About vaporwave and its spawn – Part II: conversation with WosX

hcfrlnacIn my previous post about vaporwave  I spoke extensively about its subgenres and mentioned hardvapour as one of the more interesting electronic music genres that has been conceived in the recent years. I also spoke about wosX  – one of the more prominent figures in the context of the genre and a producer that I admire very much. I am happy to say that I was able to reach wosX himself and have a fruitful conversation with him about vaporwave as a whole, his notorious End of World Rave and evolution of music. You can listen to the whole conversation down below. I also compiled a shortened transcript of the podcast in a text form to give you a taste of the most relevant moments of the conversation if you don`t have time to listen to the whole thing. You can also listen to the music mentioned during the podcast down below.

What was the thing that intrigued you the most about vaporwave and made you choose it as a creative mechanism?

I just found a Macintosh Plus album on youtube and when I listened to it I thought it was a really interesting concept to make music. I didn`t even realize that it was slowed down `80s music at first. I just enjoyed the sound of it until I realized there was a whole movement of taking old music and chopping it up and slowing it down. And I sort of got involved.

I have never even made music before or done any music production. One day I just decided to make a vaporwave album for the fun of it. And I released it in August 2014 named Delusional Reruns which is something that I put together in Audacity.

What about hardvapour? When did that come into being? What were the thoughts behind that?

When I started it I was already in the midst of vaporwave scene; around 2015. At that point the scene was very much together but it didn`t see much progression. There was a lot of ambient that was being released because of what 2814 did earlier in the year.

At that point I was still into ambient stuff but I thought ‘if you are taking `80s pop songs and slowing them down and you are making fully composed ambient music emphasizing on an aspect of it having a sentimental value or a nostalgic factor, it makes sense to do it with any other genre’. I was listening to a lot of rave music in general at that point. And then I thought of a concept for End of World Rave I wanted to do a rave-themed album. But I wanted it to have vaporwave style where it was more slowed down because in general, rave music was around 160bpm and I would put it down to around 110bpm.

I also thought that if everyone is nostalgic for the `80s now, it only makes sense that at some point people will become nostalgic for the `90s. I felt that rave music in general was going to make a comeback. I didn`t even know what I was getting in at that point; I didn`t even think hardvapour would become a thing. Afterwards it blew up on its own. Half the vaporwave scene tended to despise everything about hardvapour. I didn`t really understand that since these were producers that didn`t know anything about music to begin with and were chopping up old songs while I was trying to write original music and they are calling it shit. Well, that is their opinion, I guess.

I can draw parallels with other music genres here – especially heavy metal music. For the first 20 or 30 years metal subgenres didn`t really differ from the core that much, but I think past 2000, metal started incorporating elements from many different genres. A lot of people and hardcore fans of metal dismissed these experimentations. It was a similar backlash. But I think it is a necessary part in order for a genre not to stagnate.

It’s quite funny, I noticed that there was a bunch of people in vaporwave that also happen to be into metal as well which I find to be quite an interesting correlation.

The campaign of End of World Rave, the whole thing with Kroko Krew. How much do you think did that contribute to album`s success?

 I wouldn`t say it contributed to its success but I would say it definitely contributed to its notoriety. The whole point of what I was trying to do was to fuck with vaporwave scene just because of how it became so closed off and niche at one point – everyone was doing the exact same thing. I tried to think ‘what if Ukrainian gangsters invaded the scene, and how these kids would react to that’. And they just flipped out, mostly.
When I did hardvapour I didn`t want it to be like ‘oh yeah, instead of Japan we are doing Slavic things now’. I wanted it more to be a globalized viewpoint of incorporating all cultures that were involved in the scene. I thought it was an important thing. And that`s why I did Brasil World Cup 2034 because there is a huge Latin American influence in vaporwave. And it’s cool to see them implement their own culture to it now.

You drew influence from the Slavic countries and especially Ukraine. I was about to ask you whether you have visited a Slavic county or a post-Soviet country before?

I visited Czech Republic and I am going to Poland later this year. I`ve heard a lot of stories because my aunt used to live in Russia right after Soviet Union fell when it was very corrupt.

I`ve watched a video that you have released not so long ago about essentially how you redefine the genre name of vaporwave to just vapour and explain the rationale behind that. And you relocate vaporwave as one of the subgenres of a larger umbrella term ‘vapour’.

You have ‘wave’ that could be applied to anything (like darkwave, synthwave, etc.). So what is ‘vapor’ in front of that? And I explained that and I think it worked better that way because now I don`t have to constantly push myself into vaporwave scene. With the definition of ‘vapour’, both vaporwave and hardvapour can be under the same term together, but they don`t have to mash anymore.

