Rogue FX says:
Coping with limitations was a good thing, creativity wise
I’ve never scrapped anything so far
My hero/idol is David Bowie
Software is just way more convenient
Andrew, a.k.a. Rogue Fx, is a talented artist who’s had a remarkable journey in the music industry.
We have the chance to know him better thanks to this interview to The Electronic Corner.
Sir Joe: You used to be in a synthpop group during the ’80s and in a house music band in the ’90s. After a break of 20 years, you kicked off your solo project, Rogue FX. What inspired you to make a comeback?
Rogue FX: It’s one of those things where I’ve mulled it over here and there throughout the years. The specific time it clicked for me was when I’d been soaking in a lot of synth wave vibes. I thought, “Yeah, why not give it a shot?” It was as simple as that.
I didn’t know much about the modern scene because my knowledge was a bit outdated—things had changed a lot. But, I took the plunge and got myself a hardware synthesizer.
My first 3 or 4 songs? All crafted almost entirely on that synth, including the drums and everything else. It was only later that I expanded a bit, adding more hardware to the mix and picking up loads of virtual software for my tracks.
SJ: As you just mentioned, the music scene has definitely evolved since you started in the 80s. What’s the major difference you see in creating electronic music back then compared to now, excluding the obvious fact that today we can count on a lot of digital stuff?
Rogue FX: Back in the late eighties when I kicked things off, it was a mix of simpler and more complicated. You rocked a sequencer and maybe 2 or 3 synths, if you were lucky.
Usually, it was just one, hopefully multitimbral, so you could juggle around 8 channels on a sequencer, and maybe you had a drum machine. That was the whole setup.
After that, it was off to the studio. You laid down your song, typically on an 8-track. Slapped your vocals on top, and boom, you got yourself a demo tape.
Maybe the studio had a facility to run off 50 copies of that demo tape, and that was it.
In the nineties, it started to get a little bit more sophisticated. We used early guitar VSTs, played around with the early version of Cubase, threw in a sampler, a couple more synths, and jazzed up the MIDI game.
Plus, with DAT machines in the mix, you could record everything straight onto DAT. It started getting a whole lot easier.
When we had record deals, sometimes we were going to the studio, other times we just took what we put under the DAT, depending on whether we needed vocals or not. Instrumentals usually didn’t need a studio treatment.
But still, compared to what you can do today, I couldn’t even dream of this. You had to hire a studio in the Bahamas for something like what you can do now in a DAW, with all those virtual synths.
SJ: Absolutely. And if you mess up, it’s just a quick delete and start fresh, a luxury we didn’t have in the old analog days.
Rogue FX: However, I think coping with limitations was a good thing, creativity wise, because you got to deal with what you had.
Now you’ve got a lot of options, maybe too many, sometimes, and it gets in the way a little bit. I try to say to myself: “Alright, we’re gonna use this particular VST synth and this hardware synth. That’s it”.
I don’t want to spend hours looking for the right snare and things like that. My attitude on this comes from the eighties and nineties, when we didn’t have that kind of luxury in terms of choice.
SJ: Actually, this is a recurring theme with my guests of The Electronic Corner. The limitations back then pushed you to master the few tools you had, extracting the best from them. Sometimes, it felt more productive than today, where there’s a risk of getting lost in a sea of options—too many effects, too many sounds.
Without strict discipline, you might find yourself starting 10 songs and not finishing any just because you’re overwhelmed.
Rogue FX: That’s why, even today, I basically work on one song, and get it done. Sometimes I might have two songs on the go at once, but never more than that.
I might have some lyrics written and some voice notes in it, but I’ll never have more than two songs on the DAW. If something is not working, I just continue with that song until I make it work. I’ve never scrapped anything, so far.
SJ: You like working with fellow artists. What do collaborations bring to your creative process?
SJ: What made you decide to make a cover of ‘People Are Strange’ by the Doors?
Rogue FX: The first thing is that a lot of people in the synth world don’t do covers. I love that song, and although it is not specifically a Halloween song, it has a bit of a Halloween connection because of the “lost boys” connection.
I thought that if I wanted to do a cover version, the best thing I could probably do would be to make it sound a lot different, with lots of synths.
I remeber when Pet Shop Boys did “Always on my Mind”, they completely changed it. I wanted to do something similar, that would maybe suit my voice.
That’s what I did, and I was pretty pleased with the result. It didn’t take too long, compared to some other tracks. It took me like 3 weeks, not 6 or 8 like in other instances.
SJ: Your EP ‘The Fifth Step,’ which was relesed in August last year, features a mix of brief spoken segments and classic retrosynth tunes. What inspired this decision?
