As 2014 approaches its end, Black Sugar Transmission, moniker of Andee Blacksugar’s collaborative solo project, is putting the finish touches on album number six, set for release in 2015.
Following a long stretch as a guitarist on Peter Murphy’s 2014 international tour, the New York alternative dance vocalist/guitarist/loather of auto tune hit the studio to compose the follow up to 2013’s The Glamour Pantomime. A few months later, Violent Muses is close to finished, and Blacksugar has made the unmastered album available for listening to a select handful of writers, including yours truly.
Juxtaposing BST’s impending album with the previous record’s contents is much like comparing their titles. It’s still a caustically witty assessment of the underbelly present in the creative fields. But this time around, the stories that Blacksugar tells are just a bit darker.
Like The Glamour Pantomime, Violent Muses is driven by grinding beats, sardonic lyrical commentary, and peppered with expert guitar solos. The songs are again crafted so intricately, that it takes more than a few listens to absorb all the synths, buzz-saw distortion, and lurid chimes woven in.
But the vibe is much eerier. All of the 14 tracks are highly danceable, and certainly club worthy, but each song also comes with a lingering sense of “keep an eye over your shoulder because danger may be lurking just around the corner” feeling.
I recently caught up with Mr. Blacksugar to learn a little more about Violent Muses recording, the album’s inspiration, and who he invited to join him on the making of his sixth release.
How does it feel to be almost finished recording?
Really nice – I’ve been integrating other musicians’ tracks into the album this week and it’s exciting to hear their energy blending in.
How was the Peter Murphy tour? Any big highlights?
Stacks of fun! For me the highlights were Mexico City and Buenos Aires.
Did that tour have an effect on the writing of this album?
I’m not very good at writing on the road, so when we finished up in early September and came home, I started writing the album almost immediately. So I don’t know if the tour was an influence, but certainly the notion that I should take advantage of my time off put a fire under me.
What’s the inspiration behind the title Violent Muses?
I thought a lot about the creative process itself while making this album. Artistic muses to me are cruel mistresses who must be courted and tamed – we almost have to humiliate ourselves with grunt work, tedious labor and unglamorous preparation before she finally decides to grace our threshold.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield was an influence on me while writing these songs. And I also realized that many of the songs are about all kinds of muses, not just creative ones: war, religion, power, money. Which are the more violent, unhealthy muses, of course.
You’ve been releasing lots of small clips of studio sessions, so fans have been able to get a glimpse of Violent Muses. What’s the reaction been to these samples so far?
Those have been really brief clips, like a few seconds each, just to let people know I’m doing something over here. Far more in-depth studio reports are on the way, which will give more of a taste of the music and focus on different aspects of the recording process. But the reaction seems to be: “ok, let’s hear more!”
What do you want fans to take away from the record as a whole?
Whatever they want. Which is part of the reason why I don’t over-explain lyrics.
Any special guests we should know about with this album?
Ava Farber, who’s the bassist/co-lead singer in the live band is all over it. She’s got a beautiful, versatile voice. My old band-mate from pOp*stAr*kiDs, drummer John Clancy, plays on three songs, which is a thrill – it’s been so much fun working with him again. Timo Ellis, Jimmy Lopez and Leon Gruenbaum (all of whom appeared on the last album, The Glamour Pantomime) made contributions again.
Timo, the evil genius behind The Netherlands (and who has also played with Cibo Matto, Spacehog and Sean Lennon), played drum kit on “Between The Notes.” Jimmy – who is also my next-door neighbor – brought a slew of exotic percussion instruments to the album. He’s a really busy percussionist who has performed with loads of different acts: Oz Noy, Gypsy Kings, etc, and Leon did a typically one-of-a-kind Samchillian solo (also on “Between The Notes”). He plays with Vernon Reid and also helms a brilliant band with Ava Farber called Genes and Machines.
Adam James is a good friend and first-rate bassist who played some really inspired stuff on a tune called “AlexCafe”. And finally, a friend of mine in LA, Mike Hansen, played drums on “Watch the Windows” just last night, and his tracks are the very last piece in the puzzle before I send these mixes off to mastering. Mike’s in a band with Tony Sales right now called Tex Pawnshop and the Tremolos and is a great player.
You posted on Facebook that you only use Bandcamp and encouraged fans to boycott Spotify, which is obviously a big topic of conversation in the musical world right now. What would be a more artist friendly way to utilize streaming?
I don’t know of an artist-friendly streaming service that works like Spotify or Pandora, unfortunately. But of course, you can stream all you want on Bandcamp. I’d rather have people listening there, because at least the option to buy/download/own the music is staring you in the face.
Do you have a release date yet?
Not yet, but it will be early 2015, hopefully to coincide with a big record release show in NYC.
Anything I didn’t cover that you want to mention?
Keep an eye out for a bunch of in-depth studio reports and a music vid for the first single “Taboo” on Black Sugar Transmission’s official Youtube page.
There’s also our Facebook page and my Twitter account (@AndeeBlackSugar).
And of course Bandcamp, where all the music lives.