Noisey: Is music your main job? If not, what is?
Vision Heat: No music as of now is not. I mostly work in the food industry which I can dig because I love really good food, wine and spirits. Also it keeps me from getting fat sitting at a desk all day.
NS: What were your main influences when you decided to be a musician?
VH: I was into music from an early age maybe about 5 or 6 but hit heavy into rock when I heard Van Halen’s 1984, from there on I was hooked. I also raided my folks records so I was checking out the usual suspects The Beatles, Zeppelin, The Who, Cream and Sabbath! But I also dug Michael Jackson and Madonna too…then around 6th grade or 7 came Rush and Yes and all the proggy metal stuff.. I began to play bass and from there I was open to just about anything that had good bass players!
NS: How did you come up with the Vision Heat concept?
VH: The concept was sort of an accident. I was always into the 80’s thing but finally got enough gear and software to make “legit” sounding tracks. As I got going I started to write stuff in different styles and feels but all in an 80’s electronic vibe. For me, it’s all about revisiting or exploring a genre or time in history. It’s basically a vehicle to write the music in my head. I guess I could do it using guitar, bass, keyboards and drums too, but I love the sounds of the 80’s. It’s also easier to write complex shit using midi than playing it in band too. So all of these work for me. In terms of the style, I began listening to lots of mixes people made on blogs like “Unreleased Horror Soundtracks” which a lot are just basically ripped straight off of the VHS tapes. Other mixes like ones Andy Votel makes with Applehead for instance, helped shape the feel. I like changing up the sound as you listen through the record. Literally the production not just the style or instruments. It keeps me interested. Before long the record began to take on its own shape. I realized I could actually make my own “mixes” or “compilations” thus Vision Heat became more of a production studio and the “Chosen Themes” could actually span time. It also has a sound that doesn’t just sound like one single artist which is fun to make. It gives me carte blanc to go anywhere I want.
NS: How did you find fascination and inspiration in 80’s synth music?
VH: I grew up with it. It was everywhere in everything I heard. I always loved synths – I mean Jump was the track for me. During my college years I was in a band called g25 which was sort of video game experimental prog rock. Synths were a big part of the sound. When the band broke up I began tinkering around with gear in my bedroom and making more ambient weirdo stuff. Listening to lots of Eno and Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk, Talking Heads and King Crimson. I got really into the minimal thing. It wasn’t until I heard Boards of Canada with their lo-fi detuned thing that really made me stop and realize “oh yeah I remember these sounds from the old filmstrips and educational shit!” That stuff was actually cool again. The haunted sounds and melodies were so great. So that’s where I began the love of the nostalgic I guess. I then started going deep into Tangerine Dream and then into all the soundtracks of my youth and rediscovering that sound. I also love all the prog bands that did pop in the 80’s too. The shit most people can’t stand; Rush, Yes, Gabriel/Genesis, Crimson… It’s not all about arpeggios as the most of the current 80’s re-up seems to be about. I dug all the angular sequences bass parts and off drums.
NS: You take part in other music projects, more experimental stuff like The Talking Book, Blanketship and Vulcanus 68. It seems you have a lot to say, musically. Do you use all these different expressive outlets to conserve some coherence regarding your global artistic personality?
VH: Yeah it would bore me to just do one thing all the time. I need those outlets to influence the others too. Each one is a different vehicle in which I’m able to write music. And they all happened to have a nostalgic vibe. I don’t think I’ve ever written “future music or now music”. With Vulcanus 68 it was mostly this 60s electro acoustic thing, Blankenship was this strange 70’s easy listening fucked rock band sort of project using a blend of samples and my own playing. Talking Book is probably the closest in terms of anything “current” but it’s rooted in old vinyl that’s been played at 8 or 16 1/3 rpm. So it’s got some mold in there too. I like what Trey Spurance does with Secret Chiefs 3 for example. He’s got all these different “bands” or “personas” all within SC3. So he could either make separate projects or throw them all on one record and it works. I kinda like that. Maybe I’ll try that next.
NS: Vision Heat released three records prior to the Stranger Things OST release. Will you apply to score the next season?
VH: Ha… No I think they have a good thing going with these guys but at least it does bring into focus the sound of the 80’s synth stuff which really works great in suspense or sci-fi. It just fits you know? I guess I would like to do some more legitimate soundtrack work though, it’s super fun.
NS: What do you think of the craziness regarding Stranger Things? Did you listen to the soundtrack or watch the series?
VH: I’m not sure why all of a sudden it’s so hyped up. There’s been a lot of 80’s stuff going on recently in soundtracks. Other than the theme it’s very minimal and used as such. Like a little sequence comes in or some erie pads but that’s about it. You definitely can hear a little bit of early 90’s ambient in there too. I dig it a lot.
NS: Do you believe the ST phenomenon could help to reconsider the 80’s sound again?
VH: So what’s funny is that this re-up of 80’s sound has been around for a while now. Wasn’t the Drive soundtrack all the craze a couple of years ago? Death Waltz Records had been re-releasing a ton of stuff like this including being the first to reissue John Carpenter’s records. Almost everything they put out is pretty much on the 80’s esq soundtrack spectrum. I’ve been seeing lots of reissues and it’s awesome. Guys like Com Truise, Pye Corner Audio, Umberto and Steve Moore (Zombie) are just a few who have been into this feel for awhile now. I’m not too heavy into the whole coldwave/synthwave thing that much or at least don’t really listen to a lot of it. I’d rather throw on the Firestarter soundtrack! Probably my favorite guy doing this right now would have to be Davin Wood who’s done all the music for Tim and Eric’s stuff. That’s the real deal! It’s all about the other music, the incidental – in between stuff that I love as well.
NS: What’s next for you?
VH: I have a new project based on Japanese 80’s electronic/minimalist/pop/new age called Empire of Signs. It will be coming out on Root Strata and it’s a co-production with my buddy Maxwell August Croy (who co runs Root Strata). He plays koto, piano, guitar and tapes on the record. Basically, it was inspired by this mix “Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo – Fourth-world Japan, years 1980-1986” by Spencer Doran aka DJ Spencer D. It’s absolutely incredible! It’s a pretty weird pop record. Then I have 2 more Vision Heat records, a soundtrack and another “compilation” on the way. So keeping busy.
NS: What’s new with The Talking Book? Any details on future plans?
VH: Yes! So we have about 2 albums worth of material that needs to be sorted and mixed. After that the plan is to put it out and hopefully play shows. Everyone’s been so busy with other bands and projects but soon enough we’ll all be able to get back and finish it off.