Dream Catalogue (HKE, 2814) “I think ‘2 8 1 4’ might be the number on the door of a hotel room in the year 2084, rather than the year. It’s open to interpretation.”

When people think vaporwave, typically they’re like “What the fuck? Who are you? Help! Security? This person is handing out propaganda in the city center. Can we please remov…? Thank you.” Um — when I think of vaporwave, I usually head for [who you probably also think are] the masters. But if I’m looking for something more than just the standard concept from another Bandcamp vaporwave producer, I head on over to Dream Catalogue. There, HKE (FKA Hong Kong Express, a.k.a. half of 2814) goes for the mind-gold, as the (second-time London resident) claims each release is a dream installation wherein listeners can experience a fortune in creative imagination dynamics. And I couldn’t agree more. With recent releases 非実体, Into the Light, and Museum, there’s no telling where their discography will take you next.

Below, I discuss with HKE the entirety of Dream Catalogue’s past and extensive future goals, the lineage from Hong Kong Express to HKE, and his collaborative efforts in the project 2814. But those are just ice-berg topics, as HKE goes in on all three and more.

Have you ever been to Japan or China or anywhere in Asia?

Never traveled outside of Europe myself, but it’s one of my big ambitions to be able to eventually play some live sets out in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and other big Asian cities, just so I can get a glimpse of that side of the world. I’m pretty envious that Giant Claw has got that opportunity to do so in Tokyo — but understandably so. By all accounts he has a pretty amazing and unique live set and his music is off the chain.

Other Asian cities outside of Pacific Asian?

Yeah for sure, I would love to go to Dubai and see the Burj Khalifa in all its majesty, it looks like one of the most cyberpunk cities on earth. Delhi and Mumbai too and lots of other places across India. Hopefully my music career kicks off and I’ll be able to travel the world. That’s the dream, I guess. I think I should have a performance lined up in Barcelona next year, so that’s a start.

I guess you being Euro bound for life thus far means you’ve never seen either Orange Milk Records owners play live? They’re both touring Japan soon, as Seth Graham grew up in Osaka. Hook up! [Laughs]

No, I haven’t seen Giant Claw or Seth Graham, I have only heard how great they are from a few people. But if they’re ever in London at some point I’ll definitely go check them out and hook up with them — especially since Keith is technically a part of the DREAM Team now after working on the death’s dynamic shroud.wmv I’ll Try Lving Like This (TMT Review) album with James Webster earlier this year. Orange Milk is one of the best labels around at the moment, just good release after good release. I’m pretty excited for the Darren Keen album coming up on there, and Nico Niquo’s Epitaph blew me away when I first heard it. “mosquito&clap” off the 食品まつり a.k.a foodman album is probably one of the best songs of the entire year so far too [Laughs].

There is no story here, just little windows into brief moments, like watching a ship pull into the harbour under the lights of the towers as you stand on a balcony in the middle of the night, or taking the last subway home as the fluorescent lights of the carriage flicker on and off. There are elements of futurism, nostalgia, and exotica to a degree in all of these albums, absolutely. Ultimately, it’s all about viewing this life for the surreal dreamworld that it is and finding a certain romanticism and joy within that.

How do you respond to accusations of racism within vaporwave’s set of signifiers?

[Laughs] That’s a pretty heavy question to open up the interview with, but it’s definitely an interesting one worth thinking about. I have seen a couple of people accuse vaporwave of “appropriating” Pacific Asian cultures, which I suppose is what you’re referring to, although I’ve never seen anyone accuse it of being racist, that’s a first. On a surface level, they may look to be right, but I think the use of Pacific-Asian-themed context goes much deeper than that for some artists.

I can speak for myself on this matter and say that in regards to my earlier HKE music I was more fascinated with the film works of Wong Kar Wai and wanted to re-create the unique ambience of his films within the vaporwave style, so naturally I used screencaps from his films for album covers and promotional images, as well as alluding to the concept through the use of Chinese language on some track titles. That’s a mood I couldn’t re-create in a Western context, because it can’t exist in the same sphere. I could do an American-themed hazy, romantic album of late night lo-fi if I wanted, but Luxury Elite already does that perfectly, and nor was it my inspiration. If I tried doing a British version, it wouldn’t work because there’s a lack of romanticism in our culture — the closest thing we have to that musically is probably the first two Burial albums, and they’re perfect too, in the way they capture a melancholic sense of romanticism that does exist here to a minor extent. But again, that wasn’t my inspiration. I’ve been inspired by the idea of Hong Kong as a city and its culture for many years now, so for me it was a genuine appreciation that drove me. I’ve had many messages from people out of HK over the past few years saying how much they enjoy my stuff, too.

