May 2024 13

Gaze into the black vastness of Infinite Darkness as ReGen speaks with Bryan Black about his latest album under the banner of Black Asteroid.
 

 

An InterView with Bryan Black of Black Asteroid

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

For more than three decades across numerous projects, beginning in the ’90s with Haloblack, Bryan Black has approached techno and electro/industrial music with the adventurous spirit of an astronaut. Working under the moniker of Black Asteroid since 2011, he has pushed the boundaries of rhythm and texture, redefining the parameters of modern music, and merging it with the visual splendor of monochrome imagery and high fashion. Picking up where 2017’s Thrust album left off and crafted over the course of five years, Infinite Darkness sees Black continuing to engage the audience with his decidedly monotone sound design and penetrating beats, imbued with melody by the presence of some notable guest vocalists like The Cult’s Ian Astbury, Jason Corbett of ACTORS, Front Line Assembly, Louisahhh, longtime collaborator Michele Lamy, Blush Response, and Speedy J. ReGen had the opportunity to speak with Black about the album’s creation and the evolution of his artistic and musical approach; here, he touches not only on his songwriting and the grittier aesthetics of his early work, but also on the significance of the color black in his work, his interest in science, fashion, AI, the relevance of record labels, digital vs. physical formats, and more.

 

First of all, how are you? How’s your health?

Black: Good morning! All good here. I have felt much better mentally and physically in the last two years since I incorporated fasting and walking into my routine. I really enjoy the time alone wandering the city and listening to music and podcasts.

You’ve released numerous singles, EPs, and remixes since 2017’s Thrust. First of all, do you find that your approach to composition and production changes when your focus is on a full album versus the smaller and more singular releases?

Black: Yes, EPs for me are more dancefloor focused. I released two EPs since Covid – Acid Flesh with Risa Taniuguchi in Japan, and Flesh for PLS UK, which were very dancefloor based.
I didn’t really know I had an album until I finished ‘Dirge Out’ with Ian Astbury. After recording this song, I decided to compile what I had and start organizing what an album might look like.

Secondly, the last time we spoke (in 2016), I’d asked about your thoughts on the relevance of the album format, and you’d said, ‘The LP format doesn’t apply so much these days, and there is no physical format for it to exist anymore.’ In the years since, especially as the popularity of vinyl has risen, and with Artoffact releasing Infinite Darkness in vinyl, CD, and digital formats, has your outlook changed on this at all?

Black: Considering most people who buy vinyl do not even own a record player, I love the physical format, whatever it is. But I think we are digital nomads now. When Artoffact suggested making a physical CD package, I was at first taken back, but considering this album was a little throwback to my 1994 debut, I embraced it. I wrote some extensive liner notes for the CD release, and enjoyed spending some time making a special package.

 

 

Infinite Darkness is your first album with Artoffact Records. What are your thoughts on the traditional models of releasing music and how it applies to you? Moving forward, do you think we will still be bound to record labels?

Black: In the past, there was quality control, music tastemakers, etc., so that to release music to the public, you had to impress a label. This meant there was much less music being released, and more attention to it.
Now, there is really no need for a traditional record label, as an artist can reach fans directly on social media. I decided to work with Artoffact because I liked the music they were releasing, and longed to be part of a family again. Also, it’s good to have someone pushing you and Artoffact are really on top of things.

Infinite Darkness seems an appropriate title given your visual aesthetic across your many projects, and particularly Black Asteroid (and even Haloblack before that). On top of that, fashion plays a huge part in that. As loaded and silly a question this might be, what is the significance of black as a color for you? What about black & white appeals to you, and in what ways does this relate to your music?

Black: Infinite Darkness refers to the potentially endless vastness of space, and how overwhelming this concept is. The fact we have discovered only 1% of the universe, I am so curious about what is out there and the basic unanswered questions in life.
I never really embraced black clothes until I started Black Asteroid. I guess it was just like a uniform. You don’t need to think too hard about your outfit, and there is something soothing about black for me. Colors are a big commitment. Also, around this time, the designer Rick Owens was using my music for his runway shows, so I got sucked into that world – a world that was also primarily black.

 

 

On Thrust, you worked with Cold Cave, Zola Jesus, and Michele Lamy. On Infinite Darkness, you have even more guests, including ACTORS, FLA, Blush Response, Speedy J, Louisahhh, Michele Lamy again, and Ian Astbury.
What is your approach to such collaborations? Is it simply writing music and presenting it to the other musicians, or do you find that the music changes shape based on what they contribute?

