Wicked Horror recently had the chance to sit down and chat with horror-inspired Synthwave artist Protector 101. He opened up about his life long love of horror movies, his new album Killbots, and everything in between. See below for the full exchange!
Wicked Horror: How did you get into composing synthwave? What was the draw for you to this style of music?
Protector 101: I was always into electronically generated music. Synthesizers, drum machines… anything I can get my hands on like that. So electronic music has always been a core in my life probably since I was about 12 or 13 years old. Synthwave specifically? Probably when I first saw Hobo With A Shotgun (RIP, Rutger). With the movie’s score including Judge Bitch and Power Glove, it was the first time I heard dark contemporary 80s style music. I think my biggest draw to this style music would be the flexibility you have with it. Not only with the actual sounds and instruments but there’s so many subgenres within this subgenre of music. From pop, to dark, to Yuppiewave, to score… The latter being one of my favorite things to work on.
WH: You just released your latest album Killbots. It is dark, gritty, and hits you like sonic wave of sound. Did you have anything specifically that influenced you during the writing and composing?
Protector 101: There was a lot of negative things going on in my life during that time. I don’t want to get into details but huge life altering events happened that saddened me but mostly made me very angry and confused at situations that I had absolutely no control over. KILLBOTS was the end result of these emotions.
WH: Listening to your previous albums and a lot of your cover art is a nod obviously to the 80’s. You have an entire album based around Robocop. The cover art for Geeks, Girls, Guns and Ghouls looks like a tribute to The Video Dead and your single Back Alley is clearly a nod to the classic C.H.U.D. Now correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the name Protector 101 an homage to the killer robots from the 1986 cult classic Chopping Mall along with your new album title Killbots?
Protector 101: All of that is correct. You get 101 XP!
WH: What draws you to the horror, sci-fi and general attitude of the 80’s?
Protector 101: Just a lot of nostalgia. I was born in 1981 but I started watching horror movies at a really young age (5). Horror and Sci-Fi were on top of their game in the 80s in my opinion. The music, cinematography, the practical effects… Movies seemed to have something to say. There was meat to them. A soul. They didn’t hold back.
It’s hard to find that these days. Although there are some gems out there that don’t seem just like another cash grab. But yeah… Nostalgia plays a big part. Also, the high amount of bloody practical effects they used is just so enthralling for me! Movies like Evil Dead, Bad Taste, Pieces. Or snuff like films like the Guinea Pig series. All those movies were pushing boundaries and there really wasn’t anything like them before. It was a fantastic time and it was wonderful growing up in that time.
WH: During your creative process when you are working on new music, what have you found is the most difficult part?
Protector 101: I am always trying to find new sounds, new techniques and making it all come together seamlessly. When creating music, you are hearing the same loops, sounds, drums, etc, over and over again. Ear fatigue becomes a reality very quickly. Learning to walk away and coming back later helps tremendously I’ve found. With KILLBOTS I have so many unfinished, demo state, b-sides littering that folder on my hard drive. Maybe I’ll release them sometime to the public or just let them sit or maybe turn them into something completely different for another album.
WH: Performing in front of an audience, I can only imagine is anxiety-inducing and exhilarating at the same time. What is your favorite and least favorite parts of performing live?
Protector 101: Favorite would probably be opening for Perturbator in Boston and playing E.A.T.R. on a huge sound system and having a mosh pit start. Least favorite, all the times I’ve had technical difficulties right in the middle of playing a set.
WH: You have collaborated with several other well-known artists in the synth genre. How do these tracks come to fruition, is there a specific process?
Protector 101: I usually have a pretty good idea of who I would like to collaborate with and what I would like them to do and 9 times out of 10 we usually get the final take within 2 or 3 takes. It’s really nice to be surrounded by talented individuals.
WH: Out of all the albums you have released which one is your personal favorite? Why?
Protector 101: That’s a difficult one. They are all so different to me because each one of them has their own backstory which makes each one individually unique to me. So many people over the years have helped me with pretty much every release.
