Question N°1: Where did you get the idea for the name, Highway Superstar?
Honestly I just looked for something that sounds great. Hope I did it right! There weren’t any artist names I found similar, at the time. Obviously nowadays this is not the case.
Question N°2: What equipment do you use when producing?
I use a blend of analog synths with digital plugins that go into a Cubase environment on a pretty wicked spec PC. I got a lot of gear but my favorites right now are definitely my Juno 106, Moog Slim Phatty, and quite recently, the Matrix 6.
Question N°3: What programs and instruments do you use for your Music? What is your favourite VST you use? And which Drum Machine do you prefer?
As far as VSTs go, I can’t live without the Korg Legacy collection, maybe someday I’ll get the real stuff, but the emulations do a pretty good job. For me at least. I use Steven Slate plugins quite extensively, and the Waves SSL bundle.
For reverbs I usually go for Valhalla, while distortion-wise I discovered the Kilohearts Faturator quite recently.
It does an amazing job on bass sounds for me. Especially when I want to make clean and pristine digital sound emulate analog gear. Drum machine wise, I like Linns whenever I want something fat and pumping. It goes really well blended into more modern samples too, try it! For faster and punchier stuff I prefer a 707.
There’a “poor man”’s 707 called the 505, I bought mine from a friend who modded it with a really cool bitcrush knob, so it does weird and neat tricks.
Question N°4: How do you go about producing a song? Do you have any special production techniques?
I’m all over the place when it comes to writing songs. Sometimes I just hear music in my head and then I sit at the PC and spit it all out with a midi controller, then build a song out of the progressions and melodies I just played.
Sometimes I’ll start looking for sounds to inspire me and go from there.I also like to start from a cool bassline sometimes. Lately I’ve been writing the lyrics, usually a chorus, together with the melody. Which is tested and proven approach since the beginning of days, but it is also very different from the usual production values of electronic music and grid-based production.
On certain occasions for Highway Superstar it works well for me, being a keyboard/piano player first and foremost.
Question N°5: What are some of your major musical influences?
Oh boy, I’ve been listening to heavy metal and American 80’s of course, but also Italo disco, Russian and Israeli 80’s.
A big part of my influences are also AOR bands and stuff that are a bit more intricate than usual pop writing like the things Richard Page recorded with Pages or the late Mr. Mister albums, The Porcaro family and pretty much everything Toto are a huge influence as well.These days I’m into the Italians do it Better catalogue, as well as some more mainstream stuff like the new Chvrches record.
Question N°6: You mentioned in a previous interview you were classically trained in piano, and that you’ve been in rock bands since you were a teenager. How have these two styles affected your own music?
Well, being proficient in a musical instrument to the point of being able to just sit down and play for my own enjoyment or lay down keyboard or piano tracks has been an enormous asset for me.
Thanks mom for being consistent and insistent! This and of course my background in doing keys for various bands has given me invaluable tools and understanding which I always seek to bring out in my music, to have the human factor remain despite the huge amount of electronic elements it’s based upon.
Question N°7: You also mentioned you listen to soundtracks as well, what are some of your favorites?
I have a soft spot for Japanese soundtrack composers. I mainly enjoy the works of Joe Hisaishi, Nobuo Uematsu and Taku Iwasaki. From western ones I like Jon Williams. Classic 80’s soundtracks by David Foster are amazing too.
Question N°8: Would you say you have cinematic influences as well?
To some extent probably, but I don’t really give it much thought. There are artists that have the soundtrack-ish epic element as something much more prominent than me, while I usually stay more song-oriented. That said, the element is still there and I do enjoy working on stuff with a narrative whenever I get the chance.
Question N°9: What was it like producing a song for Kung Fury?
It was great. I feel honored and thrilled to have been able to do a track for something like that. The song itself happened quite fast after I received some guidelines regarding to the direction. It’s a really laid back and chill track while maintaining some retro-cheese atmosphere. Recording the saxophone parts for that with a real saxophonist was the highlight of the creation of that song for me.
Question N°10: What was it like for you during the 80’s? Why have you attached to that sound?
I was born in the 80’s so my memories from that time are mostly childhood-related. Somehow that sound envelope really resonates well with me, and my writing/playing style. Something about it sounds pure, even childlike while a lot of genres are sometimes very self-aware and even cynical. That’s how I hear it in my head at least.
Question N°11: Has living in an area surrounded by conflict affected your sound?
Seemingly no, since my musical inspirations are mostly universal and unrelated to current events.
Then again, you can’t really stay indifferent to all this when living in the Middle East and some of that mentality, despite the fact I’m from Belorussian descent, probably finds its way into the songs one way or another. Maybe it’s the sense of urgency I always push for, how the bass and drums are “out there”, and maybe I’m just talking nonsense right now, haha!
Question N°12: Your new album is coming out Nov. 9. The album sampler sounded fantastic. Was producing your second album different than your first?
Thank you!! Yes, everything has been done on a bigger scale. More vocal tracks, tons of insanely talented people involved, richer arrangements. The main thing about this record for me is that there are two songs with my vocals on them.
That’s a huge step for me personally, to be able to front my own songs and present them in the way I think is best. It took a lot of work, and I’m still working to get better and to know my voice more. I’m super proud of this album and I hope everyone enjoys it.
Question N°13: You mentioned in an interview that you enjoy working with various genres, can we expect you to deviate from the 80’s influence or synthwave anytime soon?
The last thing I want to be is a one-trick musician, and even in the seemingly-limited retro genre I always tried to do different things. Be it songs with vocals, instrumental outrun/synthwave-ish tracks or even video-game-music oriented things.
While it’s important in my opinion to remain true to what your artist identity represents, don’t forget that it’s only a representation of our changing selves. I have no doubt I’ll be trying different things in the future, as there’s no point of writing another Take my Time or another Endgame.
But I assure you it will retain recognizable elements, and musical anchors will be able to hold on to while referencing my older stuff.