24 Sep Velvet Code Talks “Dreamer,” Lady Gaga, Performing at Toronto Pride, and More
Velvet Code (real name Marlon Wurmitzer) is a Canadian electropop artist, DJ, and producer based in Toronto. As a songwriter and music producer, Velvet Code’s influences include Madonna, Freddie Mercury, Robyn, and Muse. His music can be described as a modern take on ’80s pop with heavy influences of electropop and EDM (electronic dance music). Trance and house music are the two most notable sub-genres of EDM heard in his work.
Dreamer is Velvet Code’s second full-length studio album and it was recorded in Toronto, Canada with additional production in New York and Los Angeles. On Dreamer, Velvet Code collaborated with songwriter Wendy Starland (Lady Gaga), with production contributions from Gavin Bradley, Joe LaPorta (Sterling Sound NYC), Rob Bryton, Robi Banerji, and Scott Kelly (Westlake Studios).
Your new album Dreamer is out now. How was your creative process for this project different than your process for your first release, Black.Blue.Blind?
I wanted my second album to be more personal than the first, so I took a lot of time thinking about all the things I went through over the last five years. That’s a tough thing to do, because you essentially have to re-live some of the nightmares you managed to so narrowly escape. I think I wrote 30 songs before choosing nine for the album! It took longer to choose the nine songs than it took to write them.
How did working with Wendy Starland on Dreamer influence your new album?
It was as if we’d known each other in a past life. Whenever we get together to write, it all comes so naturally. She really has a knack for getting me into a zone where I can recollect my own experiences. She’s the ying to my yang, so to speak.
Your hit record “Break the Silence” dealt with a stigma surrounding mental health. How did your own experiences influence this song?
I have suffered from anxiety and depression issues in my life. Although it is managed now, some people struggle in ways we can’t even imagine. I wanted to put that out there and remind people that they are not alone.
“Mary Offered Lady Bugs and Thank Yous” is a very emotional track with a driving beat. What message were you trying to portray with this song, and how did you come up with the name?
Every one of us has heard of or experienced the endless struggle for human rights (either with themselves or having witnessed it). We’re still experiencing this today, especially in today’s political climate.
I wanted the song to be both melancholy and uplifting, and to ultimately start a music and fashion revolution. If the song portrays the power of music and fashion to inspire love and euphoria, mission accomplished! In terms of the name, there has been speculation about what the name means, but that’s exactly why I chose it:) Keep speculating!
What overall message do you want fans to take away from your new album, Dreamer?
The overall message that I hope resonates with everyone who listens to my album is that you should never sway from being you. People will tell you you’re not good enough, not glamorous enough, or that you just can’t do something, but I say, “You ARE, you CAN and you SHOULD.” YOU DO YOU!
You are a singer, songwriter, DJ, and producer – as an artist, your skill set is rather versatile. Do you prefer singing, songwriting, DJing, or producing over any of the other three? Why or why not?
That’s a really good question, and there isn’t an overwhelming answer. I think we’re allowed to do everything we love. What I can say is, today, I’m really tapping into my inner tech junkie and enjoying DJing and producing.
In fact, I’ve been working on some new material that I will release in the upcoming months that will demonstrate this new direction. The whole process of putting sounds together, mashing and mixing them, and coming up with the buildups and drops is something that I really enjoy.
You have said that Lady Gaga is one of your biggest influences. What about Lady Gaga do you admire most and how do you honor her legacy in music and in life?
Lady Gaga is the perfect example of being who she truly is and inspiring others to do the same. If it weren’t for Lady Gaga, I probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable coming out of my shell and gathering the courage to be myself. She has truly been a lifesaver, and a hero, in my life.
Your website says that, “Velvet Code was created in NYC in the summer of 2007.” In your opinion, how has the music industry changed since then? How do you think changes in both culture and technology since 2007 have impacted your career trajectory?
Wow, those were the days! I remember feeling inspired by the likes of Dangerous Muse, Goldfrapp, Erasure, and Depeche Mode. There was a hunger for electro-based music back then, and although sounds have changed, that hunger never went away. The industry has changed significantly though.
I started my career on MySpace and built a strong following on there. I met some of my Velvet Warriors there. I call them friends now. Although MySpace is gone, the way we can connect with fans these days has grown in leaps and bounds. Now we have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch…it’s awesome to be able to easily connect and share my life with all my Velvet Warriors!
You have a gender-neutral clothing line called You Do You. Where did you initially get the idea for this clothing line? What challenges did you face as you were getting this clothing line off the ground?
I realized that my original merch was gender-neutral, and that’s really where it started. We’re working on new designs including skirts, dresses, hats, heels, and sneakers that will appeal to anyone who thinks that clothing shouldn’t have a gender label. If I want to wear a dress and heels one day, I should be able to.
Much like my music, my hope is that this is the start of a revolution, a freedom of expression without judgment. The main challenge in getting it off the ground was accepting I was the right person to bring this to market. I’m grateful for having a team of people around me who are willing to help in the creative process.
