Black Asteroid is a man with a unique vision for the future of techno. As a former engineer for Prince and half of acclaimed techno outfit MOTOR, Bryan Black has been consistently pushing the boundaries of electronic music for over two decades. He now launches his most ambitious project to date with Pitch Black, a new multi-faceted platform that merges his twin loves of music and fashion.
I was looking to create an outlet to experiment with techno in a new way; embracing the darker spectrum of techno, fashion & design... There’s a brand new label, podcast series and tours around the world that come with specifically designed art and visuals. He’s also been working on a brand new Black Asteroid album that is set to take his artistic vision into new territory. Never standing still and forever seeking his next adventure, Black Asteroid is currently a man on a mission. I Voice caught up with him to find out about Pitch Black and his plans for the future. There are a lot of them …
What was the driving force behind your decision to launch Pitch Black?
I was looking to create an outlet to experiment with techno in a new way; embracing the darker spectrum of techno, fashion and design. For me, the visual side of music is very important. I don’t think anyone has really put these worlds together and it feels like the perfect marriage for what I’m trying to achieve. The fashion events I have attended have had bad hip-hop and commercial dance music, which does not work at all with the clothes the designer made. I always wondered what would happen if the music was as dark and mysterious as the clothes the designers are presenting. I’m working now on Pitch Black Paris, which will take place during fashion week in January.
Techno by definition is a futurist statement, but there is an aura of conservatism that annoys me...Traditionally there are no techno events tied into fashion week. I’m excited to try these things where possible. There is something empowering doing your own thing and not depending on others.
Pitch Black is an avenue to experiment with techno in ways that interest me. Techno by definition is a futurist statement, but there is an aura of conservatism that annoys me. There are too many rules and some of them need to be broken.
What has informed the stylistic element to the project? Why has that been so important to you?
One of my first jobs out of school was at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. I was surrounded by modern art every day. After this, I went to work with Prince, also in Minneapolis. I always bounce between graphic design and music.
I am unable to separate music and art. They go hand in hand for me, & I’ve always embraced both sides equally...When fashion designers such as Raf Simons and Rick Owens started using my music for their runway shows, I was thrown into that world. It just struck a chord with me. I always wanted to merge beautiful visuals with dark and disjointed music. There is something that happens when beautiful and polished elements merge with ugly and raw elements. I am unable to separate music and art. They go hand in hand for me, and I’ve always embraced both sides equally.
When I’m making music, I’m thinking of the cover art and music video. It’s important to present music like this, and this is why I have produced a music video for every Black Asteroid single for example. We have also placed a lot of emphasis on packaging. For my 3x 12” trilogy on Electric Deluxe - we printed black on black, white on white and finally metal on metal for the 12” editions. I think my next 12” will come in a leather sleeve.
Are there any artists / designers that you are working with that you are really excited to have on board?
I’m currently collaborating with fashion designers such as Rick Owens and Guidi on visual presentation for the events and label releases/ packaging. For the first Pitch Black release, we are collaborating with both Rick Owens and Guidi on the art and packaging.
I love it when music can be touched & appreciated in ways that go beyond digital...I love it when music can be touched and appreciated in ways that go beyond digital. On the musical side, I’ve invited Function, Cold Cave, Paul Ritch, Volvox to the first parties. I’m looking forward to the next wave of events and growing the pitch black roster.
How did the first Pitch Black dates go in the US? What were the highlights of the tour?
Both New York and Chicago were amazing. The highlight for me was performing my set with live vocals from Cold Cave. I always envisioned performing a techno set with some live element. There was an element of danger and anticipation that is missing from techno that I find very exciting. In New York we had wrap around visuals with distorted runways videos from Rick Owens catwalk shows in. I found myself watching the videos as I played, and realizing how exciting it was, to finally present techno like this.
How did the crowd respond?