Rogue FX: ‘The 5th Step’ has a bit of a movie vibe. The story is based on a specific scenario, supposed to be 10 years in the future, but I always say it could be happening right now.
In this world, there’s a lockdown, and mega-corporations are messing with people’s minds. Travel is a no-go due to the lockdown, so folks are taking these mind trips to different places. It’s kind of like a Total Recall situation.
The narrative follows a character named Max Roark, a mercenary with a past in the criminal world, who is trying to rebuild his life. He has made a lot of money working for companies like Mime Corp, which is a bit shady, and it all impacts him in various ways.
I just wanted to weave a narrative into the story, inspired by one of my favorite 80s albums, by Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Surprisingly, they had these cool intersections between songs that added a different dimension. I’ve always liked that style, and more recently, artists like The Weeknd have incorporated it into their albums. I don’t plan on doing it for every album, but I might consider it for one or two songs.
When I was working on the first couple of singles, I knew it was going to be a four-track release. So, before the official release, I decided to add these narrative sections. Luckily, some awesome folks from the community volunteered to do voiceovers. I quickly put together a script—I’m no scriptwriter, but it came together. I wrapped up those voice segments in just a couple of days.
Hopefully, it all comes together and tells a bit of a story. I know not everyone listens to music from start to finish these days, but that was the intention with this one.
SJ: If, for some strange reason, cowbells and claps were globally prohibited, do you think you could effectively substitute them with other percussive sounds? Or are these two sounds so integral to retrosynth music that finding suitable replacements would be nearly impossible?
Rogue FX: You can’t skip the clap—it’s non-negotiable. That would be a total disaster. Now, when it comes to cowbells, I’m all for throwing in a bit. I’ve sprinkled them in a few songs because, well, I do love that sound.
But here’s the thing, I like to mix cowbell sounds. Some are your classic, authentic cowbells, and others are those quirky, electronic TR hits with weird cowbell vibes. It adds a bit of variety, you know?
But taking out the clap? Nah, that’s a game-changer. I can’t think of a single track I’ve got that doesn’t have a clap in it.
SJ: And if you could form a supergroup with any musicians, living or dead, who would be in it?
Rogue FX: My hero/idol is David Bowie, so I’d put him on lead vocals straight away and I would relegate myself to backing vocals. Thinking about spicing things up a bit with a guitar: Now, truth is, I’m no guitar guru. I’ve got a bunch of guitars, and I’m trying to figure them out.
So, to really rock the guitar vibes, I’m eyeing someone like Steve Stevens—Billy Idol’s guitarist. The guy knows how to blend those electro sounds with synths, and that’s the vibe I’m going for. Let’s get him on board.
And on the drum front, considering the great Taylor Hawkins—may he rest in peace. He was an absolute drumming legend. So, if we’re talking drums, Taylor Hawkins would be my go-to.
I do like a slap bass, so I may add someone like Mark King. Actually, I’ve got a musical hero who would work well either as his alternative or maybe on backing vocals, Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy.
SJ: Tell us about your studio. Do you use mostly hardware or software?
Rogue FX: I’m ashamed because I am more software, and I was always hardware, but you know what? It’s just way more convenient.
One of the reasons is how I record: I like to play it rather than program it, I’m more of a player than a programmer.
When it comes to nailing the timing, I need some tools, and that’s where the software side shines. It doesn’t work as smoothly on a hardware synth or with an actual audio file. Dumping it straight into MIDI with the soft synth? That’s the sweet spot—it’s just a whole lot easier.
So, I’m doing most of my magic on the soft synths, and maybe throwing in a couple of overdubs on the hardware. This way, I can have the best of both worlds.
SJ: Which DAW are you using?
Rogue FX: I’m using an iPad Pro, which puts me in a bit of a DAW constraint. The most obvious choice would be Logic, but I prefer Cubasis. It’s like a close cousin to Cubase, very much in that vibe.
Sure, it’s got a few limits, but honestly, no complaints from my end. It covers all the bases, more or less, and the best part? It lets me work at odd hours, especially at night. Honestly, most of the time I’m not even in the studio. I’m sitting in front of the TV, and if I’m laying down some tracks, it’s all on a small Akai.
It just makes things easy, super portable, you know?
(Now I invite you to watch the following video, starting at 21:40. Andrew is going to show us his studio).
We say thanks to Rogue FX for the interview and we congratutate him for winning an award as ‘ Best Electro Act’ at Radio Wigwam a couple of days after we recorded the interview.
Don’t forget to visit his Bandcamp page
You are also welcome to check the other interviews for The Electronic Corner