Some musicians seek inspiration in literature. Others find it in love or loss. Still others might listen to music in search of a creative spark. But whenever Pete Rice is looking to get his juices flowing, he usually turns to one of two muses: Sega Genesis games and cult ’80s flicks.
“I played a lot of old school side-scrollers and button mashers back in the day,” says Rice, who makes synthwave music under the moniker Vector Hold. Rice is quite partial to the tones and arrangements found on titles for the classic 16-bit system—which were often darker and more brooding than the heavily compressed sounds used by Sega’s competitor, Nintendo.
“There’s definitely a Sega sound,” Rice says. “It’s bit-crunched, lo-fi drums; arpeggiators; saw-tooth, sine form, wave synthesizers. You use very minimal tracking—only about five or six tracks.”
In addition to taking inspiration from Sega games, Rice also draws from movies—especially those featuring synth-heavy scores. He points to the John Carpenter films Halloween and Escape From New York, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and “terrible, bad love comedy movies that are off the beaten path.”
In fact, Rice says he was spurred to launch Vector Hold after watching the 2011 grindhouse vigilante-justice flick, Hobo With A Shotgun.
The film’s score features a song titled “Hunters,” by Power Glove—a buzzing, menacing affair, with thundering synth tom-tom hits and a steady growling pulse. “Wait a minute,” Rice recalls thinking. “That sounds like something I do. My life changed after watching that scene.”
(Here’s that scene. Warning: Graphic Violence)
Rice, a lifelong musician, who also plays in the local stoner metal act, Forgotten Gods, has always made electronic music. He’s been crafting tunes on his vintage Commodore Amiga 500 computer since long before the recent explosion in popularity of EDM. But he never knew what to do with his tunes, other than throw them up on SoundCloud and forget about them.
After doing some research on Power Glove, however, Rice discovered an entire community of artists producing synthwave. “I found my people,” he says.
Since then, his SoundCloud and BandCamp followers have ballooned and he’s been pouring himself into Vector Hold with as much vigor as he gives to Forgotten Gods—which is already a serious band that regularly tours up and down the West Coast.
A typical day for Rice begins with his day job at a sheet metal shop. “I go to work,” he says. “I get home from work. I sit down and I work on my electronic music, then I go to band practice for a few hours, and then I get home and work on some Janitors stuff and Vector Hold. Then I do it all over again.” (In addition to playing in Forgotten Gods, Rice is also the only active member of the ska band, Janitors Against Apartheid.)
Rice plans to release the latest Vector Hold album, Night Marauder, on July 21—through BandCamp, Spotify, iTunes and other digital platforms.
All of the songs on Night Marauder carry a sense of intense urgency and evoke images of car chases and gun fights from campy ’80s action films. It would make the perfect soundtrack to an epic getaway on a palm tree-lined freeway—as the synth patches from Rice’s Amiga streak past, like blurring neon lights. If the album sounds like a specific video game, it’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It’s all hot pink and muggy.
Fans of Rice’s previous work as Vector Hold will notice that he has added more sounds to his latest effort—including soaring lead guitars. On Night Marauders, Rice says he was branching out and trying new things.
“It’s really all over the map this time,” he says. “There are heavy, rocking tunes; laid back Sonic the Hedgehog-style stuff, and there is some old-school Vector Hold stuff. I’m just throwing everything at it right now. I’m just giving it everything I can.”