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Apr 02, 2005 Boom Bip
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Boom Bip is Bryan Hollon. Bryan Hollon is Boom Bip. When asked to describe his sound, Hollon humorously responds: “It is a bit like Marianne Faithful on Prozac and vitamins with a computer, a penis and a few guitars.” He has been involved in both the independent hip-hop scene and the electronica scene, thanks to his mainly instrumental, usually sample-based music (like his two Doo Doo Breaks records for Mush) and his collaborations with the likes of rapper Doseone (as in 2002’s collaboration album Circle). In 1993 Hollon got his start as a DJ while attending college in his hometown of Cincinnati. 2002 also saw the release of Seed to the Sun, his debut solo album put out by Lex and Warp. His second album, Blue Eyed In the Red Room (Lex), was released on March 8th, 2005. The album is mainly instrumental and nearly sample-free, but features guest vocals from singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia on the gorgeous ballad “The Matter (Of Our Discussion)” and from Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals on first single “Do’s and Don’ts” (Hollon remixed SFA’s “Father Father” for the band’s Phantom Phorce remix album). We spoke to the now Los Angeles based Hollon about collaborating with Rhys, Blue Eyed In the Red Room, and the current states of hip-hop and dance music.

Under the Radar: You’ve been DJing since 1993, how would you say hip-hop and electronica music has progressed since then?

Bryan Hollon: Well the two have merged a bit. Mainstream artist like Timbaland, The Neptunes, Lil’ Jon and Missy Elliot really started using some insane techy sounds that were very appealing to electronic fans. That was something I could have never guessed would have happened. So much of the hip-hop I was playing in the early 90’s was all sample based and usually jazz, rock or funk loop based pieces. Now producers are picking up Nord Leads, Tritons and Virus synths, which before this were mostly for electronic and dance production, and making techy beats. The two combined nicely around the turn of the millennium. Now I feel it is time to change again. The laptop glitchy and poppy stuff has run its course and the Pop-Hop has begun to grow tiresome. It’s time for something new to happen with the two genres.

UTR: In recent years, lots of people have been writing obituaries for electronica/dance music. Would you say that, with a few exceptions, electronica music has become stagnant in recent years, or would you say that there are many more years of growth ahead for the genre/scene?

Bryan: I see a lot of room for growth for it, but at the same time purists have kept it stagnant. That applies for every genre. Those who feel that the genre has reached a peak of perfection and that no other elements should be added to the formula, really hold things back. You can always push the form further but you have to think outside of the usual tools used for creating that sound. If you are content with the sound and what is happening, then there is nothing to look forward to. So yes, I do feel a lot of the so-called laptop music and dance music have had their time. Now, if you continue to do that you fall into a huge blanket of mediocrity. It will take those who are not afraid to take chances and stop outside the box to make major waves in the electronic music field.

UTR: What would you say is the biggest difference between Seed to Sun and Blue Eyed in the Red Room, how have you most progressed in between the two albums?

Bryan: The biggest difference is location and my frame of mind. Both albums are personal albums that capture the time and place I was in while recording the record. The approach was the same but the tools and inspiration were different. I wasn’t afraid to take chances on this album. I am much more confident now as a songwriter than I used to be. Seed to Sun I used several live instruments, but usually looped sections and sequenced them out. This was because I was wanted everything so perfect and I was not able to keep time with a click track for 5 minutes on each instrument. With Blue Eyed I was able to do that and also allow a bit more freedom with the changes within the song. I was not concerned about DJs being able to spin this album. With Seed to Sun I still had that in mind. I just wanted to do a piece that people could enjoy listening to in any situation.

UTR: I read that Blue Eyed in the Red Room contains no samples, when you set out to record the album, were you worried that you were setting yourself up to not to be able to fall back on samples? Was it a challenge doing a record without samples?

Bryan: Actually, there are a few samples on the album. The samples used are buried and tweaked so they are really only there as texture. The album is about 98% instrumentation. It was actually much easier for me to record without samples. Samples can sometimes consume the song to where that is all the listener is listening to. It is if you are paying homage to the original songwriter of the track more than expressing yourself through your music. Because my music is usually emotionally driven, I felt it might be better to cut out the middleman (samples) and get my message across in a more pure manner by playing instruments.

UTR: Where does the title Blue Eyed in the Red Room come from?

Bryan: That phrase was running through my head almost every day in recording the album. I was not sure where it was coming from. It just kept popping in my head. I wrote it down in a sketchbook and thought I might name a song that just for the hell of it. Then one day I was out on my patio watching the sunset and I saw my reflection in the window and it was my blue eyes with a really red sunset in the background. I thought, “Hey, I got a title for my new album.”

UTR: How did Gruff Rhys [of Super Furry Animals] end up singing on “Do’s and Don’ts” on Blue Eyed in the Red Room?

