A conversation with Rogue FX about “The Fifth Step”

Q: Hi! Can you share some highlights and milestones from your music career as Rogue FX?

A:I have been releasing music as Rogue FX for a year now since release of my first single at start of July 22. In that time I have released coming up on 10 singles including collaborations with a US astronaut and a Canadian Cyber Punk band. I have had great receptions to the tracks and have several charting positions on indie and radio charts, including a number one and a top5 position which were amazing to have. But just releasing music again after so long away from the industry is the main highlight for me, I am enjoying being part of the synth music family which is a really supportive and welcoming community.

Q: How would you describe the overall musical style and genre that defines your sound as an artist?

A: The style of Rogue FC is very much a retro wave style, influenced by 80s and 90s electronic music which was a golden era for synth pop and dance music. I take a wide range of influences from New York Electro, UK and European synth pop and Californian synth waves and most genres in between!

Q: What inspired the title “The Fifth Step” for your EP?

A: The Fifth Step is a sci-fi-inspired EP that follows a story arc across the tracks of the anti-hero of the piece called Max Rogue and his experience with the corrupt Mind Corporation, an organization that sells dangerous virtual reality “mind trips” to a desperate dystopian society in the grip of continuous pandemics and lockdowns in the year 2033. The Mind Corporation tagline is “Think about the future– take the fifth step”. So that’s why the EP has the title of The Fifth Step.

Q: Can you give us an insight into the creative process behind the tracks on “The Fifth Step”?

A: All the tracks on the EP are very much born in the studio and have developed and changed through their creation. The Fifth Step had a completely different verse and chorus until the day of recording and I made changes to the melody and lyrics throughout the writing and recording process , same goes for Psychology and the other tracks are taking a similar method. My usual approach is to have the full vocal structure worked out before I record it, but for this EP I worked in a more iterative and agile way. Production wise these are my first tracks using only software synthesizers and beats – usually I use hardware-based instruments – so that has been a change and im amazed at the flexibility of software tools these days. I am also going to record between track segments as additional narrative, another first for me and am looking forward to that.

Q: Are there any specific themes or messages that you aimed to convey through the songs on “The Fifth Step”?

A:As mentioned above The Fifth Step EP is a fictional story arc but essentially across the songs it tracks the redemption of the character Max Rogue, an ex-criminal and mercenary that through his “mind trip” journey finds some redemption and a realization that he has an opportunity to fight back against the corrupt society that made him of which Mind Corporation are very much at the heart of. The line in Psychology “Not all bad guys go to hell” is quite indicative of where Max Rogues journey may go on the remaining tracks in the EP. I am also considering a sequel EP where Max Rogue has at that point become a Renegade freedom fighter rebelling against the tyranny of the criminal world that created him.

Q: Can you share any interesting or memorable moments from the recording or production of “The Fifth Step”?

A:The post production and mastering on the tracks was by a guy called Jason Hornig who runs Electric Desk Mastering in California and records under the name of Dilemmachine. Jason has been involved in music for some time,  with acts like Icona Pop who had the huge hit “ I don’t care” in the noughties and more recently one of the leading lights on the synth pop scene Thought Beings . Jason’s post production and mastering really lifted the tracks, im very grateful for his expertise and attention to detail that is way beyond my own !

Q: How do you feel “The Fifth Step” represents your growth and development as an artist throughout your music career?

A:Id like to think that my recording, production and mixing skills have lifted up a notch on the EP and I think vocally the EP develops my own vocal style a little more. The fact that it is an EP means I had to commit to much more time than I usually  would for a release and I was able to expand my horizons a lot in terms of telling a whole story across the EP with songs that gel together as a body of work, but with their own sound and stories to tell. I enjoyed the experience of the EP and am looking forward to the full release at the end of August

Q: What do you hope listeners will take away from “The Fifth Step” in terms of emotions or experiences?

A: Firstly , wanting to dance – as The Fifth Step for all its dystopian storytelling is ultimately a dance record. But I hope listeners feel, as well as the dance beats and basslines, there are stories to the tracks that engage them and make them want to listen again to those stories as an end-to-end body of work.

Q: Looking ahead, what can we expect from you in terms of future projects or directions in your music career?

A:One thing I am hoping for is at some stage the opportunity of a physical release. Streaming is great but my previous work in music was in the 90s and I had a few physical releases with my band Bass Value in that decade, so it would be great to release something physically as Rogue FX, even if it’s a small, limited run.

As well as the EP I have a project with an outstanding Sheffield UK Synthwave producer called Fonz Tramontano who has released many fabulous tracks both solo and with other artist over the past 5 years, I am very excited about that, the track is Two Heats, it is inspired by stories and music of John Hughes 80s Movies and it is released on 7th July.

Other than that , I have some singles planned that will be less dance orientated than the EP , though will retain a retro wave synth pop vibe and as mentioned possibly starting work on a follow up EP. Seems like I will be pretty busy going into 2024 and will definitely enjoy the ride!