Monday 22 September 2014

Interview: Joey Blush (Blush Response) 

Cutting through...

“What I search for in music is unique expression… I am not a fan of genre music. I don't like having rules or ideals about what fits into what scene or genre.”

New York's Blush Response is fast becoming one of the most exciting artists in the US electronic scene. A penchant for modular sounds, improvisation, and strong dance grooves evolving from the classic style ebm/industrial sound of début 'We Are Replicants' (2010), through to the more avant garde leaning new album 'Desire Machines' has seen the profile of Blush Response and the man behind the band, Joey Blush, continue to grow. Which has led him to work with the likes of Fear Factory, and most recently with Joey Jordison's (Slipknot, Murderdolls) new project Scar The Martyr.

Intravenous Magazine caught up with Blush to talk about the new album, sound design, and his hardware of choice.

Intravenous Magazine: The new album 'Desire Machines' is about to be released, what has the reaction been like to it so far?
Joey Blush: 
So far reactions have been positive… I'm cautiously optimistic about the record. I'm happy with a lot of it, but it represents a huge shift in direction for me (much like my last did), and with that sort of shift you are always bound to alienate some people. But I'd rather do that than release the same record over again.

IVM: Your previous album 'Tension Strategies' saw a lot of changes to the Blush Response sound, how has 'Desire Machines' followed on from this?
JB: I am always looking for new ways to evolve my sound and keep things interesting for myself. 'Tension Strategies' was a noisy album with hard industrial beats. I made a conscious decision to avoid reusing the same production techniques for 'Desire Machines'. I got really into minimal techno about halfway through writing for the album, and thus just started subconsciously making grooves that were more on the danceable side.

You'd previously been signed to Tundra and Basic Unit, but you're releasing 'Desire Machines' through French label Desire. How did that come about and how has the working relationship been so far?

JB: Desire contacted me a few months before what would have been the initial release of the record on Basic Unit. I mulled it over for maybe a bit too long, but I love what Desire is doing, and they have amazing distribution and press connections. I want this record to be heard, and Desire is a label I've always wanted to be a part of. 

IVM: Looking back at your début album 'We Are Replicants', what are your thoughts on it and would you have done anything different?

JB: I see 'We Are Replicants' as an embryonic expression… I was just trying to write songs as best I could, with little concern for an overall theme or sound. There is a lot I would have done differently nowadays. I have a lot of issues with the vocals and lyrics on that record, but there isn't much I can do at this point. It's a picture of me as I was then. I still like a couple tracks from it. 

IVM: As mentioned earlier you've begun to spread out from your ebm/industrial roots into different styles of electronic music, what led to this desire and how has it changed you as a song writer?
I've always liked all sorts of electronic music, not just industrial. What I search for in music is unique expression… I am not a fan of genre music. I don't like having rules or ideals about what fits into what scene or genre. I like the darker themes and sounds behind industrial/ebm, but I don't want to make music that can be described by one word. I am trying to make something new, for better or worse. The electronic artists I really love all take major risks with their sound and never do things 'by the book' so to speak. I do my best to follow that same intention and craft my own unique sound that hopefully sets me apart from the rest.

IVM: Anyone who follows you on social media will know you have some very impressive hardware at your disposal. So what is your studio set-up like, and what synths can you not live without?

JB: My setup may appear larger than it is because I buy and sell a lot of gear at a rapid pace… So it looks like I have over 9000 things when in fact I may have bought and sold something last week, or flipped some gear, or traded, etc…

My current setup includes:
15u Eurorack (Make Noise, Intellijel, WMD, Mutable, Harvestman, Cwejman + more)
Dave Smith Pro2
Elektron Octatrack
Metasonix TM7
Native Instruments Maschine
Eventide H9

The actual list of gear used on 'DESIRE MACHINES' is as follows:

Eurorack Modular
Dave Smith Poly Evolver
Arturia Minibrute
Korg MS20 Mini
Elektron Analog 4
Elektron Octatrack
Elektron Machinedrum
Elektron Monomachine
Metasonix Wretch Machine
Korg Volca Series (all 3)
Serge Animal
Buchla 200e (Borrowed from a friend for the track Reasons)
Native Instruments Maschine

IVM: What items are on your ultimate synth wishlist?JB: Arp 2500/2600, Buchla 200/200e, Serge Modular, Elektron Analog RYTM, Waldorf Microwave Xtk.

