“If you’re going to release something and go through that stress and hard work, then the release HAS to be worthy.”
Jamie Blacker’s name has been cropping up on the regular of late, both in connection to his primary outlet, ESA, and now a variety of other projects. While ESA has been informed equally by power noise, soundtrack, dark ambient and IDM sounds, Blacker’s been lending his vocals to recent releases by iVardensphere and Voster, amongst other scattered guest spots (Access To Arasaka, Displacer). With the recent release of No-One Will Ever Touch You, the remix companion to his “Themes of Carnal Empowerment” LP series (check our reviews of Lust and Deceit), we’re happy to bring you a conversation between Blacker and our roving ID:UD interviewer at-large, Kathleen Chausse.
ID:UD: Having gone to both metal and noise shows, I’ve noticed a crossover between music fans of each genre. With a history in metal could you explain the connection?
Jamie Blacker: I can’t really answer on behalf of other like minded music fans but I think there is an aggressive and dark nature that binds the two music genres together. I think the likelihood is that that the sounds, tempo and topics of the two genres probably excite similar parts of the brain. There are a few artists that I have met who create similarly oriented music to mine that have entered dark electronics as a branch off from the techno or electro scene but the majority have all been metal kids…or at least have displayed a more than acceptable knowledge of heavy metal music history after a few pints.
ID:UD: ID:UD: Who wrote the poetry in the liner notes of of your albums? Is it your work?
JB: All the poetry and spoken word has been written by me. I’ve always been a lover of English and the written word and in this case, I feel that it provides an additional dimension to an album. It becomes more like a piece of art, less like a collection of frequencies. I think a lot gets lost these days, especially now that the mp3 has begun to dominate over the physical release. The ‘album’ is slowly being forgotten, I’m hanging onto it with every ounce of strength I can muster but you can’t fight demand forever.
The quotes listed on the inner sleeve of the last two albums have been pulled from various sources. I wanted to find quotes that reflected what I was attempting to portray with the ‘Themes’ concepts. Something to rubber stamp the release, tie it up with a proverbial bow.
ID:UD: ID:UD: What has been the hardest part of each of your releases?
JB: Definitely the conscious effort to avoid repetition. It’s quite difficult with non-vocally orientated industrial to avoid treading similar paths album after album. Certainly if you want to retain the same feel and sound for the project. I have allowed myself to experiment with ESA but it’s important to know where to draw the line. Evolution is crucially important to me but I will never want to take away from what ESA is all about at the core.
I also think I make things harder for myself inadvertently. For me if you’re going to release something and go through that stress and hard work, then the release HAS to be worthy. It must supersede any previous work. This, as you can guess, can become extremely difficult, with benchmarks being set consistently higher: at some point you’re gonna have to stop for air.
ID:UD: I read somewhere that you were going to rent a log cabin to get into the writing process. How did that turn out and would you only allow people to address you as Ash during that time?
JB: Hahaha. I love that you can see right through that. No, I came to the realisation that a week in a log cabin might give me (at the top side) two tracks. I spend a lot of time writing, structuring and engineering a track so I would need to be on quite some advance to take myself away for three months. My parents do however live in the woods so I sometimes take myself away for a weekend, but the family cocker spaniel requires huge amounts of attention, therefore writing dark crunchy rhythms sometimes has to be set aside for catch and throw. (I did however rent an apartment by the sea a couple of years ago. The neighbouring holiday makers did not approve of my use of the holiday let.)
ID:UD: I find The Sea & the Silence is the most ambient of all your albums, was there something that was happening in your life at that time to reflect that in the record?
JB: I visited a lot of places and took in a lot of inspiration during that period I guess. I was also working through a series of messy life events towards the end of the writing process for that album but they were emerging around the time writing the more beat orientated tracks if memory serves me correctly.
ID:UD: There is a sense of godlessness and the devil, and simultaneously a strong feeling of spirituality in your music. Can expand on what drives those themes in your work?
JB: Well as I’ve stated several times prior, I am not religious. I would probably bracket myself as an atheist if pushed, but I am incredibly interested in the notion of God and the Devil. I get a bit of a kick out of all those old interpretations of man’s evil. I think its interesting and I’ve been inspired by religion a number of times in order to come up with a feel and texture of a song. I’m really into those old sounds y’know. Bells, orchestral blasts, choral and chanting. It all stems from church music over the ages, though not religious as such. I do connect with the term ‘spirituality’. I’m very in touch with the nature that surrounds us. I have to visit reasonably untouched places quite frequently, even if it’s just to escape being surrounded by people constantly. It levels and recharges me.
“I don’t really understand computers, in fact they baffle me. They don’t comply with the way my brain works…
ID:UD: You’ve said that your technical skills when it came to electronics were limited when you were starting out, especially compared to now. What helped you get to where you are now with your sound?
