The Real OK Boomer is a new downtempo / chillhop / lo-fi project from Pete Rivett-Carnac of Single Gun Theory. Debuting with “Exorcise This Wasteland” in 1986, Single Gun Theory was known for combining creative sampling and sound manipulation with strong vocal-driven songwriting. The group released two more albums in the ’90s, “Millions, Like Stars in My Hands, The Daggers In My Heart Wage War” and “Flow, River of My Soul” and did soundtrack music for the film “The Monkey’s Mask” (2001). On “Consume. Be Silent. Die,” the debut EP from The Real OK Boomer, Rivett-Carnac explores new musical directions, but fans will hear hints of his past work. Now based in Singapore, Rivett-Carnac answered questions about his new project via email.
What time frame does this material cover?
Pete Rivett-Carnac: It all happened very quickly. I was in Berlin in July last year, and – it being the center of the universe for electronic music – I wandered into a music store to take a look. The Native Instruments Maschine was on sale for about half of what I’d pay back home, so I bought it on an impulse. It was super-inspiring – I spent a couple of months just playing with it and then started writing music with it around October. The five songs on the EP were all written very quickly in the first week of December around my birthday. I spent the next three or four weeks mixing and mastering them, and voila! Done.
Have you made any other music since Single Gun Theory, and if so, how did it compare stylistically to that group and The Real Ok Boomer?
Pete Rivett-Carnac: I’ve done a bunch of collabs over the years (Tegan Northwood, Joyless, The Gaza Strip and Valley Forge/Clan Analogue), but this is my first solo project. The music on the collabs was very different from the real ok boomer – some acoustic, some post-punk, some experimental, etc. The real ok boomer is – no surprises here! – just authentic me. To be honest, it’s really refreshing to be able to just release stuff without having to conform to any particular style or agenda. It’s such a sense of freedom. If I want to write a political song, [email protected]#k it – here you go. If I want to write a trap/drill song with lots of profanities, again – it doesn’t matter. With SGT, there were unwritten rules that certain things and certain musical styles weren’t appropriate, because fans expected something consistent. That’s understandable, and I have no issue with that. But with this solo project, I can create anything I want and I won’t be destroying a legacy. I can also continually change my style and my output. People may not like it, but that’s fine – there are always niche audiences, you just have to find them. My golden rule is to make something that I want to listen to myself, and hopefully someone, somewhere will also like it. I’m doing that with this project.
What made you choose the name The Real Ok Boomer?
Pete Rivett-Carnac: lol! There’s not much of a back story there. I’m actually a real baby boomer – with two teenage kids even – and when choosing the name, I wanted to try and make it clear I wasn’t young. I loved the whole “ok boomer” thing (rightfully) lampooning my generation, so I tried to register okboomer.com, but someone had already grabbed it two weeks earlier, so I went for therealokboomer.com instead. I like that it’s kind of silly but also representative of our times – even Trump’s Twitter is @realdonaldtrump. And so many bands I listen to just have names that you’d use on a forum; e.g. Alexander23. My kids thought it was funny – and liked it – so it was a done deal (and they have the most intense, deep knowledge of the global music scene, it’s scary).
Is there anything that you feel influenced or inspired this music?
Pete Rivett-Carnac: I guess there have been a couple of things. First, I’ve been wanting to write music again for quite a few years, but I’ve been building a video game. Holy @#$%, building a video game is SO much harder than I thought! I finished it though (eventually), and last year I started thinking about music again. And then in Berlin last July, the Maschine was the catalyst that reignited the lerve. 🙂
The other inspiration was…Trump. What? 🙂 I should say my loathing of the guy – I’m really not a fan. Anyway, I’ve always been very interested in politics but his election really sparked a Google journey for me – from 2016 I was reading about American politics pretty much every day (and still do), trying to understand HOW THE FUCK THIS HAPPENED (apologies if anyone reading this is a Trump fan – I definitely don’t hold that against anyone, we all have our reasons for our beliefs and they’re all equally valid). But anyway, Trump’s election essentially radicalized me to the far left (not the violent bomb-throwing variety, just the garden “even the Dems are way too far right for me” type), and this has manifested in the music.
