Bang Bang Bar Band Talks Twin Peaks – An Interview with Au Revoir Simone’s Heather D’Angelo

au revoire simone twin peaks

As a fan of Twin Peaks, and specifically the music the show has produced over the years, Season 3 had me wondering, like many fans, about some of the musical acts that were featured at the Bang Bang Bar (commonly referred to as the Roadhouse).  Many of these performers were indie acts, with a few exceptions. 

The full list of musical performers who performed at the Bang Bang Bar during Season 3 include: Chromatics, The Cactus Blossoms, Au Revoir Simone, Trouble, Sharon Van Etten, Nine Inch Nails, Hudson Mohawke, Rebekah del Rio, Moby, Lissie, The Veils, Eddie Vedder, and Julee Cruise.

The Twin Peaks Season 3 Soundtrack expands on the above list with many other tracks from the show, with the overall musical effect of the entire track list being that of a tour de force.

twin peaks season 3 soundtrack

The music of Twin Peaks has always been exceptional, with the main theme song written by Angelo Badalamenti even winning a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance back in 1991.

music from twin peaks angelo badalamenti

The music of Twin Peaks remains unique.  In this article, I had the chance to interview one of the members of Au Revoir Simone, Heather D’Angelo, now a Bang Bang Bar band alum, and ask her about her own personal Twin Peaks experience. (skip to the interview)

But first, a bit of context…

About The Bang Bang Bar (The Roadhouse)

twin peaks bang bang bar

In Twin Peaks Seasons 1 and 2, the Roadhouse was established as a location on the show that fit into the nuanced plot written by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and would tie into the overall arc of the show sporadically, with drama between the shows’ characters playing out there from time to time.  

The concept of the “Bang Bang Bar”, as it was referred to as more so in Season 3, was also the show’s musical center in seasons 1 and 2.  However, Julee Cruise and her band were the only act we see play there during the first two seasons.

As viewers, we can only assume that Julee Cruise was only one act of many to pass through there, but we never get to see any other acts play.  Perhaps this is something Lynch sought to correct in this latest season of Twin Peaks.

During the first two seasons, Julee appears there several times throughout the entire run of the show (including the movie prequel, “Fire Walk With Me”), playing her soft, angelic music juxtaposed against some dark, depraved drama taking place in the plot, creating a juxtaposition of both tranquility mixed with violence – an unsettling combination to be sure.

With the Roadhouse being such a seedy juncture in the Twin Peaks world, the idea of such a pure and unfettered sound of one such as Julee Cruise performing in such a dark place was and still is an unlikely proposition.

Fast forward 25 years…

25 years later twin peaks

Enter: Twin Peaks, Season 3

Enter Twin Peaks: Season 3 (The Return), aired in 2017.  The plot picks up almost literally 25 years after the finale of Season 2, where Cooper becomes possessed by Bob and delivers his famous line: “How’s Annie?”

This final episode (called “Beyond Life and Death”) to a beloved TV series was not the ending many fans were hoping for, but that’s the way director David Lynch chose to end the show, when this final episode of Season 2 first aired on June 10, 1991.

The reasons for this ending to Season 2 were perplexing to fans, but no less perplexing than the entire run of the show itself up until that point, really. 

Still, while hardcore Lynch fans always appreciate a good Lynch-ian twist, more casual (and probably less fanatical for absurdist cinema) fans of the show were left with mild cases of PTSD from watching their beloved Cooper become possessed by the ultimate evil, and then: roll credits.

Perhaps it had something to do with David Lynch not directing the majority of Season 2, and walking away from the show until the final episode, where he comes back with the express purpose to, in his own special way, put an end to the show he started.

As has been reported by various sources (ie. Vanity Fair), David Lynch hates Season 2 more than anyone else could, with the tousle-haired cinematic maverick having been quoted publicly as saying it flat out “sucked”.

david lynch smoking

Fans would have to wait until 2017 when Season 3 of Twin Peaks finally reached airwaves to see how things would get resolved, and many were likely hopeful that such a gut-wrenching finale would indeed see some sort of satisfying resolution, once Season 3 finally concluded. 

Fans of Twin Peaks might have thought a positive outcome to be particularly imminent, considering this was David’s chance to right any directorial and plot-related wrongs done to the show throughout Season 2.

Well, did he?  To answer this question would take us well beyond the scope of this article, and so at this time, let’s now return to the topic of…The Bang Bang Bar, and the music we hear there throughout Season 3.

Back To The Bang Bang

One thing that seemingly had not changed much in the world of Twin Peaks was the Bang Bang Bar.

bang bang bar exterior

In the world of Twin Peaks: Season 3, it was still the place in Twin Peaks where various seedy drama and nefarious subplots play out.  But this time around, we’re treated to a variety of diverse musical acts.

It was as if the Bang Bang Bar was perhaps doing better business these days, busily booking more bands, and becoming an increasingly hipper place to be, which we, the viewers, we privy to seeing who would turn up week to week. For nostalgic fans, Julee Cruise and James Hurley both come back to the Bang Bang Bar to perform.  

Otherwise, we were treated to some fresh faces at the good old Twin Peaks Roadhouse.

Cue: Au Revoir Simone, playing their tune, “A Violent Yet Flammable World”, from Season 3: Episode 9.

Au Revoir Simone

Some of the choices for bands who performed at the Bang Bang Bar during the run of Season 3 seemed to be more in line with the world of Twin Peaks that fans know, while other performers were more unexpected.  

Au Revoir Simone, who perform on two episodes of the entire Season 3 run of the show , were at once a fitting, and yet somewhat unusual, choice.

au revoire simone

Why fitting?  Well, here we have, not 1, but 3 silky-voiced chanteuses playing ethereal, melancholic music in a slow, pulsating manner.  This is enough, perhaps, to qualify them as a good fit for the rather happening, and yet fictional, venue.

Why unusual?  It seems that in the intervening years between Seasons 2 and 3 of Twin Peaks, the always and forever-to-be stuck-in-the-past environs of the show have been forced to admit that yes, even in a seemingly timeless setting, time is passing. 

Hence, Au Revoir Simone have their synths in tow, and there is no particular attention drawn to their synthpop nature.  Perhaps now Twin Peaks is a world that has caught up to as far as the 1980’s, rather than being a throwback to the ’50’s or ’60’s.  

(The interview begins…)

Interview with Heather D’Angelo of Au Revoir Simone

heather d'angelo

It seems that curiosity got the better of me.  I felt the need to reach out to the bands who played at the Bang Bang Bar during the run of Twin Peaks: Season 3, in order to satisfy my fan-boyish urge to know more about these bands, and how they managed to appear on the show.

And so, here is my conversation with Heather D’Angelo, who is one third of Au Revoir Simone, discussing the bands’ appearance on the show and how it all came to pass.  Enjoy!

When did you start writing music?

Au Revoir Simone started out as a cover band, actually, working on covers of 80’s and 90’s songs from different genres.  We were just doing this for fun, as friends getting together and seeing how it went. 

Back in the early 2000’s, we (Annie Hart, Erika Forster, and I) used to jam together, when we were all living in Brooklyn, and decided to form an all-girl keyboard band, since all of us played keyboards and we thought that all of us playing synths would be pretty entertaining. Eventually, each of us was armed with multiple synths – sometimes we’d have 9 going at once!

