Interview: Com Truise
Truise Control: Seth Haley is top gun when it comes to lurid electro funk
Words Alex Denney
In the films of James Cameron, two themes emerge which appear completely at odds with each other. As a director who came of age during the height of Reagan-era, military-industrial bravado, the beardy bighead’s ’80s masterworks The Terminator and Aliens were dazzling ads for US firepower that will have made more soldiers of American citizens than a thousand recruiters ever could. On the other hand, Cameron exhibits a puritanical disdain for those who would develop and export precisely those technologies he was born to fetishise, i.e. the now time-worn trope of the big, bad corporations.
We only mention all this because Com Truise’s Seth Haley makes music that sounds like a distorted, VHS dream of the original Terminator soundtrack, and — for the next couple of weeks at least — works a day job as an art director for a pharmaceutical advertising agency (he’s just handed in his notice). Coincidence? We think not! Pharmaceutical companies, as cinema teaches us, are some of the worst multi-national corporations going: think the psychic baby manufacturers in David Cronenberg’s Scanners, or the murderous pharm bods behind Harrison Ford’s persecution in The Fugitive.
Drawing on a raft of pulsating, mid-range sounds to zero in on the more lurid imaginings of the decade, Com Truise’s imminent debut Galactic Melt reveals a scarlet, synth-laced funk filled with all the wondrous menace of tank tracks rolling on human skulls. But as the jocular namesake would suggest, Haley’s music is both shamelessly evocative of an era, and weirdly unfamiliar at the same time… The Stool Pigeon investigates.
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You’ve experimented with a bunch of different names (Sarin Sunday, SYSTM, Airliner) for your musical endeavours in the past, why did you end up settling on Com Truise?
It actually was just kind of a joke between friends, and I think I woke up one morning and thought I’d go with it. I really had no intentions for this project to be as big as it’s gotten. I just wanted to make some tunes, but thinking back on whether it was the right choice I totally think that if I’d chosen one of the other names I originally had for the project that I definitely wouldn’t have come this far, you know? I get a lot of criticism for the name, but it’s kinda funny — when I first told my mom and she started laughing I was like, ‘I’m just gonna go with this’ you know.
Your sound seems to be muscling in on the, erm, gaudier aspects of the ’80s ‘sound’, was that a deliberate move or more a reflection of the music you like best?
It was a conscious thing. I mean I love ’80s music, I love the sound and the progressions and the pop aspect of it but I’m more interested in production techniques and the sound of the sound. I don’t really wanna create the exact same synthesiser sounds that were used, I just wanna focus on the quality and the tonality of the sound from that period of time. So I wanted to make it feel ’80s, but sound updated.
How d’you go about achieving that?
I guess my main focus is the bass, I use similar bass sounds to those you might find in an ’80s song, but the way I sequence and chop it, I feel like it brings it to a different level. Like with the drums, they’re ’80s drums but they’re also loud and not so syncopated — I aim to put my own spin on it.
Would your music be so ’80s-obsessed if you had grown up in another period?
I guess when I was growing up I don’t really remember hearing lots of the kind of ’80s music I like today. I think it was more a subliminal thing, in the past four years I’ve just been like, ‘oh shit, I really like the ’80s’ — I mean we all go through periods, I used to DJ drum ‘n’ bass for a long time, then I got into Boards of Canada… I’m definitely trying to work on those guys’ level melodically, but less so the aesthetic — it’s less of a kaleidoscope and more clean, futuristic-type stuff.
‘Glawio’ (fan-made video)
With reference to things like Vangelis, John Carpenter and the original Terminator soundtrack, it’s amazing how well a certain strain of ’80s synth music lent itself to dystopian imagery. Is that something inherent in the sound, d’you think?
Yeah definitely. I’ve gone after the darker side of things, particularly with this record. I like the edgier sounds, I’m a big fan of John Carpenter. The Blade Runner soundtrack I listen to most days on my iPod, I guess most people wouldn’t drive around in their cars listening to that but there we go.
Do you ever dream up sci-fi scenarios that your music might accompany?
I set out to write an album that was like a score for a film that hadn’t been written yet. But in my mind I had started to write it as I went along — you know I would wake up and think, ‘well it would be cool if the scene was like this’, or ‘if the spaceship was landing on this planet what would it sound like’, that kind of stuff. I definitely think that’s a big inspiration, I see things visually first and think what would that sound like?
And are those scenarios principally images, or can they have story outlines too?
I guess it’s a mix of everything really. I guess I think more about colours and tones, like if there was something running on a computer screen what would it look like? Or with the computer scenes in Aliens, where you have these computers going off and making all these crazy sounds — that’s what I love.
What are the defining images of the ’80s for you personally?
I guess action scenes like that — fighter jets and stealth technology, the computer aspect, certainly, but also the way they thought things would look in the future. That kind of blows my mind. Like when you watch Blade Runner that vision of the future’s so amazing, we’re almost at 2019 now and it’s not looking anything close to what they thought it was gonna be, even if it was just science fiction or a thought or whatever. Or when you watch Back To The Future Pt 2 (partly set in 2015) and you’re like, ‘OK — where are the hover boards and flying cars’, you know?
What’s next for Com Truise?
I feel like more and more I’m finding music is starting to sound or look very ’80s, but I’ll always be inspired by that period of music so I don’t know. I mean, I think the new stuff on (Galactic Melt) isn’t as lo-fi as my first EP, it’s a little more thought-out. And the stuff I’ve been writing more recently is another little step. It’s difficult ‘cos sometimes you’ll have artists who put out a couple of records that are in the same ballpark musically speaking, and then they come out with something that’s so out of leftfield it kind of puts you off a little. Like with Bibio, his first album Fi on Mush is like my favourite record ever and Vignetting the Compost is another of my favourites. And I love his new album but it’s just so different, it’s taken a long time to grow on me. It’s the same with Games and Ford and Lopatin as well for me. It took three weeks for me to think ‘OK, I like this album’. Whereas I don’t wanna make such a big jump, I’d rather retain some elements and if anything’s getting monotonous just kinda slowly draw back. But we’ll see how it goes I guess.