Seth Haley has long been mesmerized by how people in the past once processed the future. As Com Truise (one of many musical aliases used by the 20-something from Princeton, NJ), Haley maps out “mid-fi, synth-wave, slow-motion funk” (his words) that’s deeply smitten with science-fiction-heavy storytelling, sounds, and visuals that emulate aesthetics from the 1980s and, to a lesser extent, the 1970s and 1990s. His 2011 record Galactic Melt houses a plot that roughly follows the world’s first android astronaut making his initial trip to space, with technobabble-fixated, futuristic-sounding titles–“Terminal,” “Air Cal,” “Flightwave,” “Hyperlips”–augmenting the scenery. Melt is really one of those instances where you have to keep your senses prepped for minor story cues ahead of time for them to count (there’s no way to trace it otherwise), but they do work well to flesh out the synthetic scenery when you hear about ’em. If you have any doubts regarding Haley’s deep allegiance to the works in the genre from the Reagan years, you have any number of items for proof: Com Truise’s palette of stargazing synths, the tripped-out geometry of Galactic Melt‘s cover art, or the Terminator-goes-gangster-noir clip for that record’s “Brokendate.”
Unsurprisingly, Haley is a devout sci-fi geek. In a 2011 interview with Digital in Berlin, one of the facts he shared about himself was “I watch Blade Runner once a week,” which is pretty much all the reason we needed to chat with him about such subjects. Before Com Truise participates in a New Year’s Eve show alongside RJD2 and Chrome Sparks at Gramercy Theatre on Monday night, the enthusiast of THX-1138, Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick, Boards of Canada, and Gary Numan shares his thoughts on the recent Alien prequel, where he stands on the critical Star Trek versus Star Wars issue, and how long he plans on scratching this niche.
What attracted you to science fiction in the first place, and what’s kept you attached to it after all these years?
I think sometimes you’re automatically born with something that you can’t really explain. I’ve always been into computers from growing up and stuff like that. I lived in a small town, and my best friend got a computer a long time ago. We didn’t have a computer as a family [until] a couple of years after he did so I would always go over to his house and come play on his computer. I just got really into computers that way, and when we finally got our own, you could barely get me off the thing. I think just doing that kind of stuff got me into science fiction for the most part.
I can just remember seeing movies on TV like Alien and Terminator and stuff like that, and I felt like that was me. That was something that I could really relate to for the most part, as it made me feel normal to like, you know what I mean? I never had a problem with telling people science fiction is my favorite genre. The exact moment when it started, I’m not sure. When I first really got into music, the first band I ever really loved was Nine Inch Nails. I consider it industrial kind of music. The sounds in that music and the correlation between the sounds in those types of films connected themselves, and I just was automatically drawn towards it from listening to that kind of music. I can’t really pinpoint what got me into it, [but it involved] watching films and playing Nintendo. We had this NASA game. I don’t remember the exact title of it. It might be in the house somewhere. It’s literally the hardest game ever.
It was a strategy game for the first Nintendo system. I don’t know if it was NASA, but it was a space shuttle game. When I think back, it was the most boring game probably ever, but for some reason, I loved it. I don’t think I ever made it past, like, level five. The shuttle would launch and you had to do all the pitching and rolling. You had all these lines that would go across the screen; you had to stop exactly in the middle, but they were moving so fast. It was not fair, but it just kept me sucked in ’cause I always wanted to get further and see what the game was all about, but you always had to do all that space shuttle stuff. I can’t remember the exact title.
Was it Space Shuttle Project?
Hmm. I’d have to look it up and look at the actual cover for the game.
I read one interview with you in which you said that you watch Blade Runner once a week. Then, I read a later source that mentioned you no longer do that. Which is accurate now? Do you still watch it pretty often or is it more sparing?
It’s more sparing. I actually was having this conversation this past Friday with a bunch of friends. We were playing poker and just talking about science fiction movies and trilogies and stuff like that and the pitfalls of keeping a franchise like that going. When I was writing Galactic Melt and [Com Truise’s 2010 EP] Cyanide Sisters is when I first really got into Blade Runner because I had never seen it. I probably walked past it a million times in the movie shop and I was just like, ‘Ah, Harrison Ford. Ehh, I’m not so interested.’ Didn’t really like the font very much. It was just judging the book by its cover. I didn’t see it until I was 23, 22 maybe. I had seen it all my life, but for some reason, I never caught it on television or anything like that. I was just not interested at all.
Then, one day I was low on movie selections, and it was a buy one, get one [offer], so I was like, ‘Hell, we’ll give it a try.’ I went home and I watched it. I just about punched myself in the face. I was like, ‘Why did I wait so damn long to get into this movie?’ Then, I went berserk and watched it nonstop–at least three times a week when I was writing the music. Every time I watched it, I felt like I saw something different. Sometimes, I rewatch movies a lot, just because you focus on the actors and stuff like that, and you kind of miss what’s going on in the background, so I always felt like I would see some different piece of technology or look off in the corners when I watch the movie more than straightforward into the camera. I would just notice things. I think I could watch it now and still see something that I haven’t totally thought about in the movie. It’s a fairly deep movie, but in the end, it’s a film. I think what really made me so susceptible to it was sound design alone. You could turn the movie off without the picture and just listen to the sound design and the dialogue and the music, and it’s just beautiful. And then [there’s] just the smoky quality the whole movie has. I love the tint, the cinematography. It’s probably my number one movie.
But I remember saying that in that interview that I don’t watch it as much anymore just because I’m not really home and I don’t really watch movies on the road because any moment I’m trying to get sleep or just relax. Back to this Friday, I was just thinking with some of my friends, ‘All the stuff that used to inspire me, I don’t really watch anymore.’ YouTube alone, I used to surf and look at the B science fiction movies that are hard to acquire, and I would just download the trailers off of YouTube and rip sounds out of ’em and mangle ’em up and put ’em in songs. They didn’t sound anything like what you would expect as far as sampling goes, but I don’t really do that anymore. Then, I woke up Saturday morning and did some Christmas shopping, but the whole time, I couldn’t wait to get home and get back into things I used to, so I think I’ll probably watch Blade Runner tonight.
How many times would you say you’ve watched Blade Runner overall if you had to guess?
Probably at least 250 times, 300. I lived by myself in New Jersey before I started touring. I was probably working on music for about a year and a half before I quit my job in advertising and went out and did this stuff. I was on the rocks with my girlfriend so I was just staying at home and eating frozen pizza and watching Blade Runner nonstop. I bought the original edition, and then I went back out and bought the special edition with the little briefcase with all the little trinkets in there–the hologram cards and stuff. Once I got that, I had the five-disc set, so I’d watch all the versions over again, back and forth. I would watch the documentary-type stuff in there. Just for fun, I would watch the made-for-TV version that has the voiceover stuff from Harrison Ford. It’s terrible, but I would watch it. It felt different, you know? I feel like I burned myself out on it, but I think I’m finally ready to get back.
I don’t remember the last DVD I purchased. I kind of miss it, but at the same time, it’s less stuff to carry around. But I think what I have in my collection will hopefully stay with me forever and if I have a family someday, I’ll give it to my kids and say, ‘These are some movies you’ve definitely gotta watch. If you don’t like ’em, that’s fine, but this is what your dad was into,’ you know what I mean?