As far as our covers went, it turned out that our covers were too idiosyncratic to be just covers – they had their own sound – so that gave us the notion to start doing our own songs.  And it all began there!

Eventually, we got enough material together for a little EP called Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation.

Weirdly enough, a Japanese label and a British label picked up the EP, but we didn’t get any attention in the US – no one cared.

Funny thing was that the Japanese label had an english name – Rallye, and the English label had a Japanese-sounding name – Moshi Moshi

Moshi Moshi already were a well known indie label in England at this point, with bands like Hot Chip on their roster.  They were the ones that kind of operate on a new level, by saying “Ok, you guys are going to work with this PR company, etc.”, giving us tips on how to be a bit more professional.

So how did these labels come across your music, which then lead to your encounter with David Lynch?

They became aware of us through an indie music blog from the early days of the internet.

My good friend, Matthew Perpetua, is like the godfather of the music blogs. I think he actually had the very first music blog out there on the web in the late 90’s, called Fluxblog. There may have been one other one at the time, as these things tend to pop up in the zeitgeist at around the same time, but he was definitely one of the first.

Fluxblog was very popular for indie music and Moshi Moshi used to read his blog. Matthew used to write about our band when we first started, as he was a big fan of synthpop, and indie acts, and so Moshi Moshi read one of his features on us.

Steven Bass and Michael McClatchey then got a hold of our EP, which, at the time, was something we were screen printing ourselves in Annie’s bedroom and trying to distribute ourselves.

By the time we got to our first actual mature album, The Bird of Music, that was put out by both Rallye and Moshi Moshi, which had proper artwork and distribution. 

Listen to The Bird of Music on Spotify

The Bird of Music is what eventually ended up in the hands of David Lynch in 2007.

How did that come about?

There was a really cool event going on at Barnes & Noble in New York for some time, where they’d promote an author and then pair that author up with a band. 

A music supervisor for Barnes & Noble would seek out a band that they felt would match the author, and the author would do a reading from their new book, and a band would play during the reading, or between chapters.  It was pretty cool.

The music supervisor at Barnes & Nobles was trying to get us to do one of these events for some time, but it wasn’t working out, as we were always on tour, or the timing just wasn’t right.

But one day the music supervisor called and told us that David Lynch was promoting a new book, at the time, called Catching the Big Fish, and she thought that our music would pair really well with his work. 

catching the big fish

The book was about meditation, and she thought we could play some of our more dreamy material.

So we said “yeah”, because this time it worked with our schedules, and plus, it sounded really cool, so we did it!

But it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for David’s sound supervisor, Dean Hurley, hadn’t heard our music, liked it, and passed it on to David, who also liked it.

So, we then met David at the actual Barnes and Noble event, where we played, and he read from his book.

(cue: a  short clip from that show in 2007)

This was the beginning of your collaboration…which would have been about 10 years before Twin Peaks: Season 3 aired.

Yes.  Back in 2007.

That’s pretty cool that you encountered him that way.  His output is very varied, so to connect with him on a book reading is very cool.  Were you aware of all of these things that he does at the time?  For example, the books, the albums, the artwork, and so forth.

We were aware of him, generally speaking, but we didn’t know just how many things he was involved with. 

The event at Barnes & Noble was amazing.  That particular location of Barnes & Noble was something else – it was huge, like 4 or 5 storeys, and jam packed with people.  Just a massive, massive, MASSIVE building.

And when he was there, it was unbelievable – every floor, just shoulder to shoulder people, all trying to catch a glimpse of him.

For those who weren’t on the top floor, there was kind of a play-by-play being piped through their sound system, like one big listening party, and everyone was there just soaking it up.  It was then that we clued in to just how huge his fanbase actually is.

Were you into his stuff prior to this show?

Yeah, I really liked Blue Velvet, and his movies in general, but I wasn’t really a fanatic.  Same with Annie and Erika – we just knew of him, as most people do.  I had not watched Twin Peaks, though.  It just never crossed my radar.  I guess I was just too young.

I didn’t catch the show when it came out either, but a friend of mine recommended I watch Twin Peaks when I was in high school, so around ’95, as he thought it would be up my alley, and it was.  Had you seen any of his other movies?

Some of them.  I saw Mulholland Drive, which I enjoyed, and I was going to watch Inland Empire, but a friend of mine saw it and he was so traumatized by it, I didn’t really feel like watching it.

Yeah, Lynch seems to be very good at making very unsettling films that confuse and disturb people, as well as anticipating peoples’ expectations (especially fans) and then defying them.  I couldn’t make it through Inland Empire either!  That’s why I was wondering how Season 3 of Twin Peaks was going to turn out, considering his work seemed to be getting progressively more abstract.

Well, we have had the opportunity to collaborate with David several times over the years, since 2007, and so we were getting comfortable trusting his creative and aesthetic choices.  For instance, we worked with him on a retrospective he did for his work in Paris at the Foundation Cartier.

(cue: video clip from that exhibition)

(interview…continued) He had rebuilt a setting from Eraserhead at the gallery, and we were to perform in this setting.  So, he managed to incorporate our music into this production, and we were like, “Hell yeah!” and so we did it, and it was great!

Another time he invited us to play at Silencio, his private club in Paris.  Again, this is a beautiful club with a red-draped stage, and he was gracious enough to invite us into his world, which we have always been more than happy to do.

(cue: Llorando scene, from Mullholand Drive, filmed at Silencio)

(back to the interview…)

Over the years, we’ve remained friends, and would visit him in L.A., checking in from time to time.  He’s been very encouraging, incredibly sweet, and a great mentor to us. 

Prior to the return of Twin Peaks, he was mentioning it would be good to work on something together, and we thought that would be great, although we weren’t counting on it. 

We knew that historically, David has worked with Julee Cruise, Angelo Badalamenti, and so we weren’t really expecting to work on any major projects with him, per se.  He seemed to have his inner circle of collaborators, and so we thought it was nice of him to suggest a collaboration, but, again, we weren’t expecting anything.

But then, we got the call from Dean Hurley, David’s longtime musical collaborator, who informed us that David was going to re-launch Twin Peaks, and was seeking out bands to be part of the show, and he was hoping we’d take part.  Before we knew it, we’d said “yes” and we were part of the production.

We’d never really worked with David before in terms of being part of one of his movies, and so we didn’t really know what we were in for.

None of Au Revoir Simone were actors, but we flew to L.A., and we arrived at this house, that looked like a community center from the outside, and we found that they had recreated, in minute detail, the Bang Bang Bar.  It was like, “Oh my god, I’m in the Roadhouse!”  Even though, outside it was hot and sweaty, this set made you believe you were in the Pacific north west, like Washington state.  It was insane!

There were extras everywhere, and everyone was dressed up like it was the ’90’s.  There were a few other bands there, like the Chromatics, and the Cactus Blossoms, who were playing that day.

We had no idea what was going on.  We didn’t know who was playing, or when, or how to dress.  We had no guidance of what to wear, which was particularly odd because the fashion of Twin Peaks is so particular.  We didn’t know which decade we were supposed to appear to be from.  ’80’s? ’90’s? Now?  Rock stars, or not?  We didn’t know.  We decided to just go with a “classic” look.  

