Minneapolis to London
When “Throb.” was released
in February, it was the first new
proper album from one-man band Haloblack
since “Funkyhell” in 1996.
And even though “Throb.”
continues along the established Haloblack
path of twitchy funk and gritty electronics,
the nearly eight years that passed
between the albums make themselves
“Throb.” is more melodic,
but sounds even more broken up, tiny
but razorsharp tinnitus-noises penetrating
the music, and the whole album feels
simultaneously enshrouded in sandpaper
and velvet in all its schizophrenic
swings between spastic dance music
and somehow sensual-sounding sonic
the protracted birth process of “Throb.”,
Bryan Black not only moved to London,
England from Minneapolis, USA, but
also partook in a host of different
musical adventures. In London, he
recorded a new album with H3llb3nt,
the “supergroup” involving
Jared Louche of Chemlab and Eric Powell
of 16 Volt. He also started working
on the new projects Xlover and Motor,
as well as hooking up with Raymond
Watts of KMFDM and Pig fame. This
led to Black joining Watts’
successful transnational band Schwein
as a live member on their Japan tour.
A whole influx of experiences and
new influences to channel into the
task of completing a new Haloblack
album, in other words.
funk for the year 2004
Basically, I decided to go back to
my electronic roots and see if I could
find a sound that represented where
I wanted to go. I used my new projects
as an excuse to experiment until I
felt confident I had something that
would provide a new template for Haloblack.
Whenever I made a song, which was
too quirky or experimental for my
current projects, I put it aside for
Haloblack. In late 2003, I decided
to take all these ideas and focus
on finally putting together an album.
Despite taking so long, it was surprisingly
easy to put together. I was worried
the album was too ambitious. But I
think one of the strengths of the
album is its diversity, Black tells
I met up with Black in London in the
Autumn of 2000, to interview him about
another of his projects, the website
thesickcity.com, he talked about his
new material having a dark trip hop
feel, something of which there aren’t
more than a couple of traces on the
There was a period when I was experimenting
with pitched down beats and heavy
guitars. I even pitched the female
vocals down until they sounded like
bluesy male vocals. Tracks like “My
Sacred” and “Out There”
came from these sessions. After a
few months of recording with this
technique, I stepped away from the
album and started writing synthpop
tracks under the alias of Xlover.
I then went back to the Haloblack
album and wrote “Feel”
and “Why?”, “Permanence”,
etc. There are probably three-four
different recording phases on this
album. I could have made an album
during any one particular time, but
in the end, I was excited to display
different moods and variations from
all the different sessions under one
sequence, Black comments now.
parties and drug excess
for one wouldn’t mind hearing
more of those genderbending experiments
with female vocals pitched down to
a strangely uncanny blues drawl, but
“Throb.” is nevertheless
surprisingly coherent for an album
that has gone through that many phases.
This is not least due to the streak
of big city boredom, alienation and
excess that runs through it. And if
London and its music scene have had
any influence on the way “Throb.”
turned out, it seems to have been
in a more dionysian than musical manner.
The whole recording experience on
this record was different. Instead
of going into a studio with a tight
schedule, we had 24-hour access to
The Fortress Studios in East London.
Beyond the usual excess of studio
life, we were caught up in the middle
of massive underground parties, which
took place in the building during
the late hours. After a few months,
we were drifting and losing focus,
and suffering the effects of drug
excess. The track “Feel”
deals with this very issue.
up on the new Felix Da Housecat CD
At first listen, synthpop/electroclash
act Xlover may seem to be quite a
different beast than Haloblack, but
at closer inspection, it appears to
simply be the shinier flipside of
the filthy Haloblack coin.
– Xlover happened by accident.
I was starting to work with Olivier
Grasset, who at the time was drumming
for Haloblack. We were working on
a cover of [Prince song] “Controversy”
for an upcoming Haloblack concert,
and the end result was a supercharged
electro take on this classic track.
It caught the ears of City Rockers,
who were pioneering an electro revival
in London. They wanted to release
a single, so we had to write a b-side.
The b-side turned out to be the single
and we quickly decided to form a new
project that was going to our outlet
to further experiment with the electronic
With Nina Rai handling the vocals,
Xlover also allows Black to experiment
in a different way than with Haloblack.
– Xlover is my outlet for techno
and pop music. The Haloblack sound
is more defined, and I have no interest
in diluting it. With Xlover, I can
get away with almost anything, he
Xlover’s City Rockers connection
also gave the band the opportunity
to work with electroclash figurehead
Felix Da Housecat, contributing to
one song on his new album “Devin
Dazzle & the Neon Fever”
and in turn receiving help from him
on their own forthcoming album.
It’s not an issue, Black says
about the electroclash connections.
Our sound has developed into something
that just doesn’t fit neatly
into one genre. Whatever the label,
we just make the music we want to
make. I’ve always been fascinated
with analog synthesizers and drum
machines. It’s just what I know.
released undanceable experiments
What can we expect from the forthcoming
– The production is totally
off the wall. It started out purely
electronic, but has developed into
something unexpected with some great
guitar work and stripped down electro
rock beats, driven by Nina’s
Xlover sessions also led to Black
and Grasset adopting another alias
– Motor. Their debut 12”
“0503” came out on Novamute
last summer, and its three tracks
of monotonous, malfunctioning beats
sound like a meeting between minimal
electro, melting hard drives and shortcircuited
I was playing Mute Records some some
stuff I was working on. They seemed
to go for the most insane electronic
experiments I was working on for Xlover.
I decided this might be an ideal time
to finally pursue this sound.
I never thought anyone would want
to release it, as it was so abrasive
and totally impossible to dance to.
The first three track demo was signed
to Mute and all three tracks make
up the debut single.
have also got a debut album coming
up, but all this other activity doesn’t
mean that Black wants to abandon the
The response from “Throb.”
has been overwhelming. Before its
release, I was happy just to get the
record out and move swiftly back to
my other projects.
Because it’s been so well received,
I’m considering writing a new
album and keeping the momentum. Haloblack
is the one excuse I have to push myself
musically in any way I feel inclined.
Read our review of
Haloblack's "Throb." here,
H3llb3nt's "Hardcore Vanilla"
Felix Da Housecat's new album here.