#Synthfam Intervew: The Encounter
The Encounter (Nigel Silva) is a synthwave producer from New Jersey. His music is a unique take on synthwave, combining retro synths with a desire to push the genre's boundaries and create music that's true to his sensibilities. In an email, he told me about his start in music, his creative inspirations and how he goes about producing new tracks. We also discuss his latest EP Dreams of DK Isle.
Karl Magi: Starting out, what made you want to create music as something beyond a mere hobby?
Nigel Silva: I started taking music more seriously once I started to read all the emails and comments people were leaving me on my tracks. It's a crazy feeling knowing that people listen to your music as a way to unwind or relax, you know? As soon as I put my foot down and made music production my full time job, it just snowballed from there.
KM: How did you find yourself drawn towards creating synthwave?
NS: Prior to making synthwave, I was making EDM music like trap and house and generally that's anywhere between 128-160 BPM. I remembe, back in 2011, my girlfriend at the time caught a commercial on TV for a movie called Drive (starring Ryan Gosling) and she mentioned to me that there was a Ford Mustang featured in the commercial - a car that I own!
Of course, being a massive Mustang fan, I went and saw the film, knowing absolutely nothing about synthwave or even the synth scene. Once I heard that soundtrack and how slow and thoughtful each beat was, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
When I got home I dropped the BPM down to 90 and just started working on a song with no real direction, I just wanted to make something that sounded cool. I found myself digging through old horror movie trailers on YouTube and eventually I ended up with a song based on The Blob film from the '80s. That song is featured, in all of it's 2011-ness, on my first album.
KM: From which sources do you draw creative inspiration?
NS: I love people who are dedicated to their craft. For example, Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear/(ex)Konami fame is probably my go to for who I aim to be in my life. He's just this dude who's enjoying life, creating what he wants to create all while being a complete and total badass at it. I also love photography and art. I believe photos are one of the few things on this Earth that can really move people to such a degree. They deserve to be scored. Every photo, no matter how basic, tells a story worth your time.
Then there's video games. Ask anyone that knows me, I'm a huge gamer. I have over 800 hours in Overwatch alone and I have nearly 600 games on Steam. I even collect video games! Video games are such defined pieces of artwork that I can't help but get drawn to them - especially now with the technology that we have available to us.
KM: How do you approach the creation of new music?
NS: I'm really big on mood. In my opinion, if there's no mood, then there's no music. Sure, you can write some notes on a piano roll and add in a drum pattern, but I've never been too big on just writing music to write music. I think that music needs to come from the soul. It should be used as a platform to tell a story or to get your emotions out. There's something special when you're able to translate feelings or thoughts into something people can vibe with because at the end of the day... we're all human, right? We all deal with break-ups and fights. We all get mad/happy/sad/etc; You can use those feelings as a platform for your music or whatever art you're creating.
I used to be really bad at handling break-ups. I used to spend all day and night in bed just completely saddened out of my mind. My mood then was so negative but one day I just sat down at my desk and let the feels pour out onto my synth and from that Waves was created. I wouldn't have been able to write that EP if it wasn't for how I was feeling. On the flipside, Dreams of Outer Heaven came from being a huge Metal Gear/Metal Gear Solid fan and just being extremely excited for the then upcoming Metal Gear Solid V.
Music can come from anywhere, but it needs to come from somewhere. Photos, movies, video games, even something as simple as looking out your window and noticing the weather can greatly affect your mood. I think it's our job as musicians to be able to translate that so people can be happy or sad with you.
On top of that, I push myself to innovate with every release I make. I don't play it safe. I try to push the boundaries of what's considered "synthwave" to people and I do that by slowly introducing certain music patterns that aren't usually heard in your typical synthwave track. That includes everything from rapid firing hi-hats I got from my trap producing days or a New Jack Swing style drum beat mixed with the booming sub bass from an 808. I've been trying to slowly carve my own style with musical genres that I like to listen to in my free time. I really, really, really appreciate it when I'm listening to someone from the scene and I hear something that's rarely heard.
KM: Dreams of DK Isle covers some of the most beloved video game music ever written. Tell me about how Dave Wise's score inspired you to create the EP and how you went about remixing such iconic tunes?
NS: First off, let me state that David Wise is an absolute virtuoso at creating music. During the writing of that EP, I combed through pretty much his entire catalogue and I spent a lot of time studying the way that he writes music. I absolutely love his work! About the EP though, I was born in 1992 so I was too young to grow up with the Donkey Kong Country series of games but what I did grow up with was Diddy Kong Racing on the N64 and David Wise's amazing work on that soundtrack. It's been a dream of mine ever since my EDM days to remix that OST but it's difficult to do it justice.
I've always had a fascination with the DKC soundtracks. There's something so mystifying and chill about them and you wouldn't think that would work in a game featuring a gorilla wearing a tie, but it does! Those tracks are amazing by themselves and, I won't lie, I felt a lot of pressure when I remixed them. I was terrified that I couldn't do it justice. I listened to a few different synthwave remixes that were made from those games but none of them managed to capture that vibe Mr. Wise created back in '94 and '95. I knew from the outset that I would have to remix these in my style but try and keep the vibe as true to the original as possible.
KM: What does the future hold for you, musically speaking?
NS: Currently I'm working on Waves II which will end up being a full length album featuring a ton of vocals from established artists outside of the synthwave scene. I'm trying really hard to branch out to more of a modern sound with this album. There's a lot of artists out there in the scene right now that want to create straight up synthwave such as FM-84 and The Midnight and those guys are amazing to listen to. They capture that vibe so well, but I have my sights set to slightly past them to a place where I am able to comfortably make music the way I want to make music but still have people who can vibe with me. I don't want to be just another synthwave artist. I want to be myself and express that with my music.
Other than that, not much besides the preliminary works of the final part of my Bad trilogy and a few more video game EPs I've been bouncing back and forth with. I'd love to break into some video game and/or movie scoring, though. I've had opportunities in the past but they all fell through. I have enough material I wrote for those projects to release something!
KM: What do you do when you need to recharge your creative batteries?
NS: I play video games (currently replaying both the KOTOR and the Max Payne series), watch a movie or show (currently watching Cowboy Bebop for the first time), or just go skateboarding! I see a lot of people online who struggle with a form of burn out from overworking themselves too much. I think we all deserve a break every now and then and, honestly, the best way for me to do that is to just get lost in something: start an 80+ hour RPG or start a new series. Maybe try something new like skateboarding. At the end of the day, you just want to be relaxed and not stressed over anything creative because the more relaxed you are, the better the end result will be.