Contrary to what the name describes, The Holographic Sticker Club (THSC), the pseudonym of Francis Dempster, is a one-man audio-visual production juggernaut. Drawing influences from video games, Japanese pop and EDM, THSC creates bright, densely-layered instrumentals that are just as appropriate for a rave as they are for the newest next-gen platformer.
His newest album “Synth Killed the Dinosaurs,” is like Chrono Trigger soundtrack on acid. After a minute of lush synths and plucked synths, the first track “Trace Fossil March,” morphs into a 180-BPM that would make Yasunori Mitsuda himself pump his fists.
After his set at the Double Trouble show, which also featured Electric Llama favorites Shawn Smallwood & HI$TO, The Holographic Sticker Club discusses his inspiration for his live shows, video games and going solo.
Q: Describe what it is that you do in the best way possible.
THSC: I recreate my memories from the 80’s and 90’s playing really fun video games and I translate it to audio and visual experiences for the audiences.
Q: What were your favorite video games growing up?
THSC: Any Mario – well definitely 3, and Super Mario World, and definitely Mega Man 2, which is an inspiration for much of my music. I also liked Kirby.
Q: So you’re definitely a platformer guy?
THSC: I’ve also played some PC games. I did Rollercoaster Tycoon, SimCity, all that stuff.
Q: I loved that game! I thought I was going to design rollercoasters when I grew up. It was Rollercoaster Tycoon and Rollercoaster 2. Not 3, because that sucked. Did you play 3?
THSC: No, but I liked the old ones. It’s cool that you could “ride” on the rollercoaster or whatever, but it was perfect the way it was.
” I wanted to make it seamless, not something that’s just an afterthought – something projected on to me.”
Q: When did you first come up with the idea to project the images onto your shirt?
THSC: That was this year, actually. I’ve been playing solo for about a year, and that was a recent thing I’ve been doing. It started because I’m doing so many things with my synthesizer, that I have to focus on that, so I can’t really engage with the audience as much. So I figured I would have visuals that could work with the music. A lot of it is tied to the music. I wanted to make it seamless, not something that’s just an afterthought – something projected on to me. I’m a MICA graduate, so visual art is my first passion. If you’ve seen the poster, I also designed that.
Q: How did you transition into making your own songs?
THSC: I started out on bass guitar and the synthesizer in a band of one of my close friend’s boyfriend’s. She got a job in Los Angeles, and he had to move to LA of course, so the band stopped, because he was the driving force. Every other member of the band lived in that house, except for me – I had to drive over.
Once he was gone, that spark of the band kind of fizzled. We still jam every now and then, but I feel like solo, I’ve been able to do more. I was originally working with a Korg R3, a bigger version of the microKorg; it still has the vocoder and everything. Then I saw this thing called the Teenage Engineering OP1. If you know that song, “One (Your Name),” that was the first song to feature that. It has a digital 4-track within it, a drum machine and all these different synth modules, that you can use to craft your sound.
“We still jam every now and then, but I feel like solo, I’ve been able to do more”
That developed what I sound like now. I’ve been using that for going on three years now. It’s very intuitive, but it takes a long time to actually master. That’s what you heard tonight. Because I can record so many tracks, that’s how I decided to start performing solo.
Q: How did you come up with your stage name?
THSC: It goes back to childhood. It’s something that was really fun and bright. As soon as you hear it, you know it’s something exciting, but it’s really mysterious. I also wanted something that would not be taken in a million years. If I heard it anywhere else, I would be really surprised. It would be very exciting, by chance, if someone came up with that name in music or otherwise.
“As soon as you hear it, you know it’s something exciting, but it’s really mysterious”
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
THSC: In five days I will be in Baltimore, still working on music. I’m working on a few more songs. In five months, I will still be in Baltimore, playing more shows. My visuals will be more intense, there’s going to be a lot more involved with it. I’m learning 3D software to actually customize what is happening as I’m playing to a higher degree than what you’ve seen tonight. In five years, I’ll be touring the world.