The only Synthwave producer from São Paulo I ever came to know (which by the way is my home town) Cleeve Morris, artist name for João Carlos, has been highly productive, with a new release almost every single month. Besides being very engaged in building a community in Twitter and with his own Synthwave website called Synthwave Club reaching up to 4500 tracks according to him, representing more than 350 hours of music collected. All of that shows how much effort João Carlos invests on his music and on the Synthwave scene. Currently he is releasing a lot of new content every month. Such as his EP Psychological, self-released this past 14th September on Bandcamp (as embedded).
We have interviewed João Carlos to get to know more about him, his story as a Synthwave producer and asked him a few questions about the Synthwave scene in South America, specially in Brazil.
Present us yourself, where do you come from? What is your story as a music fan and as an artist, when did you first start make your own music? What motivated you? What were the first instruments you started to play and when. How did you come out to be the artist Cleeve Morris?
My name is João Carlos Alves, 35 years old, and I’m from São Paulo, Brazil, where I live and work. Also, I’m married, with a six years old daughter. Currently, I work as a Web Designer and Developer. I remember music since was I 4 years old, when sometimes I tried to listen children’s music, but my aunt was always suggesting me to listen some other things like: Information Society, a-ha, Alphaville…
My uncles have a big responsibility on an important part of my music taste. With my uncles I listened several different things (or styles) such as: Europe, Air Supply, Malmsteen, Whitesnake, Queen, Elton John, Van Halen, Saxon, Rainbow, Dio, Stratovarius and more…
My father always taught me how to love psychedelic and progressive rock like Pink Floyd, Yes, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Jethro Tull… some good things that inspire me to do my own music are my triad: Vangelis, Kraftwerk and Jean-Michel Jarre. Pink Floyd was probably the first thing I ever heard in my life, no joke. With my mom and grandparents, I listened a lot of Brazilian music.
I really waited a long time to start working with music. I used to play with a few friends in the past, but for some reasons I left behind any possibility of working with music. I was stuck with listening to a single genre for a long time until I could realise how stupid it is… Now I’m also studying music theory.
I first started with acoustic guitar, shifting to electric, electric bass and experimented with drums for a while. However, I still plan to improve my keyboard skills. I used to sing as well, but a long time ago. Please, don’t expect me to sing on my own tracks at this moment! Nowadays, I use midi controller keyboards plugged into my DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) and the guitar to help with the melody.
I started the Cleeve Morris project in 2013 with a friend that was procuding Vaporwave with me, as much as all the digital artistic concepts surrounding it. We fulfilled some goals without any kind of plans. And this was our gateway drug.
One night at work while listening to Vaporwave, I discovered in a playlist, artists like: Com Truise, Future Holotape, Cobra Strike Force. In that same night, my adrenaline was too high because I couldn’t stop listening that new genre called Synthwave. Months later I started the Cleeve Morris “solo adventure in the Synth world”.
Why the artist name Cleeve Morris? Is there a specific story behind it?
A colleague from work who used to smok weed hidden from his parents called it “Cousin Morris” (a Philip Morris lost cousin). While he shared it with me, I created the name Cleeve as we laughed about that story (though we didn’t smoke “Uncle Morris” that day). Stupid, not a funny joke, I reckon, but while I was developing an artist name, that story fitted perfectly with what I looked for as an artist name.
Tell us about the Synthwave scene in São Paulo, Brazil and South America.
Synthwave in Brazil is getting bigger, but only as an online community. Sad but true. There are some parties happening here and there. They are all organised by DIY artists trying do what I tried here in São Paulo some time ago.
I attempted to throw a Synthwave party here (I was preparing myself and the public to receive Kalax (atist from Liverpool). We were close to doing this… but at this moment, sorry, probably would never happen. After months promoting the event, only 5 people have shown up. We were waiting, and waiting… in the end, we stopped the music and started to drink and smoke on the roof. A total failure. I don’t have this dream anymore. But I hope someday, someone else can try something different.
About Brazilian artists, there is a bunch of good people out there making Synthwave. Good names, I have recently listened are: New Black, Alseph, Francci and I specially Miami Cruiser 1984, who does an amazing artwork. We started to talk about a project telling a story together, music and design.
In South America we have a lot of good artists like Meteor, Ozimov, Cristian Bergagna, Steamboy…
I believe Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, are the leading countries on this scene here in the South America. They are really good artists and people!
How do you produce your music? It seems like 2017 and 2018 have been very productive for Cleeve Morris.
I use FL Studio, LMMS, Caustic 3 and Audacity with a simple audio interface and MIDI Controller.
I experienced a lot of personal obstacles during 2015 and 2016 and every single track I did by that time became automatically unreleased. After all of that turbulence calmed down, I realized at least I had some good content created, mostly not finished or not mastered, so I decided to collect all that material and release whatever I could. Not everything is of a good audio quality, but for sure there are plenty of good compositions within all of that. And of course I’m still producing new things constantly.
What do you think of music made by synthesizers in the contemporary time and what do you think about the influence of technology in the way we current listen and make music? Is there an interesting criticism you’d like to make? Overall, is it just an internet trend of late capitalism or it’s a genre coming from the 60s that opens the doors to many possibilities when it comes to music making?
Music is the best thing created on this world. No matter if was electronic or analog, or a simple kid playing some rusty metal on a poor village.
Music frees. Music heals. Music makes you cry and laugh. After creating my simple songs, my life changed forever, and I can’t see myself doing something else, even if it’s just a personal hobby. As a web developer too, I can say, the social media and some stream platforms are kidding with the users. If you don’t pay, believe me, max. 5% of your public will reach your content.
The more we use and share our things there, more people we can attract, but this is only a dream today. Show your money and everything will be fine or at least it seems to be…
I spent some money on Facebook recently, and had zero new likes. Well…
Is there something else you’d like to say about your music? Other works you do, free space to market your stuff. (such as your own website/radio)
I will keep composing more music, not only Synthwave or 80’s based sound. Of course, this will continue as the main Cleeve Morris style, but prepare to listen some random music sometimes.
Side by side with Cleeve Morris, I do a job with Synthwave Club, a simple web player I created and now there is more than 5000 Synth/Retrowave tracks there. I use the SoundCloud API to get all that information. It helps sharing a lot of new artists.
Now I’m doing layouts and coding the new Synthwave Club website, and I can say: it will be amazing!
If I can do everything I wanna do, we will probably have a good (probably the coolest) website to see good content and listen our beloved Synthwave (and other subgenres). I can’t say more now because it’s still a work in progress with a lot of things still undone. So, everything can change.
I wanna say a big thanks to have been invited to this awesome interview. Also I wanna invite Synths of Eden to publish and share any content of on Synthwave Club in the future. I hope everyone will give me a chance on their Spotify playlists.
You can find me here:
Thanks for your time reading this!
You can listen Cleeve Morris and his track Tristitia in our Spotify playlist Synthwave in Eden: