French house and disco master, and expert remixer, LIFELIKE is back with a new EP, Miami Nice, which is his most synthwave-sounding release in years. He’s also back for another fascinating and very LIFELIKE interview.
The primary songs of Miami Nice, available now via NRW Records, are a two-part onslaught of bliss. Deftly remixing those parts are Robert Parker, Waveshaper, Tonebox, and ALEX.
The “So Electric” creator took some time recently to do his second email interview with Vehlinggo in five months — this time we discuss his new release, delve a bit more into his legacy, talk about his assessment of the current state of affairs in the scene, and tap into what the future holds for a guy who’s part of the extend universe of the likes of Daft Punk and Ed Banger — and who was making synthwave before it was a “thing.”
[Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for clarity and style, not that LIFELIKE doesn’t have his own damn fine sense of style.]
Vehlinggo: Let’s talk about your new release, Miami Nice. What was your inspiration behind it and how does the sound compare to your previous work, in your eyes and ears? It sounds like a bit more synthwave than your recent work.
LIFELIKE (AKA Laurent Ash): I recently bought all the seasons of the vintage TV series Miami Vice and I must say that the music from Jan Hammer really inspires me — it’s such high quality stuff.
Funnily, I’ve been doing this sound — what you guys are calling “synthwave” — since the early days I was releasing records. “So Electric” already formed the basis of synthwave and it was released in 2007. But I’m happy to see more and more people doing this sound, growing into an active community of real enthusiasts and fans. This is a big change from the house/nu-disco scene, which is really boring at the moment.
How did writing and recording Miami Nice differ from writing and recording previous releases? How was it the same?
Artists, painters, musicians, designers, etc. are always portraying the same ideal of their own vision of art and concept that they have in mind, all over again, releases after releases, portraits after portraits. That’s how you can recognize the touch of the real artist from a product manager (haha).
So, in fact, [there was] no difference in terms of production and the way I used the studio for “Miami Nice” from any other tracks I’ve been producing so far.
And how does it fit in with your plans for Electronic Dreams, the full album that you’re currently crowdfunding on PledgeMusic (and previously attempted to crowdfund on Kickstarter, which we discussed to some depth last year)? What’s the status of this release, which features collaborations with Electric Youth, Chromeo, Oliver, A-Trak, Yota, and Audio District?
Electronic Dreams will be released mid-May this year. “Miami Nice” will be on the LP. The status is pending until pre-orders are taking off — this should happen very soon.
You’ve mentioned that you’re starting a synthwave label, but I see you’re releasing on NRW Records, NewRetroWave’s label. How did this come about and when does your label make its debut?
Well in fact, my label is right now on pending status. As you might know, I’ve already been running another label called Computer Science for eight years and I’m waiting to see how the scene is growing, as there is no real business around it right now. Gig fees are ridiculously low and sales as well, but the streaming community is huge. There is maybe a future in there, we will see how this goes in a few years.
I’m observing from a distance how this is growing. Investing time and money in a record label, for me, must be not only because I love the music, but we must see this getting properly organized — with parties, festivals, and being able to grab bigger budgets — if we want to be able to launch major artists, or those who are already there and have a name, like Robert Parker, Waveshaper and many others.
“We need investment and money, otherwise this will remain a little community of nerds scotched in front of Youtube forever.”
We need investment and money, otherwise this will remain a little community of nerds scotched in front of Youtube forever. I hope this will grow the right way and make it possible for some of us to become major artists within that genre.
To make this happen we must override the retrogaming Youtuber fan community and reach to a wider audience. This might mean that at some point we will need the help of some major record companies to pick this up and put it in the face of everyone.
In that sense, that’s why I wanted to collaborate with NewRetroWave, because they are starting to organize the business around this movement, and they know damn well how to do it.
As an early practitioner of ‘80s nostalgia-infused electronic music, but also as a member of the broader French Touch movement, you represent a bridge between synthwave’s French Touch roots and what came after. Where do you see your place in the synthwave realm in 2018? And why has your music resonated so long and so deeply with people? I still hear “So Electric” all the time.
To be honest, I don’t have a clue about that. Let’s say that I didn’t wake up one morning saying to myself, “I’m going to create synthwave.” It just happened that “So Electric” got to become an iconic track for the synthwave fans/community, but I wasn’t alone doing this. There were other artists like Kris Menace and Alan Braxe & Fred Falke coming from that French Touch scene who were doing this type of sound. This happened a long time before even Kavinsky knew how to power on a sampler. 🙂
“Let’s say that I didn’t wake up one morning saying to myself, ‘I’m going to create synthwave.’ “
Alan released an EP called Rubicon, which I think should be considered as the real first synthwave release ever. That was 2003. [It] was unfortunately a commercial failure — people weren’t ready at that time to that kind of sound, but now they are. You guys should check this track out on Spotify! [Editor’s note: It appears to have been removed from Spotify and even iTunes, at least in the United States. However, you can find it on YouTube (see below). You can also find a physical copy on Discogs.]
On that note, I tend to see France as perhaps the most important starting ground for the movement of modern electronic music laced with ’80s-nostalgic vibes (tracing back to Air’s Moon Safari and Daft Punk’s Discovery to music from record labels Ed Banger and Record Makers, with you in there somewhere along with Kavinsky and the Valerie Collective — I’m being very simplistic here, but you get the idea). Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why?
Well, France has had a very close relationship with disco music since the ‘70s. Cerrone, who invented disco music with Giorgio Moroder, is a good example of what we do the best in our country: cheese, wine, and disco. 🙂 [Editor’s Note: The origins of disco are complex and often a point of contention, depending on who you talk to. That’s a topic for another time, though.]
And from disco to synthwave the bridge is very short, as Paris always was the center for fashion and arts with New York or London. We always gathered loads of different influences and influencers enriching our musical horizons. I played for the Valerie Collective back in the day — a couple of years before College had their hit synced to the cult movie Drive.
You’re a prominent remixer. What makes for a great remix?
Good question! I think the best is to bring the band/artist you’re remixing into your own musical universe. That’s what they want you to do: They wanna hear your touch on their songs. That’s the magic of remixes.
What does the future hold for you?
More releases with NRW and a DJ tour [are] coming. More info will be published soon on my socials. Thanks for the interview!
Buy Miami Nice now via NRW Records. Head over to PledgeMusic to get in on some sweet pre-order deals for Electronic Dreams.