ReGen Magazine sits down with MOЯIS BLAK to discuss the origin of the project, what inspired his unique sound, and plans for the future!
An InterView with Brian Blaknoise of MOЯIS BLAK
By Ryan H. (DoktorR)
Drenched in the bleak contrast of red and black under the guise of MOЯIS BLAK, Brian Blaknoise has in a few short years risen to be one of the American industrial scene’s most vibrant artists. Through numerous collaborations and remixes, as well as a small but powerful set of his own material, the artist has almost singlehandedly elevated the sound of industrial bass to the forefront of the scene – blending the guttural and pulsating rhythms of techno and EDM with the grating distortions of industrial. As well, MOЯIS BLAK live shows have been growing steadily in stature and ferocity, making him one of the scene’s most anticipated acts to experience onstage. Performing at the Mechanismus Festival in Seattle, ReGen Magazine had the opportunity to catch up with Blaknoise to discuss his artistic evolution, touching on the important role that horror aesthetics – sound design and visuals – play in his distinctive style, even going so far as to offer a few recommendations in horror cinema. He also discusses his approach to collaboration and the numerous artists he has worked with, dropping a few hints of what is yet to come, including a new album and tour to appear in 2023.
Thanks for sitting down with us. Let’s just start at the beginning – share with us how you got into producing music. What was the origin of how you got into making music before MOЯIS BLAK came into being?
: I’ve been kind of fucking around with music ever since I was 16 or 17. The first thing I ever made on my own was just trying to figure out how to use Fruity Loops, and I made a song based on the movie Videodrome
because that’s what I mean. I still think it’s the coolest shit in the world, but I really thought it was the coolest shit in the world when I was 16. I was more into metal at that time, so I started getting into a few bands. I played bass, and there were a few in which I did kind of screaming vocals, and a few other ones, a lot of black metal bands. That was kind of my thing back in the day. I was in a lot of bands that sounded like bad Cradle of Filth; that’s the best way to describe it. Honestly, I kind of got frustrated with the band experience. I felt myself moving away from metal. I’ve always been interested in electronic music, and at that period, it was basically just industrial music – futurepop, aggrotech, all of that. That was my big thing, and then, I kind of just discovered this passion for electronic music as a whole.
I was also exposed to other artists; Infected Mushroom was a big one when I was younger, and also Deadmau5. I kind of got a new perspective on what electronic music could be when it’s not super dark, and eventually, I was kind of drifting more into real EDM. That’s when Skrillex was starting to become a huge thing, when I first heard that kind of dubstep sound. I had this big awakening that electronic music had so much potential in terms of being heavy. And then, Author and Punisher – another example of someone who pushes electronics in a different direction. And so, I kind of just fucked around with Ableton and Massive and other things, but I didn’t really have a whole lot of focus in my 20’s.
I was actually really inspired by the song ‘Pursuit’ by Gesaffelestein – that was a big one where I heard that and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is an EDM festival and I’m hearing this Gesaffelestein song and it’s just fucking industrial, right? This is just an industrial song!’ And that’s kind of when I really understood the potential of taking my love for industrial, just general dark electronics, and fusing it with this new heavy sound.
I had a lot of missteps. I had one little project called Blood Money that I eventually totally abandoned because I realized if you search ‘Blood Money,’ there’s no way to find me. So, I kind of just put all my eggs in the MOЯIS BLAK basket, but I promised myself I would do this thing for like a year and see where I’m at. And if I’m still shouting at the wind and getting like 200 plays on SoundCloud a track, fuck this, I need to focus and have a real life, be an accountant, I don’t know. But about six months into that, I got the attention of Pete Crane from Shiv-R. He was running Blind Mice Productions at that time, and I was a huge, huge fan of his work… I still am. I sent him my little demo. He really saw my potential and he put me on a couple of releases with him, and yeah, it caught on. I realized people were open to this idea that I had, and that’s awesome.
MOЯIS BLAK doesn’t just include your music; it’s also a lot about visuals, including the mask and your overall aesthetic. What inspired the design for the mask and the thought to wear it on stage?
