Before Seth Haley’s ‘mid-fi synth-wave, slower-motion funk’ work as Com Truise propelled him to top-gun status in the blogosphere, he worked as a graphic designer in the risky business of advertising by day and recorded at night. Goed bezig, toch? We discussed visions of the future, nostalgia and how his advertising background influences his approach to music-making.
I’ve read that you’re interested in older film depictions of the future. What’s your favourite, or which one do you most hope comes true?
I hope none of them come true. They’re all either kind of dreary or dystopian. I just like the way people thought technology would look. I don’t really know what happened, it doesn’t look anything like what they imagined.
It seems like everybody in our generation is obsessed with nostalgia. What’s your take on this phenomenon?
It’s probably just things recycling themselves, and everybody gets caught up in it. I’m not sure why. But my take is: really I just don’t care. People can do whatever they want. I like being nostalgic, it makes me feel human.
What’s the best job you’ve ever had?
Working in advertising, actually. I got to work with my best friend. I think that was definitely my favourite. I like doing that stuff. I’m a designer by trade.
Not being a musician?
It’s been my hobby for like 15 years…
So it doesn’t feel like a job?
No, now it does, which is what scares me the most. Sometimes I have to do things just to get them done, and I can’t just get them done when I want and make them sound best, or put the right amount of time into it. That having to do things, having to get them done to make money, it’s this extra pressure that I don’t really like. And I really kind of miss working in advertising, honestly. I don’t mind travelling around and touring, but I couldn’t do both, so I had to quit.
Maybe you’ll figure out a better way to strike a balance.
I think I was more creative when I worked all day on nothing but design stuff. I would get home and I would only have a certain amount of time to write music so I would be more focused. Now I’m less focused. I wake up in the morning, I have some coffee, a cigarette, I noodle around on the computer, smoke another cigarette, more coffee, back and forth all day. All this extra time works against me. I’m thinking about everything too much, I think.
I read that you worked as an art director for a pharmaceutical ad agency. So are you the mastermind behind the US obsession with prescription drugs?
No, we did more internal stuff for companies. And the major company that I worked with puts out drugs for very specific diseases, for rare hereditary things and immunodeficiency stuff. So it wasn’t just recreational drugs. I felt better about doing it. I think it can make you uncomfortable if you have ethical issues with the product.
Nowadays anyone with a bedroom and a computer can make music. When there’s so much competition, how do you stand out from the crowd? What’s your recipe for success?
I think for me it was being a designer as well as a musician. I think a lot of it is about branding, so creating that sort of thing right off the bat already puts you in a better place. I found a blog that I really liked and sent them my music and it kind of went from there. It’s all about networking, and building something solid to start from yourself, and then if people catch on they catch on; if not, then try again or do something else. Definitely I think using the name ‘Com Truise’ was something that turned people’s heads a little bit more.
You’re inadvertently convincing me that it’s smart for someone who’s worked in the advertising industry to go into something else that’s creative. You knew who your target market was, you knew how to package your product in a way that was visually appealing…
I have a very small firm of just myself, developing my strategies, watching the markets…
That’s not something that had occurred to me before, but now it seems to make perfect sense.
Subliminally I’ve been subjected to that stuff, so I might as well take it and use it to my advantage.
I should look for a job in advertising!
Com Truise plays on June 7th at EKKO in Utrecht. This show is free for Subbacultcha! members.