Text: Alec Coiro
Photo: Possible Motive
There’s a certain cinematic feeling that can’t be called film noir because there’s too much graffiti on the train, but the shadows are long nonetheless. And then in comes that synth, and somehow the beat the goes along with it isn’t quite for dancing, but seems more in rhythm with the pulsing of your heart as danger lurks.
This is the vibe the Metro Riders concoct on all the album “Europe By Night,” which feels like it needs to be a soundtrack right away, but still somehow also works best as a standalone album.
Henrik Stelzer is the musician behind Metro Riders. We reached out to him in his native Sweden (Stockholm, to be specific), and discovered the extents he went to immerse himself in the time period he’s evoking in order to achieve the dialog between past and present that he pulls off. This sort of dedication and immersion speaks to Stelzer’s old-school dedication to craft, which is apparent in our conversation and even more apparent on the album itself.
The album release will be concurrent with the publication of this piece and will consist of only 300 physical copies on vinyl, so grab them while they’re hotly pressed.
I’m told that you use mainly vintage/analog synths. To what extent do you go exclusively vintage? And is there a philosophy behind the choice?
I guess the philosophy, or rather the idea of using this type of equipment is mostly because, for me, that was the only way for me to achieve the sound I was in search of. I had previously been working a quite a lot with software synths but found it was much harder to improvise or let the sound or the track guide you. It hasn’t really been a rule for me, it has more been a way of achieving an idea.
I guess it was probably like five or six years ago when I with the use of some old acquired keyboards and various delay and reverb pedals started to get the idea of what I was in search of. I didn’t really know what to expect when processing the sounds through various recording devices, it was this excitement, I sort of let the machines guide me, that I got really fond of. I started to find ideas and sounds that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for this type of hardware. I love all things analogue, whether it’s the texture of an uncoated paper or the knobs on a Korg MS-20. It just feels more real.
Do you think it’s possible that as electronic music technology has become more sophisticated, it has lost some of it’s aura, mystery? As we move deeper into the future of electronic music, does it become less futuristic?
Maybe. I definitely think that people today don’t need to rely as much on their own talent or experience as one were to do before. There are just so many tools today within music production, but also within all kinds of creative areas, that are doing the thinking for you and that definitely takes away some of the mystery. Some might consider it user–friendly and intuitive but I sometimes think that it’s also making the user of a certain software or tool less educated and skillful in what they’re doing.
The music that I tend to hold-on to are the one that has a well crafted idea behind it, something that stretches beyond the sound of it. Metro Riders, is more of an idea or concept than just electronic music, for me the idea of Metro Riders is the tracks, the artwork, the references in the titles and the supplied press-release. All those elements combined creates the body of what Metro Riders is. I guess that’s the aura and mystery.
There seems to be a particular mood to the album, more specifically a particularly urban mood. What sort of city are you hoping to conjure through the music?
Any urban areas that the listener can associate themselves with I guess, we all have our different relationship to them. I think that wherever or whatever you are feeling when listening to Metro Riders that feeling on that certain time that comes to mind is what I hope to generate.
A lot has been made of your albums connection with a certain type of early ’80s soundtrack, and I would add to that observation, that movies in 2017 would benefit greatly from the Metro Riders treatment. If you were going to score a film by a contemporary director, which director would you chose?
I recently watched ’Get Out’ by Jordan Peele and I really enjoyed that one so if he has got anything similar coming up I would be very happy to collab. I also recently enjoyed the very stylish and awesome giallo-esque ’Amer’ by Hélène Cattet and I’m really stoked about the upcoming ’It Comes At Night’ by Trey Edward Shults. All three awesome directors.
What are some of your projects outside of Metro Riders?
There’s always something weird going on. Prior to Metro Riders I released sounds under the moniker Fluorescent Heights on small independent labels such as Beer On The Rug, Constellation Tatsu and Subsuburban. I have a shoegaze band where I play guitar and my girlfriend plays the drums, it’s a fun weekend project we’ve been having for the past months. Besides music I do a lot of graphic design, both as a daytime job but also on free hours.