Updated: May 17
For Kaelen Klypak, the Saskatoon based electro-synth artist currently known as June Thrasher, music was something that was always in orbit around his psyche but not necessarily his first love. Klypak is what many would call a “late bloomer” but that doesn’t render his art any less viable based on that fact alone. Klypak’s initial passions were like most other Canadian kids. He started out his journey into the music industry with a pitstop in the world of hockey as a goaltender for his local youth club.
"My dad used to play in bluegrass bands. So we always had instruments kicking around the house. My mom is a singer. My sister took piano lessons. But I was always infatuated in going hard with sports,” explained Klypak in a recent interview with NSMZ, “Hockey was my jam so I played lots of hockey when I was younger. I was always into listening to music but it was never something that I fully dove into. I didn’t start taking lessons or pursuing things that way initially. It actually wasn't until I was 15 or 16 years old that I just decided that hockey wasn't the right sport for me and I started taking up drums.”
It’s actually not at all surprising that Klypak gravitated to the drums after his hockey aspirations fizzled. Drums are a very physical instrument. They require the player to be in peak physical shape in order to play at an advance and professional level. They also require a lot of coordination in order to master - things all within the skillset of a naturally athletic individual.
“I was a goalie for ten years,” recounts Klypak, “Just from having that coordination from the left side of my body to the right side through to the muscle development that helped getting coordinated to play drums. It’s all muscle memory… Even the mental aspects. Just to keep your head in check with what's happening when there is an opportunity. A lot of the drills we had to do when we had goalie camps helped in that area as well."
While Klypak cut his teeth in local metal acts around Saskatoon, he also had a keen interest in synth music. Eventually those two musical genres would converge in the intensity of his own compositions. June Thrasher can be subdued and cerebral to be sure, but there’s also an air of tension, a slow burn and then a natural release. Klypak spoke in detail about two metal bands in particular that influenced his overall vibe in June Thrasher’s music.
"There's two heavy bands that had the most impact on me. One of them is Dillinger Escape plan. They’re wild. Their record Calculating Infinity - still to this day I always find a new riff or new drum part that I get excited about. That album stands the test of time. Another band I like is Refused. I think I bought that Shape Of Punk To Come album when I was in grade seven. It changed everything for me,” said Klypak.
In terms of his love for synth music, Klypak is 100% self taught. He’s a classic example of someone in the business that doesn’t necessarily have the training, knowledge, or knowhow, but he didn’t let that stop him from pursuing his obsession with a genre of music that he dearly loved. He’s a “learning by doing” kind of guy - at least for the time being.
"Honestly, I've always loved synths',” continues Klypak, “I’ve loved the sounds that you hear in movie soundtracks. It's stuff that I've always wanted to learn how to play but I didn't know where to start. When I picked up my first synth I started watching youtube tutorials on how to do basic run throughs of scales and just how to familiarize yourself with your notes and I took it from there. The rest has always been by ear."
His love of heavy metal, of course, also served to shape his personal compositional style. But he also respects the music of classic blues guitarist B.B. King.
"I really wanted to allow songs to breathe. Going back to Dillinger escape plan, the guitar player Ben Wyman spoke about how his biggest guitar influence was BB King and it wasn't just the notes he was playing but the spacing in between stuff and allowing things to breathe. BB King was also one of the first concerts I went to as a child,” clarified Klypak.
This use of space allows his compositions to have a quiet and engaging simplicity. In reality, Klypak’s personal cocktail of influences that also includes groups like Daft Punk and Kraftwerk, ends up taking on a minimalist approach. The songs move, evolve and change gradually and organically, not unlike a Philip Glass composition but, unlike glass, June Thrasher’s synth work has the spiciness of a rave and the intensity of a mosh pit.
“I always kinda go into a bit of a trance when I start performing or writing and time feels like it stops. That helps allow the song to breathe and then switch it up when it feels right. Definitely with the minimalism concepts, I just wanted to take a different approach but also am hugely influenced by Daft Punk. On their first record they have a track called ‘Alive’ and it's repetitious but it either gets heavier or the bass drum gets tweaked a little bit and you start to pick those subtle things but it still keeps you engaged. That whole format I tried to apply to June Thrasher," said Klypak.
There’s also a live element to what Klypak does with June Thrasher. The songs are intended to stand on their own, but performing them live eventually, when the world gets back to normal, is a goal that he strives for. He’d also like to get his songs licensed for film and television.
“I started June Thrasher as an outlet for writing for TV and film placements. That was always my main push to kinda start creating this type of music. As soon as I was starting to create I was like ‘wow I could actually perform this.’ so I started to figure out a way that I could also perform live as well as writing. And then just from my background with heavy music - I always find heavy influences and undertones. It doesn't matter what I do, it's there. It's probably just because of what I know and what I enjoy. I love how heavy songs progress and things keep on getting more and more intense but there is still a melody there. I wanted that to have a similar vibe to what I was writing but that sort of happened naturally too," continues Klypak.
June Thrasher’s debut album Viper Creek released March 5th. Check it out on streaming services. A limited run of CDs are also available for those that wish to purchase hard copies.
*photo courtesy of Matt Smith and Matt Braden Photo