An Interview with: Jesse Thamer (Chroma Surge)

I think it’s important to start by saying that since I met you (in a virtual online capacity), What I’ve admired most is the level of effort you go to, supporting and encouraging others within the community. I see your name pop up a lot in other artists posts on YouTube and instagram, with kind and personal comments. That includes my own posts, so thank you for that.

But aside from that, you also make great music yourself. What genre would you classify yourself?

Thank you very much for that! I appreciate the kind words, which I think apply to yourself as well! I just really love music, and I know the amount of work and heart that goes into making songs that people often will listen to the first 15 seconds of and move on, so I try to make an effort to listen to full tracks and show the artist that I have with a more specific comment. Not always (nobody has infinite time), but when I can!

As for what genre I would put myself in, I’m afraid I don’t have a solid answer for that, as I think my music is all over the board. I usually just generally say I make “electronic” or “synth” music when people ask me, but I just tag each song appropriately if it’s synthwave, or ambient, etc. I have a wide range of musical influences and genres I like (inside and outside of electronic), so what kind of music I make often depends on what I’ve been listening to that day, and how I’m feeling.

What is your current hardware setup and what couldn’t you live without?

My current setup revolves around the Synthstrom Deluge as the brains and most of the melodies, as well as percussion on most tracks. I recently got the Elektron Model:Cycles which is loads of fun by itself, but I mainly got it with the idea of using it to make more intricate drum tracks to go alongside the Deluge. In addition, I have an Arturia Minilab Mk2 if I need midi control of either device, and a Teenage Engineering PO-33 that I occasionally use.

I couldn’t live without the Deluge. The amount of things it is capable of is dizzying, and the workflow is perfect for me.

What is your musical background and how did you end up here?

I have only been making electronic music for about a year. I have however been playing instruments since I was 16 and got my first guitar. Since then I picked up many different instruments, including the drums, violin, and piano. There was even awhile when I was learning how to play the bagpipes! I used to play primarily acoustic folk music, but I have always listened to a wide variety of music and loved electronic, but never thought it was approachable to learn to play myself without going to school for it.

I started seeing videos on some “grooveboxes” which were extremely appealing to me, as I like music to be more hands on. I tried making electronic music on a computer years ago but couldn’t get into it, but having a self contained box that can make a full song from start to finish with knobs and buttons is exactly what I wished existed but had no clue about for most of my life. I started watching tutorial videos on some teenage engineering devices like the OP-Z and PO33 and eventually picked up an OP-Z, which I loved and made a bunch of music on. Ultimately though I found about the Deluge and knew instantly that it was the perfect machine for me, and reluctantly sold my OP-Z to pay for it.

What are your main goals for 2020?

My musical goals for 2020 are mostly just to keep making and releasing songs frequently, and keep improving myself and trying new things with the devices I have. Also I am playing a brief set on the Synthstrom Release Tour in Toronto which is my first show, and I am very much looking forward to that. Outside of music, I am getting married to a wonderful woman in the fall which is amazing!

What is your main platform for promotion and why?

My main platform for promotion is Instagram, because the community for electronic music seems to be the most active there than anywhere else. People post and comment constantly and it is wonderful to be a part of. I prefer the layout of YouTube as I like full songs (though I do use IGTV), but the traffic there is much worse for me. I always upload to both, however.

How often do you post and how do you know when a piece of music is ready to share?

I have a goal to post at least one song a week. Sometimes it isn’t possible, and sometimes I post more often, but that is what I aim for. I have a bad habit of being impatient with wanting to release a song so sometimes I will release a track before it is perfected, however as most of my songs are jams on a pattern it is generally okay to me if they have some imperfections. I don’t generally master tracks afterwards, I usually record directly in the deluge using the resample feature and then combine that audio in a video editing software with the video I took.

What gear is on your wish list right now?

For my gear wishlist, to be honest as I just got the Model Cycles I am not looking at any gear for a long while (I am getting married after all!). There are lots of pieces I think would be great to have like the Arturia Microfreak for arpeggios or the TE Helicon Perform VE for adding vocals to tracks, but they would be a long way away if I got them. I do just like watching videos of cool new gear though and seeing what people do with them.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

What I’m listening to is usually all over the place. For electronic, I’ve been listening to Jeremy Blake, Rikinish, BØLT, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Gorillaz, Sällskapet, Darren Korb, Ben Prunty,  Daniel Deluxe, etc. For metal, I’ve been listening to Demons and Wizards, Kvelertak, Mastodon, Borknagar, Bloodbath, Ghost, and Blind Guardian. For acoustic music, I’ve been listening to Tenhi, Low Roar, and Fleet Foxes.