Using analog equipment and outdated electronics for a more "real" sound, Black Moth Super Rainbow is one of the more captivating experimental electronic bands we've become familiar with in recent years. With nearly a decade of albums under their belt and a truly authentic approach in terms of musical styling and general attitude, the band yesterday self-released their fifth full-length album, Cobra Juicy. Led by the enigmatic Tom Fec—better known by his musical moniker Tobacco—the new album marches steadily through a warped ebb and flow of heavy beats, vocoder-driven vocals and mind-melting synths to produce an impressive roster of catchy tracks.
Funded through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, the group offered backers rewards like hand-painted masks with album loaded USB teeth, 3D ventricular vinyls and even the chance at a personal show at a rollerskating rink. Not to mention a hiliarious video by Eric Warheim of Tim & Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job! Moments after shipping the last Kickstarter package and just days before setting out on tour, the usually reclusive BMSR frontman took a few moments to talk with us about the new record, self-releasing without major labal backing and the often untold ups and downs of funding a project through Kickstarter.
Yesterday Cobra Juicy was released on your own label Rad Cult, why take this DIY route?
I was trying to sign with a label, but no body wanted me. [Laughs] Nobody felt bad enough to want to take me on.
Do you feel the there is a connection between self releasing, the analog aesthetic of how you make music and going through Kickstarter?
I think it all makes sense. But it's not ideal. For me, you know if you would've asked me this a few months ago I think I would've been more positive about it. But now that I'm in the fulfillment stage of it, it's made it so I can't actually be an artist anymore—I'm basically like a warehouse foreman, for my own shit. So it kind of sucks. While I'm on the road and everything I have to be making all the decisions too about repressing and as soon as I get home I have to assemble 1,500 more vinyls. Basically I'm not an artist anymore, I'm just a guy in warehouse. So you know, it's not really my thing, to be honest. But all that Kickstarter madness just ended this morning, so I have two days off until tour now.
Does this struggle give the products your shipping (BMSR mask, USB album, ventricular vinyl, band made art) a more significant meaning?
I hope so, I really hope so. Because if they're one of those people that believes in energies and energy being left behind and being attached to things, there is definitely a lot of energy being put into all of this stuff. So I hope they like that. I mean there is no middle man, so that's pretty cool.
Even with this downside you mentioned, Kickstarter has let you directly reach your supporters and raise a significant amount more than your initial goal. Did raising an additional $80K help the process?
No. [Laughs] It hasn't. And the only reason is is because the more people that buy through the Kickstarter the more you have to make. Im still figuring out the numbers but my initial estimate is I'm actually $3,000 in the hole. It's kind of like that, yeah. [Laughs] But at least now hopefully a few albums sell outside of the Kickstarter, and if they do maybe I'll actually make some money off this one. But this is such an expensive endeavor—having masks, ventricular and all these different vinyls made and everything. It was really intense.
Can you tell us a little more about the mask idea? Why was it important to make something physical and offer it with the album instead of just releasing a CD?
"You can't download a mask. And you can't recreate that for free. It's a real experience with a record."
Because CDs are just CDs. And files are disposable. It doesn't feel like stealing when you're downloading mp3s because they're just files, and why wouldn't you? You know, I can't blame anyone for thinking that. But you can't download a mask. And you can't recreate that for free. It's a real experience with a record.
I don't want to be like an old timer and be like 'When I was young this is how we did things.' But when I was a kid you'd wait for an album to come out on a CD. And it was a real thing and that's how you listened to it. And you fucking sat there and looked through the booklet and everything and now all that's been kind of taken away. So things like masks and doing special vinyl, things you can really hold onto, things that have real weight, just make it all mean more.
Do you think the idea of being able to hold something physical adds value to an experience?
Yeah, of course. It makes you more willing to spend time with something and try to understand it, I think. Because it's so easy to disregard something that doesn't take up space, you know what I mean? If you have a mask with a USB tooth, with an album on it—as not serious as that concept is, once you own that thing, you have to take it seriously.
To talk about the production of Cobra Juicy, what sort of equipment and instruments did you use for this album?
I only use old keyboards, just because they sound more real. And I use samplers to record on. I don't use tape [recorders] anymore, but I think old samplers sound better.
Is there anything specific about the design of these old analog instruments that just feels right?
I mean they're not perfect. Digital is just an emulation. And an old analog—I mean a new analog is pretty shitty too—but the old analog stuff you're just hearing currents. A current going through a machine. You're manipulating a current and that's a real thing. Currents are not 1s and 0s.
Do you think it's funny to go through the consuming process of recording and making music with analog instruments only to have it disturbed on a piece of current technology like a USB stick in the end?
Um, I've never thought about that. But I'm not a purist. I don't really care what format it is, as long as the way I'm making it is as good as it could possibly be. And then I do like having something physical. I think if I were to just put it out just on USB—that's pretty stupid. [Laughs] But the USB with some context, you know, is different.
The albums seems to have a slightly cleaner feel than much of what BMSR has done in the past. Did you do anything anything different this time around?
No, I've been doing everything the same way for a while now. You know the last album we had Dave Fridmann polish it up in the studio. It's interesting to me because I've been hearing a lot that this one sounds even more polished, but I mean we had Dave, who is one of the best producers in the world, do the last one, and then this one I just went back and did it on a shitty sampler. I don't know, maybe I'm just learning more or something.
Jumping back to the Kickstarter campaign, no one hopped on the roller-skate party (top tier level), but you did have some substantial backers that contributed thousands. What does that say about the power of BMSR and Kickstarter?
I think it just shows that there are people who believe in something so much that they just want to help. And I think they know that. And I think I've made it really clear that a lot of the people who we consider to be our peers are being funded by these labels and they're being shoved down your throat. I've never gotten that. I think some people appreciate that. The fact that we're truly just doing this on our own, there's no big money behind us and were not getting any kind of pushes or anything. It's kind of like on-demand, and that's what Kickstarter shows. People will pay for what they want and they won't pay for what they don't want. And people aren't paying for a lot of these bands now that are getting shoved down their throats. And I think that says a lot.
Images by Seven Fields of Aphelion