Interview| Bryan Black aka Black Asteroid Talks Exclusively To OTS Magazine UK.

by - 03:18:00

OTS MAGAZINE's "Artist Of The Month"- BRYAN BLACK aka BLACK ASTEROID started his music career as a sound designer and keyboard tech for PRINCE at PAISLEY PARK STUDIOS in his hometown of Minneapolis. While working for Prince, Black proceeded to create his own music- under the name HALOBLACK and then MOTOR for labels such as MUTE and KOMPAKT.
These records caught the ear of MARTIN GORE from DEPECHE MODE. Soon after, Black was on tour with Depeche Mode and recording songs with Martin Gore. Together Black and Gore wrote a top 40 single “Man Made Machine”. 

In 2011 the debut BLACK ASTEROID single, “Engine 1” introduced Black Asteroid to the world as an industrial rock sound that quickly took off, propelling Black to play at clubs such as Berghain,  live shows at Fabric London, and major festivals. The focus was in favor of song structures and vocals in a techno template.  

After a string of EPs, the debut album “Thrust” was released in 2017 with many cross-over singles, featuring vocals from ZOLA JESUS, COLD CAVE, and MICHELE LAMY

The fashion designer RICK OWENS picked up on what was happening and used Black Asteroid's music for his runway shows in Paris. The two quickly became friends and collaborators. In addition to 
working in the fashion world, BLACK ASTEROID has released a collection of sunglasses with Valley Eyewear.  