Bryan: Well, backstage at one of their shows we had discussed doing a conceptual piece together. We didn’t really develop any ideas at that time but wanted to do something together. I was then asked to do the remix for “Father Father” and instead of payment I asked if Gruff would be into swapping vocals on my album for the remix. He agreed. They ended their Phantom Power tour here in L.A. and he stuck around and crashed on my couch for a week writing and recording.

UTR: With “Do’s and Don’ts,” what came first, the music or the lyrics, or did you collaborate on everything together?

Bryan: The basic demo of the music was created first and then Gruff took a day or two to write the lyrics to that demo. We had a short amount of time to complete the track, so this was the easiest way. This collaboration worked really well and was really done in a short period of time from beginning to end. The fact that I was able to have a basic song structure for him to write to, record the lyrics together in a studio and then just re-record some of the instruments and put finishing touches on it worked really well. You get a lot of both of us on that piece.

UTR: Did you have any say in the lyrics of “Do’s and Don’ts,” or did you just leave Gruff to his own devices?

Bryan: I left Gruff to his own devices. I never want to have any say in the vocalist I work with. I choose them for their lyrics and vocal styles, so why would I step in and edit that?

UTR: Will the single release for “Do’s and Don’ts” have any different mixes of the song on the b-side?

Bryan: Not sure yet. I think I might though. I think I may get someone to remix it for the b-side.

UTR: Do you think you’ll ever perform the song live with Gruff

Bryan: Yes. In London on April 19th to be exact. Caribou, formerly Manitoba, Four Tet and others will be there as well. It will be great night.

UTR: How did you approach remixing Super Furry Animals “Father Father” for the Phantom Phorce remix album, especially considering that the original Super Furry Animals song was so short and simple?

Bryan: Short and simple songs on albums are usually my favorite because you always want a bit more. So I had the opportunity to give people a bit more and so I did. On that track I focused mainly on the melody of the vocals. That was essential in driving the track, so I just starting developing tones around the vocal melodies and one simple guitar loop. I wanted to keep it pleasant and deep with a title such as “Father Father”.

UTR: Would you say that in general Super Furry Animals are an easy band to remix or a hard band to remix, and why?

Bryan: A little of both. They are easy to remix in the sense that they play around with so many genres, that nothing is too far out for them. You can do anything to their music and it sounds right because they have probably dabbled in that sound themselves. They are a bit difficult in the sense that they have so many layers and so many good parts to choose from, it makes it difficult in deciding which parts you want to use and not use for the remix.

UTR: How’d Nina Nastasia get involved on Blue Eyed In the Red Room?

Bryan: I had received Nina’s [albums] Run to Ruin and Blackened Air from a friend at Southern [Records]. My friend actually made the suggestion that we would sound great together. So I went home and listened to the album. I could not believe how pure and powerful her lyrics and voice were. So at first I thought the idea was a bit daunting because I have never worked with someone who had such a defined sound and personality without the assistance of anyone but themselves. She is a true solo artist and needs nothing but her guitar to capture you. How could I compete with something so pure? I thought to myself, “I may fuck it up”. So I got her contact info from Southern and talked to Nina about collaborating for my new record. We both were a bit nervous about it at first, but as things progressed we realized that it could work.

UTR: Would you like to do more collaborations with vocalists on future albums? If so, in a perfect world, which vocalist would you most want to have sing on a future Boom Bip album?

Bryan: Absolutely. I really enjoy working with vocalists. In a perfect world I would want to sing myself.

UTR: Which artist would you most want to remix, someone who you have yet to remix? (It can be anyone who has recorded in the last 80 years or so).

Bryan: If I could remix the 13th Floor Elevators I would love that. I love their sound. A close second would be Prince. Maybe I should do a Prince and 13th Floor Elevator mash-up? Nah.

UTR: What was the first ever record that you bought? Do you still listen to that record today?

Bryan: I think it was Run D.M.C.’s Raising Hell. Either that or Wham!’s Make It Big. I still listen to Wham!.

UTR: How would you describe the Boom Bip sound to someone who hadn’t heard your music before?

Bryan: It is a bit like Marianne Faithful on Prozac and vitamins with a computer, a penis and a few guitars.

UTR: You’re originally from Cincinnati, what drew you to move to LA?

Bryan: The sun, ocean, desert, mountains, bars, farmer’s markets and 10 million potential friends.

UTR: Do you prefer making records or DJing?

Bryan: Making records is my favorite. I have stepped away from DJing lately. I don’t really do it much and if I do I just end up playing a bunch of songs I like and not really trying to blend or create a flow. I just play records. Now I go from Bowie to Autechre with no concern of blending. I guess I am getting lazy - or maybe just old.

UTR: What’s the biggest misconception about Boom Bip?

Bryan: That I am just a hip-hop producer. It is nothing against hip-hop. In fact, I love it and always have and always will. I feel that my track record proves I am not just a hip-hop producer. I am an artist who has done a few hip-hop tracks and am inspired by the art form, but I feel no affinity to the genre. I want people to just enjoy my music for what it is: from me.


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