So normally when an artist releases a record there’s some time during the release process and afterwards where said artist enjoys the fruits of his or her labor. You know, maybe talking to press and magazines about the album. Or maybe pulling a stunt like dropping flash drives with the album on it from a hot air balloon over the yard of a maximum security prison. Better yet, write song names in colored, glowing gases in the atmosphere surrounding earth(or the next best planet you can afford.) Maybe infect servers of government agencies with various music videos of putty figures dancing using stop motion animation to some of the songs from that new record. These are pretty common things artists do to celebrate the release of a new record.
Well, most artists except Graham Reznick.
Graham released his debut album just a few months ago, the excellent Glass Angles via Death Waltz Originals. And before even the first flash drive could fall from the sky he’s already releasing another record. R0B0PHAS1A sees the noir-ish Los Angeles nighttime vibes of Glass Angles being replaced with cyberpunk Casio grooves and a dark, robotic pulse that puts a nightmare spin on Harold Faltmeyer’s 80s film score work. R0B0PHAS1A is like the soundtrack to a Choose Your Own Adventure book that takes place in a Tandy 1000.
There’s so much to dig into and get lost in with R0B0PHAS1A that you really just need to hear it for yourself. It’s brilliant work. I reached out to Graham about possibly talking about the album and how it came together. After a few days I received a .zip disk in the mail from an undisclosed address. Fortunately I’ve still got a Compaq Presario with a .zip drive so I was able to see what was on this mystery .zip disk. I found one file on it marked only as “Mr. S”. I clicked on it and Graham Reznick appeared in an all white room, heavily pixelated, sitting in a bean bag chair. In an effected voice, he gave me a phone number to call(on only a rotary phone no less) so we could discuss the album. Before the clip ended I was instructed to burn the .zip disk, which I did.
Here is our conversation. Enjoy.
J. Hubner: So you release your debut album Glass Angles earlier this year. Now, just a few months later you’re releasing a second album called R0B0PHAS1A . Do you have a hard drive filled with albums you’ve been quietly making for years in-between film shoots? Is there a 3rd record ready to roll? I’m ready if there is, btw.
Graham Reznick: There’s a lot of music in both the hard drives and the soft drives. And only some of it is any good! I definitely have a backlog of semi-complete stuff to eventually be released… but finding the time to finish it all is difficult. What might be the third album is actually pretty close to complete, however… and even more different than Robophasia was to Glass Angles.
J. Hubner: I’m just amazed at how great and unique in their own ways these two albums are. So let’s talk R0B0PHAS1A . What is the concept behind this record? What is R0B0PHAS1A ?
Graham Reznick: I wish I was allowed to talk about that.
J. Hubner: Oh, well okay. So, while I do hear similarities between the new record and your Death Waltz Originals debut Glass Angles, there’s something darker and denser about R0B0PHAS1A . The smooth, sleekness of Glass Angles has been taken over with a more choppy sound. A noir-ish cyberpunk score. It’s like A.I. attempting a cross between an 80s synth score and early hip hop breakbeats. It’s both disconcerting, alluring, and hypnotic. What or who were some influences on the sound?
Graham Reznick: When I finished Glass Angles, I wanted to make an ambient record consisting entirely of tracks like “Mulwray Drive.” So, I sat down, started working, and “Atomatics” just popped out – it was big, driving, psychedelic, rhythmic. About as far away from ambient as you could get. At the time I wasn’t sure how that happened, just that it was like I wasn’t even- sorry, shouldn’t talk about that.
As far as influences on this one, one name that immediately leaps to mind is 80’s synth and drum machine hero Harold Faltermeyer. I think the score for Beverly Hills Cop is one of the great synth/drum machine works of all time. Not Axel F specifically, but all the general underscore throughout the film. Most of which has never been released on its own. Hopefully some day! Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” is another big one.
J. Hubner: Did you approach the writing of this record differently than Glass Angles? Were you working in the same sonic world, instrument-wise and recording-wise?
Graham Reznick: It was a very different approach for me, but, not because I wanted it to be. The tracks themselves had a mind of their own. With Glass Angles I wanted to express a feeling I already had; with Robophasia, the feeling came, and the music presented itself. Sometimes I didn’t even recognize it happening. I don’t even remember singing the vocoder parts on most of the record, though I do remember mixing them later. A lot of the record was like that. One afternoon I was standing in my kitchen, and I was thinking about my computer from high school. It was a large, putty colored PC desktop (the color of the Robophasia vinyl, incidentally), with a big CRT monitor and the tiniest, loudest hard drive. I got lost thinking about the sounds of that hard drive, in that daydream. When I snapped out of it, I was humming this weird little melody. So I pulled out my iPhone and recorded a voice memo of what I was humming. That became the basis for “Unsoled”, the second track. It was fully formed right there, coming out of that daydream. I listened to that voice memo recently and it’s almost identical to the main melody in the finished song. But yeah, I don’t remember recording the vocals.
