What is ‘R0B0PHAS1A’? A Guide To Everything You’re Allowed To Know(And Nothing More) About Graham Reznick’s New Album

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.

 

Graham Reznick : Robophasia

The music of Graham Reznick is hard to pin down. As you listen to his electro-funk grooves you feel as if you’re hearing something strangely familiar one second, then the next it’s as if you’re getting transmissions from some alternate universe where 1980s electro pop is being translated by artificial intelligence. Reznick isn’t settling for some sort of retro trip. He seems to be digging deep into his own 80s musical childhood trauma and searching for sounds and feels that scored a neon youth where the lights flickered and waned more than they were brightly lit.

Mourning in America.

Graham Reznick released his excellent debut Glass Angles with Death Waltz Originals earlier this year. That album, a sort of “through the looking glass” noir-ish musical tale of nighttime Los Angeles was a brooding, psychedelic electronic record filled with kaleidoscopic soundscapes that were like musical Rorschach paintings. The more you listened to the songs the stranger and darker they seemed, morphing into some other state of mind. At the time of its release there were rumors that Reznick had yet another album ready to go, but this time with Burning Witches Records. Graham had a track on the BWR Record Store Day compilation called “Faking Point” which echoed the sonic delights found on Glass Angles, but there was something darker and more synthetic about it.

Well we’re nearly to July and Reznick and Burning Witches are making good on those album promises. Robophasia shows another side to Reznick’s musical proclivities. This album seems simpler at first, yet with each listen it gets more complicated and dense. Reznick’s engineering and mixing prowess come into full effect here, giving the ears and brains a workout of sorts. It’s alien and intoxicating in the best way possible.

The first thing that makes itself known on this record is rhythm. Even with Angles, Graham Reznick showed a tendency to create these heady rhythmic, groove-inflected tracks. Robotic beats that sound as if they’re being transmitted from 1983. At first listen you may not hear it, but there’s a precision in those beats. There’s a purpose with every snare hit and bass kick. Take opening track “Robophasia”, it sounds as if Harold Faltmeyer had his way with a Rockwell track. Wonky synths sound as if they’re humming the melody as robotic voices belch and groan along. It’s alien, but intoxicating. “Unsoled” is an electric piano-driven track. It almost has a pop feel to it; very much on the cusp of opening credit scene material here. Reznick knows how to create mood and he does that to great effect here. It’s no surprise sound design is Reznick’s day job. “Atomatics” is where we step into some other dimension. Full-on A.I. electro freakout. Do yourself a favor and listen to this with headphones on. You will feel like you’re tripping, no psychedelics needed.

I can remember staying up late at night when I was a little kid and watching MTV in the summer. Late at night was when you’d see the good stuff, and that’s when I first saw Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It” video. That song and video kind of freaked me out, but in a good way. I don’t know whether Reznick was affected by that record as well(consciously or subconsciously), but I get that Future Shock vibe with this album. Odd electronic records that towed the line between arty, experimental, and pop like Future Shock, Tom Tom Club, Somebody’s Watching Me and even early hip hop all permeate this album. Wonky beats and vocodered, robotic vocals give this album a feeling of some strange cyberpunk tale put to music.

“The Score” echoes darker electro funk, while “Quotient” moves along with a heavy groove and is reminiscent of some of those Tandy Deskmate experiments on Ben Zimmerman’s The Baltika Years.  “YKWYA” is lighter fare, almost coming off as breezy in comparison to what came before it. I can imagine some dark and glowing arcade perched in the middle of a mall as I hear this song. “Rope” is groovy and mysterious, while “Mysterious Fire” is a delicacy of precise sonics and sound construction. “Mr. Sidewalk” closes Robophasia with a bit of that neon noir vibe we heard from Reznick earlier this year, but with a touch of robotic vocalizing for good measure.

Robophasia feels like the stranger, smarter brother to Glass Angles. It sounds deceptively simple on first listen, but each time you hit play on it there’s something new revealed. Something just around the corner you weren’t expecting but are delighted to see. Graham Reznick is proving to be one of the musical highlights of 2018. He showed his talent for constructing intricately-woven music with Glass Angles, and weaving them together for an exhilarating musical narrative. Robophasia continues that trend, even moving to another level.

8.6 out of 10

 

Deadly Avenger : I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan

I can remember when I was little there was nothing more powerful to me than watching classic horror movies. The Universal “Monster” movies would often play late at night on Friday evenings and I’d sit locked in both excitement and fear. Something about those old movies captured my imagination far more than newer horror(of course that would change when I became a teenager.) The Japanese “Kaiju” movies were also films that fascinated me as a kid growing up in the Midwest, but for different reasons. First, they mostly played in the daytime on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. There was less fear involved and more just wonder and amazement at the destruction. Of course, you knew that Godzilla was just some guy in a suit walking around a miniature set of Tokyo, and the strings were very apparent as they swung Mothra to and fro but that didn’t matter. You could suspend reality and imagine these nuclear-powered beasts destroying the great Metropolis of Japan and returning to the ocean for a nice long 100-year nap.