I do think it gets boring when people treat the use of Japanese characters as a “meme” (for lack of a better term), to the point where it just becomes the case for using it because it’s “vaporwave,” like the way witch house uses triangle shapes just because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do, or the way seapunk uses dolphins or whatever. That, for me, is when vaporwave is at its worst — when it’s devoid of context or narrative, and it’s just bad Floral Shoppe or Eccojams copycatting and reduces the idea of the music to a tired formula. I’m quite surprised people are still even making that stuff.

That said, I still don’t find the use of Japanese music samples, language or imagery by non-Japanese artists who use it more mindlessly and in a meme-y fashion to be racist, or even appropriating Japanese culture. In general I don’t have very much interest in social politics, but I think saying only one specific race or culture can make use a specific art style is pretty segregational and racist itself. I don’t see anyone batting an eyelid at the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra for being a largely white afrobeat band, or Hiromi Uehara for playing old jazz standards, or Wu-Tang Clan for ripping dialogue from classic Kung-Fu movies in their tracks — so if some kid on SoundCloud wants to use anime screencaps and katakana text for track titles and rip J-pop tracks off YouTube and side-chain them to some drums in FL Studio, it’s not a big deal in my opinion. They’re just making music they enjoy.

Even in regards to my own work last year as Hong Kong Express, I think you can look at Wong Kar Wai’s films and detect a lot of influence from French New Wave in there, especially in his earlier stuff. It just goes to show that culture is fluid like that - especially in today’s globalised world - and I think that’s cool. I’m all for cultural globalisation. I think it’s inevitable. As everyone becomes more connected through technology - the internet and mass media now, and eventually to the time when we’re connected by underwater bullet trains that take you from New York to London in fifteen minutes, the world will increasingly become something of a giant sprawl, rather than separated entities.

Before you had knowledge of vaporwave aesthetics, what sorta dreams were inspirational enough to install dreams into others?

Before I had even come across vaporwave, I spent most of 2013 drinking alcohol and watching Hong Kong and Tokyo night-drive videos on mute while listen to deep jazzy house mixes, or ambient mixes on YouTube. I felt like it was some kind of transcendental form of art that I had stumbled upon by merging the three things together. Later that year I found out vaporwave had been doing something kind of similar all that time.

I also have an unfinished novel based in a future Hong Kong that I spent at least six solid months planning out in 2011 and never finished writing. It was supposed to be an examination of the relationship between life, dreams and death, painting some of my own slightly esoteric beliefs on the subject. I suppose these are all the things that brought me to the dance.

What was the main, thematic element that made you invest in vaporwave?

The experimental ambient sounds, the abstract futurism of the concept, the great mystery surrounding it, and desire to find out more. The use of lo-fi aesthetic and production qualities also interested me, as I’d spent so many years honing my production skills, that to completely flip everything I had been doing into something else was quite liberating. As was the idea of presenting music completely anonymously, without ego.

I think a lot has changed in that time, mainly due to the natural course of ego rising to the surface with everyone involved, including myself — and the original concept as it was intended is pretty much dead at this point, like I talked about in my Exit HK article. But it’s taking on new life in various splintered forms, which is interesting to observe. I think what we’re doing with Dream Catalogue right now can just be called “dream music,” in a sense — the music of different wild, surreal, and unexpected dreams. But then you have Business Casual doing their thing with the more upbeat and funky stuff, Oscob is starting his own label soon too which will probably focus on a darker experimental sound knowing his tastes, and then you had the whole crazy ride of DMT Tapes for the first half of 2015, who were releasing six albums a week at one point of various styles — definitely the most unorthodox record label I’ve ever seen, but there was some good stuff on there, lots of promising young artists. All of these places have their own approaches, a lot of them are almost incomparable from the other, but for some reason they all fall under the vaporwave umbrella. It’s a strange situation, but I still like to keep my eye on everything happening.

How the FUCK did you and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 meet, considering your current locations?