You performed at Pride in Toronto this summer. How did this opportunity come about and what did this performance mean to you personally?
I was honored to be asked by Proud FM to perform on their Pride stage on the Sunday of Toronto Pride Weekend, one of the biggest Pride celebrations in the world. It was an incredible experience. Being gay, I feel it is important to share my life experiences, struggles, and triumphs with my community.
Velvet Code is a pretty unique name. How did you come up with this name and what is the meaning behind it?
It describes the two sides of my personality: Velvet symbolizes my love of fashion, while Code refers to my geeky side and my love of technology and gadgets (in the studio as well as live on stage).
Your track “Say You Love Me” won an Independent Music Award for Dance/Electronica Song of the Year. What were your expectations when creating this song?
The song happened by accident, so I didn’t expect a thing! I was crying on my bed after a breakup, and my voice cracked into falsetto which led to a really cool melody. I knew I had something cool in the works, so I kept working at it. It got picked up by MTV for a series of shows including The Hills and Jersey Shore shortly after it was finished. I was super excited by that support!
A lot of your music is similar to ‘80’s pop. What steps do you take to make this style of music more palatable for a modern audience?
A lot of it has to do with the sounds I pick and what creative juices I have inside me that day that let me manipulate those sounds. I think the key to getting pop music up to the level that the younger, engaged fans demand, is how vocals sound and feel. The audience demands perfection, so pitch needs to be on-point.
I’m not afraid to use Melodyne where I need to. I also take really good care of choosing the right effects and using plugins like Spire to create the right sounds around the vocals for today’s ears. And, I’m never afraid to use a distortion plugin. Oh, how I miss that awesome CamelPhat plugin!
What is your favorite tool to use when producing music?
Since I produce electronic music, the kick drum needs to break free like a punch to the gut. I love to use FabFilter’s Pro-C 2 on a bus to compress the kick and give it that in ya face! that it needs. I also love FabFilter’s Pro-Q plug-in for proper EQing as most of my drums have toms and cymbals, crashes, and hi-hats that need to make their presence known. Finally, I use iZotope’s Neutron 3 plug-in in every mix now so that I can sculpt things the way I see them in my busy mind.
Throughout your career, you have always stuck to your own style instead of following fleeting trends and fads. What advice do you have for rising artists who would like to do the same?
Trends and fads will come and go. And if you think you’re ahead of the curb, think again. The major labels still have the power to steer things in the direction that best suits them and their key artists. Since the young fans are the best BS detectors, they will spot a fraud trying to follow a fad a mile away. Stick to what you love and what you’re good at doing, then just do it 10 times faster and work 10 times harder than you did today.
What are the three proudest achievements of your career so far?
I’ve been very fortunate with many opportunities, but I’m most proud of being able to perform on national TV in Canada and the US, as well as finishing the Dreamer album after all the struggles I overcame the previous few years. More recently, I will be on a weekly radio show that is syndicated around the world. Look for my show Rise To The Rhythm via my website here for more details on the weekly show.
Which electronic artists would you like to collaborate with in the future? Why?
If you would have asked me this three years ago, Avicii would have been at the top of my list as he was a producer and artist that I aspire to be. RIP. However, there are many amazing producers and artists who I would love to collab with. Calvin Harris is one of the best songwriters in the world, and I would love to collab with him on the new material I’m working on.
Armin van Buuren is a legend and someone I look to for inspiration every day. Finally, Charli XcX. She has no filter and is incredibly creative. She is someone I would love to go out on the town with, and then follow that by writing a hit song with her.
What do you think has been your biggest struggle in the music industry? Why?
Overcoming my insecurities and my own identity issues. The song “Bound Together” on my album touches a lot on that. It’s been the hardest thing for me, but I’m grateful to have people around me who continue to pull me up when I’m feeling down.
It’s ongoing, and the way that I deal with it is I challenge myself to match my image with how I want to feel. You’ll probably see me wear more colors than I used to back in the early days. I still love to wear black, but only if it glitters!
You have been outspoken about LGBTQ+ issues in the past. Do you think artists have a responsibility to use their platform to speak out on social and political issues that they are passionate about? Why or why not?
Absolutely, it’s a responsibility! As a LGBTQ+ artist, I want to open some more doors for those who think they can’t achieve their dreams because of their sexual identity. Although the world still has a long way to go to reach global acceptance, I feel it’s my duty to remind everyone that they are good enough, smart enough, and that they are beautiful just how they are. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from reaching for your dreams.
With your new album out, do you have any plans to tour this year? If so, how will this tour differ from your previous live performances?
We are intimately discussing a few tour options for the fall/winter, so there are some surprise announcements coming soon. It will be very different from what you’ve seen us do before. I’m under strict silence around this topic, so that’s all I can say for now, but if you subscribe to my email list on my website here you’ll be the first to know!