J. Hubner: That’s strange. Do you remember how long the writing and recording process was from start to finish with R0B0PHAS1A ? Was it recorded before or after Glass Angles?
Graham Reznick: Robophasia was created right after Glass Angles, but it sat dormant for almost two years while I worked on other projects. In late 2016 I had some free time so I revamped all of the tracks, even rebuilding some from scratch. The revamp and mixing was only one or two months but the initial process was over the course of a year. I think. Actually I’m not sure how long the writing and recording itself was… that part’s fuzzy. But the revamp was only two months.
At this point Graham and I were disconnected when I asked him who ‘Mr. S’ was. After three attempts at calling him back my phone rang and it was Graham. He apologized for the interruption and said there was some sort of electrical storm where he was at. We continued talking.
J. Hubner: Do you think the machines will eventually take over and enslave us?
Graham Reznick: I’m not supposed to answer this one.
J. Hubner: What about a film adaptation of R0B0PHAS1A? Could that happen?
Graham Reznick: Good idea! I’ll definitely suggest this to hi- We’ll take it under advisement.
At this point there’s digital distortion coming from the phone, and what sounds like a hushed conversation. Then Graham returns to the phone.
J. Hubner: So I wanted to ask you about film scores. Do you score your own film work, or do you prefer someone else to score it? Is scoring other people’s films something you’d consider?
Graham Reznick: I like to score my own work when it makes sense for me to do so. But every film and story needs a different approach, and there are so many great composers and collaborators out there like (to name a few, Jeff Grace and Steve Moore two I’ve worked with and would eagerly work with again). Even when working with another composer, I’d still be sound designing my own stuff and probably doing some additional score – it’s hard for me not to want to get my hands dirty. I also just really love collaborating and playing off another person and letting them bring their own ideas into the mix. I’m in post on a project right now (that I directed) for which I’ve composed the main score and I’m doing the sound design, but we’ve brought in a number of very special guests to put it over the top… that’s all still a secret for the moment. I can’t wait to announce it.
While I haven’t taken on a full score for someone else’s feature, I’ve done a lot of additional music for most of the films I’ve sound designed, including all of Ti West’s films, some for Larry Fessenden, Jon Watts, etc. And I recently contributed a title track for a friend’s upcoming film. It’s definitely something I’d be open to more properly as a composer in the future… though it’d be hard for me not to want to do the sound and mix as well.
J. Hubner: I do have to mention, that Hauntlove album cover artwork is absolutely unreal. So damn good. What is that process like? Did Justin Miller get a copy of the album to listen to and then just come up with that beauty, or were there suggestions from you?
I really feel that we’re seeing a resurgence in creativity and value being put into album art. Especially with groups like Burning Witches, Death Waltz and Holodeck Records releasing records as a multi-sensory experience. Sorry I’m rambling.
Graham Reznick: Very glad you dig it! I was knocked over when I saw it. Justin is incredible. He got a copy of the music and some very, very basic input from me and then ran with it. I felt the visual representation of the music was in capable hands and I wanted to see what he would come up with. We were definitely not disappointed.
And yeah – there’s so much great emphasis being put on the visual component of album releases lately. I do feel the full package is essential and that the audience should know who or what is really behind the music they- ah, sorry, over the line again.
J. Hubner: So what are you working on next? Is there another album waiting in the wings? Any film projects you can discuss? Have you secured safe passage for you and your family to Canada yet?
Graham Reznick: I’d say Canada is tempting but I think it’s more important to stick around and kick these fuckers out of office. There’s work to do, creatively and politically. And I really do think culture breeds the tone of society. If we have good, smart, healthy, challenging art and entertainment, we’re a better society. I have no political power but the tiny bit of cultural power I am able to access aims for that.
I’m currently finishing post on a series that I wrote and directed and I can’t wait to get out there. Hopefully there are some film projects on the horizon, too. There will be lots of music, either way. Now that Mr. S0ftware has gotten a taste I don’t think he’s going to let me sto- sorry. Out of bounds again.
At this point the phone went dead again, but not before a series of numbered codes blared thru the receiver, followed by a message from the Emergency Broadcast System to seek shelter. I marked it up to lousy connections.
But who is Mr. S0ftware? What does he wa…..
R0B0PHAS1A is out today via Burning Witches Records. You can buy a copy at burningwitchesrecords.com or at the Burning Witches Bandcamp page. Make Mr. S0ftware happy and buy a copy. Please Mr. S0ftware. Respect Mr. S0ftware.