Who Is…Com Truise

Arye Dworken

By Arye Dworken

on 07.14.11 in Who Is...?s

File under: Trippy sci-fi soundtracks from the '80s

For fans of: Neon Indian, Boards Of Canada, Toro Y Moi, and Nightmares on Wax

From: Princeton, New Jersey

Galactic Melt

Com Truise

When Seth Haley was a young kid, growing up in upstate New York and searching for a creative outlet, he hacked into the school computer system so, as he tells us, he “could see how far I could go.”

He might have continued with such dubious pursuits if not for a well-timed introduction to electronic duo Boards of Canada. A more informed friend sent him a copy of their sophomore album Geogaddi, the uninspired high school student listened to it over a cup of tea and was instantly hooked. That ambient masterpiece made such a strong impression that he eventually decided to go from being an electronic music appreciator named Seth Haley to the electronic music maker named Com Truise.

With his self-described “mid-fi synth wave slow-motion funk” debut album Galactic Melt out now and knowingly-jokey nom de synth, Haley is prepared to inspire both awe, with a Milky Way-traveling head-trip record, and, yeah, a couple of laughs. It’s all good, he tells eMusic’s Arye Dworken, “I have no regrets.”

On Galactic Melt, “the album that’s a score for a film that hasn’t been written yet”:

It’s a story in my mind about the United States’ first robot astronaut. He becomes this humanized celebrity on Earth, and has to take a mission that entails leaving that life behind. The story hits on various points of his journey to a planet called Wave 1, where he becomes stuck, but he’s surrounded by this new world…but he’s always longing for the past. That’s the short version.

On first becoming Com Truise, and his favorite Tom Cruise movies:

About 12 years ago I started to spin records and was obsessed with electronic music. I never thought, “I want to be a musician.” I kind of just started making my own drum and bass tracks with no intentions. I basically wanted to make something I couldn’t find, and that was really my only motive for any of my projects. I’m less inspired by songs and more inspired by certain sounds within them.

On the surface, it may look like I picked the alias for a laugh. And yeah, it started out as a joke with some buddies of mine. I think I may have even said it by accident due to being in a fit of laughter about something. I picked it out with no expectations other than to make some real synthy music with bits and pieces of ’80s nostalgia scattered about. I laugh harder about it now.

Some people hate the name so much they refuse to listen to the music, but somehow they still put in the time and effort to be vocal about it on the Internet. But I have no regrets – it sounds more like the name of the robot astronaut in the Galactic Melt story than anything else to me now. It makes sense to me. [By the way], my favorite Tom Cruise movie is a tie between Risky Business and Top Gun. Amazing films with excellent scores.

On his obsession with Ridley Scott’s film version of Blade Runner:

I’ve been a huge sci-fi fan forever. I think I might have been born somehow preconditioned to liking everything sci-fi. But somehow I spent the majority of my life not having seen Blade Runner. About two years ago, I bought the first version that came out on DVD. I was completely blown away – I wanted to punch myself for waiting so long to watch it. I think it took me two days to go out and buy the collector’s edition in the plastic briefcase with all the stuff in it.

As far as my favorite version, I love the remastered director’s cut the most. It still looks a bit wonky, nice grain, the lighting, sound quality…so good. It’s the first, maybe only movie I felt that I could really relate to the character, that feeling of being alone, in a hot and cold place, and the uncertainty. They just released it on Blu-Ray. I’ll never stop watching it. I want a framed Laserdisc! And don’t get me started on the soundtrack.

On that aforementioned mouthful “mid-fi synth wave slow-motion funk” sound:

“Mid-fi” because it’s made in my bedroom. “Synth wave” because the music is almost entirely made with synthesizers and I like to imagine the sounds as giant waves crashing into my ears. “Slow-motion”…I really just enjoy making slower tempo music; I like to vibe, but I don’t need to dance. “Funk,” I draw a lot from the percussion sounds, techniques of early-mid ’80s funk music. I’m not really looking at the key, chords or song structure. I’m looking to get the sound of the sound, and the tight snappy synth-bass or a rimshot detuned 100-percent. I make sure every song I produce under the Com Truise moniker fits into these categories; they define the sound, but not the story.

On quitting his day job at a pharmaceutical ad agency:

The things I learned from working in advertising are invaluable. It’s hard work, long hours; drains your mind. But the time-management and branding practices are by far my favorite things I have ever learned; they’re part of everything I do now. I enjoy a good, solid process. It’s the first job I have ever resigned from, an insane feeling. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. The team I worked with was awesome. Everyone there was a musician in some form or another. My design director got up and gave me a hug. Everyone was really happy for me. It’s a dream that you don’t get to see happen that often, and I consider myself very lucky.

On designing the Com Truise retro-aesthetic:

I’m a typography nerd, and a logo mark obsessive. [With my logo], I just want to make something that was easy to understand, and use in a multitude of ways. It’s type but it’s also a symbol, and I see it making its rounds now, so I think I nailed the approach.

I design everything connected with the Com Truise project. I know what the sound should look like more than anyone else. I’m very protective over that stuff. But I recently started to understand why so many musicians have other people handle their album artwork. It really is a lot of work, and trying to focus on both the music and art can be a handful.