We knew he was going to ask us to do two of our songs, which we did.  It was lip synched.  This wasn’t like Saturday Night Live.  We performed our songs, it didn’t take too long, and then we left.  Time passed, we didn’t hear anything at first.  Eventually, we heard from David, and he said “Great job!”, so we thought “Great!”

We were still very confused as to how this would all play out.  We still didn’t know if he was going to be using the footage of us playing, or just use our recordings on the soundtrack.  Would it be both songs, one song?  Just a snippet?  

We didn’t see how any of it turned out until the show aired.  Eventually, we were told to keep our eyes open for Episodes 4 and 9.  We saw it on TV like everyone else.

(cue: band playing their song, “Lark”, from their album, “The Bird of Music”, during Season 3: Episode 4 of Twin Peaks.

(back to the interview…)

For both episodes, I had Twin Peaks’ parties in San Francisco, but I told my friends that if I didn’t show up on screen, not to be surprised.  We weren’t promised anything, so then when we did appear, and we had a fair bit of screen time, I was shocked!

Both songs were edited, but that made sense, for the purpose of the episode sequencing.  Still, it was entirely a surprise that we even made it on the show at all!

I guess you didn’t get to sit down and watch the “dailies”, huh?

No, we are not from the film industry, so that didn’t even occur to us.  There wasn’t even hair and make-up, so how we presented ourselves was completely up to us.  Had there been a hair dangling in the wrong spot, I don’t know if David would have brought it up or not.  It all happened so fast. 

We had been on photo shoots before, where people fussed over our appearance a lot more than this instance.  So that’s surprising, that we were now committed to tape for an iconic show like Twin Peaks, which will be seen by our children and children’s children, and we weren’t really prepped in any way for this.  I just knew that we were performing, and David was there, behind the camera, capturing every bead of sweat.

Was the lip synching difficult?  What kind of direction did he give you?

We weren’t given any direction, so we just tried to channel our best collective Julee Cruise vibe.  We had basic instructions as to when to start lip synching, and that was about it.  

You were saying there were other bands there at that point?

We saw some of the other bands, but we didn’t really see too many other bands.  For the most part, we were just in and out.  We heard there was a shoot for the other bands on another day, but we weren’t there for that.  

Are any of you particularly influenced by Julee Cruise, what with the hushed, angelic vocals, and all that?  Were you told to emulate her in any way for the show?

No, not at all.  We are fans of hers, for sure – especially Erika – but there was no mention of us sounding like her, or us trying to sound like her.

Our influences are Stereolab, Bjork, Pavement, Air…Broadcast is a huge influence.  I personally am very into Air and Stereolab.

Pavement, really?

Definitely, I love Pavement.  

Are you guys formally trained musically in any way?

No, we’re all self-taught.

How do you come up with your songs, as a band?

We all have input in each others songs, although usually, someone writes a song, initially, and brings it in.  That’s when we begin to shape the songs to fit Au Revoir Simone.  Nothing is really off limits for discussion, and it ends up being an equal process in the end.  No one has more representation in the band – it’s equal parts all three of us.

No creative differences?  Wow, nice.

There are differences, but as a trio, there can always be a critical voice if someone is strongly against something, and we like it that way.  We can push and pull the songs until we are all happy with the result, but it’s not always easy to come to a consensus.  For instance, if someone doesn’t like a bassline, or some other musical element, we talk about it, until we can all agree on something.

How do you feel now that you are on the Lynch fan radar?  Do you consider yourself to be on that radar?

Yes, we are aware that his fans are now paying more attention to us, with many of them being very passionate.  It’s cool.  

And how has that balanced out with your entire fanbase overall?

Well, our old school fans are the best!  Like, if ever there’s any sort of hardcore Twin Peaks fans who don’t approve of us for some reason, our old school fans will jump to our defence.  It doesn’t happen much, and besides, that’s just how it is on Youtube.  People debate all the time.  For instance, why did we get picked for the soundtrack and not some other “dreamy” sounding pop band?  Maybe someone more like Julee Cruise should have been picked, some might say.  All in all, everyone has their own opinion.  We encourage discussion, and we appreciate different views.

Fair enough.  Did you bump into any other cast members at all while you were there filming?  I happened to watch some interview with Kyle MacLachlan, where he said that he didn’t even see any of the show until it was on the air, or really knew what was going to happen overall?  Kind of amazing, since he was basically the show’s star.

It doesn’t surprise me.  There’s an element of secrecy to all of this.  Plus, I think that everything was shot individually.  We didn’t really interact with the cast very much.

Did you talk to Mark Frost (Twin Peaks co-creator) at all?

twin peaks mark frost

No, I didn’t.  

So you never read any of this Twin Peaks books – The Final Dossier or The Secret History of Twin Peaks?

the secret world of twin peaks

No, I’ve just heard of them.  Haven’t read them yet.

They’re interesting, if you are into the sort of “bigger picture” of Twin Peaks, and the mythology and sort of subterfuge that goes into the show.  They act as companion pieces, and they’re really cool if a fan wants to dive deeper into that world, as they let you in on some of the more secretive elements.  For any fans out there, I’d totally recommend them!  But anyway, what happened after Season 3 wrapped up.  What changed for Au Revoir Simone?

I have seen David twice since the show aired.  One at the Festival of Disruption in Brooklyn, and another time back in L.A., after Season 3 had aired.  When I saw him last, I had just watched all of the episodes of Season 3 and I had a million questions that I wanted to ask him.  So it was hard to not geek out on Twin Peaks and ask him lots of questions.  I did get a few things out of him, but generally, we didn’t talk about that much. 

I did, however, mention to him how much I loved Episode 8, as it was so groundbreaking and probably the best thing to be aired on television ever.  I had a chance to dork out with Dean Hurley, but he really doesn’t have the inside scoop on Twin Peaks either.  No one but David and Mark know the whole story.  It’s always fun to speculate, though.

How did you feel about the ending of Season 3?

I liked it.  I am a fan of cliffhangers, though.  Besides, if you expect anything by David to wrap up with a neat little bow, you’ll probably be disappointed. So I didn’t expect the show to end in any neat and tidy way.  Which it didn’t.   

twin peaks season 3 ending

(interview end…) 

Check out Heather’s new fragrance line – Carta

Check out a list of all the music used in Twin Peaks: Season 3

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Detroit Techno

Detroit techno

While techno was later adopted by many artists in many different cities all over, it was originally born in Detroit, Michigan during the 1980s.

It is a genre of EDM music and started as a fusion of funk and jazz with house and electronic. It often incorporates futuristic themes and has been seen in science fiction and noir films. 

The Belleville Three

While it is inconclusive as to exactly who began the Detroit techno genre, the Belleville Three are often credited with its creation, at least partially.

the belleville three

The Belleville Three was made up of Juan Atkins (aka the Godfather of Techno), Kevin Saunderson (aka the Elevator) and Derrick May (aka the Innovator), three high school friends from Belleville, Michigan.

