For Com Truise, melody is where it all begins
If you want to develop your rock ’n’ roll chops, nothing beats getting together with like-minded friends and bashing out “Wild Thing” or “Hell’s Bells” in the garage. Sure, you’ll suck at first, but the point is that the best way to learn how to do something is to do it.
The same goes for makers of electronic music, although the equivalent of jamming in their case requires not a pawn-shop guitar and a half-decent amp, but a pair of good headphones and a laptop. Or, in the case of Seth Haley, a borrowed Casio keyboard and a cassette deck.
“I’m not a formally trained musician of any sort, although I grew up around pianos my entire life, in my grandmother’s house and our own home,” says Haley, reached in Princeton, New Jersey, where he resides. “I think the turning point for me was seeing the ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ video by the Chemical Brothers on MTV when it first came out, and it made me want to experiment.”
That eventually led Haley into a career as a drum ’n’ bass DJ and producer specializing in hard-edged, rhythmically intense tracks. All of that went out the window when a friend introduced him to a certain Scottish duo.
“I heard Boards of Canada, and I guess I had just forgotten about melody for a long time,” he admits. “There was this whole other part of music that I didn’t really mess around with that much because it wasn’t a major part of something that I really enjoyed. I then kind of switched up my whole process.”
In Haley’s latest project, which he has dubbed Com Truise, melody comes first, with the beats there to carry it along. The influence of Boards of Canada is evident in Com Truise’s choice of analogue synth tones, which, on cuts such as “Video Arkade”, he manipulates until they sound like samples from a VHS tape that has been left out in the sun since 1985. More idiosyncratic are his codeine-dream rhythm tracks, which he aptly describes as “slow-motion funk”.
Com Truise’s sonic retro-futurism has landed Haley a number of high-profile remixing jobs, including songs by Neon Indian, Foster the People, and Maroon 5. He admits that, although this is a lucrative sideline, it keeps him too busy to work on new music of his own. His most recent Com Truise release, the digital-only In Decay, is a compilation of older tracks.
“I have to do an EP and another LP, but the majority of my downtime goes to doing remixes,” he notes with a hint of chagrin. “So I have a lot of remixes coming out, but no new material. I mean, I’m constantly writing stuff, but I just haven’t had enough time to really sit down and wrap my head around it, and continue my story.”
As long as remixing helps pay the bills, you might think a dream gig for Haley would be retooling a Boards of Canada track, but he says that isn’t so. “I don’t know if I would want to remix my favourite song, or a song that I really enjoy. A song that I really like, I don’t think I could improve on it in any way, so I just kind of leave that stuff alone.”
Com Truise plays Fortune Sound Club on Sunday (October 14).