You`ve mentioned that you do not listen to a lot of vaporwave nowadays. Do you still have some producers that you enjoy or do you listen to older releases more?

I listen to mostly hardvapour now. But I am mostly going all over the place with my music just to get inspiration from anywhere I can. There is this guy that does improvs on Soundcloud, he is kind of underrated, his name is Dank Vibes, I recommend him. Then there is Dan Mason I listen to him sometimes. That’s really about it. I feel like a lot of talented producers that were involved in vaporwave have moved on to other things now.

Do you have any good examples of good artists that started with vaporwave and then moved on to something different?

Yeah, there are several. I don`t think they have changed genres, but I think they defined their own sound to a point where it’s separate from vaporwave. A good example is t e l e p a t h.

HKE is also another one that turned around completely music style-wise. Dragon Soul and especially Omnia are very dark and chaotic and crazy.

Jude Frankum, who goes by Remember on Dream Catalogue, who’s done ambient stuff but I think he is rooted in metal and is a guitarist. His sound has definitely evolved greatly within the past 2 years.

Your new album – Deconstruction of Mind – is a very different release compared to the previous ones. I think it was a lot more serious (especially comparing it to End of World Rave) and stand out as an album that does not have any ties to anything else. In my opinion it was one of the most complex outputs that you have created in the past. What was the thought process behind this album and what were your main inspirations?   

It was more of a personal album. I had anxiety and depression before and had been overcoming that. I wanted to portray this process through music. That is what I tried to recreate: I wanted it to start off with the idea of being sunk deep into whatever negative headspace I could be in (the first track is called Negative Thought). The first half of the album is the negative side of things and then the second half is the overcoming of it. With the middle section, I pictured it as the bottom point where you are meddling in this weird headspace where you`re not really sure if it’s normal or weird, or you are feeling like shit or like nothing.

The section definitely sounds like a mixed bag of emotions bashing you from all sides. And you are not catching any individual emotion to grasp on to. Do you think that darker themes that are explored in hardvapour detract vaporwave community from this genre?

I don`t think it was negativity that dissuaded people. I think it was more the music style in general. There is a lot of popular vaporwave that I find to be negative in spirit. There was an aspect of the negativity in hardvapour that turned people off, mainly the aggressive tone of it. And I guess that is understandable since vaporwave wanted to be a very nice harmonious internet scene. I feel like a lot of people have a very subjective view as to what negative music sounds like to them. You can obviously write melodies that are darker and you can write melodies that are more uplifting. But you can also make moody melodies that are very dark in their tone but make it sound more uplifting and do the same thing with the uplifting tones – you can twist them around in the production to make them sound more creepy and more dissonant. You see that in horror movies a lot.

All of this is largely possible via electronic music production. There is a recent trend where academic jazz musicians and composers actually incorporate a lot of electronic music elements into their music and it is becoming more and more prevalent. It seems like electronic music finally transcended its stigma in being regarded as ‘not true music’.

I always try to incorporate jazz into my music just because I am a big fan of it. It’s funny to see that there are so many jazz elitists in general. Whenever I tried to do improvisations people would complain, like ‘why do you want to be a jazz musician? You cannot be like the greats’. Isn`t the whole point of keeping a genre alive is trying to create, even if you are not doing it well? At least you are practicing and trying to improve on it. Which is why I really have a problem in terms of academics and how they put jazz as a dogmatic ideal as to what music was. I think jazz spirit in general comes from improvisation and doing your own thing. It should be something that is inviting for everyone. The fact that it has become an elitist music genre for academics takes away from its original spirit, I find.

Even if you do learn music from an academic standpoint, people who get noticed are people who are going outside the box to begin with. Like Scott Joplin who invented ragtime. He studied classical music but when he created ragtime he wasn`t drawing off of his school work, he was drawing off of the music that he heard in his environment and adding syncopation and rhythm that he heard in New Orleans when jazz was just starting.

That is partly a reason why I enjoy minimalistic classical composers – Philip Glass comes to mind. His music is based on classical roots but it is created in a very simple way. And even though he is a minimalist composer he is very highly acclaimed. It is almost like a rebellion against a notion that you have to create highly complex music and obey the structure rules in order to be recognized as a great composer.

I think it was Beethoven who said it: ‘when you are trying to make music that is good, you have to take a complicated idea and simplify it as much as possible’. That way you get the raw idea of what your music is trying to do.

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