Friday, March 12, 2010

Black Shades Interview: Geek Trio Band Gives Away Music to be Heard

Introducing, Black Shades. Formed during the summer of 2009, they are the newest Electronica / Grindcore / Experimental Rock band to come out of London, England. They do not have a complete album in release as of yet, but their talent suggests the maturity of a more experienced band worth following. Their sound is a modern twist of Radiohead meets Chemical Brothers and 20000 Leagues Under the Sea mashed into one innovative collaboration of brilliant sound of guitar, tech, and crafty beats known as Black Shades.

While many bands are becoming much harder to label due to their unique characteristics, placing a genre label on a band like Black Shades can sometimes be hard to do, especially for a new band trying to fit in. During the early 80's, grindcore was one of the most hardcore abrasive forms of music. Throughout the decades the word has evolved into a "street-skate" suburbian term to describe music worth skateboarding to. Black Shades most fitting song comparison is "Modern Media". It poses a mash of high energy electro tech style of music with the perfect contrast of sonic guitar rhythms to compliment their unique sound.

I had the privilege to speak Stuart and Eddie to ask those deep questions about their band:

Who is Black Shades and how did you come to be? Black Shades is a London-based Indie Electronica trio formed from two bands that Stu was in concurrently back in 2008 (Stunsets and Nevertimes). The sound could be described as a mixture of both elements of electronic and rock, but also as a new direction.

So, you guys just barely created this band in June of 2009? That's amazing. It’s true the band was forged for real then but it wasn’t like we got together and there was a clean slate. There was a lot of material from Nevertimes that we always considered too dancey for a rock band, and vice versa for Stunsets. It gave us a chance to develop a lot of existing ideas. This I guess got us up and running a lot quicker. There’s still a lot existing material we’re looking to develop as well as completely fresh ones.

Was it easy to create your sound or did it take a lot of engineering to make it sound "perfect"? The days in Stunsets proved to be a good testing ground for us gear-wise and production-wise. We’ve learnt a lot then in terms of what does and doesn’t work both technically and sonically. A battle we always had was getting the exact same sound we produced in the studio to our on stage setup. It can be a challenge sometimes when you use a lot of soft synth sounds to reproduce a ‘playable’ version live, but we’ve pretty much nailed it now.

You often refer to yourselves as geeks. Why? We’re all fans of digital music, and it goes with the territory of electronic music really. If you’re going to produce that kind of sound you have a certain nerdy element to your approach to your equipment and setup. Our practice sessions are less rock’n’roll and more of a computer science laboratory, so it requires a lot of patience at times. But the hours spent in our labcoats are slowly paying off!

Who said Phil Collins is your influence? Eddie. Eddie is a huge fan…that’s all he ever talks about.

Your music sounds nothing like Phil Collins nor like Genesis. What about Collins is like your music? Is it his work ethic? Eddie: ‘Dance Into The Light’ for me is a seminal album. The guy is an absolute genius and possible the best pop singer / rock drummer of all time. What more can I say. We even named one of our songs after him.

Besides Phil Collins what other bands or artists do you think you resemble or emulate? We see Soulwax as pretty much the masters of fusing the energy of rock music with the repetition of dance music. We’ve taken a lot of pointers from their live setup too. We’re into bands on both sides of the whole crossover line we aim to straddle, so for us that’s the likes of the Eagles Of Death Metal, The Black Keys, Softpack, BRMC, The Kills (mostly US rock it seems) on one side and the likes of DFA records, New Order, Kraftwerk, Death in Vegas, Unkle, Gorrilaz, Working For A Nuclear Free City, The Knife, Bloody Beetroots etc etc… on the other.

It appears you have a long line up of venues you are performing at in London. Are you planning on a European tour as well? We are actually. Ric’s from Milan and has secured us a few gigs out there, and Eddie has connections with Paris so we’re heading out there in the summer too. It seems we’ll be touring the fashion capitals. We’d like to get over to Scandinavia and Berlin too, the spiritual home of techno.

About your music, my personal favourite is "Feed the Junkie". What is the story behind that song and what is behind the name? It’s about the internal debate / dilemma people sometimes go through when they pass a down-and-out on the street. Whether or not giving money actually helps and if not how to be of help. The vagabond in the song is meant to be someone who has fallen from grace perhaps of their own moral undoing. A sort of Tom Rakewell character who only a saint would be interested in helping out.

What was the most fun track that you worked on? "Modern Media" has been quite fun to work on because it’s quite fast and feels good to play, it’s a song where we get both guitars out and let our hair down (if we had pony tails this would be the point we’d release the locks).

Since you are relatively new, it seems you are more about getting your name out there and becoming discovered over making a buck selling your music online. Why are you just giving away your music versus selling it? Is it because you make very little by selling your songs anyway? It’s not like we’re making some big statement like Prince or Radiohead. We just don’t expect people to pay for our music right now as we’re still only just starting out and we wouldn’t spend on similar artists at our level. We’re keen for people just to check us out, give feedback and maybe come to a show.

More often, musicians are practicing this concept. What are your thoughts to the matter? It’s a shame that music has become devalued in the internet age. It seems every medium has, from music to news to film to TV. Basically anything digital is inherently easy to copy no matter how hard you try to prevent it and as we live in a digital age, all creative enterprise will be challenged. I think the dust will settle in about 5/10 years time. It may see some big industry name casualties and we may see some new big names filling the void, but I think Spotify is a nod in the right direction. The always accessible catalogue of music and the social networking will add the value, not the media file itself.

So, what are you guys working on at the moment? Are you adding new songs to your new EP? We’re just putting the finishing touches to a song with an Eastern vibe to it. It is very short too, which is a change for us. After that it’s more song writing ahead, developing existing ideas and working on new fresh songs. Of course playing live and getting better at that. We want to aim for at least 1-2 shows a month.

What else in store from Black Shades that's coming soon?
Experimenting with new things technically. We’ve been flirting with the idea of getting a live drummer/percussionist so maybe we’ll pursue that soon. Also looking at working with some VJ’s and we have a film-making friend who is going to work on a promo video for us next month. So watch this space!

Black Shades are:
Stuart - Vocals, Guitar
Eddie - Vocals, Synth
Riccardo - Bass, Synth

More of Black Shades:
Enjoy a 3-track preview plus a bonus track from their unnamed, unreleased EP that is currently in development on The Great Unknowns Presents.
Black Shades website and MySpace

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