Black Asteroid: I wish I could have worked with Prince on some music
Minneapolis native Bryan Black worked for Prince at Paisley Park in the '90s before moving to London in 1997, where he eventually joined with Olivier Grasset to form the duo Motor, a band that fused techno with other electronic music styles. After recording a three song demo, the duo was quickly signed to Novamute, the dance music wing of Mute Records.
After an impressive string of success with Motor, including opening for label-mates
Depeche Mode on their 2009 world tour, Black felt the band had strayed too far from its origins in techno, and so in 2011 he began producing techno as Black Asteroid. History repeated itself for Black, as again a very well respected name, this time Chris Liebing, heard his demo, and quickly agreed to put Black Asteroid's debut The Engine EP"out on his CLR label. In the two-plus years since, Black has shot up through the techno ranks like an... asteroid, with an EP released on another of techno's most respected labels, Speedy J's Electric Deluxe, produced several high-profile remixes (including one for Depeche Mode's "Soothe My Soul") and last month he celebrated his second release on CLR with Grind EP.
He shows no signs of slowing down in 2014, which will see the release of his debut full length album, Substance, as well as the longest tour of his career, including the just announced stop at Detroit's legendary Movement Electronic Music Festival. But before all that, Black will be back home in Minneapolis for a DJ set at First Avenue's Too Much Love this Saturday. Gimme Noise connected with Bryan to discuss his Minneapolis roots, his crazy stories about what it takes to get signed, and what's next for Black Asteroid.
Gimme Noise: What are your favorite memories from Minneapolis?
Bryan Black: I remember being 17 and sneaking into First Avenue and seeing the first Nine Inch Nails concert. After graduating from Blake High School, I spent the summer working at the Walker Art Center and was so inspired by the experience, I bought a midi synthesizer and started making music for the first time, and experimenting with graphic design.
What was the techno scene like back then? How about the local music scene in general?
It was an exciting time for dance music. Kevin Cole was doing Depth Probe in the main room of First Avenue, and some local DJs like Woody McBride, DJ Slip were having international success. First Avenue always imported the best dance and alternative rock acts, and the record shop around the corner, Northern Lights imported all the best records. There was the odd warehouse rave around town -- and a small underground dance scene, but nothing comparable to the size of EDM now.
How did you end up working for Prince, and what did you do for him?
Someone had invited my first band, Haloblack, to play at Paisley Park. They were doing these club nights. So we performed and after the gig, I was offered a job with Prince as a keyboard tech. My first job was to re-sample all his songs from 2" tape and map out individual sounds across the keyboard, so Prince and Morris could perform all the songs live with the original sounds. I really had no idea what I was doing, but quickly learned enough to start producing my own records. I walked away with a bag of tricks -- and a few samples --- I use to this day. At some point he closed down the studio for a brief time, and I took my cue and moved to London, England.
What brought on your desire to move to London and start Motor?
I was burning out on the band thing with Haloblack, and sick of touring in a shitty van. Industrial music was no longer my focus, I was listening to Aphex Twin and Autechre heavily. I was ready to ditch guitars and drums in favor of drum machines and synthesizers. I met someone around the same time, she had the bright idea to move to London and the timing felt right. I immersed myself into electronic music and graphic design and Motor happened soon after.
How did you get connected with Mute Records and Depeche Mode?
After we finished a 3-song demo for Motor, I wrote an email to [Mute Records Founder] Daniel Miller. I didn't have his email, so I guessed and one of the addresses went through. He invited us to play the demo for Novamute. They signed it on the spot. Martin Gore had been getting our records from Mute, and at some point Depeche Mode requested a remix from Motor. I became friends with Martin after that, and eventually we started touring together, etc.
It must have been pretty surreal to see Martin Gore wearing a Black Asteroid shirt at some Depeche Mode shows, right? Or has that kind of thing lost some of its luster by now?
I remember watching David Letterman and seeing my shirt on Martin. That was completely unexpected. I attended a couple shows and they would play Black Asteroid as the pre-show music. Martin was one of the first supporters of both Motor and Black Asteroid.