Atkins first began releasing singles with Rick Davis, a friend he met in College. The two formed a duo called Cybotron and released the single “Alleys of Your Mind” in 1981 which sold quite well. The song has an undeniable groove, a beat that just seems to permeate through you and sounds and vocals that sound futuristic.

Cybotron followed this up with two more singles, “Cosmic Cars” and “Clear”, which won them a record label with Fantasy who released their first album, “Clear”. After the release of this album, the duo split up to go their separate ways regarding their style of music.

Around this time, the three high school friends Atkins, Saunderson and May began experimenting with electronic music in their basements. They got inspiration from bands such as Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Parliament, Prince and Depeche Mode.

For example, Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Behind The Mask was an influential track.

The three would listen to these bands in the comfort of their own home, as opposed to hearing them in a dance club. This greatly changed the experience for them. May stated, “We never took it as just entertainment, we took it as a serious philosophy.” After listening to these bands, Atkins was inspired to buy a synthesizer. 

When Atkins learned how to DJ, he taught May and Saunderson as well. Both Atkins and May then began to DJ on Detroit’s party circuit under the name Deep Space Soundworks. The Belleville Three were also recording record mixes at this time.

On a trip to Chicago, the Belleville Three experienced the Chicago house movement that was taking place there. It was the Chicago house genre mixed with the electronic and mechanical influences of their favourite bands like Kraftwerk that created such a unique style of music by the Belleville Three.

Their music reflected the post-industrialist mood of Detroit in the 1980s. They were also quite interested in futuristic ideas like the advancements of technology and machines.

Atkins also released his own single, “No UFOs” in 1985 using his psuedonym, Model 500. It was released under his own record label, Metroplex. May and Saunderson also recorded their own music on Metroplex as well.

We can’t mention Rick May without mentioning his most accomplished track, entitled “Strings of Life” and released in 1987 under his pseudonym Rhythim is Rhythim. Contrary to the other techno music going on in Detroit at the time, in this track May filled the song with lively synthetic string arrangements.

“Strings of Life” was quite a pleasant and interesting surprise to other artists in the techno scene and became especially big in Britain. It is true that when you listen to this song, it has a certain enlivened energy, sounding rich and colourful and elated. No wonder Rick May was nicknamed “The Innovator”.

Futurism and Afrofuturism

One big theme of Detroit techno was that it strived to bring tidings of the future, much like science fiction has always strived to do. In an article from The Wire, a British avant-garde music magazine, Mike Shallcross wrote, “What distinguishes Detroit Techno from its European variants is the way it more directly works the interface of funk and futurism.”

As techno grew in Detroit, it created certain club scenes. This was when the “Prep Clubs” were created, attended by suburban blacks in Detroit and less accessible to the lower class. These prestige clubs had fancier dress codes and often adopted parts of European culture, because to them it was seen as “high class”.

These Prep Clubs created tensions between the suburban blacks and the black people living in the poorer urban parts of Detroit.

Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic and philosophy that deals with the expanding interchange of Africans and technology, exploring the present-day difficulties of black people as well as their history.

Technology was especially relevant to the people of Detroit, because the rise of robotics robbed them of their industry. This was the climate that the Belleville Three had grown up in; witnessing technology’s advancements and seeing the changes it brought on to their city. 

abandoned factory

The Belleville Three contributed to this Afrofuturism with their music. They took technology and used it to their advantage, making tracks in their basements by manipulating machines. They didn’t use any fancy equipment, but rather, experimented with what they had. The sound they made was futuristic and touched on the feeling of “otherness”.

Until this point there was no club for the techno scene to come together as one. For this reason, artists George Baker and Alton Miller created The Music Institute, a techno club in downtown Detroit. Here, the Belleville Three DJed with other pioneers of the genre such as Eddie “Flashin” Fowlkes and Blake Baxter.

music institute logo

The Music Institute helped unite the underground techno family and also contributed to the second wave of Detroit techno, as more young artists became inspired by the Belleville Three and other artists playing there such as Blake Baxter and Chez Damier. The second wave of artists included Jeff Mills, Carl Craig and Octave One.  

International Growth of Detroit Techno

In 1988, the Belleville Three were approached by music entrepreneur Neil Rushton to release their music in the UK. They chose the word “techno” for their music, a term that Atkins had been using for a long time already (“Techno City” was one of his early singles).

Later in 1988 the album “Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit” was released in the UK to great success. The album was compiled by Neil Rushton and Derrick May. It was this album that encouraged the term “techno” to be used as a label for that particular genre of music.

Detroit Techno Artists You Should Listen To

In addition to the Belleville Three, there are some other big names in Detroit Techno that every techno fan should listen to.

Blake Baxter was labelled by Allmusic and “perhaps the most underrated figure” in the early Detroit techno days.

Baxter first began mixing records in the mid-1980s, releasing records on labels such as DJ International, KMS Records and Underground Resistance, which released his EP “The Prince of Techno” in 1991.

prince of techno album

Speaking of Underground Resistance, they were an important musical collective, with a grungy aesthetic and political messages behind their music. Underground Resistance was started by Jeff Mills and “Mad” Mike Banks in the late 1980s.

They strove to promote political activism through their music.  Below is their single “Fuel For the Fire – Attend the Riot”. The name alone is suggestive of political activism, and the music is empowering. 

The group rejected everything mainstream or commercialized. They wanted the techno genre to remain independent. Through their music they tried to give a different identity to the young black men of urban Detroit, rejecting the hard, violent stereotype and instead portraying a new image. Their songs promoted a sense of self-exploration and the attitude to improve yourself and your circumstances. 

Their albums include “Revolution for Change”, “Electronic Warfare”, and “Interstellar Fugitives” throughout the 1990s, as well as “A Hitech Jazz Compilation” in 2005. 

Carl Craig was another big name in Detroit techno, emerging in the second wave of techno artists in Detroit. Craig used a wide variety of genres to inspire his particular style of techno, such as soul and jazz.

If you are unfamiliar with the name Carl Craig, maybe you’ll know him by one of his many aliases: BFC, Psyche, Paperclip People, 69, Designer Music and Innerzone Orchestra. His best-known track was released under this last alias; the track was “Bug in the Bassbin”, which is thought to have influenced the evolution of bass and drum. Have a listen and you’ll notice the unique drum batterns, unlike the typical beat of most techno songs.

Craig also collaborated with NYDJ Patrick Picasso and the two made a very successful album. Some other of his well-known albums include “Landcruising” and “More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art” under his own name, “The Sound of Music” under 69, and “Programmed” under Innerzone Orchestra.

Octave One did not consist of one but many members. It was mostly made up of two brothers, Lenny Burden and Lawrence Burden, but they were often joined by their three other siblings, Lorne Burden, Lynell Burden and Lance Burden (how did their mother keep all their names straight?)

Octave One debuted on Derrick May’s record label with their single “I Believe”, which was also included on the compilation album “Techno 2: The Next Generation” in 1990.


In conclusion, Detroit techno was an important genre that began in the 1980s, largely sparked by the Belleville Three. The genre gave a voice to the black population of Detroit, created a musical community and expressed their identities. It also dealt with themes of technology and futurism.

Detroit techno continues to inspire more young artists today, and the techno scene in Detroit is still going strong. 

