"..creating kitschy Electro Space Pop with an engaging twist.."
For over a decade, Jason Amm’s work as Solvent has neatly defied categorization. His music is too sweetly melodic for Techno or Acid, his compositions too fiendishly detailed for Synth-[op. He was too steeped in the sounds of the ‘80s to participate in the incipient IDM scene; he was briefly lumped in with the short-lived Electroclash movement, only to outlive it; he’s played “Minimal Wave” parties and Goth clubs, Indie-Rock shows and Techno all-nighters. But even as words fail in the face of Solvent’s music, its pleasures are anything but elusive. Today, Zimbabwe-born Jason Amm lives in Toronto, ON, where he spends his time obsessively grappling with an outsized collection of vintage analog synthesizers, samplers, and sequencers. Solvent first materialized in 1997 with a string of singles and full-lengths (1998’s Solvent, 1999’s Solvently One Listens) on Amm’s own Suction Records, the Toronto-based label he founded with Lowfish’s Gregory DeRocher. The watershed release Solvent City (2001) on Berlin-based Morr Music introduced Amm’s sound to a wider audience, and Apples & Synthesizers (2004) marked Solvent’s move to Ghostly International. Along with notable remixes of artists including Soft Cell, Alter Ego, and Adult., Solvent tracks have appeared on high-profile DJ mixes and seminal compilations. Solvent’s most recent record on Ghostly International, 2010?s Subject to Shift, marks a turn for the darker as Amm embraces his love of the abrasive sounds of acid and industrial. And while a sinister tone or two now dances among Solvent’s sparkling hooks and bright streaks of synthesizer, and while Amm’s music drifts even further from accepted genre-specific reference points, Solvent’s sound has only deepened. After more than ten years of composing love songs for robots, Amm sounds like nothing more than himself.
Hello, how are you?
Mr. Solvent forgot to answer this one, we'll assume he's doing great;]
What are you currently listening to?
At this moment I'm playing 'Black Mill Tapes Vol.1+2' by Pye Corner Audio.
Care to shed some info on your latest album/soundtrack for 'I Dream Of Wires'; favorite track(s), process of writing, etc?
I was asked to create the soundtrack music for the 'I Dream Of Wires' documentary, which was started by a director in Toronto named Robert Fantinatto, and within a few months I became so involved in all aspects of the project that we decided I should come on board as the film's producer. Since the film is about modular synthesizers, and because these instruments often get a bad rap for being unconducive to making anything other than meandering blips and bloops, I set myself the goal of creating the record with modular synthesizers exclusively. During the production of the film, I was going back and forth between working on the film itself and creating a body of work with modular synthesizers, which eventually became the soundtrack album. The two processes fed into each other; I started the project with just a little bit of modular synth knowledge and experience, and by the end I was totally immersed in them as both a documentarian and a user/musician.
When did your obsession with the synthesizers begin?
I became really obsessed by electronic music in my early teens, and I remember that when I discovered bands like The Normal and Fad Gadget, I immediately understood that they were using old synthesizers, and that I had to learn more about it. I did end up picking up a couple of pieces of gear early on, but then it was actually in my early-20s, having discovered Aphex Twin and the whole bedroom producer movement, when I started getting really serious about buying synths and producing my own music.
Will you be touring the US anytime in the near future?
I've got no plans to play live at the moment; I'll be concentrating on 'I Dream Of Wires' for a while.
Got any other projects we should know about?
I've been running my own label, Suction Records, since 1997, but we've had a very slow release schedule in recent years. After releasing my new album on Suction, I'm planning to really ramp it up this year with several new releases, including the first album by Skanfrom in over a decade.
Care to name a few of your current favorite synth artists?
In terms of active artists who I'm always looking forward to hearing new music from, I love just about everything that Roger Semsroth produces (Skanfrom, Television Set, Sleeparchive), Martial Canterel's music is always timeless and a real showcase of great synthesis techniques, and I absolutely love the Rephlex-style acid techno of MPIA3/Truss.
(Besides 'I Dream Of Wires') What movie would work best on mute while listening to you music?
You can only keep/listen to ONE album for the rest of your life ..which album would it be?
My favourite album is 'Upstairs At Eric's" by Yazoo, but I don't think I'd want to be stuck listening to a record with lyrics for the rest of my life. So I'd probably pick one of my own albums to be honest - maybe 'Solvently One Listens'.
Are you living your dream?
I don't think any artist ever feels satisfied. Right now I feel like I spend way too much time pushing my art on social media, mailing out packages, answering emails, and not enough time making music. But if I had nothing but time on my hands to produce music, I'd probably complain about feeling directionless. I've always felt like if I were to achieve great success with my music it would be the answer to all of my problems, but then every artist I've known who's become successful finds plenty to complain about that too. I'm sure I'd find some reason to complain about success - this is just the way artists are, I'd say. I've definitely got some things going on these days to feel good about though, particularly the positive feedback and continuing success of 'I Dream Of Wires', which feels like a real accomplishment.
Thanx Jason (and George too)!
Solvent recently released the excellent soundtrack companion to this terrific (no seriously, REALLY terrific) DVD/documentary on synthesizers...