I remember during high school finding Com Truise‘s music on YouTube and since then been mesmerized with his sci-fi touched music. Fast forward a few years later he tours Hong Kong and we sit down with the congenial producer and designer Seth Haley, and chat about his epic music journey.
Location: Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong
Interview and photography by Lauren Engel
Hey Seth, pleasure to talk to you. Let´s start from the beginning. What was it like growing up in upstate New York? Did your parents also grow up in Upstate New York?
Yes they did. They grew up in the same area that I grew up in, it’s very interesting. I grew up in the woods basically, it´s very quiet and I played outside a lot. I really enjoy being out there. At that time I didn’t but now yes.
Were your parents creative growing up?
My parents were necessarily creative. Well, my dad was into wood working and things like that. Me and my sister are both creative and it’s very strange because my parents weren’t really. Not that they weren’t creative but they weren’t focused on it. Ya, I don’t know how it really happened.
Were your friends creative or where do you think you got that inspiration from?
I had a lot of friends who were in bands but I was always into sports. I was creative but only really later in life. I suppose it was high school when I got really serious about it.
How would you describe yourself growing up?
Like a jock, I did football, track and field and wrestling, soccer. I grew up playing football for as long as I can remember. My father has thirteen brothers and sisters and a huge legacy of uncles that played in their high school football team. A legacy to live up to but they didn’t really pressure me. I like playing football but in the last few years of high school I didn’t really care about sports that much anymore.
What kind of subjects were you into back then?
I was into social studies and science definitely.
“I like having that narrative because it’s a shield. If someone were to talk about your music not in the best way, they’re not talking about me as a person but my music. My emotions are not totally out there and I have this little wall which is good for me.”
Where do you think you got that science interest from?
I basically just remember mixing things together when I was little. I was mixing liquids in my dad’s tool bench, always lighting things on fire. I’m really glad I didn’t burn the house down.
What kind of music were your parents listening to growing up?
A lot of Billy Joel, mom loved Bette Midler, dad was a Peter Franklin type of guy, throw some Michael Jackson in there, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Bobby Brown, Janet Jackson.
Do you think that has influenced you?
In a way, maybe by looking through their records and not understanding and looking at the covers, some culture club records and I can remember looking at it and thinking to myself, what is this?
“Years later I ended up working in advertising for six years until I started doing music. Music was like an accident, a happy accident. I was pretty convinced that this would be my life, work in advertising forever, have a family, have a normal life.”
When you first got into music were you listening to records or through the internet and soundcloud?
When I got into music the internet was pretty small. MTV basically was how I kind of got to know music and through the radio, things like that. It’s interesting to think about how I actually found music which I liked. I was into 311 and Nine Inch Nails for years.
Were your friends during that time listening to Nine Inch Nails as well?
Not really, they listened to classic rock and jam band music, Dave Matthews band but I didn’t really listen to that.
Did you go to concerts growing up?
Nope, growing up in a small town there was nothing like that. You would have to drive pretty far. That part of music was never really there for me as far as seeing the concerts. When I first found Drum and Bass music and drove down to Philly, a DJ set, I realized how amazing it was to be in the same room with people who listen to the same sort of music.
You did graphic design in college?
I went to college and quit. I was sort of teaching the teacher because I did web development for my father for years. My parents didn’t push me. I remember calling my mom and telling her I can’t do this anymore. She didn’t really agree but she said it’s my choice. Years later I ended up working in advertising for six years until I started doing music. Music was like an accident, a happy accident. I was pretty convinced that this would be my life, work in advertising forever, have a family, have a normal life.
“I’m cynical and grumpy (laughs) old man now. I dunno I think I’m still pretty shy. I’ve always been that way. At performances, live shows, I’m still very shy on stage. I´ve also gotten a little less patient I believe. I don’t put up with all things anymore (laughs).”
When did you realize that music would be your career?
Way back I contacted a blog and released my first EP and a day went by and it went everywhere. So I was like, oh wow, this is interesting. Sooner or later a tour popped up and I had to make a decision whether I should take a leave of absence or just go for it. My creative director was just like: go for it. Advertising will still be here. Ride the way until there’s no more waves. My mom and dad were like ahhh, you got a good job, you’re supporting yourself and you want to just throw it all away for music? It took a while to make the understand that music is still a viable career. One day however they came down to my show in New York. It was in Bowery Ballroom and it was sold out and they were like oh, ok. People were screaming and chanting. That eased their mind.
Was it surprising how fast you got into the music industry–people take years to get there and you got there with one song?
That’s very interesting. I don’t really know how I did it. People tried to explain the origins and the moment but I can’t.