Me and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 met on SoundCloud, as did a lot of the producers at that time, just by bumping into each other somehow. Same thing with vincentRemember, CVLTVRΣ, サイバー ‘98 and lots of the other early guys you’ll find at the bottom of the Dream Catalogue Bandcamp page. It was really an exciting time for us. I feel like, without even knowing it, we were all laying the foundations for this second wave of vaporwave that came along from 2014 that we’re still feeling the ripple effects of today. It was a pretty fun time.

When do you predict biotechnology will be a commodity on earth?

Like cyberpunk-style body augmentations? I think we’re already seeing the beginning stages of it with the Apple Watch and things like that — wearable technology. Although it’s like comparing smoke signals to Skype calls when I think about what we’re going to see in the coming century. The concept of Dream Catalogue from day one was to be able to download dreams to install into your brain, so I hope when my grandson or grandaughter becomes CEO in the year 2084 and puts DREAM_1000 out over the ultracloud directly into the people’s brains who have signed up to the Eternal Dream System program, that they will look back and thank me for laying the foundations back in these primitive times of keyboard-based communication and such.

The concept of Dream Catalogue from day one was to be able to download dreams to install into your brain, so I hope when my grandson or grandaughter becomes CEO in the year 2084 and puts DREAM_1000 out over the ultracloud directly into the people’s brains… they will look back and thank me for laying the foundations back in these primitive times of keyboard-based communication and such.

For the sake of the label’s budding (future) evolution, where do you grip the label art now (considering the future of visual art may be more virtual)?

It can be as simple as a quick screencap off the middle of an obscure YouTube video that only has 25 views, or countless hours in Photoshop putting something elaborate together. It all depends on what the artist is aiming for with their work musically. A lot of artists do their own album covers too, but I tend to make a lot of them on there. A pretty talented artist by the name of Kidmograph did our 2814 cover, however, and he’s gone on to work with Low Pros and Maroon 5 too, so things are going pretty well for him, I’m really happy for him. His stuff is on another level. I would love to do more animated covers in future too, like the one Kidmograph did for the 2814 album too — I think that’s going to become a thing eventually. I hope people look back in three to five years when all artists start coming out with them and remember we were the first, haha, although no doubt you’ll have the “purists” arguing that only traditional still images are right for music.

Have you experienced any vaporwave, online BEEF that’s discussible in a public interview? There seems to be a LOT of this considering the fragility URL rather than IRL, and the assumption ALL “vaporwave” is easy music to make

Haha, vaporbeef… yeah, I think it comes as part and parcel of being involved in any close-knit music scene, but more-so in this one for some reason. Maybe it’s because there’s a lot of producers in their teens and early twenties and things can get quite intense, although I’ve been guilty of this a couple of times myself, which is probably a symptom of being involved in the vaporbubble too much — you begin to take attacks on the word vaporwave as an attack on yourself. I had a pretty hostile reaction to your boss, Mr P’s “Expiring Aesthetics” article, which I misinterpreted some parts of initially. But we had a pretty lengthy discussion as he was gracious enough to explain parts of his article to me at length, so I apologized profusely to him and it was all water under the bridge. We then got talking for a couple of days and we had a some nice conversations and seem to get on pretty well now.

I often find these infamous vaporbeefs are the case of miscommunications rather than any legitimate hostilities, but sometimes it’s a case of petty jealousy too. I came across one vaporwave artist’s profile on Rateyourmusic recently, who I remember had sent me a demo last year, which I didn’t find very impressive, and didn’t get back to them. I noticed they had gone and rated the bulk of the label’s music in the 0.5-1.0 star range on the site, seemingly because they were angry at me — otherwise why would they want to be on a label where they rate all the music 0.5 stars? Stuff like that happens, and it bothered me for a minute, but I think you just have to learn to grow a thick skin and learn not to care about it if you want to have any success in life. There are always going to be detractors to what you do, especially when you begin to grow in popularity, but if you believe in yourself then it shouldn’t matter what someone else thinks. Maybe I’m wrong though — hitting back seems to work for Donald Trump, his poll numbers just keep going up everywhere at the moment.

But in all seriousness, my own sights are progressively looking outward from vaporwave rather than inward. I still think the core of the vaporwave scene is still putting out good work constantly — there’s good albums coming out almost daily if you’re looking in the right places, but Dream Catalogue has a lot of fans that don’t really care about “vaporwave,” and they just follow the label because they enjoy the music and presentation, and I think to continue growing the label artistically and in general size it’s going to be better to try and attract a wider music audience rather than get stuck in a small niche.

