Gary Flanagan began to experiment with sounds as a teenager. A series of early recordings, done while he was 17 and still a high school student, showed little indication of the synthpop that he would one day make.
"It was mostly just experimental sounscapes back then," says Flanagan, "I had no notion of songcraft or structure. I basically threw together a bunch of sounds through a mixer, recorded it to cassette and called myself TechNoir." (This moniker was inspired by the night club featured in The Terminator.) A few years later, Gary would start to call himself Beatbox 81.
It was around this time that he began to cultivate an appreciation for songcraft. Early demos at this time were met by harsh rejection by every record label that Flanagan approached. "In hindsight, this doesn't surprise me at all," says Flanagan, "I think the A+R people probably got a huge laugh out of those terrible songs." This was around 1993.
Having started out as an aspiring actor (he almost landed a gig in a beer commercial while living in Toronto), Gary soon turned his back on the acting community. "It just wasn't enjoyable anymore," he says. "I felt that there were so many politics, and at the end of the day, all I had was rejection. Most actors are starved for attention, and will do anything to hog the limelight. That's just not me. I figured that if I pursued a career in music, I may still be surrounded by rejection, but at least I'll still have the music."
Gary locked himself in his bedroom studio for hours at a time, cranking out tunes fast and furiously. In the beginning, it was only friends and family who got to listen to Gary's synthetic opuses. "The response I got from them was encouraging, so I felt like it was time to get my music out there. Most people seemed to be genuinely charmed by the fact that I was doing sincere, '80s flavoured new wave on flea market synthesizers." Soon, word of Gary's unique approach began to spread.
In early 1999, Gary was inspired to start Nightwaves, a fanzine dedicated to all forms of electronic music. The beginnings were humble, but soon readership was worldwide. "That little zine opened up some amazing doors for me…it's cool what some photocopied pieces of paper can do for you!" Past interviewees of Nightwaves have included Stephen Singleton (ABC), Ray Lynch, Robert Moog, Tracey Howe (Rational Youth), Joe Vizvary (Images in Vogue), Shades of Grey, Cosmicity, Stefan Doroschuk (Men Without Hats), Color Theory, Freezepop, Ron Mael (Sparks) and many others.
It was also in 1999 that Gary hooked up with David Richards, '80s afficianado and publisher of Lexicon, an acclaimed magazine dedicated to the '80s new wave and modern synthpop scene. David offered to release Gary's first demo CD-r, Anthems For the Young At Heart, on his then fledgling Ninthwave label, and response to this odd CD-r was positive.
Gary soon began to cultivate a small following on the underground synthpop scene. His followup CD-r, Another Coin in the Daydream Machine, was released by Ninthwave in 2000. It was Gary's friend C.S. Graves who offered to release Dressed in Black in 2000, a collection showcasing Gary's more dark and obscure musical side. This CD-r was a minor hit on local campus radio and showed a side of Gary that few synthpop fans were aware of. Gary also formed a side project with Mister Graves called Dream Sequencer.
In 2001 Gary began to play live. His debut performance was at Electrobash in Fredericton, New Brunswick in the fall of that year. Gary was also one of the show organizers, and is a founder of BFM Productions, together with Jenn Brayton and Rod Marquart. Gary also formed another side project with Mr. Marquart, the quirky and bizarre collective known as Pillbox.
"I had such an amazing time at Electrobash," says Gary, "it was magic." A series of further live appearances are scheduled for the remainder of this year.
In 2001, Gary was taken under the wing of Cohaagen Music. Future Fashion, his fourth CD of material–and the first to be an official, pressed album–will be released in October, and production has been handled by the acclaimed synthpop duo Ganymede. "This disc is a little present for all the '80s children out there. We wrote some new songs and made full-fledged productions out of some of my demos. I'm sure that everyone will enjoy it!"
The music of Gary Flanagan is a celebration of the warmer side of electronic music. It is catchy and positive, simple and direct. It is the attitude of 1981, an orchestration of 4/4 beats, night clubs, boys and girls and electronic sincerity. Turn it on and take a trip back…
A fifth album was released in 2006, entitled "Rhapsody in Black".