Deadly Avenger would like you to suspend reality for the time it takes you to burn thru his newest album, the menacing and heavy I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan. Coming off the great and 80s-inspired Everyday Is Kill from 2017, Damon Baxter sets phasers to destroy and wallops us with monstrous beats and menacing synth. It’s a tour-de-force built on the old adage “go big or go home”. Well, Deadly Avenger is going nowhere, folks.

“Destroyer of Planets” leaves no room for interpretation. It’s steely strut and ten ton synth riffing feels like the earth cracking open and the sky falling. Electro doom with conviction. “Kill All Kaiju” keeps it up with an almost Year Zero-era NIN vibe. Baxter, along with Pete Diggins, are going for maximum impact and fun(with tongues firmly planted in cheeks.)

There’s still moments of subtle reflection, like “Skit_Fate of Ishiro”, “Skit_Cult of Cobra”, and “Skit_Ishiro’s Dream”. These are quieter moments that allow us to catch our breath in-between running for our lives as the album wreaks havoc on our psyche.

“Bones” feels like something off of The Neon Demon S/T. It builds and teases beautifully. “Dorothy’s Fortress” is absolute dance floor ecstasy. Fortified groove and moments of sweaty melancholy. Just when you think all the sonic destruction might have passed, “Invincible Preying Mantis” appears from the wreckage to blow your mind once more. “The Death of Ishiro” ends this journey into 808 and synth destruction on a surprisingly subtle one. There’s a melancholy lean to this piece. It’s a moment of reflection on the psychic destruction that came before it. Part Disasterpeace and part Walter Rizzati.

Damon Baxter has been working hard at it making music for other people so long that he’s finally stopping to make some music for himself. Making music to help punch up film trailers and TV shows has given Baxter the ability to hit the mark every time with laser precision, and that shows on IAGYAJ. He, along with musical cohort Pete Diggins, set their sights on making a record that doesn’t leave room for interpretation. This is a collection of songs that need to be played loud and often. Deadly Avenger’s I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan is one hell of a fun listen. No strings or giant suits required.

7.8 out of 10

Buy IAGYAJ right here.

Monster Music : Damon Baxter Talks Letting Deadly Avenger Loose On The World

I have to admit that it wasn’t that long ago when I didn’t know who or what Deadly Avenger was. Yes, yes, I know. Please, hold your boos and jeers till after the show. Thanks. So it wasn’t until last year with the Death Waltz Originals release of Everyday Is Kill did I enter the amazing musical world of Deadly Avenger. Neo-futuristic vibes mixed with an 80s sci-fi movie flair, Everyday Is Kill was this amazing blast of slick beats and dense, melodic synth that was part futuristic assassin themes and melancholy pop.

It was damn near perfect.

Now, to my knowledge I hadn’t heard Deadly Avenger prior to Everyday Is Kill. There is a chance, however, that I have heard him before. Baxter’s main gig for a long time has been TV and film music. He’s the go-to guy for movie and TV execs when they need someone to punch up their movie trailer or TV spots with some killer music. He’s the guy that makes those trailers look so damn good in the movie theater, and when you watch the movie after renting it from Redbox a few months later you wonder where that cool music is. He’s done TV spots for Men In Black 3, Lockout, 127 Hours and Johnny English Reborn to name just a few.

But now, Damon Baxter is making music for himself. Last year saw the first bit of original Deadly Avenger music in some time, now Deadly Avenger is readying to release upon the world another bit of original music. Baxter teamed up with Burning Witches Records and on Friday June 1st I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan will be stomping its way across the globe, leaving in its wake burning cities and blown minds. Where Everyday Is Kill was the mysterious, wraith-like being making its way through the shadows, I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan is all extrovert; huge bombastic beats, towering synths, and all attitude.

I sat down with Deadly Avenger, aka Damon Baxter, and we talked about his music and the new record.


J. Hubner: So you spend a lot of creative fire on film and TV music, which I can only assume you love doing. But between last year and now you have been creating albums of original music under the Deadly Avenger moniker. With last year’s ‘Everyday Is Kill’ with Spencer at Death Waltz Originals, and now with the upcoming ‘I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan’ with Burning Witches Records, and even a couple other super secret original project in the works. 

Where did the shift come from to get some original albums out? Do you have a cache of original music you’ve been holding onto, or are these all very recent songs that you’ve created?