There’s definitely a noticeable caliber to the music Dream Catalogue releases, but how do YOU define this caliber while sifting through submissions?

There are several things I look for when going through demos, but I think the unifying thing would be basically — does it make me feel anything? There’s a lot of good producers out there who may send me stuff where the presentation of it has no thought put into it and it kills the music from the off, whereas there are producers who aren’t as talented musically who are able to put together great concepts and making something evocative despite their limited technical abilities and those catch my attention much more.

I’m willing to take a chance on releasing stuff from younger artists and hopefully help them develop as they grow their fanbases. Wolfenstein OS X is a good example of someone I took notice of when he was just starting out, because he’s one of the best when it comes to evoking a feeling through his music with the use of concept and narrative, even though his earlier stuff wasn’t as slickly produced. Now he’s been putting together a new album for Dream Catalogue which will come out later this year on cassette under his new wosX moniker and the production standards are much higher — the music is sounding great. I’m glad to have him as a part of the label.

All this said, I’m getting much harder on the artists I release from now on — I feel I owe it to our followers and the artists on the label to continue making the label better all the time. I’m looking outside of vaporwave for new artists who are doing something that would fit with the label now, which is what the case was with guys like Vaperror and Fluence too — artists I approached after finding their stuff on SoundCloud and thinking they could fit with the whole “dream music” concept, even if they aren’t technically “vaporwave,” whatever vaporwave may have been or what it may be today.

What’s been better for sales: CD or CS?

Cassettes by far. There’s a huge demand for cassettes at the moment, especially for vaporwave fans. We just sold out 100 of the new album by Remember in 12 hours upon its release, despite the fact this was his debut album. There was one day a couple of weeks ago where four of the best selling tapes on Bandcamp in one day were vaporwave tapes. I think perhaps because the format itself really adheres to the idea of the music, and vaporwave tapes have just become a thing associated with the whole genre over time. Sometimes they sell for crazy numbers on Discogs.

However, I actually prefer CDs to cassettes myself, which is one of the reasons our first ever physical release, the 2814 album, was a CD and not a cassette, as many had expected. Although I grew up playing with cassettes and recording tracks off the radio, it was really CDs that I collected as a youngster, and I had a pretty sizeable collection at one point. I just think they’re the coolest medium and especially good for independent labels and artists because they’re much easier to get started with than tapes or vinyl. Now that they’re almost defunct in status and an artifact of the past it means it’s time for a comeback — at least I hope.

I find a very appealing humor that hidden in the serious tones of the music y’all publish in Dream Catalogue. Do you find it more-or-less offensive when people think “just another white-guy Bandcamp label with Pac-Asian characters”? Or do you feel there’s other ways of commenting on this slander via music?

In regards to the “white guy label” shit, I don’t hear this kind of slander very much at all, if ever, so it’s news to me, nor do I think it matters what race a person is when it comes to music. The relative anonymity of vaporwave producers is the perfect antidote to that school of though in fact — it puts all emphasis on the music and concept rather than the artist’s appearance or personality. But it’s pretty dumb and indicative of a lack of research on any of such critics beliefs that it’s just some “white guy label.” It’s funny too, we’ve actually got a pretty strong following in Japan. One of the biggest cities listed on the Dream Catalogue Bandcamp for purchasing our stuff is Tokyo. I’m in talks with two Japanese artists at the moment for dropping releases from in 2016, and there are already two artists from Japan and Indonesia on the label, too. We sell cassettes to people in Japan every week, have sold some in China too. I work with a tape distributor in Japan who stocks all our releases and have a great relationship with them.

Vaporwave definitely has a humourous element to it at times though. It’s quite a lot like pro wrestling in many ways. Sometimes it’s hilarious and you can’t help but laugh, sometimes it’s epic and you can’t wait for the big main event, sometimes it’s nice to just stick on in the background and chill out to, sometimes it’s tedious as fuck and boring and you get sick of the sight of it. It becomes an addiction until the point it consumes your life daily, you’re checking every few hours for the latest updates, even if you don’t really want to and you think it’s all a massive waste of life, or you think it’s the most transcendental thing there is, but either way it’s your life now.

How did all this Twitter nonsense start with OESB?

