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For all you synthwave fans, John Carpenter fans and music fans in general, Videogram has released a new single this week. And it’s a cover of the iconic theme of Halloween, originally by John Carpenter. He puts his own unique spin on it, making it his very own, and you should be listening to it and watching the new video made by Magnus Sellergren (which you can see below the interview) as well. We got to sit down with the one man army of Videogram.
Thanks for joining us, Magnus.
Thanks for having me!
First off, with the new wave of synth bands blowing up big in today’s music scene, what led you to getting into the mix?
Yeah, isn’t it great? As for me getting into it, I was already playing around with synth sounds, saving up a nice collection of patches that, to me, sounded like stuff I heard in old horror and genre favorites. Then James at Doc Terror asked me to do a mix tape for the Italian Horror Week back in 2014 and, long story short, that mix evolved into Videogram’s first album.
One of the godfathers of synth music would have to be John Carpenter, who has done most of his own soundtracks, most famously Halloween, which you now have a cover of that you just released. I’m guessing you’re a fan of the man. How did he influence your music styling?
Most definitely! I love his work and have been a fan of his movies for years and years. Musically, it’s the simplicity and minimalism that sort of inspired me. Aesthetically, they are sort of punk rock, which I totally get off on. Keep it simple, don’t overdo it.
I released my cover of “Halloween” earlier this week. I’m really happy with the results – make sure to check it out on Bandcamp! – it’s gotten a good response so far and the video’s been getting a good amount of views. Plus, I got to make a tribute to Carpenter’s iconic theme! I couldn’t be happier.
On the topic of Carpenter, I see that you got to see him perform in August. I know when I got to see him perform a few months ago, it was life changing for me, to see the man perform some of my favorite themes from his soundtracks and his new stuff too. What did you take away when you watched him perform?
Yes. I attended his live retrospective in August and it was almost a religious experience. Words can’t really do it justice. The power of his music really came through and I loved every minute of it! It reignited my inspiration and also gave me some ideas how to pull off Videogram live.
Have you ever considered going on tour yourself?
Yes, many times. I’ve had a couple of requests and am most interested in taking this on the road. To me, now, it’s just a matter of wrapping my head around a live concept. I know some horror synth/synth wavers out there do the DJ thing, and I can understand that and wouldn’t mind doing it, but I don’t wanna do it without giving the audience something extra. If that means going onstage with different remixes/versions of my songs, or doing it with a live band, I’m just not too sure right now. I am brainstorming and as soon as things start to fall into place it’s gonna happen.
I see that you mention Vangelis and Goblin as well. Did they influence your musical career? Are there any other artists that continue to inspire you to keep evolving?
Well, of course. You can’t be a musician without getting inspired by other musicians. Good or bad, they all give you ideas of what you wanna achieve and not achieve. That said, I am that much of a headstrong person I’m gonna insist on going down my own road and my loyalty – and in some form, inspiration – are to those that support Videogram’s music. I feel I have an obligation to keep them happy. That’s one of my criteria every time I’m about to release something: Would I wanna own it myself?
I first got to hear your music when the fantastic Camp Blood single came out. And then the accompanying video was an homage to the tough NES video game. What led you to that song? Besides Friday the 13th and Halloween, any other horror films that might get the Videogram treatment?
Thank you! Yes, I do think that one turned out pretty good. I’m a long time fan of the franchise and, when the idea came up to do a tribute, the disco theme from Friday the 13th Part 3 3D was a given. Technically speaking it’s not a cover song, though. I made damn sure when I worked on “Camp Blood” that it’s not, in any form, a rip of the original theme. I checked note for note and it’s totally different chords and bass line. As a fan of the franchise, I’d love to meet Sean Cunningham and the rest of them one day but not in a court of law, that’s for damn sure. Can you imagine sitting in court, waving to them and their team of lawyers, going “Oh, I’m a huge fan by the way!”, ha ha ha.
You’re also an Italian film fan, with nods to the post apocalyptic genre with your albums 2077: Raiders of the Apocalypse and your newest 12″ Gladiatori dell’Apocallisse. Any films in particular that you love and wish more people knew about? One of my favorites is 2019: After the Fall of New York, which I try to show everyone.
