Eric Bowr makes music under the name Broken Lamps. He works alone in his home studio building musical worlds that encapsulate mystery, dark beauty, and a feeling of being aged to perfection. There’s elements of classic Italian composers, which gives the songs an air of Bava, Leone, Fellini, and Argento. But Bowr is good enough that he doesn’t come across as copying. His “Original library music inspired by cult cinema and rare film soundtracks of the 60s and 70s” tips its hat to the classics while still retaining deft modern touches.
Of course, Eric Bowr started his musical life in a punk band.
But that’s the point of it all, isn’t it? The journey? How did a little kid from rural Pennsylvania who grew up during the height of “Satanic Panic” in the 80s end up touring in a punk band? Then end up comfortably secluded in a home recording studio creating beautifully curated soundscapes fit for a Giallo classic?
I sat down with Eric and we talked about all of this and more. Check it out below, won’t you?
J. Hubner: So tell me about yourself? Where did you grow up?
Eric Bowr: I grew up in a small town called Berwick in Northeastern Pennsylvania, renown for Wise potato chips and high school football. It peaked in the late 40’s to early 50s, due to tank production during World War II. As you can imagine, growing up there in the 80s, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. I gravitated towards music and skateboarding as a kid.
J. Hubner: Were you always interested in music in some form or another?
Eric Bowr: Music has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother was the church pianist, so her playing was constantly resonating throughout our household. I believe that’s where I started to develop an ear for it.
J. Hubner: Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money? Is it something you still revisit nowadays?
Eric Bowr: Dare I say Kiss? Well, I was intrigued by Kiss at a very young age, but I think the actual first record I bought was probably Twisted Sister’s ‘Stay Hungry’. Keep in mind, I was 9 years old at the time, but I have always been attracted to music that involved theatrics.
As for listening today, maybe once in a great while for nostalgic reasons.
J. Hubner: Listening to the Broken Lamps’ debut album, it sounds like you’re pretty adept at quite a few instruments. When did you start playing?
Eric Bowr: Yes, I’ve always had a knack for learning different instruments, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a master at all of them. That said, with the exception of picking up some piano from my mother, the first instrument I officially learned to play was saxophone in the 4th grade. Later that year, my dad gave me my first guitar; which he purchased at an auction for probably pennies. It was just this little half sized beginner’s acoustic, but I fell in love with it and still have it to this day. Since then, the guitar has always been my main instrument.
J. Hubner: Given that Broken Lamps is original library music, where did the love for library music come from? Were you a fan of horror and sci fi films growing up?
Eric Bowr: Absolutely, I’ve always been heavily attracted to horror and sci-fi films for as long as I can remember. To this day, I rarely watch anything else. My brain is forever poisoned!
As far as library music, this is something I’ve really just delved into within the last 5 years. I’ve always been intrigued by it in films, but I’ve never really jumped down the wormhole as a musician until recently. What I find appealing is…the possibilities are endless. There are no set genres or limitations. It’s literally just mood music, specifically recorded for the soul purpose of atmosphere. Being influenced by a variety of different musical forms, I find this to be a very comfortable and creative space.
J. Hubner: Who are some artists that have made an impression on you over the years, both artistically and creatively?
Eric Bowr: I always find this to be the hardest question of any interview, because I have so many different interests. Let’s see if I can sum it up a bit.
As a teenager, I got heavily into punk rock. Naturally, being a horror fan, I was drawn to bands like The Misfits, The Cramps, TSOL, Bauhaus , etc. Later, I fell in love with 60s garage / psych music with bands like The Seeds, The Chocolate Watchband, among others. Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators had a huge impact on me! I still frequently revisit those records. I’ve also dabbled a lot in jazz, funk, and progressive music. I’m a big fan of the late 60s / early 70s Miles Davis records and a lot of the jazz fusion that was going on at that time. I like a lot of world music and classical. Being half Hungarian, I’m also very fond of Eastern European music. As far as film music, I love Piero Umiliani, Bruno Nicolai, Stelvio Cipriani, and of course, Goblin has been a big influence. Lately, I’ve been exploring a lot of early experimental electronic music, such as, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Italian composer, Daniela Casa.
Other than music, I enjoy art. I’ve always been fond of surrealism in the likes of Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch, even though the latter doesn’t really classify as surrealism.
J. Hubner: Before Broken Lamps, where were you making noise at? What other music projects have you been involved in over the years?
Eric Bowr: When I was 19, in 1996, I moved to Philadelphia and co-founded a punk band called The Strychnine Babies. We played around the US East Coast for a few years and frequented places like Coney Island High in NYC and Upstairs At Nicks in Philadelphia. In the early 2000’s, I played guitar and sang in a few other bands, but eventually decided to move on to pursue a career in audio production and engineering. In 2012, I decided to give it another go with my most recent band, A Brood Of Vipers. We played for a couple years and released 2 EPs, but I eventually grew tired of playing live and went back to the studio. In a way, this led me to the realization of what I really feel comfortable doing. My passion lies more in the creative process and not so much in performing.