[Laughs] It started when OESB called Oscob’s compilation album a “witch house” collective or something — I and most other people felt he was taking the piss out of him at first. I give Oscob a hard time for his Twitter debacles, which often involve certain explicit flash games on Newgrounds that I won’t go into, but overall he’s a pretty good friend of mine and one of the closest people to what I’m doing with Dream Catalogue. In the end though I brokered a peace treaty between the two parties (which didn’t last long, sadly), and got talking to OESB afterwards and found that he’s a pretty cool guy with a lot of captivating anecdotes, a good sense of humour and lots of worthy advice from years of experience working in the music industry. I actually talk with him for a bit most days now on DM, and I even had a couple of games of online chess with him a few weeks ago — you should have seen me fork his King and Queen with my Knight in the second game and destroy him, that’s going to go down in vaporwave history. I’ve also managed to get him into wrestling now too, I got him hooked on the 3 Count theme from WCW 2000.

I’ve actually been fairly ignorant to his label until recently too, just due to the fact I wasn’t following music for many years until I got into vaporwave. I’d just been listening to old jazz fusion and some ambient mixes and things like that for a few years until 2013. But I’ve been checking through a lot of old stuff on OESB recently. Really got into the Thought Broadcast album the other night, and I think that new Ash Koosha album GUUD is fantastic, some of the best music I’ve heard all year. I kid around with him and post links up to his label’s stuff on my Twitter and call them “vaporwave classics” to play on the whole #Orbgate scandal that happened, but it’s genuinely great stuff, I’m into it a lot. I like the whole approach he has to running his label too.

When does the Pac-Asian tour start? Or y’all are just planning on moving there and setting up shop?

I used to want to live in Hong Kong for many years. I looked up lots of information on how to move there and such, but I’m actually thinking of just sticking around London for a few years now and seeing what happens. I’ve got some pretty big plans for the next few years, especially with the second label I’m going to be launching soon.

I spent most of 2013 drinking alcohol and watching Hong Kong and Tokyo night-drive videos on mute while listen to deep jazzy house mixes, or ambient mixes on YouTube. I felt like it was some kind of transcendental form of art that I had stumbled upon by merging the three things together.

WHOA! Well, that seems to be as good of a turning point as ever to bring up your project, 2 8 1 4. But we’ll start of easy. Do you honestly think human society will even still exist in the year 2814 AD?

Yeah, I do, otherwise the year 2814 wouldn’t exist in the first place, although we will probably exist as some kind of interdimensional forms of superintelligent beings without perishable bodies. But I think “2 8 1 4” might be the number on the door of a hotel room in the year 2084, rather than the year. It’s open to interpretation.

[Laughs] Of course! So, are there other sample-free vaporwave artists that 2 8 1 4 was inspired by?

Not really. I know ESPRIT 空想 and Eyeliner had done sample-free v-wave albums before we did and I don’t think we ever claimed to be the first. I guess Amun Dragoon is more on our wavelength in that regard, and apparently his music is original stuff, but I don’t recall listening to him much at the time and I can’t see any influence from him in my own work on the 2 8 1 4 project. If I had to point to any specific influences in 2 8 1 4 for myself, it would probably be Steve Roach, Vangelis and Burial, maybe even Sigur Ros a little bit, and I know Tele is really inspired by Boards of Canada and some other ambient artists. But I think overall, me and Telepath inspire each other more when we’re jamming out ideas more than anything else, and we’re generally inspired more by broader artistic concepts rather than trying to emulate any specific music acts.

The reason I made a big deal about it being “sample free” when we first started the project actually wasn’t because I wanted to say, “Hey look, we can actually make music and none of you can” to be a prick, but just because there was a consensus of thought at the time I wanted to challenge: that vaporwave had to be slowed down 80s muzak otherwise it wasn’t vaporwave. I always viewed vaporwave as a stylistic concept, rather than a music genre defined by sonic properties, and I wanted to help bring that to attention. I think it has been somewhat successful — the new album by Remember on Dream Catalogue, which I loved when he sent it to me, is obviously walking down the same path but shining a new light on the concept — and I think we’ll probably begin to see more similar stuff coming out soon, so it’s pretty cool to see.

The project really began to take on a life of its own though as we worked on it, it ended up becoming something much deeper than the original intention of just creating something without samples for the both of us. There’s a lot of our own spiritual influences in the themes of the music, based on philosophical discussions we sometimes have.

