English new wave/synthpop/electronic pop artist C-Beem recently talked to ai love music about his music, his inspirations, and the release of his 2020 single “Angel Hill”. Continue to read to find out why C-Beem calls himself the “time traveler from the 80s”. Also, read to find out what C-Beem said was the meaning behind “Angel Hill”.
Make sure to check out C-Beem’s newest single down below and let me know what you think of the song in the comments!
First of all, please introduce yourself? How did you get into music?
Hi. My name is Chris Mills. I was born and grew up in the city of Leicester in the English Midlands. I now live in Leicestershire with my wife Julia.
I chose my artist handle mainly out of my love of the film Blade Runner, altering C-Beam to C-Beem for online search purposes.
My first forays into music go way back. I grew up with an upright piano in the home that had originally belonged to my Grandad. I never learned to read music and never wanted to; as an infant, I just reached up to the keys and hammered away until I eventually discerned chord shapes and scales.
By the time I was eleven – punk on the horizon – big brother, Jon, started a metal band. Whenever snotty little me was allowed into the music room to see the grebos rehearse, it was the electric piano, played by a lanky bespectacled lad called Andy, that transfixed me. He could play Status Quo and Deep Purple. That made him a geek-god in my eyes!
More affordable, fully-fledged synths coming on to the scene were even more intriguing … all those switches, buttons, and sliders. I’ll never forget seeing Genesis on Top of the Pops and hearing those fantastic opening synth lines for ‘Turn It On Again’. There was the keyboard player surrounded by all these technological wonders. I thought: “Wow! That’s for me… some day.”
We had tolerant, liberal parents who never tried to squash our music interests. It kept their three sons out of mischief and gave them some space just as it gave us some space. It made perfect sense to provide us with a music room with cork tiles on the walls as ‘soundproofing’. I don’t think the neighbours were very impressed by the leaked amplification, but we somehow got away with it. We were lucky kids to have all this.
What musical genres or artists inspire you?
For me, the great music visionaries are people like Bowie, Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, Kate Bush, and Prince. Those artists have stood out like painters; not just writing music but seeing it as a world beyond pure entertainment. Having an art school background, I feel that my musical instincts come from pretty much the same place as visual art. It’s not a deliberate pose, just the way it is for me. Besides, most music artists have more than one creative string to their bow. To narrow down the influences, it’s the post-punk period that really grabs me, when raw punk gave way to more crafted sounds but still retaining so much energy, whether synth-based or guitar.
You have described yourself as a “time traveler from the 80s”. Could you explain the concept a little bit more?
Well, when Flock of Seagulls were in the charts with “I Ran”, I climbed into a Pac-Man-shaped time-capsule, and… no, sorry. That description was not from my hand, but a Birmingham music writer and musician called Craig who co-runs a number of blogs including Beelzababubble. He’s followed my progress for quite a while, likes much of what I do, gives plenty of shares and retweets, etc, and his time-traveling 80s reference is a positive one in the sense that I follow my heart away from the dull dictates of context, and I certainly don’t see my music as a novelty.
I’d say that listening to the classic Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream album in my car, during a very difficult time for me a few years ago, was the clincher to just go for it and make the kind of albums I really want to make. I just thought “F*** it! This is incredible! If only…”
Let’s talk about your latest single “Angel Hill”. What is it about?
A Portuguese reviewer hit the nail on the head by comparing this track to a hazy, nostalgic polaroid photo. It’s about a massive adolescent crush I had on a girl who lived up the road. Her house was on an incline, so the memory of walking past her place leaves the impression of a hill. It was pure, unrequited infatuation. She was a bit older than me and waaaaay prettier!
Was there a certain sound or theme you wanted in this single?
I have mentioned Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream album as an influence in my recent work, including ‘Angel Hill’, but some commentators have mentioned a flavour of The Pet Shop Boys in the track, which is fine by me. In contrast to my previous single ‘Ed Straker Future’ which is full of jagged, pulsing rhythmic, “Angel Hill” has greater breathing space for the airy, celestial feel associated with romantic longing. I do love swelling synth-string patches and I think it works well.
How was producing this song? What came easier: the notes or the lyrics?
It all came absurdly quickly. Most of my tracks originate from catchy synth-lines (for guitarists these are called riffs, which sounds so much more cred). After I formed the main chord sequences for ‘Angel Hill’, my imagination shot backward to a halcyon summer of longing. So what if it was ages ago! Anything remaining in your head as a strong impression is worth writing about, and the further back you go the more crystallized the imagery. I do think ‘Angel Hill’ has a certain crystalline texture amidst its cloudiness.
What is the most important point in “Angel Hill”?
There’s a big difference between infatuation and love.
What do you want people to listen to in your music?
I suppose I want people to hear what I intend in the song, but as everyone has a unique bundle of neurons buzzing in their heads, you can’t be sure of that. However, I do love layers in the music, like the glazes of a painting, so I want my music to achieve these soundscapes of light, shade, and dimension. I also like catchiness with a certain drive … a physical pull factor.
What are your future plans?
Just to keep going, make more music and see what happens. I know that sounds a bit lame, but a string of small achievements can add up to something bigger, and as they say: music is a marathon and not a sprint. Despite my apparent no guitars credo, I know it can’t last. I’ve already sneaked guitar into my up-and-coming single “Tin Foil Hat”. Self-editing to the detriment of a track’s full potential is a bit daft.
I know my sound will evolve, and that’s how it should be. I am very excited about my next album Neon Gods which the current singles are leading to. I put out my first album Little Jet Angel with no clue how to promote it, so while the learning curve never really ends, I think Neon Gods will have more momentum behind it. I aim to release it during summer 2021.
Finally, do you have any messages for the readers of ai love music?
If you let music into your heart, it will take care of you. Music is so good for you, body, and soul.
Make sure to check out C-Beem at the following sites: