Confession: My all-time favorite band is Oingo Boingo. It’s been that way since Keith Vandeberg introduced me to them in the sixth grade. Oingo Boingo showed me that music could be about something, that it could evoke meaning as well as feeling, that it could tell stories as well as be rebellious. I found out much later that mastermind Danny Elfman also scored films. This made sense to me, given what his band had taught me about the power of music.
Erik Blood will soon release one of the best records I’ve ever heard. The only thing that my Oingo Boingo anecdote has to do with this is that, in addition to making music that feels good as well as means much, Blood also happens to score films. The ability to put music to images undoubtedly aids the ability to create images with music. Touch Screens (2012) illustrates Blood’s vast skills in the area. His work echoes eras past, but its sources remain untraceable, folding in on each other just when you get a taste. This is stuttery, gooey, taffy-like pop in the vein of Brad Laner and Kevin Shields, but Blood puts these things together with that third thing, the thing that comes from more than just nailing the essential tension between tradition and innovation. With a porn-related concept and a cover reminiscent of H.R. Giger’s painting for Dead Kennedys’ Frankenchrist poster, Touch Screens is ripe for controversy — The early-Prince kind of controversy, who incidentally also did music for films.
Music is a four-dimensional plotting grid that often describes hundreds of moving vectors for us, at once and in real time. It implies a capacity to manipulate information for which we have scarcely given ourselves credit. — Roger Hyde
“Most of [the shoegazers] couldn’t rock their way out of a paper bag,” once quoth Simon Reynolds (DuBrowa, 2002). Not so with Erik Blood. There’s as much Loop as there is Main, as much Anton Newcombe as there is Courtney Taylor-Taylor. I also hear some Can and Neu!, which he claims he likes but doesn’t consider an influence. “Though I guess everything one hears is an influence,” he concedes. Blood broadcasts these soundtracks from some unplaceable future, some unknown space out of time.
There are songs, but we were thinking differently. I personally was thinking in terms of chamber symphonies. A little bit loud and noisy, but the same thing. And not bound only to words. — Holger Czukay, Can
Prior to his latest, porn-influenced release, Blood recorded The Way We Live (2009), and the score to Steven Richter’s Center of Gravity (2011), as well as working with Seattle’s inimitable Shabazz Palaces and TheeSatisfaction, among others.
Roy Christopher: Touch Screens incorporates so many sounds from so many eras, yet still sounds fresh. Without giving away too much, are you consciously alluding to particular pieces of the past?
Erik Blood: There are times that I borrow sounds from the past or even try to emulate an era, but I didn’t try to do that with this album. I just made sounds that I knew how to make and made up sounds I hadn’t made before. The only thing I consciously did was try not to be too conscious of what I was doing. If it sounded good or made me feel something, I’d keep it. I threw away the stuff that didn’t.
RC: Tell me about the Touch Screens story. I know it’s all about pornography, but unlike actual pornography, the record is often warm and very human.
EB: It is about porn, but it’s not pornographic and I am not trying to make any statement about pornography. I have a fascination with pornography that comes from growing up in a time when it wasn’t readily available to young people like it is today. It was friend’s parents and older brothers usually who had a tape or a magazine that we would all gather around to check out. It was fun and exciting and usually the actual porno was fun and exciting. I’m talking “golden age” shit like Radley Metzger (aka Henry Paris) and Joe Sarno, later in life Joe Gage and Wakefield Poole. My album is at times a love letter to those films and those times as well as a little nod to some of the actors. Other times I’m just describing a sensation or experience related to pornography.
EB: I’ve always thought of the voice as an instrument. It’s a purveyor of melody above all else to me.
RC: How has Hip-hop on one end and your music for films on the other affected your songwriting techniques?
EB: I don’t think I approach them any differently because my aesthetics aren’t different. They may change or expand, but they’re always there, a filter that everything I do has to pass through. Every project I do, or new venture, changes and expands my palette but it’s always me the music comes through.
RC: Seattle is my adopted home, and I’ve always found living there (four different times) strangely poised between isolation and connection. How does the city resonate with you and your music?
EB: It’s hard for me to say because I’ve lived here my whole life. Born in Tacoma, I moved to Seattle at 18 and never left. Sometimes I feel like that wasn’t the best thing for me, but I’m also really happy with my life and my work, so I don’t have a real issue with it. Seattle’s a beautiful place and even if I decide to leave it, I know I’ll be back.
RC: What’s coming up for you next?
EB: I’m working on “scoring” a 45-minute slideshow for this thing called Slideluck Potshow that’s going down in August. Also doing a lot of mixing in the lab this summer. Hoping to get started on some new Shabazz tracks very soon. And after the album comes out, I’ll have a nice little Touch Screens remix EP to put out with mixes by Shabazz, OC Notes, Crypts and a few others.
Here’s the trailer for Touch Screens [edited by Brian O’Shea; runtime: 2:04]:
Hughs, Rob. (2011, November). Masterworks: Tago Mago by Can. Prog, No. 21, pp. 56-59.
Hyde, Roger. (1996, Spring). Priests of Another Knowledge. Whole Earth Review, No. 89, pp. 94-99.
DuBrowa, Corey. (2002, March/April). Going Blank Again: The History of Shoegazing. Magnet, No. 53, pp. 55-64, 106-107.