INTERVIEW: Electronic Experimental Artist Boom chr Paige

Hi Boom, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’ve never been better! Thanks for having me here. Everything’s gone green out here in South-eastern Pennsylvania, and this time of year is gorgeous. Probably more so considering we’ve all been locked up in our little boxes with eyes glued to LED screens for months during these dark days in history. I’m feeling energized to get out there, lucky to be alive, and lucky to be putting something new out there, which is different from what I’ve been doing before.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Above London”?

“Above London” is an ethereal and atmospheric piece, a good introduction to what I’m doing musically/sonically these days. The flow came from flying, circling over the destination, and the wonder and calm that that experience has. It’s moody enough in a way that can make it sound uplifting, spiritual, or reflective, meant to draw the listener in. As with most of what I’m writing these days, this is electronic music that comes across as natural and organic sounding. I wanted to make certain that the listener didn’t have to be a hardcore electronica fan to enjoy or lose themselves in the piece.

For the music geeks out there: I owe a debt to my jazz upbringing – pushing for tension between the chords, from Gmaj13 to Fmaj7 to Fmaj13, transitions I didn’t find as many opportunities to explore in previous musical lives. I could also afford myself a break from the 4-on-the-floor looped familiarity of electronic music and allow the music to wash over and consume the listener.

I lucked out hard when putting together the artwork, which is an untouched photo I took with my phone at Longwood Gardens outside of Philadelphia. When I put it together by simply inverting the image, it took on a human characteristic, which went right along with the organic vibe of the track.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

So yeah, prior to the pandemic, I did quite a bit of traveling – mostly to London Heathrow, and typically on an overnight flight. I have always failed at sleeping on planes going to the UK, so I was always watching out the window as soon as the sun was up. We’d get into London airspace, sometimes making wide circles around the city, which just puts the whole place into slow motion in my head. I knew on the ground, it would be running from this tram to this train, queues for customs, cars, traffic, etc. So those minutes just hovering over the city would be my favorite part of the flight, centering me, and putting me into a calm space.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

This computer-animated video is a deliberately surreal affair, less about air travel or big cities and more about psychedelic immersion. I have a long but cursory history with computer animation, meaning I’ve never taken it too seriously to make any money from it, but I continue to dabble with anything I can get my hands on. I’m also unabashedly enamored with geometry and trigonometry, so I have a strong tendency to keep to primitive shapes and simplicity. So, everything I do usually revolves around harshly angular shapes, with clean movements.

This exercise found me neck deep in a program called Blender, which is amazingly sophisticated free 3D modeling software. I’m a big fan and proponent for open source/free software, so I felt like I should learn a little more than just the dabble and create a proper visual for the track. I had a general idea I wanted to chase using primitive geometrics and reflections of water and clouds. I borrowed a couple of visuals to impose on the surfaces, and voila – with the magic of several days’ worth of semi-supercomputer video rendering, had something I was happy with.

The single comes off your new album Membranes – what’s the story behind the title?

I like that you asked that, the word itself has a lot of use in our world. I think of the word in terms of boundaries or partitions, which seem to be prevalent in all facets of our lives right now.  It’s this pandemic that’s had us sealing off from each other. I remember seeing these heart-breaking/heart-warming stories on the news throughout 2020 where families would create “hug stations” for grandparents with plastic wrap as a boundary.

I wanted to be open about creating a work that was borne out of the pandemic, but I didn’t want to be listening to this record eight years from now and be directly associating COVID with it. So “membranes” stuck for the name. But I’ll always be struck by the era where human touch and breath became so frightening that a boundary of plastic film became a social norm.

How was the recording and writing process?

I approached writing and recording this one much differently than my last EP “House for Serial Killers”. I wanted to develop something that would ultimately be pressed to vinyl as “listening music” versus “dance music”. Every time I put a vinyl record from my own collection on the player these days, I’m more inclined to just let the whole side play through, as opposed to skipping tracks or just playing partials. So, song length became a constraint I needed to work within as vinyl album sides have a more stringent physical limit to the amount of time the songs add up to – roughly 20 minutes per side. Something you normally don’t have to worry about in this digital age.