: I’ve been interested in horror books and movies and just that general darkness, and I feel like in industrial music and the mid-tempo EDM stuff, there’s a lot of sci-fi imagery and, especially with mid-tempo EDM, they’re all in on cyberpunk. That is the thing right now. And I really do love sci-fi, but I wanted to be more true to myself, and I always wanted to present myself as more of a supernatural character. I originally had plans on keeping my identity anonymous and staying in full MOЯIS BLAK being – full kayfabe. I was really influenced by this artist called Phuture Doom. They’re most likely a bunch of EDM producers who wanted to do this weird project that’s a combination of like old rave music, black metal, industrial, and doom metal. There is genuinely nothing like it, and not only does it sound amazing, but everything they put out had a character to it. That was kind of my original plan, and if you scroll back to my old posts, you’ll see more of the MOЯIS BLAK character that started.
About the mask, it’s something about faceless things – faceless creatures – I just find haunting, just this staring into this fleshy void. There’s nothing you can connect to, and I wanted to be less of a person and more of a force up onstage. I’m much better at branding and marketing and everything in the music industry now, but even when I started, I knew, I couldn’t just be another guy making music with slightly above average design skills. I really needed to set myself apart and the mask was part of that. And there were a lot of artists doing masks at the time, but I made sure that I had a unique mask that I built and designed myself. I have a little bit of background in illustration, so I was able to do that, but I really wanted horror to be a big part of what I do.
When you put the mask on, do you feel like it helps you get into a headspace for performance as well? Is there that level up to where, ‘now it’s MOЯIS BLAK time’?
MB: Yes and no. People ask me this all the time. Is it easy to see and breathe out of that thing? No. I am an unprofessional mask maker – I kind of just figured it out. I use this plastic material that is more pliable when it’s heated – it’s like stuff that house players use – and I have chronic anxiety all the time. I hold it together pretty well for the most part, but it’s especially bad before I get onstage. I feel like the shakes within me; no matter how many times I play, it always happens. And as soon as I get out there and I feel the music and I see people start to move to it, I do become something different.
I’m a much more reserved person when I go to the club; I barely even dance anymore. It’s kind of a rare occasion that I actually get out on the floor or anything, but I’m up there, and I just let everything inside of me just come out and I’m throwing my body around. I do feel like, I guess… yeah, when I’m up there, I just am MOЯIS BLAK.
My new thing is halfway through my show, I’ll take off my mask mostly so I can breathe. But also, I realized it was one time when I did it because I was just too hot, and it got a cheer. I was like, ‘Oh, okay, well, I’m more comfortable doing this. You seem to like it. Let’s just do this now.’
You have a multitude of collaborations, and you tend to have your industrial bass sound featured very prominently when you work with other artists. Has there been an artist that you’ve collaborated with that you’d say has been your favorite so far?
MB: I’ve done four collaborations with Daniel Graves at this point, and he has been nothing but incredible to work with. And I think we made some cool songs out of it. I do a lot of production work for Danny Blu, and he’s become one of my favorite people to work with recently. I think what I’m doing with him is a little bit separate from MOЯIS BLAK because I’m doing a lot of production work for him. The song he just recently put out, called ‘Die Young’ – if you want to hear me doing something much more on the lighter side of MOЯIS BLAK, that’s been pushing me to try new things. I’ve been having a little more fun with it because working with him, I’m able to be a little more poppy and write things that are just infectious melodies. That has been awesome to do.
With a lot of the producers that I worked with over the years, not only did I think we made some pretty incredible songs, but I also learned a lot from them; especially because a lot of them have much more of a background in EDM and that specific kind of clean electronic production. Cable definitely influenced a lot of how my sound design works because he was one of the first people that I worked with, and we threw Serum presets back and forth. I feel like I definitely learned a lot just from working with someone who, in my opinion, is a more talented producer than I am. I am constantly in admiration of his work and I’m glad that I got to work with him. It wound up being one of my most popular songs, ‘Eyes of My Mother.’
