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Interview: Code Elektro & His Holy Trinity of Compelling Synth Scores

With the Sept. 29 release of Triads, Danish composer and Vehlinggo mainstay Code Elektro has on his hands a triple-threat of cyberpunk-injected, sci-fi-laden synth soundtracks. To put it another way, the third time is certainly a charm, but so was last year’s Wolf and 2015’s Superstrings.

Those previous albums killed it in the critical and fan sphere — earning Code Elektro (AKA Martin Ahm) nominations for a GAFFA Award for Best Danish Electronic Release in 2015 and 2016, and solidifying him as a well regarded synthesizer-based composer. Triads drives home one very important but basic concept: His albums could be (and should be) scores for films. Take note, decision-makers. Take note.

(I should also note that not only is Ahm’s music good, but it sounds good. His releases are engineered impeccably using some kind of Nordic magic.)

In advance of Friday’s release, the noted sound designer Ahm returns to Vehlinggo to talk about Triads. (Note: The interview was edited for clarity and house style.)

Code Elektro (AKA Martin Ahm).

Code Elektro Talks About ‘Triads’

Vehlinggo: How did you approach Triads differently from Superstrings and Wolf

Martin Ahm: Just like with the Wolf album, I have an overall theme for Triads. For instance, the title, Triads, has two meanings. Firstly, it’s my album number three — and a triad is group of three. Secondly, triads can also mean these Chinese gangs that appeared in the 18th Century in China. So, the tracks have an Asian feel with Asian-inspired melodies and sounds combined with the Code Elektro sound throughout the album.

Also, this time I have added two cover tracks from the Commodore 64. “The Wilderness” (from The Last Ninja) and “International Karate.” I have always wanted to do that and now I had a reason. I played those games waaaay too much when I was a kid!

Production-wise, I have been using more old school, 8-bit percussion and retro-inspired-instruments this time. I think that the Commodore 64 soundtracks have inspired me to do this.

How did your experiences with those two records inform how you went about making this one?

Everything you do and learn forms you as an artist (and person). I learned a lot making those albums… (but there’s always room for improvement). And I always seem to forget how much work it is to make an album! Haha!

One of the lessons from making the Wolf album is that working with an overall concept helps me write — from the music, to the sounds, to the cover, etc.

Also, I think that it’s important to trust yourself and your instincts in the songwriting phase, and not be too focused on the end result. That’s always hard, I think. I still try to learn that.

The cover for Triads was designed by John Bergin — the legendary Renaissance man and current art/creative director for Lakeshore Records, and designer of the album art for the likes of Stranger Things, Drive, and Mr. Robot. How’d that come about? I know he’s a fan and that he pursued you for inclusion on the companion album for The Rise of the Synths. Did it all come out of that?

Yes, John is the reason that Code Elektro appears on The Rise of the Synths album. It’s such an honor to be among those awesome bands — GUNSHIP, Com Truise, etc. — and it’s great that somehow, I’m a part of the community.

I knew that John is also an amazing visual artist, so I asked if he would be interested in designing the next album. And thankfully he said, “yes.” I’m really glad that I asked him, because I think that the end result is amazing, and it says a lot about John as an artist.

Code Elektro Triads

You were in LA recently. What were you doing there? What did you think of it? Have you been there before?

I love the USA. There’s something about the American mentality that I really like. I had a few meetings with SONY/ATV and Lakeshore in Los Angeles — and they both were really supportive of Code Elektro. Too soon to say what will happen, but I did get a free “vacation.”

Los Angeles is an awesome city, except the traffic! So, I hope that I can come back. I also visited Boston, which has lot more of an East Coast feel. A few years ago I visited New York. All of them are amazing cities and they all have so much to offer.

The thing that always surprises me when I travel in the USA is that the cultural difference is relatively small from Denmark (and Europe) — even though the distance is so great. Of course, there are big differences in some ways, but we all still grew up listening to the same music and watched the same movies.

Will you have a podcast for Triads, like you did for Superstrings and Wolf, which Vehlinggo broadcasted in several parts earlier this year? Your podcasts are great — well produced, obviously, but also highly informative about your creative process.

Yes! The feedback from my earlier episodes where I talk about Superstrings and Wolf has been really cool. I’m working on a two-part episode right now for Triads.

How has your fan base developed since the release of Superstrings? What has been the most rewarding exchange with a fan?

The fan base is growing every day. And I’m so thankful every time somebody follows me, comments, or shares my music.

“I love it when I get mail from a fan, where he or she tells me about what the music means to them. That gets me through the hard times.”

One of the best things about making music is when you connect with like-minded people — at least that’s what I think; every artist feels differently. I love it when artists that I follow connect with their fans, so I always try to do the same. When people are spending their time on your art and music, I think that you have to give them something in return.

I love it when I get mail from a fan, where he or she tells me about what the music means to them. That gets me through the hard times.

Code Elektro Triads vinyl back cover

What do you want listeners to get out of Triads?

It’s really up to them. But if the music can create images in their heads and activate their imagination — just like when I wrote the music — then I will be happy!

Triads will be available in physical and digital formats on Friday, Sept. 29, via Iceberg Records. Buy the vinyl directly from the label before Thursday, and pay a special pre-sale price. If you miss that deadline, you can still buy it directly from the label.

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