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Connect Sessions — Eighties Child

Com Truise talks unlikely collaborations and remixes

Talk to Seth Haley for a while and you can’t help but sense his natural inquisitiveness and recognize how he’s self-paving his own creative road. After all, here’s somebody who went from being a small-town upstate New York teenager, coercing his friends to drive him to record stores for the latest drum’n’bass white labels, before moving to New Jersey to work as an advertising creative making graphics for pharmaceutical companies. And then, beginning in 2010, dropping it all to make gorgeous electronic soundtrack dance music as Com Truise, simply with the support of a blog (All Everyone United) and its audience. It is an understatement that he exudes little fear of risk-taking. But as Haley told SPIN in this exclusive early-December conversation around Com Truise’s collaboration with the visual artist CandyStations for the Connect Sessions powered by Microsoft, he’s also had to discard some preconceived notions about things in order to let the neural pathways flow optimally.

Where did your initial creative sparks come from — both for Com Truise and in your other creative endeavors?
I’ve always been a computer nerd. My best friend, who still lives down the road from me [in Oneida], was the first one to get a computer, so I used to go to their house constantly to play on their computer. When my parents finally got one, I was just stuck on it from dusk to dawn. Then I got into gaming, and that kind of led into the artistic stuff, comic books and I used to draw a lot. I was always into the graphics. Music was kind of a later thing.

The creative ideas for Com Truise come from, I think, my parents. I was born in 1985. So I was subjected to some of that music subliminally, I guess. I’d dig through their record collection when I was little, but really didn’t understand anything. I didn’t like the ’80s for the longest time, I didn’t want anything to do with it. My friend in New Jersey, who got me the job in advertising, was a huge synthpop fan, and he would force stuff on me. When I finally caved in, I was just blown away that I had neglected this period of music for so long. What was really inspiring was I now had this plethora of music to research — and then I started looking into the equipment. I’ve always been into synthesizers, but I was not aware what was used when and how, and what they were actually using it for. So I just dove in headfirst. I listened to the synthpop stuff and then went deeper, got into funk and weird library music.

That’s interesting: the inspiration coming from the tools that you’re researching, and, as you’re acquiring tools, it begins a symbiotic relationship between the creator and the machines you’re creating on.
Definitely. You know, I’ve loved science fiction as long as I can remember. I think you’re born to like something automatically. And I’ve always loved science fiction: in music and in movies.  Not even necessarily the movies, but the way they made the technology look, how someone had to come up with what computers are going to look like in 2024 or whatever. A huge pivotal moment for me came when I finally watched Blade Runner. I walked by it in the movie shop in the sci-fi aisle about a million times, and then one day there I was like, “all right, let’s give it a go.” I seriously watched it three times in one day. I realized there’s tons of references to this film in everything that I was enjoying, from the [Vangelis soundtrack] synthesizer stuff to the idea of “more human than human” (’cause I was listening to White Zombie). Weird connections… Sparks.

Have you previously tried collaborating on music or other work? What’s your experience with it?
Over the years, I never really collaborated. You know, I had done some small things with friends, over the years, just back and forth over the Internet: You write a little bit and I’ll write a little bit. I would go to my friend’s house in New Jersey and we would write a little bit, goof around. But he’s kind of hardheaded, I’m kind of hardheaded, so we’d just and end up making something silly just because. It never really went anywhere. I was never exposed to working with anybody in close proximity. I was always very removed from the actual collaboration process, where now I like to sit in a room with a person. Before, I never really had the opportunity.

I did tour with a live drummer for a while. Rory O’Connor — he’s the drummer for Tycho at the moment, and that was amazing. It’s great to have someone else onstage and working with you. Rory was very close to all the Ghostly [International] guys, so he reached out to see if I would be interested in having a live drummer. We practiced for two days in Brooklyn, and then pretty much went straight on the road to Europe. I adjusted a lot of the music and people loved it. It was not necessarily easier, but just different – different tempo changes and special edits for songs that would make the live drumming even more spectacular. It was crazy. 

Onstage, was there any sort of interaction between what you would do and what he would do?
It was kind of a preset thing, but he’s an amazing drummer, so I gave him all the freedom to add fills, if he felt, and do whatever he wanted. Then I would do my thing. There would be moments in songs where we would play off of each other, and then it would go back to the form, kind of go in and out.

What about remixes? You’ve done a lot of those, and – in theory – that can be a collaborative process. How do you work through those?
The first remixes I did were actually artists reaching out to me directly. I’d be interested in what they were doing, and we would talk for a while. So they would send the sounds and I would take it to my cave and kind of just work it out. Then things started to get a little bigger, and remix management companies got involved, and there’s been little to no contact with the actual artists as far as talking. When things started to get a little bigger, I started to be a little bit more picky or careful about what I choose to do. I’ve had some wacky stuff — the Maroon 5 remix, for instance — but I accepted that remix and the Kings of Leon remix as a challenge, because everyone’s heard those people’s music; it’s been everywhere. So I thought, maybe I can make this my own kind of cool, take this and really do something different with it.

Do you think that you were successful with that?
I think I was. I’m actually really happy with the results. They’re some of my favorite remixes, because you take something that’s so big already and then try to add your flare to it. It can go either way. It’s funny because growing up, listening to drum’n’bass, I never liked remixes. I was always so keen on the original track. An EP would come out and it would be one original song and three or four remixes. I hated it. “Come on, guys. I want new music from you, not your song remixed by four people.” Like the Chemical Brothers: I used to buy their CD singles for “Block Rockin’ Beats” and “Leave Home,” and it was one or two new songs and then three remixes. Thinking back, it helped me discover all of these amazing artists [who were doing remixes], but at the time, I was just so excited to get new music that I was disappointed and never really interested. Then once I started doing [remixes], I was like, “Oh, I see their potential and use.” Most of my remixes have been very promotional, which I actually like better than being on some other artist’s EP or anything like that. Some were physical releases, smaller releases for more indie artists, they would do the original track on the A side and my remix on the B-side; I love doing that. But to be kind of lumped in a remix thing for anything less than a bigger artist is not what I am going for.

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