A Quick Guide to the Subgenres of Electronic Music

Electronic music is a genre entirely unique to the twentieth century, where we saw the invention of the synthesizer and computers, two instruments that have greatly impacted the music industry and allowed artists an entirely new universe to explore sound-wise. 
Though, if you want to get technical, “electronic” music, in the sense of music working off of some type of electricity, dates back even further, to the 19th century.
Electronic music, in the sense that we mean (using synths and computers as a base for the sound) is named for the various electronic instruments with which it is created.

Basic Essential Subgenres of Electronic Music

This article will give you a basic understanding of electronic music as well as its subgenres.
Electronic music is best known, perhaps, for being utterly danceable.  It also has the unique characteristic of being sonically limitless, since electronic instruments can emulate any sound. You can have electronic classical music, hip hop or techno.

Downtempo – A Guide to the Great Artists and Their Best Songs and Albums

What is Downtempo Music?

Downtempo is a killer subgenre of electronic music, with little to no vocals and simple beats. It’s laidback like ambient music but has a beat you can groove to, unlike ambient music.

Okay, that is a total lie. At the bottom of the article we have included several of the best downtempo artists and some of them include vocals, but for the sake of this brief introduction to the genre, and to help familiarize you with it, let’s go ahead and say that most downtempo music uses soft vocals for audible texture but not so much to tell a story.

Partygoers, ravers and clubbers will be familiar with this genre, as well as DJs, of course. 

The music is a lot more chill than others in the electronica genre. Seasoned DJs will leave downtempo to the end of the set when the party draws to a close.

downtempo music

This music is also played in side rooms of clubs or designated “take five” areas. The beats are slower and super groovy, perfect for a break from dancing or wrapping up a party.

Most clubgoers, whether they recognize and know downtempo or not, will automatically get the signal from this type of music that it’s late into the night.

If you’ve ever seen Portlandia, the theme song is a prime example of downtempo music with a chill beat that is easy to listen to and very enjoyable. There are some vocals but they’re airy and non-dominant. 

Non-dominance is a good way to define downtempo. It’s got elements of ambient music and serves listeners the same way: it can be enjoyed either as a focal point or be ignored while still providing an atmosphere. It neither overpowers nor disappears. 

It’s a beautiful genre for summer driving.

You will often hear downtempo in lounges.

It’s great for a casual hangout with friends or any time you need to relax.

A bit of history

It all started with the synthesizer. This instrument became more affordable to people in the late 1960s – early 1970’s and so musicians, being the experimental and curious artists they are, ever-searching for the perfect tool for self-expression, fell in love with it. We had the beginnings of ambient music in the 1970s; 

Electronic music really came into huge popularity in the early 1990’s. The club scene brought in all kinds of new genres after the : electronica ruled the soundsystems everywhere because it didn’t require a live band and provided dancing crowds with non-stop movement to inspire their dancing.

It was an obvious new experimentation with the synthesizer, which at the time had only been around for a couple of decades. There was plenty left to explore on that instrument with so many options.

Downtempo is usually played on a synthesizer as well as a drum machine and a few other things.

Electronica is typically faster paced, and so downtempo was created not as an antithesis but simply as an alternative for lounge areas and chill-out rooms at festivals and nightclubs. 

Dancers could go into these rooms and sit for a while, taking a break from the intense energy of the dancefloor and enjoying a drink. 

You’ll notice rather a hypnotizing element to downtempo, the same way electronica brings you in and holds you.

The genre originated on Ibiza, a Mediterranean island, well known for its nightlife and electronic music. Tourists from all over the world come to Ibiza as a destination for this type of holiday.

DJs have always known how to read a crowd (or, they should) and know how to bring up the energy and bring it down. On the island of Ibiza, where they party til sunrise, the DJs start playing downtempo to bring the crowd down after a full night of partying.

Here’s a “Best of Ibiza” chillout downtempo playlist if you want to feel a little bit of that vibe for a while.

Oh, and downtempo is sometimes called trip hop, taking elements from hip hop, drum and bass and ambient music: these are combined altogether over a lower tempo. These days the music also incorporates more melodic instrumentals.

The Artists

Now that we are familiar with the genre, let’s have a listen, shall we?

Here are some of the best downtempo artists out there. Some were around for the advent of the genre and helped shape it; others showed up along the way and furthered the genre’s popularity by keeping it alive. 

Thievery Corporation

Thievery Corporation has been around since 1995. This electronic duo has opened for Paul McCartney and worked with artists such as David Byrne and Wayne Coyne.

They bring an overtly political message with their music and actions, performing at the Operation Ceasefire concert and supporting human rights and the World Food Programme.

Visit the Thievery Corporation official website


Flume is a young’un, born in 1991 and has been making music since 2004. He has risen to popularity rather fast, having remixed several famous songs by artists like Lorde and selling 40 000 tickets for his first national tour.

He is from Australia and his work incorporates many electronic elements from hip hop to dub. Here is his self-titled debut album. 

Visit Flume’s official website 

Blue Sky Black Death

Another duo on our list, Blue Sky Black Death hails from San Francisco, California. They produce their music with a drum machine, sampler, keyboard, synth and guitar. They’ve been on the scene since 2003.

The phrase “blue sky black death” is a skydiving phrase alluding to beauty and death. They got their start making beats to rap over but soon gave up rapping to pursue producing. Below you can hear their third full-length album, Noir.

 Visit the Blue Sky Black Death Bandcamp page

Kruder & Dorfmeister

Kruder & Dorfmeister get automatic points from us for their G-Stoned cover, which resembles the famous Bookends cover by American duo Simon & Garfunkel.

Peter Kruder & Richard Dorfmeister comprise this Austrian duo and have been making music together since 1993. They got their start playing big festivals and were instantly loved by the audience. They have gone on to tour the world and continue producing music to this day. They’ve also put out their own solo albums and albums under aliases. They have at least 9 studio recorded albums available.

Here is their first album, G-Stoned.

Check out the Kruder and Dorfmeister Facebook page

Samantha James

Samantha James stands out from others on our list for her vocal style. Many downtempo artists are producers and rarely feature vocals in their work. Rather the vocals are presented as a soft ambience over the beat.

Samantha’s singing is incredibly soulful and gives a whole new life to this style of music. Coming from Los Angeles, she became involved with the underground dance scene there as a teenager.

She has been making music of her own since 2007. Her first single, Rise, was an instant hit in 2006 and she has since toured the world with her wonderful blend of electronic and soul music.

She has two full-length albums and has reached #1 on the US dance charts.

Listen to her first album, Rise, here:

Check out Samantha James on Om Records

Helicopter Girl

Helicopter Girl is a Scottish musician and has been active since 1993. She gives downtempo a unique spin incorporating elements from several genres, including dance music, indie pop and jazz.

Helicopter Girl is widely revered for her vocal style and the lyrics offer a listening experience that speaks utter truth. Straight badass. You’ve just got to give a listen and experience this for yourself.

We’ve included a link to her video for Glove Compartment but we also recommend listening to her song Angel City.

Glove Compartment is mysterious and fateful; Angel City is rockier than everything else on this list, but the vocals are cool, calm and sultry, chilling you right out with icy proclamations.

