Interview: Blush Response [Sonic Groove] - USA/GER
Joey Blush, also known as Blush Response, Cuban-American artist and sound designer who currently lives in Berlin. These days he is celebrating the release of his new LP, 'Infinite Density', his new full-length album released on the avant-garde label Sonic Groove, by Adam X. Influenced by Autechre, Front Line Assembly and Skinny Puppy, the producer has previously released on record labels Ant-Zen and Aufnahme + Wiedergabe by Philipp Strobel, and has worked on the sound design of industrial pioneers David Bottrill, Fear Factory, Rhys Fulber and Cristian Castro.
TF: Hello Joey ... where did you studied and who influenced you to explore musical processes?
BR: I am a self taught musician. I took some piano lessons as a teenager, but my real musical education took place on my own, in my parents basement, messing with sounds. My influences are early industrial and EBM music, as well as IDM, techno, and many other areas of electronics. If I had to pick some artists, I would say, Morton Subotnick, Aphex Twin, Autechre, Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, COIL, Mika Vainio, to name a few.
TF: The Afro-Cuban music was widely consumed by sectors of Latino origin in New York. This was the city where you lived and started writing music. You also had collaborated with the Mexican singer: Cristian Castro. Would you say there’s influence of latin rhythms in your music?
BR: Latin rhythms are in my blood! I've always had an affinity for strange rhythms and I think it must definitely show through in my music. I haven't intentionally referenced any one sound or culture though when making my beats. It was cool to work with Cristian Castro - I did synths on his rock album L'a Esfinge', along with David Bottrill (Placebo, Tool, Smashing Pumpkins). We also had Cesar "Vampiro" Lopez from Mana doing guitars on the record. It was an amazing experience to work on something completely out of my comfort zone, and I learned a lot doing it. One cool thing was oftentimes Cristian would sing me the melodies he wanted me to play, or I would play one, and he would instantly modify it and sing it back to me to be played.
TF: Why do you think artists migrate to Berlin? What is happening now in the city from your point of view?
BR: Berlin is a very affordable city, and that's great for art. Electronic music is huge here right now, and I imagine it will be forever, as long as rent stays cheap. It's really a melting pot of artists from all over the world doing their thing. This energy is really inspiring for me and drives me to work on my own craft all the time.
TF: Which aspects of sound have you been examining recently? Is the impression that your music produces on the audience important for you? BR: Lately I'm into spectral processing. While recording 'Infinite Density', a good friend of mine named Carl Golembeski brought his Kyma system over. Carl works professionally in sound, most recently doing sound for Beyonce and Bruno Mars. His Kyma system blew my mind. We recorded a bunch of patterns from my Analog Rytm and then used the Kyma system to do real time spectral mangling on the sounds. It really sounded like nothing I've ever heard before. Some of those sounds made it onto the track 'Tryptamine'. I don't have a Kyma yet, but I've been experimenting with programs such as Metasynth and other spectral VST plugins to sort of mimic the effect I got.
I would hope that my music has a real effect on a person, either extreme love or hatred. I want people to feel intense emotions. I don't like half measures, and an extreme positive or negative response is much better than anything in between. With that said, I don't write my music to cater to anyone's needs. I write music that touches me, and leave it at that. I don't want to dilute what I do for anyone's expectations.
TF: Do you think that an excessive media exposure tends to cause harm to music? Is it more disposable than a few decades ago?
BR: I think it is a crime that music has become inherently valueless. Metallica were right to be against Napster in the early days. Illegal downloading has completely decimated the industry, and I am unsure if it will ever recover. Spotify and other streaming services have also exacerbated this problem by paying out ridiculously low royalty rates for plays. It seems the world has chosen convenience over respect for artists. I think exposure can only be positive for music. We need all the help we can get, especially because sales are so low. If you want to support an artist, the number one thing you can do is buy their music and merchandise. Invest in the artists you love, and they will repay you by producing art that can change your life forever.
TF: Those of us who are followers of your music, receive the good news of your new length album "Infinite Density" signed in the legendary Sonic Groove. We also know about your broad release history, what makes this album different from 'Reshaper'?
BR: 'Reshaper' was an effort to strip my sound to the bare essentials and understand how minimal rhythmic music can elicit an emotional response. Every track was recorded live, with only a few elements. Usually drums and one or two main synth melodies. There were almost no overdubs, and only edits for length. I continued working this way until 'Human Augmentation', after which I felt I needed a change. 'Infinite Density' is me trying everything possible to push myself to the limit, both with songwriting and production. I allowed myself to overdub, to edit as much as possible, and to create things that couldn't be played live. I did this because I wanted to create something that could flow like a proper album, with melodies, tracks in different tempos, and a story that you could follow. I didn't just want dance floor tracks.
TF: In the interview that the colleagues of Intravenous Magazine asked you about the configuration of your setup, has it changed much since then? What new hardwares did you apply to make 'Infinite Density' LP?
BR: When I moved to Berlin I slimmed down my setup a lot as shipping it all overseas would have been prohibitively expensive. What's left is my eurorack modular (which has grown in size), some Elektrons (Analog RYTM, Digitakt, Octatrack), and a couple keyboards (Kawai K5000s, Waldorf Micro Q). I plan to get more gear in the future. I'd like to re collect some of the things I sold off, and just change things up a bit. With that said though, the modular is always the centerpiece of my setup, simply because there is so much synth power inside of it. It's my favorite instrument, because it is one that challenges me, and one that can always evolve. It's a lifetime commitment for me.
TF: What’s your favourite track to play live and why?
BR: I really love playing 'Body Artifex' live. I think it's one of the most aggressive beats I've written, and the crowd always goes crazy when they hear that sequence begin. It just smashes them into pieces. I'm still incorporating 'Infinite Density' tracks into the set, but lately I've been opening with the title track, as well as 'Tesselate', which I'm still figuring out how to present, but sounds really punishing.
TF: Recently, have you seen any movie or documentary, or heard an album that has influenced the way you make music? What other art forms or music inspire you as a person? BR: 'Blade Runner 2049' was really good, I think that was going to be obvious seeing as my name is a Blade Runner reference. I think it might be better than the original. Besides that, one film that has really stuck out for me is 'Beyond The Black Rainbow'. Simply astonishing in every way. I think I've seen that movie 30 times in the past year, only because I kept finding out my friends hadn't seen it, and I would show it to them. It's definitely my favorite movie now. I'm also an avid gamer, and reader. Everything influences me equally, I can't say one thing more than another.
TF: What are the future plans for Blush Response? With whom would you like to collaborate? Are there possibilities for touring Latin America?
BR: I'm always writing new material, so of course there will be new stuff, and soon. I recently collaborated with Thomas Heckmann, and we have a record coming next year from that collaboration. More info on that soon. I have a few people in mind for new collaborations, but I'd rather announce them if they happen. I would love to tour Latin America. I recently did a fantastic gig at Cocoliche in Argentina. I would love to go back to the Americas for a proper tour. Maybe it happens this year! :)
TF: Thank you Joey! ...
Listen to the full album, via HATE.
Tracklist: 01. Infinite Density / 02. Panic Stricken / 03. No Solace / 04. Aum Shinrikyo
05. Survivor Guilt / 06. Painkiller / 07. Serpentine / 08. Infinite Dread
09. Tryptamine / 10. Tesselate / 11. Dead Still Air.