The Plague 1999(?)
by Daniel Hinds
haloblack has created some unique industrial rock music over the years, releasing two albums on the now defunct Fifth Colvmn label and more recently the mp3.com album Raw Tension. Bryan Black is the mastermind behind haloblack, though he has also done quite a bit of other work. Along with serving time in the studio with the likes of Prince and George Clinton, Bryan did the Hellbent project with various members of 16 Volt, TKK, and Chemlab, collaborated with Jim Marcus of Die Warsau fame and contributed to the soundtracks of a number of video games.
Currently residing in London, Bryan fills in the gaps and gives us the lowdown on the future of haloblack…
Let me start at the beginning… How did haloblack first come into being?
I was asked to perform during a special electronic showcase in Minneapolis in 1992. I never had a band up until then, so I started one for the show and we’ve been going ever since….
How did you decide upon the name ‘haloblack’?
Uhh, I guess I vaguely remember jotting down about a hundred words which described the music I was making, and putting some together until something sounded memorable and appropriate.
Did you ever have the desire to be in a band environment or have you always liked the solo situation?
The way I work is unusual in that I never plan a song; I just make patterns and randomly change things until I make a mistake that I can capitalize on. It’s a tedious process that generates unique results. I can’t imagine anyone with a proper instrument wanting to be a part of it. I guess I hear the song coming together in my head, and the best way to produce it quickly is to pick up instruments and play them into the sampler and keep experimenting.
What were your experiences with Fifth Colvmn like?
At first very exciting and promising until we lost the General Manager to a heroin overdose and it went downhill from there. I still appreciate the opportunity to release music and perform at such an early stage in my musical development.
Tell me a bit about the Blair Witch Project video game that you are scoring. How did it come about? What is the game like? How much freedom do you have with the compositions?
I am actually contributing a handful of tracks. I produced music for some video games in the past: Rebel Moon, and Revolution. Some of the people I worked with during that time moved on to Human Head, who got the contract to develop the game. I always contributed dark and experimental music in the past, so it was fitting for me to be a part of Blair Witch… The game is supposed to incorporate a new engine which should produce a new gaming experience. The film directors demanded the game to be taken to a new level to produce tense, unpredictable environments. I was hoping to give them a bunch of hard, abstract experimental pieces, but there is a restriction in that some parts of the game takes place in the 19th century, before the advent of electronic synthesis.
You’ve worked with some rather diverse artists in your career. Could you tell me a bit about how you hooked up with and what it was like to work with: Eric Powell, Jim Marcus?
Eric Powell (16volt) and I toured together in 1995 as part of the Chaos 95 U.S. tour with Bile. We decided we wanted to get away from over the top heavy music and do something more electronic for fun (http://www.mp3.com/hellbent). We were tired of plucking strings and decided to turn knobs instead. It may come together someday again hopefully…
(Jim Marcus collaboration) I recorded my first album in Chicago at the studio (Warzone) where Die Warzau were also recording. I needed a vocal in the chorus of “No Chance Control” and he did it very well… Recently I took some outtakes from that session with Jim Marcus and I put together a cool edit called “No Chance Control (Part 2)” http://www.mp3.com/haloblack
A lot of people have pronounced the industrial scene as dead in recent years. What is your opinion of the current industrial scene? What about more contemporary electronic styles (IDM, etc.)?
Actually, I feel it coming back, although I’ve been in London for a while now. It’s a good time to remind people how cool guitars and synths can be when done right… The electronica boom has quieted, and rock is almost dead, so a combination of the two should interest more than a few.
As far as new electronic styles, I thought drum and bass was a trend and it was. I was into it for awhile and now I can’t stand it. I always appreciated minimal techno and the German electronica sound… Warp records always put out quality records. Aphex Twin and Autechre are pure musical inspiration. Their music definitely challenges and rewards the listener in ways which popular music simply cannot.
What are your thoughts on how electronic music has developed over time?
Electronic music has a different effect on different people. For me, I like experimenting with sound and it’s more rewarding with the aid of electronics. E- music has always challenged and transgressed in more ways than rock for example. I see it becoming common place in most music in the future, and accepted on a larger level.
You seem to be utilizing mp3 technology to the fullest. What are your thoughts on the medium and do you think it has a real future?
mp3 compression is really good for transferring music across the internet. I know there are new codecs which could compress sound further without compromising its quality in the near future. mp3 technology has enabled me to get my music heard by so many that would never have heard me before, which means a lot to a band without MTV and a major label backing…
I really liked the Hellbent album (0.01). What part did you play in its creation? What are your thoughts on it now?
I did a lot of the music and vocals, Eric also wrote a couple of songs and provided vocals on about half the tracks. I think it was a good record to put out at the time. It was never fully realized and I look forward to producing a new record with more people and more time. Some songs make me blush with embarrassment and some still sound important to the evolution of industrial-electronic-rock
Whose idea was it to release Helium? When were the new tracks on it recorded?
Re-Constriction Records were interested in re-releasing the first album, which was out of print. So we took our favorite tracks and I had some outtakes and new songs to throw in to update it further… The first album was recorded in 1995 and the newer tracks in 1997/8
Do you foresee anything further under the Hellbent banner happening?
Yes, when Eric is ready to make noise again and we all end up in the same city with other people we want to collaborate with…
What prompted you to move to London? Are you happy living there?
I needed to get away from a self-destructive lifestyle that I afforded myself in the States. I needed a change, and I always liked London. I was also interested in exploring visual arts and it was the place to be at the time.
Now, I like London more than I ever imagined. It is so decadent and the mix of old and new is very exciting. I always wanted to surround myself in an environment which inspired me. I never go to clubs, there’s not much of a scene, so I spend a lot of time walking around and thinking about my art.
Your bio says you’ve been working on “multimedia, film and sound design.” Can you describe some of the projects you’ve worked on recently?
I’ve designed a lot of websites and am producing short films. I’m really excited to make films and experimental short films with all the new digital equipment I’m learning. I’ve always longed to express ideas visually… I’m working on some films that are as visually striking as the better music videos and the music is crazy in that it fits the imagery so well… I only make websites for other people when I need money.
How much of your time do you spend working on music for haloblack?
Recently I’m spending a few hours a day experimenting and developing the sound of the next record. I look forward to making a record without the distractions of modern life….
What are your favorite pieces of gear to use when composing? Do you have a pretty elaborate set-up or is it more streamlined?
I’ve always liked analogue synths. Arps, moogs and now the modular synths coming out are cool… I still like picking up a guitar and fucking around. Otherwise, I make sounds and patterns with anything I get my hands on and sample them, sequence…
Have you done (m)any remixes for other artists? Is that something that interests you?
I’m not big on remixes, but I’ve done some for Chemlab, Think Tank. Someday, when I get my studio properly setup, I’ll be able to fuck with other people’s music…
You’ve included the video to “Decay” on your web-site. Can you tell me a bit about the making of this video? Do you have any interest in doing more videos in the future?
I did “Decay” for about $100. I borrowed an 8mm b&w camera and shot a bunch of film before and during a concert in Minneapolis. It was quick and I really look forward to making videos for my next record. I’m planning on making a video for every song on the new record and releasing it as an experimental cut-up film.
You have done some touring in the past. Do you still do live performances? How about in the future?
Yeah, I really enjoy touring and am planning something this summer/fall in the States…
What’s next on the agenda for haloblack?
Making demos for the record and getting my band together for some shows in Europe and the U.S. It’s all coming together now in exciting ways, keep an eye on http://www.haloblack.com
Thanks for the support. Look forward to seeing all of you on tour. It’s time to fuck up the system.