Furthermore, I actually think sampling is as legitimate an artform as any other way of creating music, and for this reason I hate the genre tag “plunderphonics” because it reduces the art of sampling to being a narrow style rather than a legitimate technique that can be used in all kinds of music. It’s not like we call any music that involves a guitar as “guitar music” first and foremost, so “plunderphonics” doesn’t make much sense to me in that regard. Also, the name itself really awkward and lazily constructed on an etymological level — it just looks ugly.

Who begins a 2 8 1 4 track? How does the compositional process occur, given that it is a matter of sharing files back and forth?

Either t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 or I will start the track, flesh out some ideas and then send it over the other. Then we send it back and forth until it’s full constructed and we’re happy with it and one of us masters it. Then we put it in the pile ready for album consideration. We find the whole process tends to be as 50/50 as you can get with collaborative work. Sometimes you can point to a track and say it’s more of a HKE track, or more of a t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 track, but I think in general over the course of our albums it really balances out nicely and the majority of tracks are proper collaborative efforts. Working with t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 is some of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had making music. I even got so excited after I finished mastering a track for our new album that I dropped [my] new laptop and broke the screen.

Did y’all find a spot on NOT NOT FUN, or did they reach out to you for the most recent re-release of 新しい日の誕?

Yeah, Britt reached out to us and asked if he could reissue the album on NNF on cassette as he was a big fan of it. I just got the box he sent me yesterday with the tapes in, they look amazing. He he has to order in another 100 already, because they sold out pretty quick and he oversold some by mistake. He was surprised at how popular it was, it’s been great. We just had an Indiegogo campaign for a vinyl release of the album which was successfully funded after 10 days and we have the pre-order up for it up now on the Dream Catalogue Bandcamp.

In regards to my earlier HKE music I was more fascinated with the film works of Wong Kar Wai and wanted to re-create the unique ambience of his films

To reach deeper, let’s talk about your solo project, Hong Kong Express. Do you find this project futurism, nostalgia, and/or exotica experimentalism?

Hong Kong Express was a project that I had no idea would take off so big, really. I made the first album in about one week, and I put hardly any effort into the mastering of the album, so there’s a lot of little errors and clipping and such, but it’s part of its charm, I reckon. Lots of old school vaporwave is mastered really poorly, if even mastered at all, but like I mentioned earlier that’s what I was really digging when I first got into it because it felt so real and organic. So the first album was just all about bringing this concept to life in this lo-fi, hazily put together form that was really liberating for me as a producer on various levels — artistically, conceptually, technically, it was just completely different from everything I had been doing for years. The second album 2047 was basically a continuation of the first album but with some more original music in there and highlighting a different mood — something a bit darker than the first.

The third album, HK, is by far my favourite Hong Kong Express album and my personal favourite album I’ve ever made under any alias. Obviously it’s very different musically, as it’s all original music, and I spent much more time mastering it and perfecting it, but I still feel it evokes a similar emotion as the first two. The concept of it is that there is no narrative concept — just the appreciation of aesthetic beauty of the life of a city — which goes back to what I mentioned earlier with watching the Hong Kong night driving videos and listening to ambient music every night. There is no story here, just little windows into brief moments, like watching a ship pull into the harbour under the lights of the towers as you stand on a balcony in the middle of the night, or taking the last subway home as the fluorescent lights of the carriage flicker on and off. There are elements of futurism, nostalgia and exotica to a degree in all of these albums, absolutely. Ultimately, it’s all about viewing this life for the surreal dreamworld that it is and finding a certain romanticism and joy within that.

My final album came out on the new cassette label Adhesive Sounds, Aug. 18. The album is called This and it serves as a goodbye to the Hong Kong Express project. Following that, I will just be HKE, an empty acronym, so I can develop further as an artist without continuing to beat a dead horse of a concept, as the ‘Hong Kong Express’ moniker really dictates a specific mood due to its obvious Wong Kar Wai comparison. I think this last album is the perfect end to the project, though, and it’s completely different from the past three, but still a nod to all three at the same time too.

Can you describe the mental diet/preparation you endure to make HKE works?

I actually do have something of a routine that I go through without realizing it, come to think of it. I can’t make music during daylight, it’s just impossible — I can only seem to make music between the time the sun sets and the sun rises. I actually hate daylight quite a lot, especially between the hours of 8AM and 3PM. I try not to leave the house until it gets a bit darker. I’ve always been something of a night owl, even when I was a kid and it’s probably the biggest reason I dropped out of studying, and a big reason why I’ve never been able to hold down a regular nine-to-five job. Another thing with me is I often have insomnia, and I seem to be able to make my most creative music when I’ve been awake for two or three days. I just master the stuff when I wake up and have a clearer mind.