Damon Baxter: Back in the day when I first started doing Deadly Avenger, I released a few 12”s aimed at dance floors and started DJing. After touring the world, I settled back into making music and developed the Deadly Avenger sounds. Inspired by soundtracks / score I started remixing some of the bigger guitar bands at the time( Manic Street Preacher, Elbow, Travis, Charlatans.) That sound was more of a hybrid; live strings / guitars etc and very melancholic….it felt like a natural progression to move from that into music to picture. In that world of course nothing gets released! Had an itch that needed scratching!

J. Hubner: Do you approach songwriting differently when writing for film/TV work, as opposed to writing original music? 

Damon Baxter: Yeah depends on what you’re working on. With ads you tend to have a very tight deadline( sometimes hours )and a specific brief…TV is slightly different as most of the music I do for shows, is pretty much Deadly Avenger material.

J. Hubner: What was one of the more influential TV spots you remember seeing as a kid? Something that might’ve been the seed to which Deadly Avenger grew from?

Damon Baxter: I remember seeing a TV trailer for The Prophecy…it was on late, and it was SCARY! haha….it wasn’t, it was dreadful, but I remember it making an impact, that and the Legend of Boggy Creek trailer, can’t remember where I saw that…but that got me as well. As far as the seeds of Deadly Avenger, it all came from late 70s / early 80s sub-cultures, BMX, electro, US TV shows etc etc…but mainly Golden era hip hop, my first love!

J. Hubner: You’ve got a lot going on, but lets talk a bit about your upcoming Burning Witches release I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan. It’s fantastic, by the way. 

Damon Baxter: Thanks! It was fun to do! Co-written with my friend and fellow composer Pete Diggens, I wanted to do something big, bold, with tongue firmly in cheek…! Over the top synths and drums, something that’s quite in your face, as those movies were.

J. Hubner: What was the genesis of this record, besides wanting to do something big and bold? Everyday Is Kill was slicker and darker in mood. The introverted sci-fi kid. Where as IAGYAJ is the in-your-face extrovert blowing shit up. 

Damon Baxter: 2 sides of the same geeky coin ! 🙂

J. Hubner: Were you into the Japanese monster movies growing up?

Damon Baxter: I really wasn’t into those movies growing up at all. It was only when I started crate digging when I was into hip hop and coming across soundtracks and seeing the movie posters that it interested me. Horror and sci-fi on the other hand have both been big influences.

J. Hubner: Besides hip hop, horror and sci fi, and BMX, who or what were some big influences on you growing up?

Damon Baxter: Adam and the Antz, Electro and Hip Hop, thats it !I remember walking across the school playground and hearing Al Naafiysh on a ghetto blaster…..I thought I was listening to alien space music, it was just incredible.

J. Hubner: Composer-wise, I hear a lot of Lalo Schifrin in your work. His work on the first couple Dirty Harry films and Enter The Dragon, especially seem to play into your orchestral style. Part symphony, part street hustler. Were you a fan of Schifrin? 

Damon Baxter: Well noticed! He was a massive influence, not only his music but his arrangements were what really inspired me. His scores can go move from orchestral parts right down to a high hat, and back again….and then of course there is the music itself!

J. Hubner: What about the synth-oriented work of Deadly Avenger? Who or what are some influences on Everyday Is Kill, or your 2010 album Kingdom?

Damon Baxter: Kingdom was inspired by lots of things, mainly all the film posters I had in my studio at the time! EIK, was pretty much inspired by crappy 80s movies. They had such charm, some great scores…and the lighting on the movies was quite dark, which gave them all a certain feel that I tried to capture in the music.

J. Hubner: You’ve worked with quite a few record labels over the years. How did you hook up with Burning Witches Records?

Damon Baxter: We became pally through Facebook. They offered me a fry up in Kent, I said Yes, the rest is history.

J. Hubner: What else do you have in store for the world musically? What does Deadly Avenger have up his sleeve?

Damon Baxter: Well, after IAGYAJ, there will be a synth album co-composed with Pete Diggens on Lakeshore Records. Then a new collaboration project with Luke Insect, a potential Death Waltz release after which I will be working on something spooky with Burning Witches! Next year I have something lined up with Timothy Fife.

J. Hubner: Before you go, name an album you’d consider absolutely essential and why?

Damon Baxter: Now this is a tricky question! Some albums I listen to for production, some for my soul, and some that make me want to smash shit up( in a good way.) A cop out I know, but I really couldn’t say. I am listening to The Alchemist Israeli Salad as I’m typing this though!


I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan comes out Friday June 1st via Burning Witches Records. Head over to their site Friday and order your vinyl. It will go quick, so set that alarm early Friday A.M. And be on the look out for all of Deadly Avenger’s upcoming albums. Keep up with Deadly Avenger here.