Also, working with KALCYFR, who I met through Hybrid Blak, and everybody associated with Hybrid Blak I have slowly worked with. We’ve formed a little collective together; not only do we work on tracks together, but I will send everything I’m working on to them so that they will give their ears on it. They’re very, very particular with their listens, and it definitely influenced me as an artist.
I also wanted to highlight a very strange coincidence – Hybrid Blak is based out of the U.K., and they were the first people I met that were very interested in the crossroads of industrial and EDM. It’s mostly Mechanical Vein and Biomechanical, but for some reason, never having met each other, we both settled on Blak in our names. It’s very strange. I am also frequently misattributed as the creator of the industrial bass genre, and that is not really true. A few other producers were doing this, but I didn’t get it from them, and they didn’t get it from me; we all just came up with it at the same time. We settled on industrial bass because it’s very obvious; it describes very well what it is. Before people even hear it, they can get an idea of what I’m trying to do.
Are there any artists that you are interested in collaborating with? Some that are on your wish list?
MB: I’ll give you the most cliché goth answer… Trent Reznor. Working with Chelsea Wolfe or something would be really cool. There’s also Death Pact, which is actually an artist that has successfully retained his anonymous identity and has some of the darkest and heaviest EDM music I have ever heard. The things he does with sound design are amazing and I think we would just make an amazing track. I want to work with him so I can learn how to do the things with sounds that he somehow manages to do.
Let’s switch gears more towards you as an individual artist. Tell us the most surreal experience you’ve had as a musician up to this point.
: One very recent instance was being able to open for the legendary IC3PEAK in Massachusetts. It was a last-minute add and a super cool opportunity. Also, the Mechanismus Festival was the first major festival I actually got flown in for. I played a little festival in Boston… it wasn’t little – it was a full fucking festival, but in my mind, I don’t count it just because I was the local opener. Mechanismus was the first one since then and I’d grown a bit, so I was one of the later slots at night and it was a packed place. I heard people singing along to my music and it was just like, ‘Shit, I fucking did this. When did this happen?’ I feel like just yesterday I was sending my first EP to any promoter or DJ that would open up my e-mails, like, ‘Hey, give me a shot.’ And now, I have a sound, I have an ethos, I have a fanbase, and it’s actually going really well. That’s surprising and awesome.
Also, at Mechanismus, that was the first time I ever met Pete Crane, which was awesome. I saw him, I was really excited, and I went in to give him a hug, and he pushes me away. At first, I’m like, ‘Oh, shit. Is that the right guy?’ I was really confused for a second. And he’s like, ‘No, we have to do the Predator thing – ‘You son of a bitch!” But yeah, but that was really awesome to meet the person who had such a role in where I am now; I mean, I still close almost all my sets now with the song I did with him, ‘Erase Displace.’ It is definitely one of my more popular songs, and still one of my favorite songs. I love playing it. I can’t believe I got the opportunity to write it.
Speaking of songwriting and featured vocalists, have you thought at all about using your own vocals on a future MOЯIS BLAK track?
: I feel like I could probably train to be, but at this point, I just know so many talented people. I’m not a big fan of writing lyrics. I actually kind of enjoy writing itself, but writing lyrics and poetry in general… something about it just does not click with me. Maybe I’m too self-serious or something, but it just never really clicked. So, I’m giving you a resounding maybe because I also feel like MOЯIS BLAK, even though I love it right now and I’m going to continue doing this for the foreseeable future, isn’t a forever project. I feel like I am eventually going to want to do something else, but I don’t know what that is. I see how my music tastes have changed, yet stayed kind of the same over the past 20 years of my life. So, I expect to have some radical change where I want to do something totally different.
What about horror movie soundtracks? Are there any specific horror soundtracks that you feel you borrowed from or were inspired by?
MB: I think one of the soundtracks that really kind of influenced me was the one from Hereditary. It really was able to establish a sense of dread that I really loved. And also, It Follows definitely influenced a lot of my melodic sound and atmosphere. One of the first songs that I got a little bit of popularity with was based on that movie – I recreated the theme from it and put my own remix spin on it. Yeah, I really dig that one.