J. Hubner: So the realization that you prefer being in the studio, as opposed to the stage, seems like the perfect time to begin a project like Broken Lamps. Is that how it started?
Eric Bowr: I started recording music for this project almost immediately after A Brood of Vipers disbanded in mid 2014. I’ve always felt constrained to keeping up a rock persona that I created for myself at a young age. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just felt that at this point in my life, I had much more to offer and many more interests to convey. Also, the idea of instrumental music was very appealing to me. Sometimes I feel that adding lyrics almost immediately brands a song. Whereas, an instrumental piece allows the listener the freedom of painting their own picture. After all, music is an art-form and I feel it should be perceived that way.
J. Hubner: So this leads to your debut Broken Lamps LP, Turn Signals. How long was the process for making this record?
Eric Bowr: Well, it’s funny, because Turn Signals was never really meant to be released. These were just songs I was experimenting with. They were recorded over the course of the year, in 2015, and periodically uploaded to Soundcloud. I would make videos for them here and there strictly for fun. It was actually Michael Figucio (aka Vi-Res) that heard the songs and persuaded me to release them as an album. I’m very grateful that he did, because I am genuinely happy with the tracks.
It’s always a good sign when you sit on something for a while, and it still brings you satisfaction in the end. Even though this music is very period focused, I still strive to make it timeless. I feel the wait is starting to become an important part of the process for me.
J. Hubner: Is everything we’re hearing on the album you? Where did you record? It sounds amazing, btw.
Eric Bowr: Thank you very much! Yes, this album is all me. It was recorded in my home studio using a combination of various vintage gear. I also used a few sample libraries for strings and some other finishing touches. My choice DAW is Logic.
I also freelance as a mixing and mastering engineer, so audio is generally my forte.
J. Hubner: What’s the writing process like for you? Library music is typically recorded with moods and ideas in mind, not necessarily a specific guide or scene to go on. Were you just imagining scenes in your head and trying to recreate them through music? How long does a piece typically take for you to create?
Eric Bowr: It always varies. I went through a period where I was creating graphic artwork first and then writing songs that correspond with it. I also sometimes write in response to certain films that I like. For instance, ‘Anamnesis’ was written to a combination of the mondo documentary film ‘Witchcraft ’70’ and Kenneth Anger’s ‘Lucifer Rising’. Other times, I find a melody on a certain instrument and craft a song from that. Wherever the inspiration comes from, I just try to go with it.
J. Hubner: Has anyone asked to use any of these song for anything, or is ‘Turn Signals’ just for you(and others to enjoy of course.)
Eric Bowr: As a matter of fact, I have been approached by a few people. One being a documentary and a few other short films. Unfortunately, I can’t really disclose any further information at this time, because the projects haven’t been finalized yet.
J. Hubner: Do you ever play these songs live?
Eric Bowr: I haven’t played anything live yet, but I have thought about it. I think it would be a pretty big production if I decided to do so. I’m a bit of a purest with certain things, so it would probably involve carrying a lot of heavy stuff, haha. If it were to happen, it would most likely only be a few shows, no big tours or anything like that. I do however have the means of putting a band together and have had conversations with people about it.
J. Hubner: I’ve gotta ask, what are some of your cinematic inspirations? What movies have helped mold you?
Eric Bowr: Wow, this one’s almost as hard as the music question!
Let’s see, I was a big fan of Hammer Horror films growing up, along with films directed by Mario Bava. I think some of this can be heard on a track like ‘Gallows’. Rosemary’s Baby has stuck with me for most of my life. I love 70s occult films in general, both low and higher budget. I feel like this influence surfaces a lot in my music. Of course, Dario Argento films were a big influence that encouraged me to explore the giallo genre in more depth. This in turn led me to discover a lot of great music and composers. I’m also a fan of some of the early Jess Franco’s films. Some of the soundtracks for films like Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed in Ecstasy, and even Les Demons were simply amazing. I actually have a song on my next album ‘Kaleidoscope’ that covers that sound quite accurately.
This is really just brushing the surface. Between film and music I can go on forever. Maybe we need to have a different interview dedicated solely to these subjects!
J. Hubner: Hey, I’ll hold you to that other interview! Until then, where would you like to see Broken Lamps in five years?
Eric Bowr: Well, I think the description says it all, “Original library music inspired by cult cinema and rare film soundtracks of the 60s and 70s.”
I would like to build a library of interesting music that celebrates this unique time in music and film. For me, this was a time of great inspiration and experimentation with a bit of an untold story that lies beneath. I would say, my 5 year plan is to record and release as much as possible focusing on a different style each time. Obviously, this music is meant for film placement, so I will be exploring that more as well.
Check out Eric’s project Broken Lamps and the debut album Turn Signals over at Bandcamp. Snag a limited cassette version of the album while they’re still available. And keep up with Broken Lamps at www.brokenlamps.com.