Manchester-based producer DEADLIFE a.k.a. Ed Hawx has become one of the leading names in darksynth; a fast-rising offshoot of the synthwave scene featuring gothic melodies and hard-hitting electronic beats. Flying largely under the radar he hit #12 in the US Billboard Electronic Album Sales chart in 2019 with his album ‘Singularity’ and broke into the iTunes album chart in 2020. He has crashed through 3.5 million streams of his music and recently tipped over 110,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. He was snapped up by leading US label NRW Records (part of the highly influential YouTube channel NewRetroWave). As he prepares to release his new album ‘Dark Nation’ on 20th November , we thought it was time for DMCWORLD to find out a bit more…
Hello DEADLIFE and welcome to DMCWORLD! This is the first time you’ve been featured in the magazine, so can you tell our readers a bit of your history and how you came to be making music as DEADLIFE?
Hey DMCWORLD! I was a drummer in various bands when I was younger, but always listened to a lot of electronic music. Mostly soundtracks, but also some dance stuff from the 90s thanks to my sister being into it and blasting it on the radio all the time. I guess I kind of picked it up from there, mixed it up with the game soundtracks I liked as a kid, got into metal, punk etc and then ended up making what I do now. When I wasn’t in a band anymore I felt pretty lost, so I started making music on Reason 5 and was surprised to find out it was almost identical to playing a game called Music I had on PS1 as a kid. So yeah… my music, it’s kind of a big mix of a lot of stuff.
You make music in the darksynth genre. In terms of sounds and production, what defines a tune as darksynth?
Hard to pinpoint really as it’s pretty new and I don’t actually listen to that much of it, but yeah I’ve found myself to be put into the darksynth genre. I guess a lot of it has a dark sound, I’d say listening to John Carpenter’s soundtracks would give you a good idea of where it probably originated from.
You’ve got a new album ‘Dark Nation’ out on 20th November. What can you tell us about this release?
It’s pretty dark compared to my last record, and it averages around 110-120BPM throughout I’d say. It’s a pretty melodic release though. I want to leave it open to interpretation as it’s pretty hard to objectively listen to and describe my own stuff.
You’re a seriously prolific artist, with ‘Dark Nation’ being your eighth studio album since 2017. How do you work so fast and why?
It comes down to workflow I think, good habits. It’s come through years of writing in various formats, from being in a small orchestral band as a kid, to being a drummer in rock bands etc. I had to learn discipline within music from a very early age, which sucked at the time but as I got older I got used to it. I know my weak points and what stops me from writing, and what helps me to write, my strengths. I have a bunch of different ways to start off a song. I also don’t ruminate on songs for very long, when it’s done its done. Things will never be perfect, so I don’t meander for a long time on a song, I just get it done and then I’m onto the next one. I don’t really talk much about tracks either, I’d rather just do them then get onto the next. I like to graft, it’s who I am and it’s where I come from. I was always told as a kid I wasn’t working hard enough, to always work harder. I ended up picking up a lot of lessons throughout life. That your hardest work is never enough, you need to push further, see further. You need to test your absolute limit.
When it comes to why I write so much, I guess I just have a lot to write about! But also, there’s a bunch of other factors, where I’m from, how I was brought up, the life I’ve led, stuff like that. I don’t want to get complacent. I also rarely celebrate a release because I’m always thinking “OK, but what happens next?” I pretty much work constantly, be that in my job or within music. I’m also very fortunate to have been noticed by people, and to have people who like my music. I hope that I bring my listeners a little slice of life here where I’m from, along with some kind of ethereal feeling, melancholy, nostalgic feelings for memories you don’t remember, things like that. Was it a dream or was it real? Does it matter… you know.
Which artist (living or dead) would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Nobuo Uematsu, his musicality is astounding. He writes the most incredible melodies.
You’re known for a love of cyberpunk culture. What is it that attracts you to this scene and how has it influenced you?
As a kid I was fascinated and terrified by the idea of cyberpunk. I never really understood why back then, but I was fixated on it. I loved the aesthetic and feel. There is this ultra-realistic vibe of people struggling to get by that rings true. It’s interesting because in something that is arguably fantasy we have something that is crushingly real. The ultimate reality; a future that was once seen as something that may or may not happen. There’s a certain misanthropy and lack of trust in humanity that I find appealing and can sympathise with. It sounds grim, but it’s reality. I don’t like to have any illusions about myself or the future. For me, the best of cyberpunk is the stuff that reflects that which is true within modern society. As a millennial I was brought up to think the future was bright, but that never materialised. People are having to be ever more inventive about how they make ends meet, how they pay the bills. It’s easier than ever to fall into drugs, into drink. Here in the North especially we are very self-deprecating. We laugh at our own misfortune. We accept it because we don’t feel there is another choice. And then, you see how easy it is for the subculture of cyberpunk to blend with our current reality. It is seamless. So, it’s no wonder I was so fascinated with cyberpunk as a young child. It was almost predicting the future.
There is definitely a dark, dystopian edge to your music, which arguably is the perfect soundtrack for society right now. Are you creating music to fit the world as you see it?
All of my music is shaped by the world as I see it. I’d rather not talk about it that much, and just write about it. We live in a world of verbosity, companies bombarding us with adverts for fake products we don’t need anyway. People clamouring for attention and hey, who can blame them? People are having to be ever more inventive to find ways to pay the rent. I don’t blame them. I respect anyone who finds a way to get the landlord off their back. As for my music, I’d rather just do the thing and say OK here it is. I don’t really feel it’s my place to tweet hundreds of political opinions, you know. Right here and now is probably the types of places to say what I feel, but I find I tend to be pretty open ended about a lot of things when I am pushed to say stuff. If the way the world is now was in a movie 15 years ago we’d have seen it as a dystopia, edging into cyberpunk territory. But it’s real life so it’s like boiling frogs, we just don’t realised how fucked it is because it’s what we are used to. I’m fortunate to know some good people around the world who have done alright for themselves and kept their emotional self intact. It’s very hard these days to live a life in a dying world and not go a bit insane. We spend a lot of our time online wired into our computers because it’s a distraction from the horrible shit everywhere. It just helps. It’s like when you hurt yourself and laugh it off. It makes things easier and that’s very important I think. One day we’ll be dead in the ground, who knows when, and who knows what the world will be like then. Probably even more changed. So you may as well make the most of it, connect with people you like, and hold onto the good parts. When the bad shit happens take it and move on, use it and learn from it. Society now is an infrastructure built by a forgotten age. Things have changed. We have to change with it. I hope my music helps people get by in this world more than anything. That’s all that really matters.
Where do you see DEADLIFE five years from now?
I’d love to go into scoring films, games etc… maybe doing some other projects involving DL. I like interesting experimental sounds and projects, even if nobody ever hears them. I have a 4 hour drone album uploaded to YouTube which has barely any views. It’s pretty much just ambience start to finish. My friend affectionately called it SLEEPLIFE, because she sometimes sleeps with it on. That makes me happy, that’s enough.