In conversation with Black Asteroid

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Interview by Tamara Arden

Bryan Black, aka Black Asteroid is a London/New York-based electronic musician, producer, DJ and former sound designer / keyboard tech for funk-rock legend Prince while working at Paisley Park Studios. Also acting as one half of the critically acclaimed MOTOR, Black Asteroid has been an influential part of the underground tech scene since 2011’s The Engine EP released via CLR. To date Black Asteroid has released a full length album titled Thrust in 2017, released via Last Gang Records, as well as a number of singles, EPs and remixes for artists such as Depeche Mode and Rick Owens, to name a few.

Performing at sold out events such as Palazzi Dei Congressi in Rome with a capacity of 12,000, Black Asteroid has also performed at iconic venues such as Mysteryland Festival, Berghain, Fabric and many, many more.

We caught up with Black Asteroid to speak about influences, working within the fashion world and perfect collaborations:

The music climate of electronica keeps shifting in trends. Do you have a formula for keeping your sounds original and authentic?

The foundation of my sound has always been techno. The great thing about techno is that it’s not a trend – it will always have a place in the scene no matter what new genres come and go.
I started Black Asteroid with an industrial-techno sound, and as soon as that sound got trendy, I introduced vocals and simple melodies within the raw techno I was making for my debut album. It’s important for me to keep moving forward, and not following trends.

Your debut EP Engine created great leverage in the beginnings of Industrial techno. What methods and influences did you incorporate to achieve this sound?

I came from an industrial music background. My first project was industrial – so when I started making techno, the industrial influence remained. One of the reasons my music is so distinctive is that I write techno in a tradition song arrangement, unlike most dance music which is loop-based, I write in a verse/chorus arrangement, which gives the songs a pop sensibility no matter how heavy they may be.

Fashion designer Rick Owens has used your music on the runways in Paris. How has the collaboration evolved since you met?

After doing some music for fashion shows and creating mixes for the in-store music, we expanded our collaboration to visuals. Rick started helping me with art direction, and provided some images for recent EPs and my debut album Thrust. Throughout this process I started collaborating with his wife, Michele Lamy. We have done impromtu live performances at fashion events, most recently in Venice for Bienale. It’s an on-going collaboration that keeps producing amazing results.

Black Asteroid as a brand has a particular look: sleek, black and curated. How does your visual identity form part of your brand?

The visual side of music is important for me and the Black Asteroid brand. A song for me is not done unless it is properly presented visually. I worked for many years as a graphic designer, then moved into fashion, and this thread has been inseparable with my music.  

You recently worked with Zola Jesus on Howl. Her vocals compliment the darker frequencies on the track. Can you tell us about what sparked off the collaboration?

In late 2014 she asked me to support her on some shows in Europe. So I would perform an experimental techno set before her headline show. We became friends, and promised to collaborate in the future. As I was recording my album I sent her some instrumentals, and she immediately gravitated towards a track called ‘Freeze’. We developed this into ‘Howl’. With the Zola Jesus collaboration, I wanted to introduce vocals into techno that goes beyond the typical monotone vocal. It was an experiment which worked so well, we shot a video (in Iceland) and the song became the first single on my album.

There’s an enigmatic layering to your videos in terms of characters and visuals. How do you approach the storyboard for each track?

I’ve made videos for almost all my singles. I normally reach out to directors who work outside of the techno or club industry. I like videos to have a story or strong visual aesthetic that transcends pulsing graphics typically found in dance videos.

You’re playing alongside a strong lineup for The Playground’s event at The Steelyard in September. What are you looking forward to?

It’s one of the best lineups I will play this year. I can’t wait to see the other acts – especially Surgeon and Lady Starlight, Shxcxchcxsh and u-ziq.

Catch Black Asteroid performing live on September 30th, at The Playground’s 10 Years / 10 Acts / 10 Hours Event, at The Steelyard, 13-16 Allhallows Lane, London.

For more information follow Black Asteroid on Facebook