As your 2814 co-partner deals with a lot of collaboration, it appears you don’t do as much (aside from the project you two share), most specifically with individual tracks on your works don’t have features on them. Do you work better solo, or is just hard trying to find another perfect match?

It’s funny you say that, my new album which I mentioned actually features multiple collaboration tracks. It’s kind of new territory for me, as I’ve always enjoyed the idea of a conceptual album — and I didn’t think that could be achieved with multiple collaborators in the past — but Oscob has put that theory to bed multiple times now, especially with his OVERGROWTH album that he did with Digital Sex, which remains unusually coherent despite a multitude of guest producers. That’s a credit to him as an artist.

I do find it quite hard at times to collaborate though, as I can be quite a perfectionist and I often end up taking over the bulk of a track on collaborations to make sure my own vision comes out. It’s good with Telepath, because our ideas are usually pretty in sync and things work out nicely. I’d say the artist I’ve most enjoyed working with aside from him is Chungking Mansions. We’ve done two tracks together now — one was for his ShowView album on Dream Catalogue, which was a 13/4 progressive synth arpeggio-soaked jam. The other one was for my new album, which is a cool downtempo beat thing — he used a field recording of a saxophone hook playing out from a basement he captured on his phone in Paris, the same weekend I met him over there for our GENESIS_ event. It came out pretty well. I’m hopeful to work on him with more stuff in future.

I’m also looking forward to working with Daniel Saylor (a.k.a. Windows 98) in the near future too, as he’s probably the most talented guy in vaporwave when it comes to expertise in music theory. We’re currently working on a future-jazz kind of thing, and since he’s trained in jazz theory and I’m not, I can rely on him to pick out any of my mistakes. That’s definitely something I’m going to work on writing when I’ve slept enough though — it’s math music. I’ve been looking at John Mclaughlin midi file data to get some ideas for chord progressions, because I can’t read sheet music.

Considering each release’s description (below their track titles), have you actually written out a story, or does one just progress in your mind with each release? Should they be connected, or are they individual?

There isn’t any kind of overarching narrative to the albums, although you could compare them to Wong Kar Wai films and think of them as interlinked short stories in a sense. I hide a lot of my own personal stories and feelings in there at times and bring them to life via the music, so I suppose it acts kind of like a diary. I’d like to think they can be thought of as something of a tetralogy when people look back in a few years.

Recently, I read your blog entry about people misunderstanding the direction of HKE, how has the response been to this writing?

Really positive, actually. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. There’s something of a running joke in the vaporwave scene now that anytime something requires a written statement, that I have to be the one to do it after all the lengthy blog posts I’ve made this year. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I’m even considering writing a book about vaporwave and my own experiences with it quite soon. Although having tried to write about five or six books already, I know it can take a very long time and a lot of dedication, so if I do write it people probably won’t be seeing it until next year.

I wrote the “Exit HK” article after I listened to The Music Of The Now Age III, the final compilation album on Fortune 500, which I was honoured to be a part of — and I just felt like it was the perfect closure to that era of vaporwave and simultaneously the end of my Hong Kong Express project. It was the perfect story. I know Luxury Elite loved the article and she was really happy with it, so if she likes it then it’s all good in my books.

How has this blog steered your direction as a fan and sharer and purveyor of the vaporwave genre?

Outside what I said about The Music Of The Now Age III, but as for defining what “vaporwave” is, the genre is becoming less important to me now, to the point that I am starting to just view it as an empty word that has very little meaning anymore. I’m still passionate about the concept I push with Dream Catalogue, but does it even matter if it’s “vaporwave” or not? Some people get angry and say “this isn’t vaporwave” because it doesn’t fit to their ideal of what it should be. So it’s hard to try and defend what vaporwave is when the genre is overloaded with crap that I find boring and there’s 1000 different explanations of what it can be out there. My own idea, that I have pushed for the past year or two is that it’s more of an artistic concept that can be evoked within music, than a music genre itself — but it’s just one opinion among many in a big pool of them. I’ve began to think it’s better to not worry about vaporwave is, but just to worry about what you’re doing yourself, and letting everyone else decide what it is. I’m finding it easier at the moment just to say that Dream Catalogue is “dream music,” because it makes more sense, and people can take it or leave it.

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