Chris Keya is a musician and producer from the city of love, Rome, Italy. Starting his musical path as a guitarist and contributing work for various bands, Chris has turned his ambitions toward a career as a music producer, pursuing his love for funk and r&b music, with a retro twist.
Hey Chris, can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, like who you are and where you’re from?
I come all the way from Rome, Italy, where I started off as a musician, a guitar player. I had various bands in the past and I played a lot of musical genres, from hard rock to alternative music, then I started off Chris Keya, my solo project focusing on electronic music. Even here I began with making deep house, then switching now to one of my favourites eras, the 80s, making Synthwave and 80s driven music.
It sounds like you’ve done a lot of exploration in your music already which is great. What drove you to begin making synthwave and 80s music?
Well, when I played hard rock music, I played mostly 80s hard rock, bands like Motley Crue, Bon Jovi that made me love those times. While I was playing this, I was listening to other 80s stuff, and that’s how I discovered Jan Hammer, Duran Duran and the whole New Wave / Soundtrack scene that dominated the era, and since I fell in love with those sounds, I decided to re-create this kind of music with modern production instruments. That’s how LateNight EP & Singita came to life.
Do you think this is a temporary exploration into Synthwave for you, or do you think this is a genre that you want to stay in and continue to produce music for the long term?
Like you saw before, I like music experimentation, I like to try new sounds, I may go on this road or I may change it suddenly, there is just one thing, I don’t want to be repetitive. I want to surprise people who listen to me.. Fans. Everybody. Every album must be a new journey for the listener. I’m already writing new material for the upcoming album, it sounds like synthwave, but it isn’t totally synthwave. It has modern sounds, modern drums for example but also analog synths, something really different from Singita.
Do you think the ultimate goal is to create a sound that is unique to “Chris Keya”?
Exactly, that’s totally the point. And even if it takes other releases, i’m happy to reach it slowly and progressively, getting then a clean and full personal sound.
If we go through the Chris Keya releases this year we have your single “Like The Wind” (Jan), the “LateNight EP” (Apr) and now “Singita” (Jul). Like The Wind is more Dance / EDM / Pop style, then the LateNight EP moves to Synthwave with something of an Outrun vibe, and now Singita is a very summery synthwave vibe. Do you tend to write your releases based on what you are experiencing at the time of production? Do your day to day experiences and the environments you are in inspire your creations?
Yes, day to day experience and sometimes seasons too give me inspiration on how to write new material. For making a quick example, you can hear how LateNight EP is so much more Outrun than Singita, that sounds plain summery almost everywhere. Briefly, I get inspiration by blending music i’m listening to now plus environments i’m in at the moment, then the studio is the final stage. When I sit and start jamming both with synths and both with organic instruments (guitars, bass guitar, piano, ambient recorded sounds) everything comes together smoothly.
Aside from vocals, do you fully produce and play all of your music yourself?
Everything you hear on my records it’s fully played and produced by me, from songwriting to the final master.
I think it’s easy to tell in the quality of a release when a producer is in complete control of the creative process. It’s similar in films that are written and directed by the same person. It means that the original vision and final execution all come from the intended place within. Have you always been a creative person throughout your life, and are there any other things you like to do creatively outside of your music?
Yes, I like and do many things even outside of music. I went to cinema school cause I loved films and there I became an audio engineer, then I started working for fashion shows, cinema, commercials and stuff like that. Then, I also love art, history and literature. Even when i’m not making or play music, I like to feed my brain properly.
It sounds like you have a very full and active life! Tell us a bit about your journey in film. What were the movies and genres that inspired you to want to go to cinema school?
That’s a really nice question. Let me start saying that I saw Mulholland Drive by David Lynch at 14 years old and it changed my life since then. So, my favourite director is obviously David Lynch. Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet have always been in my top films. Then I have a love for 40s and early 50s noir / gangster genres. Films like Sunset BLVD, Gilda, Casablanca, License To Kill, Kiss Of Death, High Sierra.. The list is endless. And, of course, I love dystopian movies as well. Two names? Blade Runner and Metropolis.
I also forgot one of the best directors in my list.. Jean Luc Godard. “A bout de soufflé” (Breathless) is one of the best movies ever to me.