Check out Helicopter Girl on Dharma Records


Portishead are one of the better known artists on this list. They remind us of Helicopter Girl a bit – with their infusions of other genres like indie rock laid on top of downtempo – and a bit of sex appeal.

This is music you can throw on for driving or grooving out at home, and works just as well in a lounge setting. Portishead has been around since 1991, taking a brief hiatus from 1999 through 2005. They took up music again after the break.

They’re an English band, well known in this genre because they were one of its pioneers. Despite their dislike for press coverage, their music has been successful internationally.

Even Rolling Stone referred to them as Gothic hip-hop. They’ve been around so long making this kind of music that they have been played in all kinds of underground clubs and gothic scenes.

Visit the Portishead website here

Intro to Intelligent Dance Music (IDM)

Just in case you don’t know what dance music is, we will first explain that, and then describe its subgenre, intelligent dance music.

Dance music, also known as techno, was borne of a generation or two with all this new technology at its fingertips.

In the 1970’s, we had the synthesizer becoming available to more people with its mass production and reduced selling prices, and the subsequent foray into the creation of ambient music.

Then, into the 1980’s, we begin to work with computers as well as influences from 70s acid-inspired music and disco, as well as synthesized beats.

Together, these facilitated the development of dance music: electronic music with repetitive beats that is designed specifically to get people moving. 

Okay. Now we all know what dance music is. It’s music designed to make people move their bodies. But what is intelligent dance music and how does it differ from regular plain old dance music? 

As you may surmise, the genre is rather controversial and has seen a lot of backlash for being derogatory toward other genres, as though it were the only dance genre for smart or superior people. 

Intelligent dance music, also known as IDM, is rather a form of electronic music that first emerged in the early 1990s that was designed more for home enjoyment than nightclubbing or dancing.


It formed as a result of experimentation and inspiration from other dance genres such as acid house, techno and ambient music. It is cerebral and rather abstract in its sound. It does not follow traditional song structure at all.

Most people to this day hate the title but enjoy the genre. With this article we will look into some of that controversy and how it got its name in the first place, and then we will provide some examples of artists within the genre so you can taste and see if you are intelligent enough to appreciate it.

Just kidding about that last bit, of course….

Let’s first look at one of the influencers, ambient music. Ambient music was very prominent during the 1970s and 1980s. Toward the end of the 1980s, ambient had combined with house to form ambient house music, which covered any music that was just as enjoyable to simply listen to as it was to dance to. It provided atmosphere while giving just the right amount of tangible energy to the listener.

By the early 1990s this genre had, quite essentially, exploded following the popularity of the rave scene. This genre as we mentioned was targeting an at-home audience. Around this time people were turning their noses up and frowning down upon the word rave.


An English record label released a compilation called Artificial Intelligence in 1992, designed for listening at home. Featured on this compilation were Aphex Twin, The Orb and others using aliases. The compilation was wildly successful and as a result, the term “intelligent techno” came to popularity.

Other names were of course used to describe this music including art techno or, most hilariously, armchair techno. No matter the umbrella term, the umbrella was the music enjoyed by people who preferred to stay at home rather than attend a rave to hear this music. This music was so popular in the early 1990s that, even though it began as an underground dance scene, it was now very marketable and mass-produced.

Don’t be confused, though: when we describe the at-home listener, the person may well be motivated to take on a day’s chores or complete an exercise regime. The music is not much like ambient at all; it is very fast with drum and bass. There are elements of ambient in the background but the repetitive beats are far too powerful, I’d say, to be considered ambient.

The phrase “intelligent techno” actually showed up in 1991 on message boards as well as offline, in music press by 1992.

During the same time, around 1992 and 1993, hardcore techno records were rather formulaic and repetitive. Rather than referring to the music as rave music, clubs started advertising the DJ sets as intelligent techno.

This attracted a crowd who was tired of the current hardcore techno that was now very commercialized. So while the “intelligent dance music” name may have been taken from the Artificial Intelligence compilation, it is pretty easy to also assume it catered to a crowd frustrated by the new commercialization of a genre previously enjoyed underground. 

In fact in 1993 a few record labels emerged that were entirely for intelligent techno.


The phrase gained popularity on the internet and implied music that was for more than just dancing to. Popular artists – or, should we say, well-known artists – included Aphex Twin, LFO and The Future Sound of London. 

The second Artificial Intelligence compilation was released in 1994 with sleeve notes telling the listener about the many cultural and musical influences on the development of the genre and making sure to declare that none was more important than the other.

Surely, one can’t help notice the irony of the words artificial and intelligence next to each other? We do realize it has everything to do with computers but it is a little funny. On that note, let’s look at the controversy within the genre.

For one, the music is not easy to dance to. It moves quickly and changes speeds often: highly mercurial, somewhat intense.

The name combined with the target market paints a picture of someone at home using thought and engaging intellectually with the music by listening, reflecting.

Some people disagree with all of this and find that, in their own experience with the two genres, plain old dance music is more listenable at home. IDM on the other hand is intense and difficult to follow and not at all calming. In fact some find it unsettling, so it is very interesting that the marketers of the music had a different idea.

The community of dancers who were excluded from the IDM scene and genre asked sarcastically did they then listen to Stupid Dance Music.

What’s even more interesting is to call something dance music and make music within that genre and then declare that also suits sitting at home. Was this intended? Do the dancers have the right to be offended?

The history of music is all very interesting stuff. Like the history of anything, there is much question of loyalty and identity. Even Aphex Twin, one of the best known artists in the genre, rejects the term Intelligent Dance Music, saying that it’s ridiculous to put oneself above another that way, preferring not to use names at all but rather go by how music makes them feel.


The music itself can be confusing and rather disorienting to listen to. It is highly chaotic and robotic, very computer-like in every way. If you can imagine the sound of data being organised in a computing system then you can imagine IDM (don’t worry: we provide some IDM at the end of the article).

Another well-known artist in the genre, Autechre, agrees that IDM is weirder than pop music, but thinks the title Artificial Intelligence was rather a joke and indicated science-fiction references, so the listeners would associate the sounds with space, robots and the like. Autechre also takes issue with the very definition of intelligence and says the artists are just brilliantly talented musicians making really good music.

The scene was really big both in England and Japan, but it seems that the term IDM is mostly used in the United States. Englishmen, for example, may use the term when speaking with Americans but do not really use it much in their own country.

To this day the genre is popular and enjoyed worldwide.

Like with most genres, the founders and those at the forefront are considered classics and, ironically, can sometimes be heard in nightclubs: usually ones that play electronic dance music (EDM) or electronic body music (EBM).

There are even subgenres of IDM including drill and bass, microhouse and breakcore. 

Here are some essential IDM musicians to check out:
Aphex Twin

Aphex Twin is an Irish musician highly revered as one of the most important electronic music artists of all time.


Autechre is an electronic duo from the UK. They have been active since 1987.


This band is from the UK and not to be confused with the American LFO. They have been making music since 1988. LFO stands for low-frequency-oscillator, which is used in electronic music.

Early Ambient Artists and Their Great Albums

May your wishes be granted,


The Best Dark Ambient Artists and Albums You Should Know About


Ah, you’ve come.


Your nostrils tingle with the scent of misty roses in the hour of the gloaming. Lurking in the trees, stalking the rows of the cemetery, the hunger of a humid night under a full moon in June.