I think if I were absolutely forced to pick right now at this moment I’d say, Wastelands. With that release I really let my creative juices flow. I basically made a full fledged score for a movie that only existed in my imagination. It wasn’t till later that I had friends and friends of friends lending me their voices to supply context to the score and also creating a small short film. It was really fun and everything seemed to come so quick. I made that album in less than a month. That’s fast for me. I sometimes play with the thought of making a sequel to Wastelands.
WH: If could collaborate with any person, from any time period, who would it be?
Protector 101: Krzysztof Penderecki
WH: Where do you see Protector 101 in 5 years? What is your long term goals with Protector 101?
Protector 101: Hopefully constantly evolving and never becoming stale. That is my ultimate fear with any project I do. As far as long term… Keep releasing new material. Become better at everything. I’d like to score more (video games, movies, etc) as that’s how I truly enjoy composing music with P101.
WH: The synthwave sound is difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t had a lot of exposure to the genre. How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
Protector 101: It’s always a pain in the ass. The best way I’ve found for the majority of people is telling them “it’s a modern take on 80s electronic dance music”. Then I give them a couple of references like Depeche Mode, Madonna, The Terminator soundtrack.
WH: With the recent release of Killbots, will you be playing any shows in support of it?
Protector 101: Most definitely. I’ll be playing the Synthwave LA show at the Echoplex August 9th, Turbo Drive in San Francisco August 10th, and then on tour with my brother Street Cleaner in November with the Destructure Tour.
WH: Which horror films from the 1980’s do you think best sums up that time period and 80’s horror cinema as a whole?
Protector 101: Oof…. There’s so many of them… I’ll pick 5 off the top of my head and in no particular order. The Evil Dead, Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, The Thing, Demons and Pieces.
WH: Is there any specific character or film from the horror genre that you would like to base a song or album around?
Protector 101: The song “Artificial Consent” that I made was basically about Joe Spinell’s character, Frank Zito, from the original Maniac movie. And although not a horror movie, my track “Summer Heat: Los Angeles” was about the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez.
WH: Why do you think that 80’s nostalgia and retro futurism has resonated so much with audiences? Movies like Turbo Kid and Kung Fury are just 2 recent examples.
Protector 101: There’s a huge collective age range that are interested in this stuff that either were born before the 80s, born in the 80s, and born after the 80s. I’ve played multiple Synthwave shows and I’ve seen this broad age range many times. From 18-65 years old, give or take a few years. Even though it’s such a huge gap, they all understand what it’s all about. They’ve seen the movies, they’ve heard the music, they’ve read the books… It’s all there and it’s all so very interesting. Plus, history and fashion always repeats itself. For the past few years I’ve seen the 90s slowing creeping in so it’s only a matter of time until we’re all making Eurodance and grunge music again. [laughs].
WH: I have heard people say “They don’t make horror movies like they used to!” Would you agree with that? In your opinion what was the best decade for horror cinema?
Protector 101: I’d agree with that. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to have progression and to try new things. The 80s were the 80s. The 90s were the 90s. They are those things because they are a specific identity of those past times. If everything stayed the same it would get boring real quick and those times would cease to be special.
I think it’s great to pull from the past and find those inspirations, but make it your own. It’s basically what the whole “Synthwave” scene is doing. Taking that nostalgia and turning it into your own thing. But I’m going off on a tangent here, hahaha. My favorite 2 decades for horror cinema would be the 70s and the 80s. I think between 1974 and 1985 is the sweet spot. I start at 1974 because that’s when Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out, which is my all time favorite horror movie.
WH: As a musician and composer, in your opinion, which horror film has the best soundtrack/score?
Protector 101: Ahh! Too many, hahaha! How about I name five again that come to mind. In no particular order: Hellraiser, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Suspiria (1977), Chopping Mall and Candyman.
WH: And finally, where can fans find you online?
I would like to extend a huge thank you to Protector 101 for taking the time to speak to us. Be sure to catch him this fall on tour and pick up a copy of his latest album Killbots. Protector 101 and Street Cleaner begin The Destructure Tour on November 8th in Atlanta, GA.