What is it about that movie that you love?
The editing, the storyline and especially the acting.. I love how everything is making fun of something and then every scene looks chaotic and crazy. Everything seems to be not in the right place, and that’s what makes the film to me.
Who is your favourite 80s film star?
Al Pacino for best male actor, Michelle Pfeiffer for best female actor.. I like Scarface a lot.
Do you think with all the skills you have put together that one day the dream would be to write, direct and score your own films? Is there one big idea that you have that you think your film would be about?
I actually never thought about that but I always thought about writing a story that would eventually turn into a film.. It would be a big cross between Cyberpunk visuals and Noir elements, with a hint of Lynch / Cronenberg experimentation. I think it would be cool and crazy at the same time.
A Cyberpunk / Noir movie sounds very intriguing indeed. If you ever need a script editor then I am qualified hahaha..
Since you like the 80s and you are a script editor, you are hired! Ahah.
Cheers- we’ll talk more after the interview haha!
So did you have some other dream of what you wanted to be when you were growing up? Like an astronaut or racing driver or something? Or do you think you have followed your childhood dreams by doing film and music production?
When I was a little boy I wanted to be an architect first, then I grew up and my love for computers told me I had to become a telecommunications engineer.. But when music went over everything, I changed my dream from telecommunications engineer to audio engineer.. In the end, I still became an engineer, ahah!
You have the spirit of an engineer and I think that has guided you to where you needed to go on your path so far. So what’s next for you as a person, do you have any goals you want to achieve in the next few years? And also what will be the next project for Chris Keya?
In the next few years I want Chris Keya to become a well known name in the electronic music community, especially in the synthwave community as well, but not only in one genre. The next Chris Keya projects? A new album like I said before, more Cyberpunkish than the previous ones, and some collaborations also making different kinds of electronic music.
Can you name some particular acts you would love to collaborate with?
First of all, I would love to collaborate again with Bunny X and Driver86, I had a wonderful time making songs with them for Singita, and I will surely do something more in the next releases! Then I don’t know, I like many artists in the synthwave scene, new collaborations will be a surprise
Surprises are more fun for us I think! Do you mind answering some quickfire questions as a bit of fun to finish off?
Favourite film soundtrack.
Damn! I want to carry on quickly but now I have to ask, are you excited about Top Gun 2!?
Absolutely! I’m happy they did a “2” and not a reboot of the first, so let’s see what happens!
Ok, your best ever hero and best ever villain from any movie. They can be from different movies.
Batman as a hero, Agent Smith from Matrix as a villain.
Favourite catchphrase or one-liner from an 80s movie.
Well.. “Say hello to the bad guy” obviously, ahah!
If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
Ambitious, outgoing, creative.
Your biggest strength.
Never giving up.
Your biggest weakness.
Sometimes I do things too quickly.
If you could have just one superpower, what would it be and why?
Of course flying, I would like to see the whole earth one day.
What is your spirit animal hahaha?
Let me take an online test then i’ll tell you.. ahah! Should I take one, I would surely take the eagle!
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with 3 people from history, who would you choose and why? You can choose real or fictional people.
With “History” you mean also singers / actors / historical people.. Everyone?
Absolutely anyone from any time, alive or dead, real or fictional. It could be your brother, friend, Batman, Arnold Scwarzenegger, Julius Caesar, Madonna, Thelma and Louise (but they count as 2 people hahaha)..
Then I will choose Aristotle, Angelina Jolie and Shakespeare! And I will play the music of course ahah!
I think you guys would have quite the summer synthwave beach party together, I might have to come along myself!
Well Chris, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you today and it’s been great getting to know the man behind the music a lot better.
The wildest synthwave party ever, ahah! Thank you so much Jonny, it has been a pleasure for me and i’ve had a real good time answering to your questions.
I’ve really enjoyed it! Best wishes for your latest release Singita, I think people are going to love this release and it’s the perfect time to accompany this wonderful summer weather we’re having. Until next time…
Thank you and I hope Singita will make people enjoy this beautiful summer even more, bye, until next time!
Interview conducted by Jonny Farmer, Steel City Collective / SYNTHAGEDDON.
Check out our article and Singita EP review to find out more Christian’s musical style and releases to date.