Conjuring Evil : Harglow Talk Horror Scores, Burning Witches, and Blood On The Walls

Photos by Chad Whittle

When I think of Oklahoma I think of rodeos, fracking, Oklahoma! ranchers, and the Flaming Lips. Yes my view of Oklahoma is limited by ignorance, but after hearing The Soft Bulletin there wasn’t much else I needed to know. I was good. But then I hear this song called “Candle Wax” on Burning Witches Records’ Communion compilation for this year’s Record Store Day and my eschewed view of Oklahoma has changed slightly. “Candle Wax” was the work of a band called Harglow, which started as a duo from OKC but is now half in OKC and half in Austin, TX.

The mysterious duo known as Harglow is Colin Nance and Eric Gorman. While the music is blood-drenced and brooding, these guys are actually affable dudes that love to geek out about horror films(yeah, just like me.) I was able to throw a few questions at these two and they were more than happy to throw a few responses back.


J. Hubner: Tell me about Harglow. Where are you guys from? How did the band get together?

Colin: We met on OccultSingles.com. You know, the leading Black Magick dating site in the world!

Eric: I hit Colin over the head with a pipe. When he woke up, I said, “Stay.” He did.

Colin: Seriously though, we both grew up in the Oklahoma City metro area. We conceived the project about 3 years ago and then I relocated to Austin about a year later. That began a satellite type of musical relationship. Sending files back and forth. Slowly but surely building our sound, conjuring evil and eventually a record.

J. Hubner: For the uninitiated, how you describe Harglow’s sound? What sort of sounds did you two bond over that helped mold Harglow’s vibe? 

Colin: I like to describe it as the soundtrack to some esoteric vhs, in black and white, that you find in an abandoned basement. On that tape is a collage of occult rituals, sacrifices, and other questionable/dark imagery. The music at times felt like it was being summoned as we recorded it. It’s at times very visceral and hard hitting. Then it can be very quiet and bring whole other level of unsettling feelings. It’s very dynamic.

Eric: With Harglow, I think we really bonded over movie scores, usually horror movie scores. From there, Colin turned me on to a lot of artists like Umberto, Carpenter Brut, and Haxan Cloak, etc. Artists that were making this darker music that shared that same kind of spooky esthetic. It opened the flood gates for me.  Now, were always kind of on the lookout for new stuff to show each other.

J. Hubner: There is definitely a horror/Gothic vibe to your sound. You mentioned horror scores as something you two bonded over. So horror cinema obviously plays into the whole vibe of your work. Who are some inspirations in horror cinema?

Colin: We are quite huge fans of cinema and I say films play a huge role in our sound. Especially the genres mentioned. Horror was a huge bonding medium for us. It really is our happy place. I personally am a huge fan of directors like Dario Argento, Panos Cosmatos, David Cronenberg, Joe Dante, Alex Garland, John Carpenter, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Terrence Malick, Danny Boyle and Wes Craven. As far as films that inspire me musically, I always find that I lean towards more metaphysical/visual styles. I love and am inspired by movies like SuspiriaBeyond the Black Rainbow, Halloween and Halloween III, BegottenIt Follows, Sunshine, The Witch, and most recently Annihilation.

Eric: Yep to all of what he just said. We are both unbelievably large horror nerds.  Personally, I also think we pull a lot of inspiration from stuff like the score for the Texas Chain Saw Massacre by Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper or The VVitch by Mark Korven.  These scores that really cross the lines between score and sound design, and make you feel incredibly uncomfortable. I wanted to try and make something that filled me with the same type of dread.

J. Hubner: Harglow was featured on Burning Witches Records’ RSD release ‘Communion’. How did you guys get hooked up with Gary and Darren? You were among some pretty great company. 

Colin: We sure were among great company. It was quite an honor to be included alongside some of our biggest inspirations. We were huge fans of the label from its conception. All Them Witches’ first record The Coven was what initially got my attention and pinged my radar as far as becoming aware of the label. Every record after that was an instant attraction. We just reached out to them and sent some tracks their way to see if they liked what we were doing. To our surprise they did and everything fell into place from there.

Eric: True true.

J. Hubner: I loved your track “Candle Wax”. It’s definitely more in line with harder industrial stuff from the 80s, as opposed to the synth-heavy soundtrack stuff. How do you approach songwriting within Harglow? Maybe walk me through the process of putting “Candle Wax” together.

Eric: Thank you!

Colin: We tend to either start our writing/recording process rhythmically or by building a sonic palette of ambience/field recordings and going from there. I feel like a lot of focus goes into the textures and sound design before setting sights on melody. With Candle Wax, that song started with the drums and the bass synth. We knew we wanted that particular track to be quite violent, gritty, and rhythm oriented. When the BWR gents approached us about contributing to the project, I believe their words were “We want blood on the walls!” So that was the tone and foundation we were after.

