Meet Captain Supernova, Intergalactic Synth-Funk Man of Mystery

Captain SupernovaEXPAND
Captain Supernova
Courtesy of the artist

[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. Follow him on twitter and also check out his archives.]

You don’t meet someone named Captain Supernova every day. In fact, until this afternoon, the cosmic synth wizard had never revealed the man behind the radiation-proof curtain.

But here he is, sitting at an Eastside cafe on a rainy afternoon, wearing a gray Dodgers cap pulled low and a navy hoodie, the psychedelic astral traveler in somber colors.

Approximately three months ago, Captain Supernova released his first original song, “The Captain’s Theme.” Ingeniously fusing jazzy European ’70s soundtrack music, boogie funk and Air’s Moon Safari, it revealed a unique, confident vision — the sort of thing you’d expect from someone bold enough to write his own theme before anyone had even heard of him.

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“I didn’t want it to be a gimmick but more a world that people would be drawn into,” says the man behind Captain Supernova — who agreed to meet in person under the condition that only certain details be revealed.

“I saw how people were sucked into Star Wars and superhero stories, and eventually started combining those Jungian archetypes with other characters — like Stephen Hawking and even Jesus,” says Supernova, who was raised in Westchester and now, in his mid-20s, resides in San Pedro.

“The idea is to take you to a different place,” the producer adds, “one where we’ve started over and think differently.”

The transportive motif matches several themes in his life. In his senior year of high school, a serious car crash left the future Captain bedridden for months. During his arduous recovery, he used music as therapy and escape, downloading sheet music and teaching himself to play on a rinky-dink Casio keyboard.

While attending college locally, Supernova played keys in a band that achieved a modest degree of international renown. They played with jazz legends and toured the Philippines and Thailand.

When that band dissolved two years ago, the Captain was stranded at another crossroads. He’d been writing weird space songs, buying old synthesizers off Craigslist and attempting to divine a new direction.

Sage advice came from his good friend, multi-instrumentalist and soul interpreter Adrian Younge.

“[Younge] told me to ‘fuck what everyone thinks, just do what you want do,’?” Supernova says. “It gave me the confidence to run with these different influences, use raw ’70s drums and synthesizers, and try to avoid samples.”

The first efforts were a semi-joke: cheesy ‘80s synths and boom-chicka bass.

But Supernova’s solo flights and collaborations with “General Pulsar” grew more refined. He dipped into his savings to buy high-priced, vintage synths and taught himself the talkbox.

The final touch was the 2001: A Space Odyssey–inspired artwork and the narrative of Captain Supernova (written by Seth Hansen). Released last month, Visions of the Unknown functions as a fictional soundtrack to the story of the Captain’s early years as a young orphan named Hermenius.

“No one knows his past, he’s made fun of, picked on, an outcast at a special school for really talented kids who have no family,” Supernova says, whose own past struggles and present circumstances are partially sublimated in the story. (When he’s not scoring intergalactic orphanage funk, Supernova teaches high school–age special education students.)

“He’s trying to find himself and a way,” he continues. “Each song depicts a different part of his path.”

And then the man behind the character backtracks just slightly. He reiterates the desire to retain some mystery in the interplay between story and music.

In a world of infinite trivial facts, it can occasionally be better to know a few less.

“None of the specifics really matter,” Supernova concludes. “I just really want the music to take people away and get their imaginations floating.”

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