The origins of Munich Syndrome reach back to the the late 70’s with bands pushing beyond punk with “bands” like The Normal, The Human League (mach I), OMD, Soft Cell, The Units, John Foxx and others. What was punkier than punk? Doing away with the guitars. Taking the D.I.Y. ethos further, in some cases, doing away with the drummer as well. A drum machine? Madness! Blasphemy! But there were enough people in different parts of the globe who not only threw the rule book away, they did it gleefully and started the second largest musical revolution (Rock and Roll being the first big wave, synths and drum machines were second.. and Rap was the next wave).
As the 70’s started to shift from heavy metal, AOR, to disco and punk, the spark was there to start a band. Where to start? Finding people seemed like a logical beginning. But an interesting thing occurred. People liked the idea of being in a band, of starting a band, but there was much less interest and follow through when it came to acquiring instruments, and (gasp) even worse, learn how to play them. Or die trying…
The second interesting fact that came up (in my personal experience) was no one wanted to play bass. Everyone wanted to be the lead guitarist (who didn’t?), and there was always someone game for drums. Rhythm guitar, a bit less so, and while everyone liked the idea of being a lead vocalist, a certain “something” was needed… In an earnest attempt to kick start things, despite having had piano lessons earlier in life, I gamely went out and purchased a Fender Precision Bass (it had to be good, as it was the exact same type Blue Öyster Cult used, right?).
The third, and most startling fact that was quickly discovered was… practicing bass without other people was not interesting. It probably didn’t help that there wasn’t any innate ability on my part… but I digress.
So, the bass went up on the wall (it looked rather good next to all the music posters, so it wasn’t a complete loss), and life went on, as did music.
And then that fateful day listening to the college radio station (if you drove on the right streets you could “almost” keep the signal going uninterrupted) and they dedicated an hour to electronic post-punk. The synths weren’t surprising (they’d been creeping into bands and music for some time now), but what was, were many of these records were made by one or two people. In many cases one person creating all the music along with a vocalist.
You didn’t need a band? This was revolutionary. A seed was planted.
Fast forward a couple of years, and out of college with a bit of disposable income from a decent job I made my way into a local music store and purchased my first synthesizer. A Korg Poly-Six. The guy selling it mentioned that the next iteration was going to be “midi-compatible”, but at that point, I didn’t know midi from mini, and had him ring up my purchase.
Drawing on my time studying and playing piano, I was amazed at the range of sounds and styles this magic machine could produce. It was fun, but something was missing. My own playing style was never really as a “pianist”, but I mimicked the music on the radio and played the bass parts with my left hand and the rhythm or lead with my right. So… a bit further down the road a second synth was acquired (a Sequential Circuits Six-Track, and to sweeten the deal, throw in a Sequential Circuits Drum Tracks)!
Suddenly, I was able to approximate some of the melodies and songs that had been kicking around my had for so long.
But the next turning point was discovering the Tascam Porta-Studio. The ability to record 4 tracks independently on the fairly inexpensive and easy to find cassette tape, was the “ah-ha” moment (years before there was an Ah-Ha).
Once that was acquired, along with a small mixing board, what had been experiments began to crystalize into something unexpected… songs. Real songs. With proper bits and pieces that songs I was hearing on the radio had. (well, not “proper” but a sight better than the sad and lonely practice sessions with the bass) (which still hung there gazing accusingly at the newly acquired synths wondering why it wasn’t joining the fun…)
The first efforts were stark, minimal electronic explorations, played in real time. Not having a grasp on engineering, everything was too hot and the eq was a nightmare. But, they were my creations, and at that point, that was more than enough. But as time progressed, the desire and need to refine them to line up better with what I was listening to, kept nagging at me. Acquiring a couple more synths, a couple more drum machines (always in search of that elusive kick sound that punches the solar-plexus) the next step was an 8-track.
And then, the first foray into sequencing. This was a case of the technology not really working as I had envisioned, and not having anyone available to really explain, set up or show me how it worked. Latency in the midi chain, and an Atari computer that ran on a floppy disk weren’t really cutting it.
At this point, I floated the idea of bringing more people into the mix (so to speak). There were various people that indicated interest, and attempts at collaborating were tried, but the chemistry and vision weren’t the same….
It reached a point of stasis, with several songs written and demo’d, but not really where I wanted them to be…
Fast forward to the end of the century… electroclash was happening and the familiar DNA of earlier post-punk bands seemed to be floating to the surface. This was interesting. And there were now a whole new world of DAW’s out there (Digital Audio Workstation) and I went back in. I jumped in with a ProTool’s TDM system. After finding someone to get me past the learning curves, it made sense. But it wasn’t quite happening for the type of music I was attempting to make. The suggestion was made that Logic might suit my needs better. (crap… something new to learn) But Logic made sense. And the gates opened.
