attempt at collaboration so I reached out to them. I’m very lucky to have them on the album because I feel they made a track that was one of my favorites on the album even better.
Since ‘Redline’ in 2010 you’ve released 4 albums but no EP. Are you against this format?
I’m not totally against EP but, I want to deliver a finished product to my fans not a sample. I think if I wanted to test out a partnership with another artist or experiment in some way an EP might work out.
« I want to deliver a finished product to my fans not a sample »
We’re great fans of Drive, Kung Fury and Stranger Things, which are (for us) the ultimate references of the new generation of films/series inspired by the 80’s universe. What do you think about that, and would you like to participate to any sequel?
I’m a fan of those although I still haven’t finished Drive! I would love to participate in any of these.
What are your favorite softwares and favorite gear to compose music with? What do you mostly use?
I don’t use gear. I’ve had synths and gear in the past but, I like the streamlined workflow of using software vs hardware. I use Fl Studio because its what I started using years ago and I like the piano roll. I’ve used a lot of different VSTi over the years but, I think the Korg Polysix is one of my favorites.
You said that your main musical influences, to producer this particular style, was the 80’s pop music. Why is that? Can you give us some artists names?
Kano – I’m ready is the track that influenced me to start producing the music I make today but, I was heavily influenced by the 80’s. 80’s music was the first genre of music that I discovered on my own. It was the first time as a kid that I listened to music that my parents didn’t listen to. I still remember doing my homework while listening to 80’s music on my am/fm clock radio I had in my room.
Do you have time to play video games between two tracks? If so, which ones? Are you more of ‘Master System / NES’ or ‘PS4 / Xbox One’ fan?
I used to be way into video games. I’ve had every popular gaming system from the Atari 2600 to Xbox 360 when I started playing less games and producing more music. I’ve also been avid PC gamer as well. These days I’ve gone even more retro than Master System or NES and play pinball whenever I want to play something. I also play a fair amount of Hearthstone.
Regarding your next Live shows, have you found a solution to your main problem, meaning that you could only play guitar? Are you against DJ Sets?
I haven’t found a solution to my live shows yet. I just haven’t had the time to devote to it yet. I’m going to need to rewrite tracks to include guitar for live versions or do a DJ set. I personally am not a huge fan of DJ sets but, that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t do them because many people are fans of them. Really I just want a solution that fans will enjoy.
« not a huge fan of DJ sets but, that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t do them »
What can you tell us about the graphic designer who created your fantastic logo and covers? What were your inspirations for both of you?
That also goes back to the Myspace days. Michael Delaporte was producing music under the name Defte and offered his graphic design services. We were going to collaborate on a track but, as I mentioned earlier I am terrible at collaborations and it never happened. I feel like the logo he created and the album covers he has done have been absolutely critical to the success of Lazerhawk.
Concerning ‘Rosso Corsa Records’, how did you finally collaborate with Michael (MN84) and manage this label? He told us that you are a « synth god », what can you tell us about him?
We met in the Myspace days. I wanted to do a collective similar to what Valerie was doing where we would get a team of artists together and promote each other via association. MN84 thought we should join together and form a label and that’s what ended up happening. MN84 is a synth god.
A few words about your next projects? What are you preparing and when will it be ready?
I’m not really sure what my next album will be yet. I know that I want to be the opposite of Dreamrider in intensity. It will have more uptempo tracks similar to Redline.