J. Hubner: Had you guys released any music prior to “Candle Wax” and the ‘Communion’ compilation? Or was this the band’s debut?

Colin: This is our debut. The madness has begun.

J. Hubner: You guys have a record coming out with Burning Witches. Can you tell me a little about it? Is it in the vein of “Candle Wax”? Did you guys self-produce it? Do you record at a home studio? What can we expect from this record?

Colin: We do. It was self-produced, recorded, and mixed by us in my home studio. It was mastered by BurningTapes. Also, the artwork is going to be quite immaculate. We tapped the very talented Ben Turner and he knocked it out of the park. The sound is definitely in the vein of Candle Wax, but it does get a bit atmospheric/soundtrack-like at points as well. Like I said, we focused on it being very dynamic. It knocks out your teeth. It bubbles and pulses. It wraps around you like fog in the night. It’s a journey through the darkest reaches. Those that make it through to the other side are then the initiated.

J. Hubner: I know this is a bit off subject, but what was the last great book you read?

Colin: I just got done reading Stephen King’s IT and Erik Larson’s The Devil and the White City. Both were quite incredible in their own way. One was fictional horror and the other was real horror. I recommend both if you’re into true crime/history and horror/fantasy.

Eric: I started reading Stephen King when I was really young. Probably too young. I read IT for the first time the summer when I was nine years old. I think his books are a huge reason I have a proclivity for the darker side of things.  The last really good book I read was NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. I really enjoyed the way that story unfolded! Dr. Sleep by Stephen King also really resonated with me and gave me the creeps. It made me look at vacationers in RVs in a whole new light. I think that’s the best thing about his work. It captures the horror under the surface. Like a blood splatter on a white picket fence.

J. Hubner: What are your hopes for Harglow? Would you ever consider film scores, or do you want to just keep developing the sound you’ve started and continue making original music?

Colin: At this point we are just going with the flow. One step at a time. Going to release this first record and go from there. We would absolutely LOVE to get into the world of film scores if the right opportunity presents itself. That would be a dream come true. Having BWR release our first record is another dream come true.

Eric: I couldn’t agree more. I feel a bit like Jonathan Harker in a stage coach barreling down the Carpathian mountains. It’s been a crazy ride so far, and I’m excited for whatever comes next.


You’ll want to keep up with Harglow. How? Well you can follow them on Facebook right here, and you can keep up with all their bloodlettings and occult activities on Instagram as well. And if you haven’t already, you should definitely download that Communion compilation. What the hell have you been waiting on?

 

 

Phantom vs Fire : Swim

I’ve been sitting here trying to wrap my brain around the beautiful and mysterious Swim by Phantom vs Fire for a few days now. I’m still struggling to put into words what’s going on here. While it could sit comfortably in the imagined soundtracks genre, I think to label it as such would be doing the extraordinary work Phantom vs Fire’s sole composer/creator Thiago C. Desant has put into making the dream-like world contained on Swim. The pieces do feel as if they’re accentuating scenes and moods, yet there’s so much more going on here.

Simply put, this is a one of a kind album that you must immerse yourself in to truly appreciate the magic it contains. You need to open your brain to its alien worlds and meticulous production values and explore the darker corners, as well as the lighter ones. Swim is a mysterious world that begs you to get lost in it.

The wonderful thing about Phantom vs Fire is that you can’t pigeonhole the sound. Desant mixes organic and synthetic instrumentation wonderfully. Woozy synths collide with grandiose strings, acoustic drums melt into syncopated, robotic rhythms, and symphonic structures give way to old school electronic. All of this makes for a dream-like state as you lose yourself in Swim. Something like album opener “Breathing”, for example, gives you the impression of walking thru the hallowed halls of an ancient structure. As the song moves along tension rises as strings quicken and tighten, as if the floor is disappearing under your feet. Title track “Swim” bounces in on staccato strings and airy drums and vibes. This is not the norm, and that’s a very good thing. “The Beach House” has an almost island feel in the rhythms. As to not completely let you get lost in the Caribbean vibes, some electronic wooziness is added to throw you off a bit. “Nightmares and Dreams” lays down some dread. Think 80s late night horror, but with modern touches. Desant seems to revel in the tiniest of production and sonic details, which makes this track a smorgasbord for the ears. The piano touches give this track some NIN weight.