Many of the earlier efforts were remade and remodeled within the new environment. But like anything new, it was a learning experience. An area of learning and growth was the website GarageBand (not to be confused with the Apple software program). The site allowed musicians to post music and get blind critiques. As most of the people on the site were musicians themselves, many of the reviews offered insight and distance that allowed me and others to tweak and grow their sound.
While I was working on the project that was tentatively titled Electro, the opportunity came up to add soundtracks to four short films shot in France. the pacing and images suggested a lower key approach. I was beginning to get into using loops and samples mixed with more traditional sounds. The resulting soundtracks that resulted were downtempo electronica featuring trip-hop beats, lush keyboard washes, smoky saxophones, and jazz-inflected piano. The main movie featured a 21-minute track, with the working title Paris Movie. I edited it down to 18 minutes and it became the centerpiece for nine songs that I released under the band name Munich Syndrome and the title Sensual Ambience.
During this time, another component entered the mix: the vocoder and treated vocals. A vocal element had been present on the earliest demos, but never really came together. With the options to treat and change vocals, this came to the forefront.
The songs on the Electro EP were the foundation for the next release, Electro Pop. A departure form the first album, but definitely more of the core DNA of early Munich Syndrome was present in this release. Surprisingly, only one song from the early demos made it’s way onto this release, with everything else written in the here-and-now. And with looking at the elector renaissance in place, one of the album’s most popular songs “Love & Dancing” is an homage to the bands and songs from the much beloved early-to-mid-eighties.
Following the success and critical praise for Electro Pop, the next album, Electronic Ecstasy, goes further into the realm of Euro-disco, electronic pop, and dance. Along with the title track the songs Always (Alone) and Anywhere (But Here) received remixed extended treatments. Other songs that have recieved a lot attention are 2 Whom, Endings (Rock RMX), and Watching You.
Following Electronic Ecstasy, the first song to leave the studio was Tonight.
Tonight, a song about breaking free of the constraints and worries of the day-to-day and having one night of unbridled fun without any worries or concerns. Upbeat and exuberant the track was a bit of a red herring in terms of the album that would follow, Robotika. Thematically connected Robotika tells the story of Client SS006 (the catalog number of the album release) who is being examined for symptoms of Robotika. Not a man, not a machine, but something else in between. The journey begins with the diagnosis and takes the listener on a journey of exploration of modern life. Going into the Future, the awareness sets in that living in the past can feel like a safer place, but the past no longer exists. Conforming to peer pressure, (I Do) the Robot momentarily removes SS006 from the concerns of the moment. Working in a large society and corporate culture is visited with Industry along with the snipping and negativity that can come with it, Assassins. Modern life crashing in, SS006 does what many do in similar circumstances and opts for medication intervention with Medicated. As the drugs kick in, we float into Android Dreams (remix), a dream state with random memories from another day. As clarity surfaces we address isolation with Just A Lonely Robot. Seeking escape, Nightlife is next up. Tonight is followed by Dance Again as the party continues. As the night fades into day, a more somber Perfect Day is the next step of the journey. On the expanded version of the album, next up is introspective Memories Drift (It's Christmas) going into Robotika (Ambient) and finally closing out with the Prognosis.
After the release of Robotika and Robotika (Expanded) several issues came into play simultaneously. The first was an aging and in cases, failing studio. Along with that, was the fact that the previous releases had been heavily bootlegged. Electronic Ecstasy and Robotika both showed up on hundreds of bootleg sites within days of being released.
After an almost three year gap from our last album, Robotika, we are proud to release the first of our Atmospherics series, 1: Urbania. Urbania is a detour into moodier, atmospheric soundscapes, a soundtrack to a night out in the city, be it Berlin, London, San Francisco or Paris. Utilizing older analog synths, vintage guitar amps and a mixed bag of filters, Urbania offers a variety of moods from dark and quiet to slinky and sensual, to upbeat and euphoric. Exploring moods and space, as well as melody and rhythm, Urbania has no rules, preconceptions, and no expectations on where the song will take you or where you'll arrive.
Working concurrently on the Urbania tracks, were songs that were thematically and stylistically different. Harkening back to the electro pop era sound, the songs are autobiographical, looking back to a time when I was looking to the future. Adventurous (and in many cases stupid) nights spent in San Francisco, chasing bands, buzz, love, heartbreak and fun. Some of this is recounted in Friday Nights and The Ballrooms of San Francisco. The World of Tomorrow is a love letter to a fun and creative era, a time of of making do with what we had and having fun in the process.
Since then Syndrome Sounds Studios have been upgraded. While I’ve lost count, I think this is mach VI… The next album, Electro Pop 2 is slated for release in early 2018. Most of the track for the follow-up, Headspace (Atmospherics: 2) are completed and work has begun on a harder electronic project, Industrial Design.