Were you tracking your success because actually I found your music in high school through YouTube channels. A lot of YouTube channels posted your music.
It’s interesting and staggering the amount of people I met that have found my music through YouTube because that’s the last place I would ever go to listen to music. I don’t like looking up things about me anymore either.
Did you have a mentor through this?
Ya my manager, lawyer and he still is the foundation. He’s a really good dude and also a really good friend and I really value his opinions on music and things like that. He’s really the one that has mentored me as far as dealing with all the things that come with music as a career.
Did you ever feel like coming from a suburban town you weren’t used to the music industry and susceptible to being screwed over by major record labels?
No, I’m glad I started as a small potatoes kind of guy and from very early on I had Matt as my manager and lawyer. A lot of people did get screwed over in the beginning. It’s very interesting as well as my roommate and his bandmate are going through this right now, being signed to a major label. I hear about it constantly. I’m glad I’m on Ghostly, it’s not a huge label, it’s not a small label. It’s a good home label for an American electronic musician.
How do you think your personality has changed since you started music?
I’m cynical and grumpy (laughs) old man now. I dunno I think I’m still pretty shy. I’ve always been that way. At performances, live shows, I’m still very shy on stage. I´ve also gotten a little less patient I believe. I don’t put up with all things anymore (laughs). I really think I’m the same person.
“When I find new music I just keep it to myself and don’t want to share it. Then ohh ok, do you wanna check it out haha.”
Would you say you’re introverted?
Is that difficult for your music, because you’re constantly networking?
At shows and when you are on tour there is a lot of networking. But when I go home to LA I don’t really go out. I just go to the grocery store, that’s it.
Is that also why you have decided to do music alone?
I’ve always been like that growing up. When I was into electronic music when I was younger my friends, as I told you before, were into other music. I was very alone in that kind of part, but I never thought about it like that. I wasn’t like oh sad, no one likes the stuff that I like. I was happy to be the only one to like it. When I find new music I just keep it to myself and don’t want to share it. Then ohh ok, do you wanna check it out haha.
Do you want to make more music with other people? You probably already do it already but on a bigger scale?
I would like to, I’m open to it, but I’m not chasing it. However if the right opportunity comes I am up for it. Same with f.e that I would like to score films and do less touring. I much rather be home. But it’s also something that I am not chasing. If it comes along with the right person in the right moment, I am totally open to it.
With all the sci-fi stuff you’re into, especially Blade Runner, who showed all that Sci Fi world to you?
I feel like you’re born with certain things. I think I was predisposed to liking it and I can’t remember not liking it and don´t remember who showed it to me. My dad f.e. wasn’t really into science fiction, he liked it but it wasn’t something he imparted on to me. I have just always been into it. I’ve carved my own path.
Were you also into reading science fiction books?
I was into comic books, I read a lot as a kid. Star Wars comics, Predator comics.
Why did you choose for your music to have sci fi elements rather than a projection of your personality?
When I try to write about a personal life event I don’t like the results. I have a hard time with that. Let’s say you have a break up. I’ve tried to write about those situations but I hate it, it’s ugh, gross.
“When I try to write about a personal life event I don’t like the results. I have a hard time with that. Let’s say you have a break up. I’ve tried to write about those situations but I hate it, it’s ugh, gross.”
Have you showed it to other people though? It might just be too personal to you but other people could love it?
Not really, it’s too personal. I have written about some situations but I’m really really picky. I like having that narrative because it’s a shield. If someone were to talk about your music not in the best way, they’re not talking about me as a person but my music. My emotions are not totally out there and I have this little wall which is good for me.
Do you feel that you have two types of personalities? Your sci-fi one you project and then your personal one as a shield that you’re actually trying to protect.
Not two personalities per se but wearing an extra jacket.
Are your inspirations for your music all the same? Or every time you write an album it’s a whole different set of inspirations?
It’s kind of just one giant mishmash of inspirations pulled from different things.
So you go into the studio and just write it?
When I was writing that narrative I would sit and write a good 3 or 4 paragraphs of what that release needed to project. I need a lot of coffee, I sleep early, I’m not a night owl and I need some good rest. Then I just do it. I don’t have any routines like that. I’m a pretty simple person.
Your future albums is it a projection of this narrative?
Iteration is the end of this narrative then I’ll start something new. I only have one EP, one record with Ghostly. Then I think that will be it for Com Truise. I don’t want to make it too watered down. There’s a good amount of music. I want it to just live and I’ll be happy.
Do you think you will still tour off Tom Cruise?
I’ll probably have to tour or play shows here or there but these big giant long tours (shakes head)
For your future albums will they also be a sci-fi motive?
I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it yet.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I dunno, being a nice guy I guess.