Desant works within the realm of film composer for sure. He builds scenes, moods, and emotions as if he’s guiding us through a story. There is a dichotomy of moods here. On one hand you have what feels like old school soundtrack vibes, complete with woozy synth structures and the rhythmic waves they ride in on. On the other hand there are these producer-heavy tracks that ache to be played for a club and a sweaty crowd.  Something like the pulsating “Atlantic” leans more towards the sonic worlds of Arca and Baths as much as it does Carpenter and Frizzi. It’s delicate percussive clicks and snaps push along the melodic tension beautifully. “Nightwalker” floats along on a cloud of unease and sickly synths. It permeates a certain kind of dread that invites repeated listens. Then there’s the exquisitely subtle “VHS Hypnosis” that starts out with a Boards of Canada lean but sinks into rather Gothic waters. This song is a perfect example of all the voodoo Desant works with to create his unique sound. “The Invisible Sea” is yet another example of the creative work being done here. All the musical pieces seem to swirl together into a kaleidoscope of sonic textures and unresolved tension.

Thiago C. Desant’s Phantom vs Fire seems to be a project of endless ambition and emotional release. On Swim there’s a sense of putting in everything plus the kitchen sink. A lesser artist might’ve made a mess of this record, but Desant’s steady production and engineering prowess weaves together these sonics with precision and deftness.

Swim is a bold statement from a bold artist.

8.1 out of 10

 

 

 

Growing Up In The Dark Peaks : A Conversation With Simon Pott

When you step into the musical world of Simon Pott’s Isvisible Isinvisible, there’s a sense of wonder and mystery. It’s a wheezing, pulsating universe of buzzing circuits, synthetic rhythms, mechanical drones and vague nods to science fiction. Pott orchestrates these analog musical narratives mostly thru modular synthesizers(and seemingly lots of patience and trial and error, as you’ll hear.) Composing via modular synth is a path not for the impatient. It’s a constantly changing and evolving instrument, and despite it’s necessity for a mad musical scientist to control and manipulate it it very much has a mind of its own.

Simon Pott is indeed a mad musical scientist, having spent years working with the instrument made famous(or infamous) with names like Buchla, Moog, and ARP; as well as players like Pauline Oliveros, Klaus Schulze, Morton Subotnick Suzanne Ciani, Kraftwerk, and Tangerine Dream. The difference between Pott and those famous players is that he builds rather beautiful musical landscapes as opposed to the more obscure sonic worlds of his predecessors. Simon Pott’s debut with Burning Witches Records, simply titled Isvisible Isinvisible is an exquisite slice of analog beauty. He has this knack for creating these all-encompassing pieces of music that sound more like modular symphonies, rather than just well drawn synth pieces. There’s an epic quality to his work that makes his songs feel more like companion pieces to a much bigger artistic arc.

Besides his release with Burning Witches, he also self-released Ghosts of Furness Vale late last year(available for download right here.) It’s yet another example of the electronic beauty Pott creates.

I had the pleasure of talking with Simon Pott about his musical beginnings, influences, his process, and where he grew up(which plays a big role in the composer he has become.) Grab a cuppa and enjoy.


J. Hubner: So where are you from? Where did you grow up?

Simon Pott: I was born in Manchester and lived around and about there in the Greater Manchester area until moving to the Isle of Man in my teens.

I did spend a good chunk of my youth living in a village called Furness Vale about 15 miles from the centre of Manchester, and in the shadow of the Peak District (The Dark Peaks).

Memories of living there have influenced my music quite deeply. Most of the tracks on my last couple of albums have a tie to Furness Vale in one way or another.

J. Hubner: Were you interested in music as a kid? Did you take music lessons when you were young?

Simon Pott: I never had music lessons, but I was massively influenced by music as a kid.

After the usual kids records, like The Wombles, Jungle Book and so on I moved onto a lifelong love of ABBA, and by the time I was 8 I’d diversified and become a tiny little punk, Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols etc, but obviously still loved ABBA and The Wombles.

By the time I was a teenager I was deeply entrenched in the Post Punk scene, specifically the Manchester scene, Joy Division, Magazine, The Fall and so on along with a very healthy interest in The Human League, Tubeway Army, Throbbing Gristle, Soft Cell and Status Quo…

By my late teens I was discovering the older bands that had influenced the bands that I was into, bands like Can, Faust, Neu, Amon Duul II, Tangerine Dream, The Velvet Underground and so on… it’s all music that I still love to this day.

J. Hubner: Do you remember the first record you bought with your own money?

Simon Pott: The first single I bought with my own pocket money was S.O.S. by ABBA. Took me quite a while to save for it so it was probably a year after it was released or something, I think I got about 5p a week off my Dad back then.

I spent most of my money on a few singles, but it wasn’t until December 1977 that I bought my first album with a combination of pocket money and some Christmas money. I bought Never Mind The Bollocks by The Sex Pistols…. I had to hide it from my Dad, and only bring it out to play when he was out. Although I’m sure he knew.

J. Hubner: Prior to your work under the Isvisible Isinvisible moniker, did you play in any proper bands? Punk rock band in a garage? Playing techno music in a club? Phil Collins cover band?

Simon Pott: I’ve been making music in one form or another for most of my life.

