I first heard B.L.A. when Trendy Bastard played with him a few years ago. Always into checking out new local groups, I was immediately intrigued when I heard there was going to be this younger kid doing lo-fi electronic stuff on keyboards and stuff at the show - it was right up my alley! We met and soon released his "Lo-Fi Hi-Hopes" album on cassette via Sassbologna Records. This guy is one of few artists I've worked with who lives very near me and I've actually had the pleasure of meeting in person. Recently I asked the man behind the music a few questions:
Q: when did you first get into music?
A: Well, I suppose I have always been surrounded by music. My father is a drummer so growing up there was always something to play on. I started on the drums, although I haven't played acoustic drums for a while so I'm kinda rusty. Most of what I listened to as a kid was classical music, and alternative rock. I loved listening to my dad's records too. He had a lot of really great ones (Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke) and it was great to be exposed to that at an early age. I took piano while in grade school and guitar lessons in high school. I really didn't like taking
lessons, but it did help with a lot of the fundamental stuff.
Q: when did you start making your own music?
A: As a kid I always tried to record things on my dads equipment, but I really started making my own songs around 9thgrade. I started with a Casio keyboard. It was a cheap one, but it had Midi support. My dad gave me his old windows 98 computer and that's all I had for a while. Even then, I still tried to be creative with it. The first song I made used sound samples taken from a Simon game.
Q: what/who are some of your biggest influences?
A: Starting out, I really didn't know about a lot of the great (unheard of in the U.S.) electronic musicians. My first influence then would be my family. Later I began to look up people, and learned about the pioneers of electronic music. People like Bob Moog, Bruce Haack, Jean Jacques Perrey, and Jean Michel Jarre. I was amazed at what could be accomplished with synthesizers. I loved the sounds of those early instruments, the analog sound. That was the direction I wanted to go but, if you ever look up the prices on modular synths, it wasn't a very cheap direction. At the time I worked in fast food, so it was a rather ridiculous dream.
Q: when did you start creating your own instruments and circuit bending and such, did you teach yourself how to do so?
A: I have always been into electronics. I remember taking apart my toys as a kid to see how they worked. One of my favorite pastimes as a child was desoldering components from circuit boards. When I realized I wasn't able to afford the keyboards I wanted, I thought I might be able to make something myself. While searching online for schematics I found circuit bending. I liked the idea of it, of using discarded toys to make sounds with. I'm not really into bending anything that's rare though. Some toys are better left alone. So I began to work with what I had. I built some really basic oscillators and filters. And started searching Goodwill and the other thrift stores for toy keyboards and things. I have quite a collection now. Most of what I know I learned on my own and with my dad. I did take some college classes on electronics though. It was fun and I learned a lot of the actual science behind what I was working on.
Q: most electronic musicians these days main tool is the computer.. how much do you use a computer in your creative process.. can you talk a bit about how you construct a song typically..the process?
A: I didn't like the idea of using computers to make music. I wanted all the knobs and switches to play with. I kind of thought that using a computer was cheating. Now I have learned a lot about the amount of work some people put into it, so I don't think computers are bad. There are many people out there though, who abuse computers. Just rearranging pre-made loops does not make you a composer. For the first two or three years, I only used the computer to record to, or recorded to reel-to-reel. Any effect I used was done by my machines, or ran through guitar pedals. Now, it's a bit mixed. I use some programs, mainly for drum programing. I also use tracker programs for some work, mainly music I have made for computer games.
As for my process, it isn't very complicated. I will often just play around with things, turning knobs and stuff until I have a sound I really like. Then I try to make a drum track that sounds good with it. I usually don't start recording until I have a good idea of where the song's going. Then it's usually drums first, then bass, then strings or “pad” sounds, and leads. Sometimes I add guitar, and rarely vocals. Recently I have been doing a lot with samples. In that case, I find a beat or loop I like and base the rest of the song off of that. It works quite well and has created some really unique songs. After all of the tracks are recorded, I add little touches and master everything. A big advantage of owning my own recording equipment is that I don't have to rely on anyone else to master my work for me. I couldn't stand having to wait to visit a studio to record a final version. I can do everything from the comfort of my home.