JB: Perseverance and a lot of hard work. I don’t really understand computers, in fact they baffle me. They don’t comply with the way my brain works but I’ve learnt enough to get me by. I still don’t understand what frequency specific instruments need to sit at etc…I just do what I need to in order to make something sound right. It’s quite embarrassing really but there is literally nothing scientific about the way I work. Mastering Engineers and collaborative producers run from me like the plague. It’s not the school I come from and I would still much rather get my hands on physical instruments during the recording process whenever I can.
ID:UD: Having utilized the themes of lust and deceit in your carnal empowerment series, are their new themes you’re looking to explore in future?
JB: I have an idea where I could and would take the ‘Themes’ series but I am as yet unsure as to whether or not I would like to continue on to a third installment.
ID:UD: Have you reached all the goals that you had set for this project and where would you like to see it go at this point?
JB: I still don’t know if I’ve written the perfect ESA album. I’m not sure there is such a thing. To be brutally honest, this project has already far outweighed any goals I initially set, everything from here on in is a bonus.
ID:UD: Seeing your performance at Kinetik, the visuals were filled with a sense of anxiety and fear. What was the connection between those images and the music?
JB: Okay, well the tone of ESA is usually quite foreboding and I try to create rhythms that whilst are catchy, help to induce a feeling of anxiety and general excitement. The usage of projections are usually employed to accentuate the feel of a show, I therefore try and choose or create imagery that works in line with this.
The projections used at Kinetik were actually my homegrown (very budget) horror movie. Just a short film used as a ruse to set up scenes that I felt would work in line well with the ‘tone’ of the sets I play. A lot of people over the last few years have professed their discomfort or general disapproval at these particular projections, which I can understand, but it’s my 45 mins and if you don’t like it, don’t look.
ID:UD: Your first albums were released on Hive records which sadly has closed, but you’ve found a home at Tympanik Audio. If you hadn’t, would you have thought about starting a small label to release your albums like many artists have?
JB: Not at the time no and probably not even now if I’m honest. It is true that self releasing can be a very cheap and effective way of introducing your music into the public market and with the digital downloading being probably the most in demand form of releasing, it does make a lot of sense financially. But I generally feel more comfortable releasing my music through a label and Tympanik is my home.
“A lot of remix albums are generally tired, self gratifying and dull.”
ID:UD: You worked on The Immaculate Manipulation remix album with several artists, how did you find these artists & how is it to hear your music redone by other creative minds?
JB: This album was a big risk for the label and for myself. A lot of remix albums are generally tired, self gratifying and dull. The choice to pick a number of projects who sound exactly like your own to speed up your track by 5BPM and call it quits seems to be quite a frequent one. I find it utterly uninspiring and to that end I decided to hand pick a number of producers from different electronic music circles. I sifted through (here’s a blast from the past) Myspace and gathered several almost unknown dance and psytek producers to take on a track from the album. Those remixes are still some of my favourite on the release. I wanted the release to be compiled of completely different interpretations of the original tracks. I think that collectively we achieved that. There is a journey through dance, techno, drum n bass, dubstep, noise, ambient and straight ahead industrial. I’m really glad that we went ahead and made that collection what it was.
ID:UD: How is it different between performing as a solo project compared to being on stage in a group like Voster?
JB: Performing with Voster is a much more freeing experience. The only pressure I have is remembering lyrics (which is indeed a pressure with my laughable retention issues). I get to let go and have fun, not just because I am not tied to controlling samples and playing live beats but the ‘feel’ of Voster is much more fun. Scott, Yann and I all love hard dance and that’s really where the concept of Voster is at its most comfortable. Edgey and energetic dance music that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Taking ESA on stage is a much more immersive experience and ive spent a long time attempting to perfect the balance between an entertaining, exciting live show and a performance which demands hands on real time control. Which after bad whiskey decisions can be made much harder.
ID:UD: Voster has developed in a more industrial dance direction. How did that come about?
JB: As above. Scott, Yann and I all decided that as our respective projects can by quite tying in their almost ‘purist’ natures, we wanted a vent. A platform to allow us to let go and just write some really fun aggressive dance music. I think we have achieved this thus far.
ID:UD: You’ve mentioned recently on your Facebook page of a upcoming EP coming out in November? Can you give us some information on that release?
JB: Yes. This release will be online only (yeah I know this totally contradicts what I said above). With this being an EP rather than a full album release, it just made no sense to lay out the funds to release this physically so we’ve decided to do this as a download only option. The EP will be a ‘pay what you will’ release and is when it comes down to it, is a thank you to the fans for sticking with ESA, turning up at shows and being pretty resilient in their appreciation for the last 8 years.
It will be called No-One Will Ever Youch You/False in Tongue EP. It will be comprised of the original album version of “No-One Will Ever Touch You”, two remixes of said track, four remixes of various other tracks taken from the ‘Themes’ releases and a brand new unreleased ESA track called “False in Tongue”. I’m really proud of the collection and I know it will go down well.
We are tentatively looking at a November 12 release, so if you’re reading this and we’re already there then go forth and make it happen via the ESA Facebook page.