Yes, Italy gave the world some pretty darn epic genre movies back in the 80’s. Battletruck isn’t Italian, but worth checking out. Equalizer 2000 is pretty funny, and thanks to various companies most of the post-apocalyptic films released back then are readily available on both DVD and Blu-ray. I also gotta give a shout-out to David J. Moore’s World Gone Wild. That book does an amazing job covering the genre.
Random question: Stallone’s Cobra. Greatest action film ever? If not, what is the greatest action film to you?
Well, I did record a tribute song called “Cobretti”, so of course I like it. It’s a great action slasher and one of the first Rated R movies me and a buddy snuck in to check out when we were minors. Gotta mention 10 to Midnight with Charles Bronson, that’s another great action slasher. I am really bad at making lists, but yeah, Cobra along with The Terminator, RoboCop, First Blood and maybe a couple of Cannon films. I’d say it’s up there at the top of the list.
How has the reception been in your home country of Sweden? I know here in the States, synth is going through an amazing resurgence, with tons of bands coming out as of late from all over the world.
Actually, if you’re referring to horror synth I’d say it’s a bit slow but promising. In Europe this thing seems to really take off. It’s exciting to say the least.
Speaking of synth bands, any bands that we should know about? With so many coming out, I always like to see what other people are fans of.
Well, I’ve stated it in interviews before, but I really like Giallos Flame, and it’s one of Videogram’s many inspirations. Not sound-wise, but it was Ron’s project that made me wanna start doing it. He’s reactivated the project and recently released an album on Fangoria Musick. Make sure to check it out. My personal favorites of his are the “Archivio Giallo” compilations, culling tracks from his releases along with a couple of unreleased tracks. He’s on Facebook, check him out.
What other bands were an influence to you? Not necessarily in the synth genre, but music in general?
Well, I come from the hardcore/punk underground, it was parallel with me getting into horror and genre movies, so that had a huge influence on me. Thrown into that mix was early industrial and noise, death metal and grindcore, but also earlier roots music like rockabilly, R&B, 1960’s garage, surf instrumentals etc. But I listen to heavy metal and stoner rock as well. It sounds like a damn cliché, but I really don’t care about genres anymore. There’s good music and there’s bad music – and it’s pretty subjective what defines that.
Not sure if you’ve heard about the documentary coming out soon Rise of the Synths. If so, were you contacted to be a part of it? If not, I think they’re missing out on one of the key musical acts of the ‘rise’ in their title.
Oh, yes! I was pleasantly surprised seeing they gave my Facebook page a like a while back. And of course I’d love to be a part of it! Like they say, “I am available”, all they gotta do is gimme a holler and we’ll work something out.
But while on the subject, I was interviewed for Vestra Pictures upcoming VHS Lives documentary, talking about my VHS collection and how the golden VHS years influenced me and my music. It will be released soon and then have a wider release in early 2017.
Have you thought about doing soundtracks to new films? With shows like Stranger Things and movies like It Follows, it’s definitely a great time to jump into the film industry. I’ve always listened to your albums as soundtracks to films that don’t yet exist.
Thank you, that’s very kind. To answer your question, yes, I am interested in doing work for the right project. An NDA doesn’t permit me to share too much information, but I did some work earlier this year that unfortunately didn’t make it all the way.
What’s in the works for Videogram in the near future? Your albums tend to be always on the top of my pull list when I see you announce something new.
Well, I recently finished up my remixes with Acid Washed and Andrew Claristidge, so there will be an EP released on Cineploit later on. Both Acid Washed and Andrew has worked with some impressive artists like Moby and Jimmy Somerville, so it was pretty inspiring work! But I am also in talks about collaborating on some songs for a future one-off kind of thing, but can’t really share much more information at the moment. The “VHS Lives” documentary will be released these next couple of weeks and there’s a handful of Videogram tracks in that one. I am also currently demoing ideas for my next full length album on Cineploit, but that one won’t be released until some time in 2017.
Thanks so much for your time, Magnus.
Again, thanks for having me!