We have gathered for you creators of the perfect visionary soundscapes to accompany you on this journey.

For that is what dark ambient is all about: the journey. There can seem to be no beginning nor an end; there is not a climax. Only the atmosphere. Ambient music is soothing, with few instruments, and sounds with large gaps in between.

The kind of music that plays while you get a massage: music that calms you, relaxes the breathing and frees the mind.

Dark ambient is the atmosphere of a lonely nightmare, soft violence, utter fear. And in facing this fear through listening to the music – through bearing that exact experience – one comes out the other side feeling rather liberated, risen, freed. For in facing fear we conquer it.

Generally speaking, that’s a very important theme to appreciate about dark music: that shared experience between creator and listener, the cause and effect of having put that emotional work into the music and then effecting the same responses in the listener.

One could argue it is a spiritiual experience for through endurance we grow stronger.

Endurance is another big theme in dark ambient music: the notes and beats and frequently repeated, suggesting endurance in both the repetitive, machinelike motion and pain evident in the vocals. But there is always sensuality in this music, for in its ghostly state it feels so very and truly alive.

Dark ambient music is about the experience of feeling while listening. From guttural, deep and quiet vocals just a bit offkey, to muffled horror sounds, there are elements some find disturbing and others find calming.

Personally I find them to be a bit of both, as per that aforementioned liberating experience.

Early Ambient

Ambient music as a genre took root sometime in the 1960s, when synthesizers were becoming more affordable to the average consumer.

It is true that the accessibility of the synthesizer led to an ever-increasing presence of the instrument in music from the 1960s and 70s, but – as with most genres of music and art – the group or artist who invented or began the genre shall forever be argued upon.

The synthesizer opened up endless doors to new sonic possibilities, with its myriad sound effects and capacity for programming and recording. In the late 1960s music took on rather a psychedelic and fantastical sound in the form of prog rock.

Bands like Genesis and King Crimson were experimenting with synthesizers and creating an entirely new atmospheric experience for the listener. The length of songs extended to make room for instrumental parts that sounded otherworldly, ethereal, sometimes downright haunting.

Into the 1980s, synthpop is very popular and mainstream, so following Einstein’s law of universal relativism, we begin to see dark branches splinter off into goth and industrial music, with both sounds and words often containing strong and slow beats, injury to the body, minor chords, haunting sound effects, machinery, heavy emotional content and response from the listener. With every technological advancement, music becomes heavier.

And so, naturally, this led to the experimentation with an exploration of instrumental ambient music to suggest the so called dark themes of confusion, feeling lost, melancholic, haunting, horrifying or mysterious, to name a few.

<Read our more detailed history of Dark Ambient music here>

Here it is: a collection of the names of dark ambient artists you should know about.

  1. Nocturnal Emissions

Nocturnal Emissions has been around since the late 1970s, initially as a sound art project by art student Nigel Ayers and a few other members. He is based in the United Kingdom. 

Since the mid-1980s, it has primarily been Ayers’ solo project. As you go through the bandcamp page, you will notice quite an extensive discography.

The sounds primarily orbit about dark ambient but venture into electro techno stuff, post-industrial and noise music. He avoids the music industry and has rather a big cult following.

Since the early 1990s Nocturnal Emissions contains a lot of sacred, magic and ritual elements.


  1. Controlled Bleeding

This American band has also been around since the 1970s, but released their first full-length album in 1983. To this day they have released more than 30 full-length albums.

With such a large output, they have of course experimented with progressive rock, metal, classical, sacred music and jazz, all in addition to ambient.

They have received their best critical response to their industrial dance. In this phase they began using lyrics more prominently in the 1990s, as a change from their previously mostly instrumental music.

3. Zoviet France

Little is known about the members of Zoviet France, other than their names. The musical group has been around since 1980 and gone through several personnel changes in that time.

Their music incorporates some industrial elements but is altogether out of this world. We link to a rather profoundly disturbing track of theirs: the 20-minute long Shamany Enfluence from the 1988 album Looking at the Ground.

  1. Lustmord

Lustmord hails from North Wales and has been active since 1980, releasing at least one album each year since. He is a musician as well as a film score composer, known for having worked on The Crow.

His work is exceptionally dark, as he combines all kinds of clips from field recordings in crypts and other such creepy places where death lurks and mixed them into his work.

He is in fact widely recognized as the founder of this genre. One of the elements unique to Lustmord is the expanded bass lines that remind one of the darkest depths of the ocean.

His work is altogether ominous, haunting and calm, with just the right tempered balance of dark and ambient.

  1. Coph Nia

Coph Nia is a newer band on the list, having founded in 1999 after the height of industrial music. They come, appropriately, from Gothenbug, Sweden.

The very slow beats in a lot of dark ambient music, combined with the ominous sounds, one is likely to associate with dark ritual and moonlight.

Coph Nia sounds like ritual music and is utterly empowering with spoken, monotone vocal style. Their name comes from a passage from Aleister Crowley.

Their songs contain a lot of western magical themes.


  1. Robin Rimbaud AKA Scanner

Another fantastic artist from the United Kingdom. Scanner is the stage name of musician Robin Rimbaud and he has been making music since 1982. He works under this name because he uses cell phones, police scanners, radio and cell phone signals in his works.

These indiscernible hints at human life – and the broken communication – make for rather a profound emotional impact on the listener. In the early 1980s Rimbaud played with a band and released cassette tapes of their recordings. He debuted Scanner in 1992.

In addition to music, he creates artworks, plays classical music and helped develop a natural light and sound alarm clock with Philips Electronics.

He also creates performance and installation art and has been honoured with many awards over the years. Some of his compositions are utterly chilling.

  1. Klaus Wiese

Wiese passed away at the age of 67 in 2009. He was a fantastic multi-instrumenalist who made compositions using Tibetan singing bowls; he is widely known as being a master of those bowls, having created several full-length albums with them. His work is very spacy and meditative, but the slowed notes of the singing bowls add a slightly unnerving seriousness to his work (we mean this in the best way possible).

It is through this mood created his work falls into dark ambient. There are elements of drone presented through an ever-zooming, pulsing lens.

He studied Mysticism in the Far East for many years, the influence of which can certainly be heard in the songs. For example, his entire album Maquam is about the stations of enlightenment within Islamic mysticism.

10 Synthwave Artists You Should Know


Synthesizers! They are so cool, right?  You take the most reliable aspects of a computer – programmable, reliable in its mathematics – attach a keyboard; amplify the sound through electronic speakers and be taken to another dreamy and sometimes intense world.

The Evolution of Tommy Tallarico

One of the fun parts of watching the technology scene is watching the same names come around through different generations. One massive surprise, at the same time Atari is trying to drag its hardware corpse back from the dead, is Intellivision having another go at arcade fame.

The project is led by Tommy Tallarico, a name that should ring a bell for any 16-bit gaming fan. He’s the audio brains behind Earthworm Jim 2, NFL Blitz, Batman: Revenge of the Joker and many more.

The recent news that he has acquired the rights to the Intellivision brand and plans to relaunch it shows how much love people have for even the oldest technology. Intellivision was famous for its numeric keypad and the $299 console sold millions in its early years.