Q: have you always worked solo? have you played with other musicians or do you have any desire to?
A: I have played with several bands, it was fun, but nothing actually happened. I find it to be much easier working alone. Some days I don't feel like recording, other days I'm up until four in the morning working. When your in a band, everyone has to agree on a practice time. We are currently working on a recording studio that is attached to our house. It won't be open to the public for a while yet, but when it is I think I will be doing a lot more work with other musicians. Keyboard set-ups aren't the easiest thing to move around, but guitars are. And we already have a beautiful set of in-house drums.
Q: how many albums have you "put out" / about how many songs have you composed?
A:I'm really embarrassed by my early work, but if you count all of that, it's four albums. The latest of which, coincidentally, is on your record label. As for unreleased work, I have two full albums done, but never released. There are a bunch of other albums that I am adding to a little at a time. I also have a large amount of work I have done on commission. Your question made me curious, as I have never added them up myself, but all in all, I have composed 167 songs. And I even left out the really bad ones, and all of my really long experimental noise tracks. That also doesn't count the songs that are half done, sitting in the to-do folders.
Q: what are some of your interests / activities besides making music?
A: I'm a big fan of video and computer games. I like to read, mostly science fiction books. I enjoy writing short stories and poetry. My biggest hobby though, is collecting antiques. My house is filled with antiques and interesting things I have collected over time. I have a large record collection, which helps with finding samples. And many many old books.
Q: do you have any projects in the works?
A: The next album I would like to release is called “Wide Doors Open” and is a collection of all the sample based songs I have been making (several tracks of this are currently on my MySpace page). It's finished, but I'm still thinking of how best to release it. The project I am currently working on a darker, harder album titled “Harlotry Index” which is an anagram of my name. “Harlot” has a different meaning today, but in the past could mean any rouge or thief so the title means “List of rouges”. I think it will be very cool.
Q: do you enjoy performing live? and do you have any plans to do so in the future more?
A: Honestly, I don't really like playing live. It frightens me. But, people like hearing bands live and I would be happy to play wherever anyone wants to hear me. I think the problem is that there aren't very many other electronic groups in this area. The last show I played at was mostly rock/punk bands, I felt like “What am I doing here?” Everyone was very supportive though, it wasn't a problem.
Q: what is the goal or message of BOLD LITTLE AIRWAVE if any?
A: Originally there was no message. Seeing as how the music had no lyrics. But I suppose if I am going to have a message, it would be this. “Hard work and creativity will always prevail over wealth and vanity.” I want to make electronic music, and have spent every dollar I have earned into making that dream real. Everything I play is used equipment. Many things I use, I have had to repair myself. I encourage everyone to support local musicians, and to seek out individuals who would rather put heart into their music, than cash into their wallets.
Q: not long ago, you did your first song ever(that i know of anyway) with vocals -
A: do you plan to do more vocals on future recordings?
Yes, I believe I will. One of the tracks on “Wide Doors Open” has my voice on it. On the track “Scimitar” (which is also on MySpace) I do some kind of slow chanting. It fit really well, although I don't know if that necessarily counts as singing. I plan to do more singing on “Harlotry Index”
Q: are there any other progressions happening with the music? new instruments/gadgets/gear etc. in the future?
A: Most of our resources are going into finishing the studio right now. We still have the guitar room left to do, and some minor drywall work. After taking a break, I am doing more circuit bending again. I also found a Speak and Read recently, which will probably be lending its voice to my music pretty soon. About four or so months ago, we were given a large gift of some 1950's amplifier rack equipment and electronics testing supplies. It's taken lots of hard work, but I hope to have some of that up and running soon.
Q: anything you'd like to say to anyone who might be reading this?
A: Thank you for reading all of this. It is a great compliment to know that others enjoy what I do. It is that which keeps me going. For all that I have done, there will always be those who have the latest software, the vintage stratocasters, and the whitest smiles. Knowing that somewhere, on this planet, someone heard their songs, and mine, and said “I choose the latter” is the greatest victory I could ever hope to achieve.
LINKS: myspace, B.L.A. on youtube