I also constrained myself to two weeks to complete the LP from end to end. This was a ‘Boom Management’ issue to keep me from tweaking tracks past the prime. It also helped drive the immediacy & urgency in the sound of the album.

So, I’d go into my home studio night after night, starting with a generic visual concept like ‘dragging fabric over a bed of nails’ or ‘circular motion underwater’ to get myself started and into a rhythm. That helped me start without having pre-conceived ideas of what I hoped the final product would sound like.

To keep things fresh for me, I would also cobble together ‘instruments’ on the fly using Native Instruments’ Reaktor. The ‘drunk’ electric piano sound in the song ‘Vega’ came from quickly cobbling together an instrument and using it there on the spot, as opposed to calling up someone else’s synthesizer sounds, so a lot of that immediacy came out of the sessions. I’ve actually had to retrospectively go back through the raw tracks to look at exactly what I did in these fits of madness.

What role does Philly play in your music?

Philly is perpetually a world of transients among mainstays, those transients turned mainstays including me. I finally just put together that this is the longest I ever lived in one place, which is a big deal for me. The previous decade, all my shows have been in the immediate region, venturing about as far as Ardmore once, but the energy of the crowds in Philly are like nicotine, no joke. So that then drives what kind of excitement you try to portray through the speakers. Philly is always expecting to see you put your heart into what you’re doing, that’s the primary requirement. We’ll dig it, so long as we can see you’re into what you’re about, which makes this a great community to be a part of.

We’ve got some serious struggles out here now – the pandemic has hurt several businesses reliant on people like you and me. No matter where you are, you should get out there and give any support you can to your favorite late-night spots. Some are posting in “fund-me” style campaigns – everyone I find, I try to give the support I can.

What aspect of the pandemic did you get to explore on this record?

I wanted to look at the pandemic from two days, two points in time. First in spring of 2020, I was focused on a day of the confusion and flurry of speculations as we all entered a state of times no one had ever seen. During that time, there was always this little twinge of hope that the news would be better tomorrow – or at least, how my “American optimism” pointed me towards – that something had to change for the better.

The second half of the record focused on a day in fall of the same year, where the news hadn’t really changed for the better, the death toll had soared right up to what top doctors anticipated, and the over-politicization of hygienic basics took headlines. So, while side 2 does take a darker and more ambiguous tone overall, it’s still peppered with twinges of relief.

I have a lifelong trusted friend who I confide all my music with before I ever release it to the world. He called me back after listening and asked, “when’s the movie?” I said, “you’ve already seen it, it was called 2020.”

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs?

Literally while smoking a cigar outside of my cousins’ house in D.C., I was compelled to start the track ‘Outside Sarah & David’s House’ based on the sounds I was hearing – the cicadas, the sirens, the bassy construction noise, augmented with the random melodies of various wind chimes on people’s porches. There was the fun of recreating existing sounds with various synthesizers ala Kraftwerk, but then there was also the dedication to make it sound as authentic as possible. That piece starts the second side of “Membranes” and sets the tone for that storyline.

So, I hear music in everything, including what others might call cacophony. I live by the words of that old “Wonderwall” movie sample Pop Will Eat Itself used in the 90’s, ‘Music is just…organized noise’. My years in the punk and industrial music scenes allowed me to explore cacophony as an element of energetic power, and now I’m looking at the more nuanced side of noise. I tease some very brief harsh-ish moments on “Membranes”, but overall, the noise blends into the architecture of the song.

What else is happening next in Boom chr Paige’s world?

Great question. I’m always asking that one too. Per my norm, I’ll keep writing challenging audio that engages the listener, that’s been my current mood. I have headphones on for 90% of my day, so my goal is going to remain filling those with every thoughtful sound I can muster.

While the world begins rebounding from this pandemic, my focus is going to be on bringing sounds to the visual arts, still remotely. I am looking forward to getting out there in real time, crossing fingers for late summer time. We’re still sorting out the details of what the live version of this album is going to look like to stay flexible with states’ restrictions. But I’ll be keeping the socials up to date with show information as they come available, so definitely stay tuned!

Stream “Above London” on Spotify

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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