Expect more news on this in October, when the project goes live. You can sign up to the website for more details.

When he’s not composing or launching new businesses, Tallarico is famous as the leader of the Video Games Live concerts. Perhaps the best way to see games music live, Tallarico will often take to the stage to play his hits from Earthworm Jim and others while the games play on giant screens in the background as a full orchestra belts out the tunes.

Not a bad encore for a guy who mostly has “sound designer” on his resume. Check out a full rendition of Video Games Live here.

Diving back into his personal archive, Tallarico has over 300 games to his credit as composer or sound designer.

At Virgin Games, his first job was on the Game Boy Version of Prince of Persia, bringing the sound of the orient to Nintendo’s curious mix of a pair of pulse wave generators, and a PCM 4-bit wave sample plus noise generator. It’s not the most thrilling of soundtracks, but helped get Tallarico out of his game tester role at the company and into the music side of the business, where he promptly formed his own company.

Things hit the big time with the Cool Spot soundtrack, a game tying into the 7-Up brand. Opening up with a version of the Beach Boys’ Wipeout, this was always going to be a hit game and the antics of the red blob hero made the game a big seller.

Moving things up a big notch, as new systems came to market, came the chance to work on the Terminator Games for the Sega CD with its full-strength audio capabilities.

Tallarico’s orchestrating capabilities came to the fore with epic renditions set around the cyborg anti-hero’s arcade shooter. These helped highlight his prowess with the guitar and synth.

With more freedom to choose projects. Tallarico’s studio won plaudits for MDK an all original title that packed in an hour’s worth of creepy, spacy sci-fi tunes with a hectic pace to keep up with the shooting action.

The great work continued with a BAFTA Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design nomination for Nintendo’s Metroid Prime in 2002.

His work continues in the modern era with Advent Rising on Xbox given a full orchestral soundtrack with vocal contributions from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The game’s sales may have failed to live up to the epic soundtrack, but truly demonstrated the class of the composer, and likely led to the ideas for Video Games Live which also started touring in 2005.

Tallarico also started releasing albums of his gaming work. Starting with Virgin Games Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 in 1994, helping create the market for game music in the west.  Albums covered MDK, Bond game Tomorrow Never Dies and an Earthworm Jim Anthology.

For more, check out a recent interview with the man, always good for name-dropping his cousin Steven Tyler!

How to Make Vaporwave Music Videos Using Adobe Premiere Pro

Are you looking to invoke nostalgia for the pop-culture of the past? Need a music video to match your new vaporwave tune?

Maybe you just want an introduction into aesthetic design. Look no further.  Today we take you through the whole process of how you can make your own vaporwave video using Adobe Premiere Pro. Check it out!

Oh BTW, here’s what our music video will look like, more or less, once we’re done:


We’re going to take gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game (although feel free to apply this to your favourite Simpsons episode) and split it into its red, green, and blue channels, like so…

We will offset those colour channels and then apply a VHS-tape warping effect to make it look like you recorded the footage 30 years ago.

Step 1: Obtaining Footage

Install a Youtube video downloader add-on onto your Firefox or Chrome browser.

Then, download gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game.

Download this VHS overlay while you’re at it: 

Step 2: Splitting The Layers

  1. Import your 8-bit footage and your VHS overlay into Premiere.
  2. Drag your 8-bit footage onto your timeline.
  3. Make sure you have 4 tracks by right-clicking on the blank space above your tracks and clicking “Add Tracks…”
  4. Unlink your audio from your 8-bit footage by right-clicking on it in the timeline and selecting “Unlink”
  5. Click on your audio clip in your timeline and press delete to get rid of it.

Your timeline should look like this:

Now we’re going to do a colour glitch effect.

Explanation: Every image on your computer is made by combining red, green, and blue in various amounts. We are going to separate the red, green, and blue channels of our gameplay footage.

Hold alt and click + drag the video up onto the V2 track. When you alt+click+drag, you’re duplicating your video track. Duplicate the track once more onto V3.

Click on the effects tab. Search for “rgb”. Select “Color Balance (RGB)”. Drag “Color Balance (RGB)” onto each one of your 3 tracks.

Since you’ve dragged the effect onto your video clips, you will now have a “Color Balance (RGB)” option in your Effect Controls window (top-left window of Premiere).

Click the video on your V3 track to select it and, in your Effect Control window, click the arrow to the left of “Color Balance (RGB)” to expand its options.

You’ll see a “Red”, “Green”, and “Blue” option. The idea here is that you want V3 to be only the red channel, V2 to be only the green channel, and V1 to be only the blue channel.

That means, for V3, click the number to the right of the ‘Red’ channel, type in ‘100’, then type in ‘0’ for the ‘Green’ and ‘Blue’ channels.

Finally, set the ‘Blend Mode’ of each track to ‘Screen’.

Your video layers are now set up, just go into the “Motion” tab of your Effect Control window and offset the ‘x’ and ‘y’ of each layer until you get a separation that you’re happy with.

You can change the ‘x’ and ‘y’ easily by clicking and dragging left and right on the values in your Effect Control window.

Step 3: Adding VHS Tracking

At this point, adding the VHS tracking video should be a breeze. Drag your “VHS Bad Tracking Overlay” from your Media Browser panel onto V4 so that it’s above all your other clips.

Right click on the clip and ‘unlink’ it from its audio, then click on its audio track and press ‘delete’ on your keyboard to get rid of its audio.

Select your VHS clip on V4 and, in its Effect Control window, set its Blending Mode to ‘Screen’. Setting its blending mode to screen will get rid of the black in the video and make it look like your footage underneath is genuinely glitching on an old VHS tape.

If your VHS tracking clip is too short, you can copy and paste it within the Timeline to extend it.

But be careful: Premiere will paste into whatever track is highlighted blue, so make sure V3, V2, and V1 are deselected, then select V4.

Now that the V4 track is highlighted, select the VHS clip, ctrl+C, press ‘down’ on your arrow keys until your timeline marker is at the end of your VHS clip (pressing ‘up’ will send the marker back to the start of the previous clip), then press ctrl+V to paste it.

At this point, you’ll want to import any audio you want in your video and drag it onto one of your empty audio layers (A1, A2, A3, or A4).

Part 4: Export as MP4

Go to File -> Export -> Media…

Your export window will open.

Change your ‘format’ to ‘H.264’. This will compress your video and let you save as an mp4 video file.

You can leave most of these settings to default. Hit “Match Source” just to make sure.

At the bottom of this window you may notice your ‘Estimated File Size’. If your estimated file size is too large, you can go into ‘Bitrate Settings’ in your ‘Video’ tab and reduce the ‘Target Bitrate’ until your Estimated File Size is something more manageable for you.

You may want to reduce the ‘Maximum Bitrate’ along with it. Keep in mind, reducing the video bitrate also reduces the overall quality of your video.

Once you’re happy with the Estimated File Size, click Export and Premiere will start rendering your video out to a file you can upload to Youtube.

Part 5:  aesthetic Text

If you want vaporwave-style characters in your Youtube title, go to, type in your title, and convert it to full-width characters. Then just copy + paste them into your Youtube title.

You’re all done! Hit play, sit back, and remember a time long gone.