Musical technology evolved quite a bit during your time with Single Gun Theory and has changed even more since. How have advances in the tools affected your creative process?
Pete Rivett-Carnac: Oh man – the changes have been massive, and they’re part of the reason that we’re in a kind of golden age of musical creativity – there’s never been so much fantastic, blindingly original music available. And it’s because all those people who were being locked out of the recording industry can now just bypass it and make music at home. All this hidden, latent talent has been unlocked, so instead of my kids growing up with Elton John or Bryan Adams they have bedroom studio musicians like Billie Eilish and Finneas, or even just unsigned Youtubers like bad snacks or Virtual Riot releasing all this great stuff. Doja Cat’s another example – she wrote “Moo” on her bedroom computer with a bunch of friends on Reddit. I love that the world’s creativity has been enabled like this by tech, it’s so egalitarian.
The tech has totally changed how I write. I don’t have any musical training, so back in the 80s/90s when I heard something I liked, I’d pick up my guitar and work out the chords and melody by playing along with the song. That was fine, but it’s time-consuming and it’s difficult to get it right for complex chords. Enter the 21st century and Melodyne: now when I hear a really cool chord sequence and I want to understand why it’s so nice, I just fire up Melodyne and it shows me the chords. That’s why the EP has a bunch of (for me) really complex soul/jazz chords and modulations, whereas my SGT chord progressions were generally just majors, minors and the occasional sus4. The final result is still my creation, but now I have a music teacher: my computer.
There are so many other things: time and pitch stretching is so simple and quick now, and the quality has improved massively. And those chopped vocal samples that Kiiara and others use? That’s just a vocal loaded into Serato Sample, and then playing around with the locator/trigger sequences. The thing that blows me away with all this is that Serato Sample cost me about 50 bucks in last year’s Black Friday sale – it’s not like the old days where you’d have to spend thousands of dollars on synths.
Even mixing and mastering has been revolutionized: tools like iZotope’s Tonal Balance Control are simple but so useful (it shows you the frequency ranges you’re using compared to the expected frequencies for that genre). FabFilter’s Pro-Q 3 EQ shows you where frequencies overlap, so you can cut and boost appropriately to make space for everything. And Sonarworks Reference 4 is a secret weapon: it applies an EQ curve to your speakers that matches your room acoustics, so your mix sounds good on anything. Plugins like Ozone and Softube’s Weiss MM-1 just do the work for you when it comes to mastering – it’s pretty much “set and forget”. I feel quite confident with my mixing and mastering now, and it’s not because my skills have improved over the years, but because the software is simply so good at doing its job.
Are there any things that the current technology can do that you wish was possible back in your days with SGT?
Pete Rivett-Carnac: I think I’ve pretty much covered it in my rant above. Bottom line is that I’d have loved to have had ALL the tech we have today! But we have it now so it’s all good. 🙂
When did you relocate to Singapore? Is there anything about the music scene there that you’d like to mention?
Pete Rivett-Carnac: We moved here in 2002, right around the time of SARS, so Covid-19 is pretty much a non-event for us. I’m not really involved in the local music scene here apart from collabing with my friend Cindy and her project Joyless.
Are you performing at all, or is The Real OK Boomer a studio-only project?
Pete Rivett-Carnac: Studio-only, but I’d love to perform – that would be so much fun! It would be very focused on video, as making video is my latest passion (along with rediscovering music). I kind of need to build a following first though. 🙂
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Pete Rivett-Carnac: I’m aiming to be way more prolific than during the SGT days. I already have another three songs almost ready to go, and I’d like to release music much more regularly; e.g. a single at least every 2 months if possible, ideally more often. Hopefully the tech will help me do that – we’ll see.
Also, I’d just like to say that there’s this really loyal bunch of people scattered around the world – including you Bob – who still support SGT, and it’s really nice. I know I can speak for Kath and Jacq in saying that we all really appreciate that. Jacq I guess has already been well aware of it since she has her own solo project and her band Ciive, but it’s only really clear to me now and it’s so nice – various blogs and others around the world who still support us. So thank you everyone. 🙂