IVM: Given the amount of tech at your disposal, how do you go about translating Blush Response to the stage for live performances?

JB: I do my live show with my Octatrack and a small portion of my eurorack. The octatrack handles the main tracks + sequences the modular. I also use vocal effects. I like having a compact setup, and the octatrack gives me a serious amount of control over any audio I throw in with it, so I am able to do a lot of improvisational stuff I previously was unable to do with my computer.

IVM: You also practice the art of sound design. How important is this to you and how does it integrate itself into your writing process?

JB: Sound design is a huge part of what I do. I get bored easily if I try to write a song using traditional sounds that fit, and find that if I have a raw sound that excites me, I can use it to shape a track. I am not a sound purist by any means, so often times I may record a modular take that is cool, but maybe not the right pitch, so I'll pitch it, run it through some plugins, maybe turn it into a kontakt instrument and replay a part, or import it into Izotope Iris, etc… Having new sounds is definitely key to me. 

IVM: You've also been working with the software company Glitch Machines. How did that come about and what challenges does that present to you?

JB: Ivo approached me earlier in the year to do some presets for QUADRANT, an amazing modular plugin that came out recently. He made the plugin with the intent of offering people who don't have modulars a chance to capture some of the sounds they might be missing out on. It was a natural thing for me as I'm always programming sounds anyway, so I just kind of did what I do. I tried to create presets that I would use (and have used) on tracks. If I ever have to design a sound bank things might be a bit more difficult just because of the time and artistry involved (it's almost like writing an album), but we'll see when the time comes...

IVM: You've recently been part of the line-up for Joey Jordison's new band Scar The Martyr. How were you approached for that and how was the experience for you?

JB: Scar the Martyr came about through my friend Rhys Fulber. We've worked together on a few projects over the past few years. At the time, he was producing the STM record and they needed a synth programmer. I was initially going to be writing the synth parts on the record, but they ended up going with Chris Vrenna instead. When the time for tour came about, Chris wasn't able to go and thus they called me since I was second in line. Talk about big shoes to fill! Touring with STM (and on that huge big budget level) was an insane experience. It felt like many of my life's dreams being fulfilled. I have a lot of love for everyone involved with that project, and hope they do well in the future.

IVM: You're no stranger to working with other artists such as Fear Factory, Rhys Fulber and Cristian Castro. Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?

JB: That's such a big question… I could list a bunch of heroes right off the bat, but I'm honestly not sure. Obvious choices would be Aphex Twin, Trent Reznor, Autechre, David Bowie. As for some newer artists… Perc, Xosar, Clouds, Shifted, Sigha, Eomac, and Orphx to name a few. There is so much great music coming out these days, it'd be great to sit in a room, turn on some gear, and see what happens.

IVM: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

JB: At the moment I have a bunch of gigs in the US coming up. The most immediate one is September 16 at The Bowery Electric in NYC, followed by a west coast tour with WMX, Statiqbloom, and Cervello Elletronico, and then a Boston gig solo. My life is in a state of transition at the moment and I may be switching locations soon, though I don't want to announce where until everything is settled.

IVM: Finally are there any European/UK tour dates on the horizon?

Europe is definitely somewhere I want to be. It's been a dream of mine for a long time to get out there and play, it's really up to this record to determine that. I'm hoping Desire's established presence on the European scene will lead to tour dates. I'm trying my hardest to make this happen, so we'll see!

'Desire Machines' and the EP, 'The Drift', are currently available to buy via Desire Records and Basic Unit Productions respectively. For more information on Blush Response, including release news and upcoming live dates, please visit the official website.

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