I♥SYNTHS:Tell us a little about Betamaxx. The name, the sound, the vision.
Betamaxx is a project focused on a love for forgotten technologies, projected through 80’s influenced synth-based music. I started the project in early 2012 with a goal of putting out an LP which was later achieved later in the year after a summer of home recording on my Juno 60 synthesizer. I suppose “Retro Futurism” would be an accurate description of the visionary aspect of Betamaxx.
I♥SYNTHS: What got you into this specific genre of music?
Betamaxx: Although I have been a big fan of 80’s synthpop, funk and movie scores since I was a kid, it wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I discovered some of the revival artists making awesome “synthwave” based tunes. It dawned on me that I needed to buy a synthesizer to achieve some of these amazing sounds I have heard.
I♥SYNTHS: Did you ever play in bands or learn any other instruments?
Betamaxx: Yes. I have been playing drums since I was 12 years old. It lead me to play in multiple bands throughout the years. I played in several different styles of music including punk, reggae, death metal, blues, and indie bands. I have taken somewhat of a hiatus from playing drums right now, but I do fill in now and again for my friend’s gigs if they ask. On top of that, I also dabble in guitar and bass. I currently play for a live outfit called “Wicked Chief” doing organ, and acoustic guitar.
I♥SYNTHS: What was your first synth?
Betamaxx: The mighty Roland Super JX (without the programmer unfortunately). I was so new to using synths that I didn’t understand really how all the sub-menus worked within the tiny screen that was on it, making it extremely hard to edit any of the sounds, much like the yamaha dx-7. Although I ended up selling it, I still regret it to this day. A wise friend once told me you shouldn’t let any vintage gear go unless you absolutely have to because you’ll end up regretting it later on. It wasn’t until I bought my juno-106 that I really started understanding how to make my own sounds.
I♥SYNTHS: How do you go about recording in your hardware? Explain your writing technique.
Betamaxx: It’s pretty simple, and frankly I’m not ashamed. I have my synths wired into my Avid Pro Mbox. I use FL Studio to receive and edit those sounds by cutting up and editing the raw wave forms in a plug-in called “Edison”. At that point I plug them into a sequencer and add effects if want to. After that I feed it to the bigger step sequencer and begin creating my song.
I♥SYNTHS: Do you use any soft synths?
Betamaxx: There are a few plugins that I will use here and there within FL Studio, but for the most part, no. I have too many greats to be messing with VST’s.
I♥SYNTHS: What are your thoughts on the new Aira TR-8. Does it hold up to the vintage stuff?
Betamaxx: The TR-8 is a great little machine. I have never personally had my hands on an 808 to be able to make an accurate comparison, but I would give it the benefit of the doubt. I haven’t spent enough time with it to quite figure out every nook and cranny, but I will tell you that it is a powerful replica of a classic that even the most seasoned gear head probably wouldn’t be able to spot a difference.
I♥SYNTHS: Where do you find your inspiration when writing music?
Betamaxx: Mainly just sitting down in front of my synths. Just playing the keys and messing with the knobs and sliders brings me back to a simpler time. It all sounds so fresh to me even though most of my instruments are from the early 80’s. I picture a Harold Faltmeyer song, or a classic John Hughes teenage love story. I have a yearning to pick up where they left off. I have also been very fortunate to have the backing support of my mother, my friends, fellow artists, Telefuture Records, and fans which have been a huge help in the inspiration and motivation department.
I♥SYNTHS: Obviously your music has a big 80s sound. Any favorite musicians from that era?
Betamaxx: Oh yes, plenty. Madonna, Bill Idol, The Smiths, Human League, Kashif, Herbie Hancock, The Replacements, The Cure, Harold Faltmeyer, Phil Collins, David Bowie, John Carpenter, Cindi Lauper, The Dead Milkmen, Hall and Oates, The Pet Shop Boys, The Whispers, and Prince, just to name some of the ones on my mind.
I♥SYNTHS: Where did you find your Minimoog? Do you find a lot of your gear on eBay or do you do your shopping locally?
Betamaxx: The Minimoog was found on ebay, as were pretty much all of my synths. I have been lucky to encounter very honest sellers, which has landed me with some pretty legit examples of the era. Unfortunately there aren’t any cool shops that offer synthesizers in Pittsburgh, PA other than Pittsburgh Modular Systems, of which I haven’t been to yet. I have bought a couple synths off of Craigslist, but I generally feel that I’m not getting a very good deal. Probably the funniest claim to fame that I had when buying a synth was with my Korg Polysix. The seller claimed that it had once belonged to Daryl Stuermer of Phil Collins.
I♥SYNTHS: What’s the next piece of gear you’d like to add to your arsenal?
Betamaxx: Well now, that’s a tough question. I have had my eyes on a Jupiter-8 for quite some time, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $8,000-10,000, or potentially have to trade off the great gear I already have, which I am very happy with. I would also like to have a LinnDrum.
I♥SYNTHS: Care to share a recent release?
I♥SYNTHS: What’s next for Betamaxx?
Betamaxx: Honestly, putting together a live performance has been on my mind a lot lately. I am in the works of starting off small and experimenting with some local shows to see what kind of reactions I get. I am also in the works of putting together an EP sometime this summer.