Mike Mendoza | Retro Promenade

PrintE-mail Written by Nick Spacek

Mike Mendoza prefers not to think of his Retro Promenade project as a label in the traditional sense, but as more of a ‘Nostalgia Promotion Brand’. Regardless of what it is, Retro Promenade’s musical releases are stellar homages to a glittering past loaded with synthesisers. Mendoza’s helped shepherd tributes to composers like John Carpenter, as well as director-themed projects like the recent Faltermeyer. It’s all a wonderfully joyous lookback. We spoke to Mendoza, and he gave us some loquacious responses....

STARBURST: What I find most interesting about Retro Promenade is that the albums you put out are theme-based. Is it easier to put together something around a time-period or aesthetic, rather than trying to create a faux film score?
Mark Mendoza: It isn’t necessarily easier to put together any specific concept over another. What’s great about the Retro Synth community is that there are so many fantastic producers who all know each other and hang out online on Facebook and Soundcloud and there are so many eager guys and gals who love working on specific themes. Each project has its own set of tasks to undertake, but the fun and skill and challenge is making sure all the elements come together juuuust right.

Faltermeyer seems to be a perfect example of this - so many different styles of genre, but very similar musical concepts. Are these director-themed compilations a way to connect things which seem disparate, but in which you see similarities?
Yup. This goes along with the idea of paying homage to people and shows and films of the 80s and 90s. Faltermeyer, in particular, was one of those ideas that has a wide swath of references to choose from. The marketing and idea for it was along the lines of ‘You can’t throw a memory stone into the 80s without hitting a project Harold Faltermeyer had a hand in’.

Same goes with Carpenter. Everyone remembers and loves Beverly Hills Cop. Everyone loves The Thing and They Live. And it’s not like I/we were ever trying to come up with the most recognizable ideas for compilation ideas for maximum exposure. They come from that same place in all of us retro cats and we just happen to get together to recognize and celebrate our love for these references.

It’s no different than football fans getting together to watch the game. We just happen to be music producers and visual artists who are trying very hard to be really good at what we do.

Do you reach out to artists, or do they reach out to you -- both musically, as well as the visual artists who do your cover art and posters?
It’s a bit of both column A and column B, but definitely more in the line of reaching out to artists specifically. I try to reach out to people I know are very, very good and established as well as finding newer talent. Retro Promenade is very much about trying to find newer audiences to appreciate these artists. Having newer guys to push as well as big name talent to rock it alongside them is really a joy to be able to curate because it helps shine a light on the entire Retro Synth community as a whole.

Your release schedule is absolutely astounding. How far out in advance are you working to bring so much music so regularly?
I’m trying not to be one of those brands that just churns out content for the sake of it, but lately, I’ve been getting music submissions that are so god damn good that I can’t help but want to do my part to get it heard and that it looks like a professional ‘package’ to fans.

It takes up most of my free time, but I’m not complaining. As for how far in advance, compilations are the ones I try to put together 2-3 months in advance, and that’s to give the music producers a lot of time to be able to finish their tracks. Solo artist releases are fun because the artist always knows what they want and how many tracks they’ll be working with. Sometimes they have a full album completed, sometimes it’s a work in progress months in advance that I can help guide. They keep me on my toes and I love the responsibility of having to always be ready to rock.

I have to mention that artists aren’t ‘signed to a label’. I don’t run a ‘label’ or ‘collective’ it’s more of a weird hybrid nostalgia promotion brand. Hey, I like the sound of that, haha! Nostalgia Promotion Brand.

What’s the appeal to the music of this time period?
Probably the simple fact that we grew up in and around this music. This very specific niche appeals to that group of people basically aged 25-35 who grew up with Die Hard and the Transformers cartoon and Top Gun and Ninja Turtles, etc. Of course, there are people older and younger than that are more ‘90s or more ‘70s, but we like what we liked when we were kids and young adults. It’s like our parents who like cranking up disco and Soul Train records or their parents who slow dance remembering their high school dance being supplied with ‘50s and ‘60s jams.

There are other Retro Synth music brands in the community that cater specifically to the 80s. Retro Promenade is 80s and 90s inspired, so it can be as specific as Faltermeyer or as broad as ‘retro video games’.

Will it change? I dunno. I’m not as strict with the concept as others can be. Who knows? In 5 years, it could shift to late ‘90s and I could be doing Backstreet Boys and Austin Powers themed compilations. That doesn’t sound un-hilarious, actually. Hmm.

For a really great run down on the latest and greatest in ‘80s inspired Retro Synth, there’s a guy by the name of Rick Shithouse who runs Synthetix.fm and the public Synthetix Facebook group. Synthetix is where so many of us artists came to meet the other ones and we post our music and art and talk 80s movies and shows.

It’s Rick who really grabbed the reins and started the group several years ago for fans, new and veteran, to be able to nerd out about all this stuff. As I started to become more involved with helping out with Synthetix, he’s supported me and Retro Promenade and I always try to send people back to Synthetix.

As Jackie Moon says: Everybody Love Everybody.

Who are some of the artists of that era to whom you look to as examples when trying to explain what Retro Promenade does?
This one is tricky because the second I start to answer, there will be fans and other artists who will chastise me for forgetting one artist or including another artist. I’d have to go back to the RP tagline, which is Bright. Fun. Retro, to answer this one. It’s really about fun and energy and what makes people smile. I don’t usually reference other artists to get people to understand, I tell them exactly what it is. It’s artists making music that celebrate and sound like movie and TV show themes and video games that we all love from the ‘80s and ‘90s.

In fact, I’ve even written this specifically to help explain the concept: ‘The Raddest 80s & 90s Inspired Music & Art this side of the 21st Century’

It’s funny, I started this thing to try and get more artists to make retro sounding vocal pop music, but I ended up organizing amazing releases based on soundtracks with some amazing people like Lucy Black (on The Next Peak) and Jean Pierre Van Damme (Carpenter). It’s really amazing not knowing exactly what’s going to happen 5-6 months from now, I never know who’s going to come up with a great idea or how it’ll turn out.

Well, besides Christmas. I super-duper look forward the Christmas release every year. This year the title is It’s Christmas Time, Mr Falcon! as a fun little nod to Die Hard being arguably the greatest Christmas movie there is.

To what can we look forward in 2016?
I’m trying to always be better and more ambitious, so expect more fun projects. I’m reviving the Time Slap podcast (a hilarious retro comedy podcast where a group of us take fan submitted made up ‘80s/’90s movie ‘Title: Subtitles’ and create an entire movie, with real actors from the era, based on the title: subtitle. I then create full length movie trailers based on the movie you just heard us create.) I’d like to start getting official with licensing properties. It’s really fun to create inspired by music and art, but how cool would it be to actually have legal leeway to create officially branded work?

I can’t say exactly what some of these projects are, of course, that wouldn’t be any fun now would it? You’ll just have to follow Retro Promenade on the various social sites to find out what’s coming up on the retro horizon, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, say no more...

Retro Promenade’s releases can be found on Bandcamp (https://retropromenade.bandcamp.com/) and Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/retropromenade), and news can be found at their Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RetroPromenade) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/retropromenade). Their most recent release is Synthwave Belongs In A Museum by Who Ha, out now (http://retropromenade.bandcamp.com/album/synthwave-belongs-in-a-museum).

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