DJ Zerotonine on his underground club night Laser Highway
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DJ Zerotonine on his underground club night Laser Highway

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Laser Highway – the monthly club night dedicated to synthwave, outrun and more from the retro-future – is steadily evolving from being the underground club night born from the mind of DJ Zerotonine, to a global hive of like-minded individuals. 

Zerotonine, known to his mother as Cris Muscatello, launched Laser Highway to celebrate the sounds of the not-too-distant future, with events that would provide unique entertainment for performers and fans alike. The draw for Muscatello to this lesser-known style, as well as the people who show up for these distinctive parties, is its sonic style and its love of early digital synthesizer sound. “We completely forgot about it in the ‘90s and early ‘00s,” he says. “It started getting rediscovered and people were loving the arpeggiated sonic basslines.

“It’s a very digital medium but it’s also about art; laser grids, ‘80s sports cars, palm trees, taking the view of the future from the ‘80s, of what it was going to look like. It’s a blending of nostalgia and divergent future that never happened.”

Laser Highway is about experiencing the future by taking a step into the past and experiencing it through sound. “People really like the music and the style,” Muscatello says. “People that come to the club, they’ll dress up. There’s an element of cyber-punk culture which had been forgotten about. There’s a lot of melding of different styles and everyone finds a common ground.”

Muscatello has been a DJ for a number of years, beginning in breakbeats before going into more electro and progressive house. Then, he says, he fell out of love with music. “Not out of love,” he corrects himself, “I just felt it was quite stale. Then I discovered this genre of music about five years ago. All these producers were making all this stuff – it’s a genre that’s been born out of the internet. You could say the same about vapourwave or lo-fi hip hop, it’s all born out of all these people in diasporic areas all over the world, and a scene gets thrown out of that.”

Almost like a glitch, synthwave was born from a global digital community and it shows in Laser Highway’s inclusive club scene. “Some people got inspired by this and worked together,” says Muscatello. “It got out of the circle, not into the mainstream, but I think there’s a big draw in geek culture. It really is electro music that everyone can get into but doesn’t feel restrictive at all.”

In terms of the club’s attendees, Muscatello describes their involvement and energy as very passionate compared to his experience’s DJ-ing clubs of other genres. “I try to include as many people as possible – sex, race, gender, beliefs or whatever you have. In terms of participation, in other scenes, they’re consumers. They consume music, have a nice time, and go home. With us, people are talking to each other.

“People make friends at the club. There are people who have had entire relationships born out of coming and expanded their friendships circles”

That global reach has given rise to the opportunity for Laser Highway to host DJs from international shores. In an exciting Australian first for these circles, Laser Highway will play host to innovative DJ Phaserland, a forefront in his field because he’s such a creative mind.

“He was like, ‘I wanna come on a holiday.’ That’s how it happened,” Muscatello says. “The unofficial story is that we wanted our first international guest to have a more positive spin on synthwave. There’s darker and lighter styles and we decided for this one to go with the lighter side.

“It was also a good chance to pair Phaserland up with our two other featured live acts who are coming down from Sydney – Jordan F and Vast Hill.

“Phaserland brings all his keyboards and synths but he’s also a very accomplished guitarist. Almost all of his tracks feature him on his Les Paul guitar and he’s also lent his playing abilities to other big synthwave artists. It’s a really nice pairing to get all that sun-drenched sweet and nostalgic sound all in the one place.”