For the past two years, former advertising executive Seth Haley has been making synth-loaded down tempo electronic music under the memorable moniker of Com Truise. Signed to the legendary Michigan label Ghostly – home to Matthew Dear, Tycho, and Shigeto – Com Truise last year released his debut album, Galactic Melt. Haley, who began as a DJ 15 years ago, says his musical expedition is one that has gotten slower and slower. It’s been traditional spinning to drum and bass to his current brand of chilled-out, down tempo electro. We recently caught up with the unassuming funkster to talk spoonerisms and synthesizers before his set at the 2012 Sasquatch! Music Festival.
Treeswingers: How would you describe this stuff, Com Truise?
Com Truise: I call it mid-fi, synth-wave, slow-motion funk.
TS: Mid-fi. Synth-wave. Slow-motion. Funk. Okay.
CT: But really it’s just down-tempo synth-heavy electronic music. I think, really, synth-wave is the best way to really describe it and it kind of keeps it open.
TS: Just a little bit about when you started making music – I noticed you started making music under a bunch of different aliases, such as Sarin Sunday, SYSTM and Airliner, and I know a lot of other electronic musicians do that, too. Why do so? Does it give you more freedom?
CT: Yes, it gives me freedom in a constricting sort of way. I never want to write all these different styles of music under one name. Other artists do that and it works, but for me myself it would never be okay with me until I can hear an album. So it definitely helps me in the creative process to give myself guidelines where I can go so far.
TS: So for Com Truise, what are your guidelines?
CT: Not too fast, and not necessarily too happy.
TS: Strictly minor keys, then?
CT: Yeah, yeah. I guess really that’s the two I adhere to the most.
TS: I was listening to your album and reading up a bit on you and what you’ve been quoted as saying your inspirations are, and among those inspirations is sci-fi. Why sci-fi?
CT: I think there are some things that you’re born with that you just like automatically where you can’t really figure out where it happened, the moment where you were like, “oh, I like this.” For as long as I can remember I’ve always been into rocket science and science fiction, things like that. My strongest subject at school was science. I feel like I was just born with that, so it’s definitely just a huge inspiration for me–science fiction movies, thinking about the future and what it would look like or smell like or taste like. That kind of thing really inspires me.
TS: So, are you a scientologist?
CT: Um, not yet, but the more and more I think about maybe it I’d give it a try.
TS: If you met Tom Cruise, do you think you could be converted?
CT: I would only convert if he converted me.
TS: That sounds slightly weird, doesn’t it. So, you released your first full-length on Ghostly last summer. What do you have coming up, or what have you planned?
CT: I’ve basically been touring for the most part kind of constantly, anytime I’m home I’m doing remixes for everybody so I really haven’t gotten that much time to write new music. So a lot of remixes, Ghostly is going to release Cyanide Sisters, the first EP, on vinyl in July and they’re also releasing a compilation of B-sides to the album and older tracks in July so that will be coming out. I’m really excited about that. There are some good jams on there. After that I just have to finish up an EP and an album, and see where it goes from there. I’ve just been doing so many remixes I haven’t got enough time.
TS: Who have you been remixing? And have they been asking you to do this or is it just a way for you to keep yourself busy?
CT: They ask, I mean they request me. But it definitely pays the bills! I did a remix for The Twilight Sad, ZZ Ward, I’m doing a remix right now, actually I just finished it yesterday morning for a band called thenewno2, it’s George Harrison from the Beatles’ son, so it was really neat. It was a difficult song to work with, it was just very dynamic, which is great, but it was hard to work with. Sometimes when he sings you can kind of hear the Beatles vibe, it was really neat to work with.
TS: Poor guy, he must get that a lot.
CT: I know, but it just sounds so good.
TS: So what’s your process when you’re remixing? Are you trying to put your own stamp on a song or are you trying to reimagine the song for the artist. How do you feel when you’re remixing?
CT: I totally try to think of it as a song that I wrote and someone else sang over. I totally rewrite the song, change the chords. If they work, I really only use the vocals. When anybody sends me stems, it’s really only the vocals. I basically think of it as reproductions, not really remixes but I totally just reproduce songs.
TS: And your work is pretty – and this is such an understatement – your work is pretty synth-heavy. Do you just chuck some synths on there?
CT: Yeah, whatever I got, let’s do it all.
TS: Speaking of synths, what’s your setup? I’m sure there are a bunch of synth geeks who would be dying to know what you’re working with.
CT: Right now, I just bought the Profit ’08, the Dave Smith Profit ’08 like a month and a half ago, it’s actually the synth that comes on the road with me so I’ll be using it today. I plugged it in and it was working on the ZZ Ward remix and it sounded so good. I have tons of stuff, but not much of it is setup because I moved back home to my parents to not pay rent, because I’ve been touring so much that it doesn’t warrant having my own place. And I really don’t know where I want to go anymore. Anyway, I have a Roland Juno-106, Moog Synthetic, Oberheim Matrix 6, which is like my wife. I’m currently working on building a modular system so there’s a bunch of modules in there too. A Harvestman, some make-noise-music stuff. So that’s definitely something I’m trying to do, there are unlimited possibilities for it.
TS: That’s awesome. So what are you listening to right now, in terms of other artists?
CT: Right now? My friend from London, Datasette, it’s my go-to. It’s electro stuff it just sounds so good. Boards of Canada, always, I don’t think they’ve ever left since I’ve had an iPod they’ve never left it. Always New Order, too, they’re always on there. I listen to a lot of VHS Head, Purity Ring.
TS: How do you feel about electronic music as a whole? What direction is that heading in, in your eyes?
CT: It’s becoming more mainstream. I drove from Seattle today so I had three hours of the radio and just listening to music on the radio it’s just more and more and more electronic. Every song is basically fully electronic music just with someone singing pop vocals over it. It’s in everyone’s face, some people just don’t realize it. I kind of wish it was back to where it wasn’t in everyone’s face. You might just start to seem cheap.
TS: I would say there’s still some kind of underground-
CT: Yeah, but it doesn’t stay underground for long.
TS: I guess that’s true. Think how big the LA beat scene is now, guys like Shlohmo and stuff.
CT: It’s huge.
TS: Did you ever consider different names, Bevin Kracon, Cicolas Nage?
CT: Oh, I didn’t consider any other spoonerisms. This project was initially called SYNCE, to be like science. The name [Com Truise] was a direct reflection of my expectations of the project. I mean, I was working in advertising at the time as an art director, had no problems, made amazing money, and now I’m making music. I didn’t really expect anything from it – festivals, touring. I’m very lucky.
TS: When did you quit your day job?
CT: July 14th of two years ago.
TS: 2010? A date which will live in infamy.
CT: It seems like forever.
Com Truise – “Cathode Girl” (download)