The energy was fantastic; especially during the live part of my set. For a moment, it felt like a rock concert inside a dark techno club. I’m always trying to add an element of danger and excitement when I perform. I’m not the type of DJ who enjoys playing a kick drum for 14 hours. I think my background in live music is forever inspiring my sets.
How would you say American audiences engage with harder-edged music? I think many people often assume it is neglected in a sea of EDM in the States.
Very well I think. There is a history in the US with Rock and Alternative Music that works in my favor. The trick is to engage with different audiences. I’m always trying to attract different audiences to my gigs. For example, I did some work for Depeche Mode, and I’m finding their fans coming to the gigs. Normally, they would not attend a techno event.
The image of dance music in the US is changing. I think the audience for techno is growing rapidly...As far as EDM is concerned, I’m finding many of these fans are moving to techno and house, which is promising. The image of dance music in the US is changing. I think the audience for techno is growing rapidly.
What is your aim with the podcast?
The podcast showcases the energy of Pitch Black events. I mixed the first podcast and enlisted my photographer, Matthew Reeves to shoot the artwork. He worked with the boutique Gallery Aesthete in Chicago - shooting a black leather jacket by Boris Bidjan Saberi. I wanted to showcase the different dynamics of Pitch Black and therefore included my recent singles with vocals and my remix for Depeche Mode among the darker techno.
Do you think that podcasts’ immediacy and currentness could really challenge the relevancy of albums?
I will always produce albums, since it's the best way to tell a story and present it visually and physically. There are probably too many podcasts and the attention span for people to absorb them all is limited. I’m hoping to attract a tribe of like-minded people who will appreciate what Pitch Black is setting out to achieve, and the podcast seems like a great introduction. The ultimate goal is for the podcast to introduce people to the parties and the artists featured.
Has your own music gone through an aesthetical shift with Pitch Black?
It has. When I started Black Asteroid on CLR records, the sound was very militant and cold. Over the last year, as I have been writing my album, I experimented with vocals, and soundscapes which help me tell a bigger story, that is true to the vision I always had for Black Asteroid. Developing Pitch Black in part inspired this. Hearing my music in a fashion context was inspiring.
For me the inspiration comes from art, fashion, architecture, & not hearing other people’s music per say... For example if you go to a Rick Owens store anywhere in the world, there is a good chance the music being played is a Black Asteroid mix/ podcast; seeing the brutal architecture of the store and the clothes while hearing the music makes perfect sense, and has really fueled my desire to push these elements further.
What are your most steadfast principles when it comes to making music?
Simplicity; I usually go into the studio with a clear idea for a song in my head. All my best songs were made with 8 or less channels of audio. I am a minimalist in that regard. For me the inspiration comes from art, fashion, architecture, and not hearing other people’s music per say. It’s an exciting challenge to create music to fit an image for example. One of my recent singles ‘Metal’ aimed to recreate the energy of heavy metal into a techno context. ‘Black Acid’ was written when I was producing some black on black designs.
Can you reveal any further plans about the label?
The first release will feature a physical package that has never been created before. It will be a Black Asteroid release collaborating with some great techno and fashion talent. I think it’s going to be a bold introduction to the label. After that, I’m not sure what will be next, but I love the idea I can do anything I want with Pitch Black, at any time.
The first release will feature a physical package that has never been created before...Where are you most looking forward to taking Pitch Black on tour?
Being able to showcase techno talent that I feel connects with the philosophy behind Pitch Black. And present it visually in different ways. Developing the concept further each time, with better production and challenging lineups; introducing the fashion world to the music that inspired the designers that they follow.
We have heard rumours of a new artist album on the way. Can you share any plans / details at this stage?
I have spent about 2 years developing it and am very excited to release it. There are some great vocalists featuring on it. About half the album features vocal tracks. Everything is techno based, and over 12 tracks showcase all the different facets of Black Asteroid. I’m working with Rick Owens on the art. It’s in the very final stages of development now.