In early 2023, Black Asteroid released 2 new EPs- “Acid Flesh” on CLR, and “New Flesh” on PLS  UK- showcasing a more experimental sound, utilizing vocals and guitars. A second LP is planned for 2023.
Bryan, please tell us more about yourself? 
I was born and raised in Minneapolis. I grew up with Prince and the Minneapolis funk sound,  although I was always a fan of the 1980's pop and rock sound. I played competitive tennis in my youth before getting a job at a modern art museum and moving into the visual arts.
Please share some of your childhood memories of the “Art of Music?  
I was initially a graphic artist, who did music on the side until music took over my life. I make music  with visual inspiration. I will often have a mood board of art, design, and architecture to reference from. For me, the artwork is almost as important as the song. The two are inseparable. Much like fashion and music are.  
When did you start DJing and What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
For most of my career, I was in bands. Sometime after moving to London, I discovered that DJing could be done as a solo artist, without guitars and drums and complicated band relationships. I liked the idea of being alone and deciding my creative path and performance.
Bryan Black aka Black Asteroid Talks Exclusively To OTS Magazine UK.
What was the inspiration behind your brand name “Black Asteroid”, and tell us about your  Brand Style?
I have always been fascinated by astronomy. I am forever looking for answers about the evolution of the universe since the big bang, bigger questions about time and space, and the idea that there are presumably billions of life civilizations in the universe that are too far away for us to discover.  
The asteroids brought water to the earth, which in turn helped spark life. The name came out of this,  and the fact I was going by Bryan Black- it just made sense.  
What makes your brand innovative? 
I am one of the only “DJs” that is making techno with a pop/ rock song structure. Often employing guitars and vocals in my productions. As a performer, I try and give my DJ sets the feel and energy of a live concert.  
After Rick Owens (and Raf Simons) started using my music for runway shows— I got sucked into the fashion world, and this further enhanced my brand and approach to music. I am a minimalist, with a  nod to Brutalist architecture. 
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition toward your own voice? What is the relationship between copying,  learning, and your own creativity?
Absolutely. I was first inspired by Prince at a very young age- this created a spark that I wanted to be a performer. However, it wasn’t until I discovered Nine Inch Nails that I was ready to make my own music. NIN presented the perfect blend of pop structure songs, with grinding synths and guitars. I started making music inspired by NIN, and then after a year, I found my own voice.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time?  
I made my big splash in the techno scene in 2011 with the debut of Black Asteroid EP “Engine 1”.
I performed with neon lights, and sunglasses and the industry and freaked out. They never saw a dj perform live vocals, so it took some time before I was accepted.  
After a few years, my style was accepted and appreciated. Italy embraced my energy the most,  followed by countries in South America.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
Djing is a craft, and choosing the right music to play in the right order is a skill. I respect being able to take control of someone’s night and tell a story. Initially, I was more interested in 1 hour live shows,  but when I DJ for 4 hours, it's another experience, and I appreciate both experiences equally now.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you? 
I was thrown into the DJ world. I just finished a tour with Depeche Mode with my band, MOTOR. I  chose to perform live with Black Asteroid, using live vocals, and playing samples with an APC-40 and  Ableton live setup. I even had my own light show.
This evolved into me djing with 4 decks of music and performing longer sets at clubs like Berghain and moving away from the punk rock live show approach.  
I am somewhere in the middle now- often have a live vocalist join my sets. Currently, I employ modular synths alongside djing on CD-J’s. In my studio, I depend on a rack of modular synths and Logic Audio software. Sometimes recording vocals and guitars as needed. But I create/ design all my sounds from scratch, I don't use presets. This was something I learned from working with Prince.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, and what do machines excel at?
When I was starting out, I didn't have much experience playing instruments— so I used the computer to make complex music that I couldn’t perform on my own. This evolved over time, so I could record a  live performance, and make it more mechanical and interesting. I think it's very important to keep the element of danger and occasional mistakes in music. I am not a fan of loopy dance music, I would rather be challenged.
Are there any new countries that you’ve toured recently with scenes that have excited you? 
Before covid, I played in Tbilisi, Georgia. I was really impressed by the scene there, and the energy. It reminded me of Berlin circa 2002. Colombia has a great scene as well. However, the most exciting place for me to play these days is in Italy- I am always inspired by the architecture, and wine and the people are so passionate.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I am pretty nervous and anxious before I DJ. After 2 songs, I find a groove and then it becomes a  different experience, I really enjoy the 90-120 minutes once I get started.  
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires, and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it? 
I try to present music to the audience they are not expecting, maybe they never heard it before. The audience just wants “bangers”. Hit songs one after the other. I try to go hard, then deep, and everything in between. At the moment I play many electroclash songs from 2000-2004 in my sets, which most people have never heard before. I love this challenge.  
Although art can have a purpose in and of itself, it can also have a direct impact on daily life,  play a social or political function, and encourage participation. Could you elaborate on your artistic philosophy?
For my current project- I am curating an art exhibition using climate data. So the music I am producing for this is in part giving a voice to the earth. By using data from earth patterns, and presenting this in a musical way- I can highlight the earth as a living, breathing organism, this is where I'm heading-finding the sweet spot between the arts and science. 
What do you do to keep motivated, and not lose your passion for Music?
Take long breaks. I only make music when I'm inspired. I stopped taking remix requests. I often find inspiration from movies or books. At the moment, I am reading 4-5 books on astronomy, human evolution, climate change, planetary evolution, etc.  
Which other music artists or DJs would you say have inspired you? 
Prince, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Meat Beat Manifesto, Love and Rockets, Autechre, Aphex  Twin, Beethoven are some of my favorites. I am not really inspired by any DJ’s.  
What messages do you want to convey through your music?
I just try and challenge what is expected, since I come from a place that is somewhere between experimental rock and roll and techno. Sometimes it works- as in my collaborations with Zola Jesus and Cold Cave for example. Techno but with the soul of alternative rock/ opera and lyrically speaking of a theme close to me. “Black Moon” for example, asks if time is actually real.
(Theoretically, it is not).
If you were to be given an opportunity to warn your readers of the potential pitfalls of DJing or being a Music Artist, what would they be? 
Working in the nightlife is challenging both physically and mentally. The late hours mean little sleep and constantly disrupted sleep patterns. In the last couple of years, I am being more selective and taking fewer gigs, as I'm more focused on non-DJ projects, sleep, and better health.  
What are your tips for budding music artists and DJs?
Try and make yourself known to local promoters, and get some opening slot gigs. Giving DJ’s who have record labels, demos at events. It's good to aim for a label that also has events.
What do you consider your greatest achievement since the start of your career to date?
A song I co-wrote made the top 40 pop charts in many countries. Martin Gore (Depeche Mode) was the vocalist. At the time, I was on tour with Depeche Mode, so a lot of career-defining highlights happened.  
How do you differentiate your works from that of other DJs?
My music is based on a classic song structure, as opposed to loops. I am also one of the only DJs/  producers in techno working with guitars. I write 3-4 minute songs, as opposed to 10-minute loops.  
Do you have one project you are particularly proud of?
My debut album, Thrust, has some songs with Zola Jesus, Cold Cave, and Michele Lamy, that I am really proud of. I think I took techno to places no one else has since.  
If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be? What would you improve? 
For DJs, bookings are based on social media followers, which is a horrible metric 24. 
What was the most surreal moment you ever experienced during a DJing Gig or Music Tour? 
I think playing with Depeche Mode at San Siro stadium in Milan for 80,000 people.
Finally, what are your plans for the future? Any upcoming or latest projects you’d like to share with us? 
I recently released 2 EPS: Acid Flesh (CLR), and New Flesh (PLS UK) which are both on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, etc.  
I experimented with slower bpm’s, guitars, and vocals on the New Flesh EP. Alternatively, Acid Flesh is more straight techno. I recorded that EP last summer in Japan, while on a sabbatical away from djing.  
Other than that, I am currently recording my 2nd album with some amazing vocalists, some of whom are household names. I hope to get this out in the Autumn.

Keep up with Bryan Black and his amazing work via his social media platforms:

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