Bryan Black returns to his industrial roots with a performance at this year’s ColdWaves V, speaking with ReGen on the evolution of his corrosive techno stylings over the course of over two decades.
An InterView with Bryan Black of Black Asteroid
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
You’ve been spearheading Black Asteroid for the past five years now. In what ways has Black Asteroid enabled you to pursue avenues of music and production compared to your past outlets (i.e. MOTOR, Haloblack, etc.)?
Black: I’ve taken all the things I’ve learned from those projects and put them into Black Asteroid. I’m also my own boss again, which feels nice. I don’t have to compromise my music in any way and am open to explore and experiment in any way I want. I’m making techno with a different approach than others, which is fun. I am writing techno in a traditional pop song format as I get bored with loop based music.
Most of your releases with Black Asteroid have been shorter EPs and singles, and this seems to be an approach many artists are using in the digital age. What are your thoughts on the album format, both in the world of music as a whole, and how it pertains to you specifically?
Black: I love the LP format. I still think in terms of a 10 track LP, two sides. I like the idea of writing album tracks, which have space to be deeper, more experimental, and not competing for chart positions. The LP format doesn’t apply so much these days, and there is no physical format for it to exist anymore. For a dance album, it takes four pieces of vinyl. The CD is dead. Having said that, I will always write with the LP in mind – it’s engrained in me. The romantic notion of making an album will never leave me. For the dance market, an EP is a way to launch new music and excite the market without the long haul commitment of an LP.
Also in Black Asteroid, you’ve collaborated with the likes of David Meiser and Cold Cave – how did you come to work with them, and in what ways do your feel those collaborations took Black Asteroid’s music to the next level?
Are there any other collaborations you have in the pipeline that you’d like to share with us, or any that you’d like to see happen?
Black: I remember being in the studio with Chris Liebing, mixing down ‘Black Moon,’ which was an instrumental at that time with another name. We kind of said how it would be amazing with a vocal, and then from there, I made a list of vocalists, and Cold Cave was at the top of that list. My friend Douglas McCarthy introduced us, and we eventually recorded three songs together, all of which will be featured on my LP. I also enlisted Zola Jesus, Camouflage, and Michele Lamy as vocalists.
You’ve been recently announced as one of the performers at this year’s ColdWaves festival. What are your thoughts on how ColdWaves differs from other festivals? What makes ColdWaves special in your mind that you decided you wanted to take part in this year’s event?
What can fans expect from your performance at CWV? Is there any chance we might hear some tracks from your past creative outlets?
Black: Well, for me, it’s just a great opportunity to pay tribute to the scene which launched me. I have somehow never let go of that movement. Industrial music has been a signature in all my music, so it’s nice to be able to see it full circle. I will be playing a more industrial/techno set and I hope to weave in some older material.
Much of your music, while loved and appreciated by the industrial scene, seems to have always had its pulse firmly in techno and minimalist electronica – what are your thoughts on the way your particular style has found its footing in these different scenes?
Black: I lost interest in the industrial scene when it went heavy metal. I was always attracted to the sampling side of things – playing shows for $50, and traveling the country in a broken down van lost its appeal after the second record. I met someone during the recording of my second album, and we moved to London. I became a graphic designer and studied the visuals arts with the idea of becoming a filmmaker. At this time, I rediscovered techno music and had an idea to make techno with an industrial heart, and that’s how I got back into the game.
How important is it for you to keep up with the latest developments in music technology? What is exciting you the most in that regard, what new gear or software is appealing to you at the moment?
What sorts of developments would you like to see in the tech and how both you and new artists will be utilizing them?
Black: I am working with some modular synths at the moment, but otherwise, I avoid technology trends. I don’t believe in using presets – I spend insane amounts of time designing sounds from scratch.
You had begun your career working with Prince as a sound designer at his Paisley Park studios; given his recent passing, are there any thoughts or anecdotes you’d like to share about your association with him?
Black: His work ethic is something I will never forget. He was also the best at every instrument he played. He lived and breathed music 24/7 in a way I’ve never experienced. I’ve written about this subject for a Prince book being published in Japan.
What’s next for Black Asteroid?
Black: I started a label and released an EP recently. I am talking to a few labels about releasing an LP now. I am touring on most weekends now.
I’ve also been approached to write for a major motion picture out in Los Angeles, so I’m excited to experiment with that format.
Photography by Timothy Saccenti – courtesy of Black Asteroid