Black: I usually only work with artists who have a skillset I don’t have. I have always gravitated to working with vocalists who can really sing… like properly, not the robotic or monotone techno/industrial vocal. Zola Jesus has an opera-like vocal, and Ian Astbury has one of the most iconic rock vocals of all time. I love to hear vocals against cold machine driven music with minimal melody.

Are there any interesting stories about any of the collaborators on this album – how you met, how their approaches surprised you, random conversations, etc. – that you’d like to share?

Black: In the years since 2015, I released an album and several EPs. However, it was always in the back of my mind to record a second album. It was Ian Astbury who pushed me to finish it. I was on the bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo when he texted me, ‘You should call your record Infinite Darkness.’ How could I refuse? I had been following him for decades, and one day noticed he was following me on Instagram. On a whim, I sent him an eight-bar loop with a brilliant guitar from Rory Ohm. I didn’t anticipate that Ian would respond, and he did very favorably. We agreed that it would be cool to collaborate, and since I was already going to L.A. for a gig, I found a studio. I honestly didn’t know if he would show up, or if some imposter was using his account. Ian showed up. I watched on the studio security cameras as a black SUV pulled up. He rolled in with a bag full of notebooks, artbooks, pens, and stories. We talked for hours. Somehow, with only 20 minutes left in our session, he went to the booth and nailed the vocal in one take. This was the first time I recorded with a vocalist as they were writing the vocals in my presence. Normally, I would send the music to the vocalist, and they would record in their home studio and send it back. Rick Owens had just used a song from The Cult for a runway show. One of Rick’s models played guitar on our song. All these things happened independently of each other.

 

 

Just to fit in a bit of gear talk, are there any particular pieces of equipment that you’re especially fond of and that you feel you couldn’t create Black Asteroid without?

Black: I usually create my sounds from scratch inside of Logic Pro using the ES-2 synth. In recent years, I have been using more modular synths such as the Make Noise DPO, and Noise Engineering makes some amazing virtual synths and FX.

You’ve appeared at ColdWaves a few times, including a performance as Haloblack for the first time in 2022. What was it like to revisit the Haloblack material after so many years, especially for a live show? Do you feel that it’s something you might consider again, even if only occasionally, or would you say that your current songwriting and production style has evolved so far past Haloblack?

Black: There is a song on my new album called ‘Into my Body,’ which sounds like something I would have made in 1994 as Haloblack. I think things have really come full circle finally. I have always incorporated my vocals and distorted synths into my productions over the years, but I don’t feel a need to write as Haloblack since what I’m doing now is just an extension of that. The production is probably better now and more dynamic, but the raw energy and experimentalism of Haloblack is something I am still in awe of. I still regard my second Haloblack album, Funkyhell, as my best album.

 

 

What do you find to be the biggest difficulties with live performances right now, especially for bands and artists traveling internationally? What do you feel artists, labels, venues, the industry as a whole should take away from the pandemic and use or think about going forward?

Black: I got tired of drumkits and guitar amps and vans. When I discovered DJing, it was a revelation – I could travel alone with a few things and still perform. Although I do miss the band experience, I am much happier as a solo performer.

What are your immediate plans for performing live?

Black: I have been inviting vocalists to join me on tour from time to time. I might do more of this. There is something about a live vocalist that brings an element of danger and excitement into a club environment.

 

 

The rise of AI and its role in art, music, content creation, etc. has been a controversial issue; what are your thoughts on this, especially regarding the potential for abuse, where you see it developing and further affecting the landscape of art and music?

Black: AI is a great tool, but it needs strong curation and guidance. AI can make or generate genre music, but it cannot create anything new. So, I do not worry about it, but have been experimenting with it visually. I wouldn’t mind using it as a production tool, but up to now, it isn’t really helpful in the studio.

Outside of music, what do you most enjoy? What nonmusical activities give you the greatest joy now?

Black: The best part of touring (as a DJ) has been traveling and seeing the world. These days, I am more prone to bring some running shoes and explore. I am currently developing some exhibitions, which incorporate performance, art, and music – I am looking for a richer, more cerebral experience going forward. I have been digging deeper into fascinating subjects such as free will/determinism, travelling in fifth dimension tethered to third, AI neural networks, super intelligent AI, biotic pump, simulation argument, Fermi paradox, great filter, fasting, mycelium and tree networks, techno optimism, transhumanism, fusion/fission, dark matter/energy, vulnerability theory, climate AI, stem cells, etc.
I have always been fascinated by both art and science, and am leaning more into converging them now.

 

 

 

Black Asteroid
Website, Facebook, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube, Instagram
Artoffact Records
Website, Facebook, Bandcamp, YouTube, Instagram

 

Photography by Matthew Reeves, courtesy of Black Asteroid and Matthew Reeves Photography
Website, Facebook, Instagram

 

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