Two years ago, when I last caught up with Pittsburgh-based Nick Morey, he was getting ready to retire Betamaxx, his pioneering synthwave project. However, after some big realizations and choice opportunities, Morey decided to stick with it. Good decision, it turns out.
After a few years of expanded exposure — placement on the Kung Fury soundtrack and in the just-ended Amazon show Red Oaks — Morey’s preparing to release new album Archaic Science on Nov. 20 on pioneering label Rosso Corsa. It’ll feature guest singers Hayley Stewart and Rat Rios. I recently caught up with him to talk about all of these things and more.
Vehlinggo: The last time we did an interview about two-and-a-half years ago, you were ready to retire Betamaxx. What changed? Was it Kung Fury? Or fans’ appeals?
Betamaxx: I hit a realization that this type of music not only made me happy and satisfied to make, but it was sort of my niche in music creation. I thought back to all the fans and friends I’ve met over the last five years and that pushed me forward and gave me the motivation to keep writing.
I collect analog synths and it makes sense for me to want to create synthwave-style music. The feature in Kung Fury was certainly a boost as well. Seeing my music in films, especially KF, has been one of the most satisfying, if not the most satisfying, experiences I have ever felt with this project. Film and TV features are my ultimate goal with Betamaxx.
I’ve noticed a change in your sound. Tell me the story behind the new album. What were your influences and motivations?
I would consider this album a progression in the Betamaxx sound for a few different reasons, mainly featuring guitar tracks in a majority of the songs. The tracks have been a collection of music written over the last two to three years and I feel that I’ve spent a lot of time working on them, more so than I have in the past with any of my music.
While the signature sound of my music is still there, I feel that it has evolved in a lot of ways by means of new synth sounds, vocal features, and a new mastering guy I hired on. I enlisted the help of my good friend Mike with a couple of the guitar tracks on the album. I guess you can say my sound has matured to some degree.
Track 4, entitled “Black Pantera,” is a song dedicated to my father. Many years ago, while we were driving in the car, he put on a song called “Driving at Night” by Joe Satriani and told me that his dream was to one day drive a De Tomaso Pantera [a 1970s supercar] through the desert at high speeds at night while listening to this song.
I immediately really dug the song a lot. Most people know Satriani for his face-melting guitar riffs — which are highly present in this song and awesome — but I really liked the backing track because it had an “outrun” feel about it with that vintage synth and drum-machine sounds. If you listen and compare the two tracks, you will definitely see the similarities. In a lot of ways “Black Pantera” is an homage to “Driving at Night.”
What do you want the public to get out of the album? What did you get out of the record?
My mission is simple. I feel that my music is great for driving, working out, chilling, thinking… however the listener would prefer to apply it to their current mood or activity.
“I feel that I’m not really confined by an ’80s’ sound anymore…”
For me, I feel that I’ve displayed a variety of styles on this record, including dark synth, new wave, synth pop, nu-disco, chillwave, outrun, dreamwave, and cinematic/film score pieces. You will hear the progression through all the tracks. I sort of speed up and slow down throughout the album in a tasteful way. I feel that I’m not really confined by an “80s” sound anymore, but a sort of synth-based entity on its own.
You’re on Rosso Corsa now, along with many other pioneering synthwave producers and some newer ones, such as Syntax. How does it feel?
Honestly, I feel it’s a great accomplishment. I’ve always loved this label, and they’ve had some artists that have been a big inspiration to me early on in this project, such as Miami Nights 1984, Lazerhawk, Lost Years, Mitch Murder, and Jordan F. It felt right at this point being alongside some of my all-time favorites to be cherished for years to come. My friend [and now labelmate] Sferro suggested that I message them about releasing Archaic Science, so I did, and they accepted.
Beyond Kung Fury, you’ve had at least one placement in Red Oaks. Several of your labelmates have had the same opportunities. Have you had anything else happen?
I worked with season 1 and 2 of Red Oaks, which was a blast. I really enjoyed working with those guys and being included on that show. I also was featured on an indie movie with [Halt and Catch Fire, Black Mirror: San Junipero, and Blade Runner 2049 star] Mackenzie Davis called Always Shine, which is a psychological thriller that was released last year.
Aside that, I haven’t had anything come up recently, but I hope tracks like “Dream Sequence” from this new album will be considered for film or TV.
The scene has changed a bit since your Telefuture days releasing records like Plug & Play and the earlier Sophisticated Technology. What’s your take? Any tips for these new musicians cropping up?
Not to say there isn’t great things going on, but I’m honestly not really familiar with the newer guys. I don’t belong to any Facebook groups or forums regarding synthwave, but if someone links me to some new stuff I will gladly give it a listen.
I’ve been deeply involved not only writing this record, but playing live shows lately. I did my live debut at the Human Music Festival in New Jersey on Memorial Day Weekend, and have played one show in my hometown of Pittsburgh since then.
“We have two shows coming up very soon: Dec. 8 at the Union Night Club in Los Angeles and Dec. 10 at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco.”
We have two shows coming up very soon on the West Coast: LA on Dec 8 at the Union Night Club, and the DNA Lounge in San Francisco on Dec. 10. Both shows are with our good buddies from Pittsburgh, Arcade High.
As for new producers: Keep on doing what you’re doing. If you love it and it makes you happy, don’t give up. I almost did, and I’m really glad I didn’t, because it wasn’t the end for Betamaxx.