I guess from the early days before I was in a band I made noisy music with my synths, fuzz bass and drum machine, I think I sounded like Throbbing Gristle or something, in reality it was awful though.

Most of the bands I was in could be described as post punk/post rock, and the last band I was in (The Chasms) was probably best described as experimental.

We didn’t rehearse or record in a garage, it was a big old freezing cold barn at extreme volume. Fun times.

None of the bands I was in really got anywhere, the most successful(!?) of which being The Chasms who were voted into the John Peel Festive 50 (now curated by Dandelion Radio) top 5 for 4 years on the trot, culminating in a 2nd place, just as we broke up.

J. Hubner: So where did your love/interest in modular synths begin? What was the catalyst to go that route? I’ve watched some of your Youtube videos and I’m completely mesmerized by them. I find what you do quite beautiful, really. 

Simon Pott: Thank you. It’s basically all down to Richard Quirk who I was in The Chasms with. Along with some killer guitars and amps he had lots of old synths and vintage effects, which I loved. But he also had a few modular synth rigs in different formats, Eurorack, Bugbrand and so on. And he lent me one of his small(ish) Eurorack set-ups made up of mainly Doepfer modules and I fell in love with it. I ended up buying it off him, which sent me down this empty pocketed path I find myself on now.

J. Hubner: My first exposure to your work was with your Burning Witches cassette release earlier in the year. How did you get involved with Darren and Gary? You are in very good company over there.

Simon Pott: I used to run a record label for several years, and in that time I did enough promotion work to last a lifetime, so I’ve not really bothered promoting my own music. But I found myself with 3 albums I was really happy with, for one of them (Ghosts of Furness Vale) I decided to just do what I normally do and put it out on Bandcamp myself. That left me with two albums which got me thinking a bit about what I wanted to do with them, either stagger the releases on Bandcamp, or actually send it to people to see what they think.

I had a good think and decided to get in touch with Burning Witches as I had recently discovered them and absolutely loved what they were doing. So I sent them an album of the more ambient tracks and to my surprise they loved it.

We got talking and I mentioned I had another album of more Krautrock based tracks, they asked to hear it and they suggested a double album, which became the self titled ‘isvisible isinvisible’ album. Which I’m absolutely over the moon about.

J. Hubner: Let’s talk about the album. I think it’s a brilliant bit of analog bliss. Dense, dark, and with a progressive lean to it. What was the process like in creating that album? How long had you been composing the pieces that made up the record? 

Simon Pott: As mentioned, if the Burning Witches guys hadn’t intervened, it would have been two separate albums. So I’m grateful to them for seeing it as a double album, which I think works very well, and something I hadn’t even considered.

The tracks were selected from recordings made over about 18 months. I generally seem have around 50 tracks or so that I’m thinking about, the majority of which I’ll not even start mixing.

Some of the tracks were written and recorded in just a couple of days, and some over the space of a few weeks. Sometimes more depending on the complexity (or density) of the track, and my ability to bend the will of the modular to mine.

Sometimes it can take weeks to make it do exactly what I want, and sometimes I can’t get it to do what I want at all, but it will surprise me with something unexpected.

Once I’m happy with what I’m hearing and it’s as close as I can get to what I had in mind, then I’ll hit record and that’s it, a live recording that I’ll just edit down to what I want without any overdubs or additional effects.

I’m not sure if the way I work is the best for most people, and I’m sure I could probably improve several tracks with a bit of overdubbing, but I’m happy working this way.

J. Hubner: I would say don’t change a thing. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working. Even down to the instrumentation. Speaking of which, there’s quite an impressive list of instruments listed on your Bandcamp page of everything that went in to creating the album. If you had to pick just one piece of equipment as essential over all else, what would it be? And why?

Simon Pott: Well, obviously there’s the modular synth, that’s currently spread out over 5 racks or cases. But taking that out of the equation, my favourite bit of kit is my Marshall Time Modulator Model 5002. It’s a completely unique effect that has a sound that I just can’t recreate with any other bit of gear.

Ah, can I have 2 bits of gear?

I have several sequencers as part of the modular synth, but I also have an external cv and gate sequencer, the Koma Komplex, which is a stunning bit of kit that provides the modular with so much control. Love it.

J. Hubner: What’s the concept behind the epic “Behind The Studded Oak Door”? At nearly 15 minutes it feels like a moment the album works up to. 

Simon Pott: Funny you should say the album was working up to it as I nearly changed the running order at the last minute to make that the very last track, kinda wish I had done now. Although it also works as the introduction to the ambient(ish) Isinvisible side of the tape.

‘Behind The Studded Oak Door’ is influenced by my time in Furness Vale as a kid. My Dad worked for a local family, and on Christmas day they’d invite all their family from around the UK to their big old house to join them for their Christmas dinner, and me and my Dad were always invited (for some reason). The house was rumoured to be in the Domesday Book, but I’m not sure if that’s true or not.

