On his last two releases with Future 80s Records, Vancouver producer Renz Wilde rooted his composition in concept. Whether telling stories of the urban experience in City Boy or developing sounds for retro-futuristic nightlife in Super Stereo Sound, he was always operating with an eye toward setting.
His latest EP, Shattered, breaks the mold, breaking those cyber cityscapes down to their synthwave foundations and reassembling aesthetic shards into a new mosaic-like image.
That shakeup leads to some of Wilde’s freshest and most organic material to date. From the disco strings of the title track to the saxophone runs of “Wave Length,” he reaches new levels of instrumental depth, and between dance breaks, he strikes a potent emotional chord in the dark synth pulsing of “Teen Breakup.”
As he reflects on the EP and looks forward to his next concept project, Wilde spoke to the All Scene Eye about the making of Shattered.
When did you start working on this project? When did you know you had a new EP on your hands?
This had a very different start for me than all my other releases; I was feeling no motivation following the release of Super Stereo Sound. I put so much of myself into that release that I was just spent for months afterwards. I finally broke out of it when I created the title track, “Shattered.” From there, it was a spark and I was hooked again. I knew I had an EP after about seven or eight demo tracks.
Your last record started with “Muzik Radio!,” an intro track that set the stage in a very literal way. Shattered features something a little different. What’s your concept for the intro this time around?
You’re exactly right about “Muzik Radio!” This time around I went for pretty much the opposite. I knew I had this crazy disco funk track ready to pounce, so I tried to set the mood with a rather morose track with a humanoid-sounding voice telling you to get down. That could mean whatever the listener wants it to mean.
What’s the overarching theme of Shattered?
Days gone by.
What can you tell me about the artist you collaborated with on the cover art? What drew you to that comic book style over the classic synthwave look you’ve used before?
I was on an artist website just browsing the artwork when by chance I came across PekoeBlaze (C.A.Brown), more specifically, a piece called Moonlight Sonata. It really captured my imagination. Then as I went on to view more of this person’s work, I envisioned cyberpunk-ish comic-style album artwork. A comic book someone in Blade Runner might be reading. Because the EP is such a drastic departure from my last two albums, I wanted it to reflect the same Renz Wilde, just in a new dimension.
You’ve said you wanted to challenge your range in making this EP. What are some ways you felt like you were pushing your abilities?
I wanted to see if I could make a record that I would consider minimal and funky, but with sad undertones and be considered lo-fi. If that’s possible, that’s what I went for.
Technically speaking, were there any new tools in your arsenal this time around?
The funky title track “Shattered” has all the bed track instruments played by my friend Joe Funk. I played on top and massively overproduced it [laughs]. For the others, I kept it simple but used some of my favorite VSTs, my midi keyboard, and samples.
You’ve worked in a lot of different styles, and some of those didn’t end up making the finished record. How do you make those kinds of stylistic decisions?
That’s totally correct; this EP sounded drastically different. Before I dropped the last two tracks, it was really like two separate eras mixed into an album. It sounded ok, but not cohesive. It was in the back of mind, but I thought I was overthinking it. That’s when Daniel at Future 80s Records told me the last two tracks didn’t belong, and it was a relief to me; it validated what I was already thinking.
Tell me about the making of “Wave Length.” That was a late addition to the EP.
“Wave Length” was just meant to be. I was so motivated after we decided to change the album, I immediately went to work on a new track. This one was very focused. I wanted to encapsulate the tracks I already had into one track. I went with a late 80s, early 90s-sounding sampled bass line over a simple ZZ Top-style beat. I found I was able to contrast that well with a catchy rhythmic lead synth line and atmospheric pads. I inserted a short break with a tribute to the wind instruments on “Shattered,” which I’m very pleased with. I was working on a deadline and that helped, but I would like to revisit the track in the future and see if I can maybe expand on it.
I felt that Wavelength came to me very naturally and the time constraint I was working under might have played a part in that. But the track is under three minutes. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I now hear elements of the track that I want to bring out more and showcase. And perhaps an 80s-style 12-inch version would sound nice. Maybe I’ll even offer the track up for remixes.
What was it like working with Oceanside85 on “Passion”?
Chelsea Owens, who is the producer behind Oceanside85, is from my part of the world here in British Columbia, Canada. We broke into the scene not far apart and share many of the same producer friends. We’ve known each other for a few years now. She did a fantastic remix of “No Way Out” on my City Boy album. She is a terrific producer in the synthwave scene with a terrific voice when she uses it; it has an edge to it. When the track Passion started to take shape, it had a very raw, sexual tone to it. I played the vocal melody for Chelsea with a few lyrics, and I gave her full range to improvise melody lines and lyrics however she wanted. In the end, I arranged parts of the track around her improvising. That’s one of the challenging tracks I mentioned earlier. I created a lo-fi love song.
How does it feel to have this EP finished, and what’s next for you? What are your goals for the rest of 2018?
I have very mixed feelings about this EP being finished. Shattered took many forms before the final released version. It started out much more raw, with an excessive amount of dance elements, but scattered over the decades, from the 70s through the early 90s. The only cohesive element was the dance element. I turned the EP on it’s head when I dropped four tracks in total, then added “Wave Length.” Now aside from the 70’s disco track “Shattered,” it’s a more cohesive collection of songs.
With this self-indulgent little mini-project done, I’m planning on a return to the heavier, darker synth sound of my album City Boy with a sequel, City Boy 2. It’s very early; I’ve only started work on a few demos, but amazing producers like Stilz and Syntax who are featured on City Boy have agreed to return, as well as a producer I’ve never worked with before but who I’ve admired for years. I’m very excited to work with these guys–now the pressure’s all on me to give them something solid to work with.