Next Stop: London, on the Highway of a Superstar
Ladies and gentlemen, Boys and girls, children of all ages! To help celebrate the evolution of the Patrick Fakeman blog to PFSynth.com we’ve got some great artist interviews and guest editorials in the pipeline. These are going to cover not only synth and retrowave, but also 80s culture, movies and music in the UK and beyond. Naturally this will take the site in some very exciting directions with the aim to being a hub of nostalgia which I hope you will all enjoy.
So lets get started!
In 2018, The Outland crew based out of London took their unique brand of live synthwave events and take it to the next level in the capital. They have conquered South London, they had conquered London, the next step was clear: Hit the river and take the Synthwave live explosion out onto the water. What resulted was a truly unique night (with a very drunken after party). So when it was announced that Outland planned to bring back the event for 2019, we all waited to see which acts would hit the open waves. And we weren’t disappointed. Returning to the UK to perform for the first time in 2 years will be Alex Karlinsky, AKA – Highway Superstar.
HS has come off the back of an amazing vinyl release of his 2013 album ‘Take my Time’ and new singles ‘By My Side’ and ‘Skylines’, both of which have been a breath of fresh and cooling synth air into the scene in 2019.
Highway was kind enough to take some time out and chat with me about 80s influences growing up, his collaborations, his record collection, the future of the scene and hitting the Thames with Outland – Enjoy!
Can you tell me what it was about Euro and American 80s culture that impacted on you as a kid how was it different to the Israeli culture at the time?
The culture here in Israel was and is very similar to American 80s culture, we took it very much like Europe back at the time, I mean, heavily influenced by it. Movies, TV shows, Music, Fashion. It’s all been very present here. There’s definitely an underlying tone of some middle-eastern sass in the way it’s all been experienced here, but my grasp of that era also has a lot to do with me being a kid in the 80s back in the Soviet Union, before we immigrated here. I definitely was drawn to video games in that era, and the music was always there but I didn’t realize how much of it was imprinted in me until I started making my own music. There’s classic American 80s, pop, jazz, rock but also hair-metal and hard-rock. But I’m very italo-disco oriented too, which is a much more european thing than American. I remember italo records being played in birthdays and parties when I was a kid.
What originally got you in to the synth music scene?
I’m a bit of a cliché, but definitely the youtube rabbit-hole consisting of artists and labels circa the myspace era (Valerie, Mullet Records, Rosso Corsa, Italians Do it Better).
You are regarded as one of the synthwave originals. The Rossa Corsa records crew (along with the Valerie collective) paved the way for the scene as it is today: How do you feel about it’s popularity in the last few years and the new generation of producers?
Thanks, that’s really awesome to hear, however I don’t think I’m an OG really. Synthwave and retro-electro has been going on since at least the myspace days back in 2005-2007 and my music doesn’t date as far back. However I’ve been truly blessed to be a part of Rosso Corsa with some of the genre’s finest. It does feel like I’ve been doing this for quite some time, 2012 was long ago really.
I think it’s great to see so many underground producers find new audiences with the surge in popularity during the last few years. Feels good seeing triple A productions on the biggest media outlets such as Netflix or HBO rely on the sound of bedroom production. In a way acts like SURVIVE are the modern day equivalent of what Tangerine Dream or Carpenter did to film soundtracks back in the day. I can name at least three-four producers from my immediate circle of friends who had their stuff featured on prime time TV or massively distributed video games.
That said, I do have my share of criticism about certain aspects of the scene that’s been prevalent in recent years. Sometimes it can feel as if everything gravitates to a few specific musical and visual tropes. And when that happens, the message feels very diluted. I hope I’m not sounding too judgemental, this is just my subjective point of view.
Your albums and singles have always included some strong collaborations. What do you like about the collaboration process?
I love working with different artists because it enriches my musical spectrum. It allows me to explore different sides to production and songwriting, because each artist brings out something different in the song. It’s also a way to re-invent yourself and always stay fresh. I’ve been playing in bands all my life, and sometimes you feel a little alone as a producer, confined to your gear and room, so it helps me bring out some more “human” elements to music and introduce dynamics that I wouldn’t otherwise get. It really changes the way I work sometimes, so it’s also good to feel challenged every now and then.
Last year saw the release of your album Take my Time on vinyl though EPR. We’ve both spoken before about our mutual love for collecting records. What bands and artists are in you collection and who have you been listening to recently?
There’s some major regulars that frequent my vinyl setup. I love Aja and Gaucho by Steely Dan, they just sound so pristine and crisp when played through a good turntable setup. Another record that always feels like home is Chromatics’ Kill for Love. I’ve recently picked up the latest EP by Brothertiger which is nothing short of phenomenal. My collection is not overly huge, just 400 or so records, but it’s ever-growing. I’m gonna need to make more room soon enough!
Your musical style is broad and tracks like Careful Shouting, that appeared on the Kung Fury soundtrack, are a great example a pure 80s jazz. Are you a retro artist? A synthwave artist? Or do you think those sorts of labels limit artist creativity?
This is actually something I’ve been struggling with for quite some time. You know, it’s hard for me to limit myself to a specific genre or way of production in order to convey a consistent artistic message, and I truly admire people who do. There’s a lot of cases when producers assume another alias for their side-projects to have a place to revert to whenever they want to release music under a different genre or sub-genre. My friend Mitch Murder has Stratos Zero for techno/cyber-punky stuff. Duett has Alpiine, which is incredible chillout-lofi synth music. I usually just release everything as Highway Superstar, for better or worse. It feels good to have diversity in my music catalog, but I understand how it can interfere with building a consistent image. But maintaining more than one musical identity is something that is very time-consuming, and I’ve yet to settle on the best way I can achieve it.
Everyone is really excited to see you back in London for next months Outland Neon Cruise. A synth event on a boat, cruising down the river Thames. How do you feel about the event and coming back to London?, a city I know you love.
I’ve been to London many times, and it’s a city that’s so easy to fall in love with. I love the English culture but what I really enjoy is the cosmopolitanism and the fusion of different cultures. You can really feel like you’re in a totally different place by taking just two tube stops from wherever you are at any given moment, so I love that you never run out of stuff to explore this way. This year is my first time at an Outland event, I’m absolutely excited to come back, especially after my last show at RetroFuture Fest last. I’m preparing lots of surprises, so there’s a lot to stay excited for, hopefully. A boat venue is also an awesome kicker of course. See you on the dancefloor!
There are still a small number of tickets available for the Outland Sunset Neon Cruise II on June 1st 2019 in London. Take a look at the Outland Facebook page here for tickets and Join Highway Superstar with other synthwave legends Sunglasses Kid, 80s Stallone and Morgan Willis.
Now you’ll need to excuse me, I have to return some videotapes