Anyway, outside the house it’s surrounded by ancient woods, and inside was like a rabbit warren of rooms and corridors, and every room had a big old studded oak door, my imagination ran riot.

It was a strange combination of eerie and welcoming. Eerie due to the surroundings and those big old doors, what’s behind them? And welcoming due to the smells of Christmas and friendly atmosphere. I naturally focused on the eerie.

J. Hubner: There’s something very Gothic about the song, and now with that description it makes so much more sense. I can imagine strange worlds locked away behind those doors. Well, what about “The Level Crossing”, your contribution to Burning Witches’ RSD compilation ‘Communion’? Was that part of that original lot of songs? Or was that something new?

Simon Pott: ‘The level Crossing’ was going to be part of an as unyet completed album. When Burning Witches asked if I had a track for ‘Communion’ I sent them several tracks that I’d completed, and they picked that one, which I think fits perfectly on the album. Some of the others I sent wouldn’t have done at all, so kudos to them.

As it happens shortly after that they started the Burning Witches Vinyl Subscription, so I offered them a bonus digital EP for the people who’d subscribed, which consisted of a couple of tracks from the unfinished album, and a couple of new tracks.

J. Hubner: When composing, what are you pulling inspiration from? Do you look to sci fi novels, film, or are you creating from worlds and stories you’ve built in your head? What’s your creative process like? 

Simon Pott: Basically the process for me starts with imagining a certain sound, either by using a feeling or an image or certain memory, although it’s quite a loose idea. Then experimenting trying to recreate the sound in my head on the modular.

I’ll be messing around with one element and it just leads me down a certain path, sometimes melodic Krautrock based tracks, and sometimes more ambient soundscapes. I then have a feel for how it should work out fully in my head. Then the next step is trying to figure out how to combine all the sounds into a track. So usually it’s sound based ideas I work on rather than melody, although sometimes I do wake up with a tune in my head.

J. Hubner: What are two essential albums you couldn’t live without? 

Simon Pott: Aaargh!!!! So, so difficult.

If I was allowed to have a crate of albums it’ll be something like: (in absolutely no particular order)

 Adam And The Ants – Dirk Wears White Sox

Matthias Schuster – Atemlos

Kraftwerk – Man Machine

ENO – Here Come The Warm Jets

HEKLA – HEKLA

The Stranglers – The Raven

John Foxx – Metamatic

The Cure – Faith

Cindytalk – In This World I&II

The Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician

Faust – Faust IV

The Velvet Underground – Loaded

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Cardiacs – Sing to God

The Jesus & Mary Chain – Psychocandy

ABBA – Album

Sparks – No.1 in Heaven

Roxy Music – Roxy Music

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, You Are The Destroyer

Blondie – Blondie

Neu! – Neu! 2

New Order – Power Corruption & Lies

My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything

The Cramps – Songs The Lord Taught Us

Tubeway Army – Replicas

Gong – Camembert Electrique

Skids – Days in Europa

Big Black – Songs About Fucking

T. Rex – The Slider

The Human League – Travelogue

The Fall —- EVERYTHING!

I know this looks like I only listen to music from the 70’s(ish), but I really don’t. This is just music that informs my own music, which mainly comes from a time that my young brain was forming itself.

I think I’ve missed out loads, and this will be a completely different list of old records tomorrow.

But as I’m only allowed two, I’m going to go for:

Henryk Gorecki – Symphony No.3 (performed by London Sinfonietta and Dawn Upshaw)

I have several recordings of this piece of music, but this version is the most beautiful and emotionally charged piece of music I’ve ever heard. It’s been a favourite of mine since this version was released on CD and cassette in 1992, I had to wait until last year for it to be released on vinyl… it was worth the wait.

Portishead – Third

This is a faultless album. Every single sound on it is absolutely perfect.

J. Hubner: Are you working on anything new? Do you have plans to work with Burning Witches in the future? What does the rest of 2018 look like for Isvisible Isinvisible? 

Simon Pott: I’m working on a couple of albums at the moment.

One I’ll probably release myself on my Bandcamp page, probably just a cassette and download this time. Don’t think I’ll go down the route of making 8-Track cartridges and Reels of tape again, although I’ll see.

The other is for Burning Witches, but I think that may be for release next year.

I’m going to keep on recording and might end up putting out more than one more album this year, will see what happens.


Head over to Simon’s Bandcamp page and download Ghosts of Furness Vale. Then bookmark that site and keep an eye out for new albums. And head to Burning Witches Bandcamp page and download his debut with them, too. Absolutely brilliant work there.

He’s an extremely unique and amazing composer and musician, so let’s support those kinds of artists. What do you say?