MUTEK | Rich Aucoin Promises Synth Madness at Metropolis Headlining Show

Interview by Stephan Boissonneault
Genres and styles : Electronic / Synth-Glam / Synthwave

Additional Information

You may know the name Rich Aucoin more so in the alternative indie pop world, known for his explosive, high-energy shows where he crowd surfs (on a literal surfboard) and his hilarious multimedia meme antics, but lately, he’s been focusing on a more synthesized sound.

He’s released two parts of his Synthetic album series, where he plays more than 37 synths, probably the most on an album in the history of music, using some historic synths like Supertramp-owned Elka Rhapsody 610 String Machine. Now he’s taking a live performance of this electronic ‘Air meets Daft Punk’ show to MUTEK and he had some time with PAN M 360 to chat about it.

PAN M 360: You launched Synthetic Seasons 1 and 2, Is the vibe of three going to be much different and how do you plan on playing parts of these releases live? You must have a ton of synths you’re touring with.

Rich Aucoin: I plan to play these tracks very similarly to the album; mostly making adjustments for timing. While I’d love to tour with a bunch of synths, it’s very logistically difficult so I’ll be making the best I can on just a Moog and Juno and samples. Many of the synths on the album are giant and/or one-of-a-kind, like TONTO, and/or very expensive to own.

PAN M 360: I suppose you could play it as a DJ too?

Rich Aucoin: Yeah, I’m not DJing but I am performing with Ableton and samples from the album. 

PAN M 360: Is there going to be as much energy at these MUTEK shows as say when you toured United States? – Running around, surfing in the crowd…

Rich Aucoin: I hope there’ll be some high-energy moments. While I am normally known to have shows like that, I thought this show might be better, a little more cerebral and less directed as my normal shows are led, so, I’ll just stay on stage and no crowd surfing on surfboards for this one. 

PAN M 360: And what about the multimedia memes? Are we going to get a bit of that with the Synthetic performance?

Rich Aucoin: Yeah, I thought the MUTEK crowd might just want to stay in music and not be distracted by the normal multimedia memes I pepper throughout the show so I’ll be more relying on the lighting and vibes of the show than the normal projections I use. 

PAN M 360: I got a huge Air influence on Season 1 and more of a Tangerine Dream and Daft Punk vibe on two. Do you think about the general musical themes for each season or is it more organic than that?

Rich Aucoin: Yeah, there isn’t an exact plan of genres on the 4 seasons, I just made a list of all the songs I wanted to make and have them written on some cardboard and pinned to my wall and I just look at how they can each all fit together. Definitely, some more Air and Daft Punk to come along with Gobin and Vangelis. 

PAN M 360: Are you a guy who listens to a lot of electronic music? I have to admit I was kind of shocked by how hard you went into the synth world with these Synthetic seasons.

Rich Aucoin: Yes, I’ve loved synth music since I was a kid and have been wanting to make this record since the beginning of my music career. I visited the Cantos Museum in 2008 while recording my first album across Canada and decided I’d try to come back and make a record with all their keyboards one day. It has since turned into the National Music Centre and is where I did an Artist In Residence program and started recording this album in March 2020. I grew up listening to Air, Daft Punk, Justice, Cornelius, Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, Wendy Carlos and was a big fan of synth soundtracks like Vangelis’ Blade Runner. I studied Electro Acoustic Experimental Recording at Dal too and got into early synthesis pioneers like Pierre Schaeffer and Eliane Radigue and then since then have gotten into all sorts of synth music from Oneohtrix Point Never to Dan Deacon, Caribou, Todd Terje and Jon Hopkins.

PAN M 360: Would you say that when you were crafting these songs, it was more of an improvisation or play than “songwriting?” Like finding a loop or setting you love and exploring that?

@RILEYSMITHPHOTO

Rich Aucoin: Yeah, I’d say the power of the sounds synths creates really makes you alter your writing to it in a way that you’re surprised by something and pivot to accept that new turn in a way that you wouldn’t be as surprised by a chord on a piano for instance (though sometimes you still can be so it’s not completely different). So yes, there’s some songs that have a chord progression or a rhythm or a melody as a starting point and there are some that just start as the soundscape and timbres. For the tracks on historic synthesizers on the album, like TONTO, I just recorded myself playing it for about 3 hours and then, later in the studio, I went back over all the recordings and picked out my favourite moments and then began stacking and arranging them into a piece of music of about 5min in length down for 3hrs. Some songs have a great 4 bar riff or loop from a synth and that was all the time I had with that synth to create the basic structure of the song with.

PAN M 360: Do you already have plans for your next project after Synthetic? I feel a guy with your kind of creative mind is always three steps ahead.

Rich Aucoin: Yes, I am also looking at a piece of cardboard with my next 6 albums all planned on it. Lots more new directions to explore after this but I’d like to continue my synth writing on soundtracks hopefully. 

PAN M 360: Are you going to be able to check out MUTEK at all? Any artists you’re excited to see?

Rich Aucoin: I have been so busy this summer that I’ve barely had the time to look ahead. I’m coming for the whole festival though and plan to go to shows every night. Hoping to find some good synth music and some progressive house DJs. 

RICH AUCOIN Plays MUTEK Metropolis 2 on Saturday, August 26, 2023, 11:00 pm_6:00 am
TICKETS HERE

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