Cobra Kai, D/A/D and I
‘Cobra Kai is BACK baby!’ – Johnny Lawrence – 2018
If you are a reader of Fakeman it’s about a 99% certainty that you are also a viewer of the excellent ‘Cobra Kai’- The TV continuation of the 80s movie classic ‘The Karate Kid’. If you are a reader of Fakeman it’s also a 99% certainty that you are a fan of synthwave OG D/A/D!
So why don’t we scratch a couple of your Sunday itches and take some time to have a chat with Zach Robinson, one half of the composing team behind the Cobra Kai television series, but who also (for those that didn’t know) happens to be D/A/D?!
You with me? Well consider the itch scratched. Zach is here to chat all about his new synthwave vinyl release and how he feels about Season 3 of Cobra Kai and it’s new home on streaming giant Netflix.
PF: Hey Zach, Thank you very much for your time and having a chat with me. First of all, let’s chat about D/A/D and your synthwave work. The Construct is finally getting its long overview debut on record with a pressing via Electric Dream Records. How did this come about and how you feel about getting the iconic album out on wax?
ZR: Brian at EDR reached out to me in early spring and laid out a pretty solid plan for the release. I had always wanted to do a vinyl for The Construct but the economics didn’t make sense until now. The album has sold out on cassette and even the physical CD does well so I hope people will enjoy the vinyl experience. Also, one of my favorites artists Dynatron did the mastering and it sounds brillian
PF: Can you tell us a bit about how D/A/D came into being and who your inspirations were back then?
ZR: D/A/D started around the same time I started college in 2008. I was studying music composition at the time and was in the process of discovering my compositional voice across a lot of musical genres. My “electronic music project,” which I called D/A/D at first, was a love letter to the aesthetics, culture, sounds, and films of the 1980s. I found out pretty quickly there
PF:Many artists from back in the earlier days of the scene weren’t really even aware of this phrase ’synthwave’ and it certainly wasn’t as saturated as it is now.. How did you stumble into the scene?
ZR: It for sure was not called “synthwave” back then but I think that the catch-all works. I like it. For what it’s worth, I used to call my music “retro-electro” because I was indoctrinated through the electro boom that was happening in the late aughts. So artists from Ed Banger like Justice, Kavinsky, and DJ Mehdi were pretty big and I was supremely into them.The music blogosphere was pretty big at the time and MySpace was the main network in which artists shared music.The MySpace artists that influenced me the most were MPM Soundtracks, Lazerhawk, Act Razer, and Keenhouse. I also always make sure to mention the mythical Masters of the Universe compilations which were mixtapes curated by Sakura Knight and were consistently on repeat on my ipod. I’m not sure if those are online anywhere but they are a pretty epochal representation of 2008 synth music. When I released my first EP “Super Motives” in 2009 I was incredibly happy with the response and it felt special to find an online, international, supportive, musical community.
PF: As a listener, there is certainly some of the DNA of D/A/D in your Cobra Kai work . Are there elements to the way you produced back then that you still utilise now?
ZR: 100%. There’s a lot of D/A/D in Cobra Kai and that’s partially why I haven’t released another D/A/D record. I get that creative release in Cobra Kai. I love my old releases but in terms of production, there’s a lot of stuff that bugs me and that I definitely wouldn’t do now. I was still a young child learning the ropes! I would add that most of the D/A/D lifeblood that runs through the show comes from the emotion and not the production. Synthwave is already so cinematic without having any picture attached so what are those emotions we feel from this music and how do we apply it to a cinematic universe. And then of course, it’s not just any cinematic universe: it’s the fucking Karate Kid. As an ‘80s fan, you can’t get more lucky than that.
PF: Tell us a bit about how you met Leo Birenberg. Was this a relationship that preceded Cobra Kai and how do you find working together. It’s clearly a positive creative relationship!
ZR: Leo and I met while working for the film composer Christophe Beck. Leo was there for about a year or two before me so when I showed up I was taking his lunch orders. We developed a pretty close relationship and when we separately left the Beck nest, we began working on certain TV and film projects together. Our musical backgrounds really compliment each other and we both learned under the same systems at Chris’ place so it’s always been a fun and easy working relationship.
PF: Simple question – How does it feel to score a show like Cobra Kai with The fans, the nostalgia, the success the show has had?
ZR: Leo and I pursued Cobra Kai specifically because we had a very clear idea of how we wanted to pitch the score, and this was before we knew the original actors were involved, or that it was a sequel series to the movies. We’re incredibly grateful to the showrunners Josh, Jon and Hayden for not only giving us the opportunity to score the show but for allowing us to be true to our voice. I can’t stress enough how rare it is in this industry to work on something that you feel truly represents who you are as a composer. Whenever we’re in the middle of writing, Leo and I pinch ourselves because we’re extremely fortunate to be in this position. And then on top of all that, for the show to be a success, and for the music to resonate with millions of people around the world…it’s surreal.
PF: A lot has been written about how you got the Cobra Kai gig. I wanted to ask you how you feel on the eve of Season 3 and the new home at Netflix?
ZR: Season 3 is…fucking wild. Leo and I don’t read the scripts or watch early cuts of the episodes because we like to go into music spotting sessions as fans, with no spoilers. I will say there were several moments where I screamed out loud in front of a room full of professionals. As far as Netflix goes, what more is there to say except for it’s amazing, amazing news, especially for premiering a season as big as this new one. Just the sheer volume of people both in the US and internationally who are going to be able to watch (and listen!) is beyond exciting. Make sure to catch up on the first 2 seasons on Netflix on 8/28!
PF: Has the processes of scoring the show changed for you at all over time? And how does it compare to those days of making music for yourself?
ZR: Every season, the writers raise the stakes so naturally we need to do the same in our music. In season 1, we had an orchestra for the final episode which took place at the tournament. Season 2 we actually got to record orchestra for every episode and up the production value of the whole score went up. Season 3 is…well…you’ll see. It’s a beast. It is by far the biggest thing in terms of scope that we’ve done for the show. We cannot wait for you all to hear it. Writing music for film is always different from writing for yourself because you’re collaborating with a lot of people, many of whom are not musicians or composers, they are storytellers. So you’re always trying to work with them to tell the best version of their stories, and that may involve re-writes and changes. Not to mention the additional challenges that come from just being creative, like imposter syndrome etc. I actually find it so much harder to write for yourself, mostly because there aren’t any deadlines! I personally work really well with imagery so when that’s not applicable it’s more challenging for me to just sit down and write. Last summer, I recorded a small album of surf-rockabilly songs that I had been wanting to do for a while under the name Ventura Dives. I also am starting to write some newer material under quarantine times but I don’t quite know what that is yet entirely.
PF: Final question, which I ask most people – What music are you listening to at the moment?!
ZR: The past couple of weeks I’ve been on a significant city pop binge, more than usual. Maybe because I’m nostalgic for a fictionalized utopia through the lens of a booming 1980’s Japanese economy. I dunno. I put some links below:
Also of course Folklore. “This is me Trying” breaks my heart.
Cobra Kai will arrive on its new home, Netflix on the 28th August 2020 with season 1 and 2 available to stream. Keep an eye out for Season 3 coming soon!
Now you’ll need to excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.