Also, I haven’t seen the movie, but recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of the soundtrack for the movie Smile. Even though I keep hearing it’s good, it still looks like garbage to me. I will see it eventually, but everybody who’s seen it has told me the soundtrack and the sound design was incredible, and I’ve been listening to it and studying it. Just the way that they work with sound is fascinating. It’s definitely, I would say, one of the best horror soundtracks I’ve listened to in a very long time. I’m not cosigning off on the movie though.
In a similar vein, are there any horror flicks that you could recommend to anybody reading this that you feel be worth their time?
: I kind of realized that this also might be like me accidentally track listing my Halloween album that I’m trying to put out next year. But Hereditary
, I feel like it’s so much a part of my brand now. Even sometimes on album art, I’ll slip in a little symbol from that movie. Everybody knows it’s amazing; it’s horrifying. Oh, and Funny Games
, which is probably the most bleak movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It literally punishes the audience for watching it. It’s one of those movies that I’ve never felt so empty and cold afterwards. It’s not a good experience. It’s a hard movie to recommend. But I do think that horror that is just so devoid of hope is a part of me. I love it. The Lighthouse
, which I think is probably the best Lovecraftian movie that we’ve had… and it’s funny too, which is very strange.
is great. I already did a song about that. The Thing
is probably one of my favorite horror movies of all time. I feel like most of my horror tastes lean in the last 10-15 years for the most part. I am a very strong believer that we are in a horror renaissance right now. Some of the best horror movies of all time are coming out right now, but the classics are the classics, and The Thing
still looks amazing to this day. It sealed my love for body horror. The formula of who’s killing who is still used to this day. I mean, the A24 put out a movie this year, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies
… that was really fucking great. And it basically follows all the same concept as The Thing
– they’re not sure who’s killing who. Okay, on the topic of bleak things, The Mist
I think is one of my favorite horror movies. I love the monsters. I love just ripping away all happiness at the end. Yeah, that’s probably enough. There’s a lot there. Oh, The Blair Witch Project
. I still think it’s one of the scariest movies ever made. It does so much with so little. I love it.
Switching back to music again, you’ve got a new album coming out here soon, correct?
: Yeah, I should be getting it out in January. We were just waiting on the last single, which I think I can confidently say now is going to be a second collaboration with Luna from S Y Z Y G Y X. It’s going to be a very, very hard techno track, and I’m excited to put that out. There are going to be a couple more tracks on it, including the last two singles. I put out ‘House of the Fallen Suns’ with Rabbit Junk and ‘Malevolent’ with Kofin. I’m very happy with it. There’s also going to be a collaboration with genCAB, that’s pretty cool. I’m definitely trying out different things with this specific release. I think people are going to really like it. I’m going to hopefully put out some type of physical form of it. I’d like to print some vinyl, but that’s so uncertain these days. It’ll be called Burial + Void
In 2023, after the album release, do you have plans to go back on the road at least?
: I’ve already got a pretty extensive North American tour being planned for May and June, and I’ll probably be doing a little more in the summer because of my day job. I will be touring almost exclusively in the summer from this point on, and I think I’m also going to be going out in January or something, but we’ll see. So really, I’m just focused on… yes, I want to get back on the road. I enjoyed most of my last tour experience, and I’m excited to bring all this new music out on the road. I kind of want to try a few new things with the project, like maybe have a few more you’re going to hear in this next album I’m releasing. I’m definitely trying a lot of different sounds, and in the next few months, I think it’s going to be a little more narrow and focused on this concept. I guess I want to just keep taking this project and seeing where it goes because it is not at all going from what I expected on day one. Now, it’s really proliferating into a lot of crazy stuff. I’m going to be putting out my first drum & bass tune pretty soon, I’m pretty excited about that one.
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Photography by Ted Petrosky of Epsilon Arts, courtesy of MOЯIS BLAK
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Live Photos by Samael Creative, courtesy of MOЯIS BLAK
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