Emily Koopman: While listening to your new songs, some of it definitely gave me Daft Punk vibes. They ended up doing the entire soundtrack for Tron: Legacy — is there a movie you’d love to do something similar for? (Upcoming or released.)
Beautiful Machines: That’s a compliment, thank you. Scoring a soundtrack is definitely a
desire of mine, especially a modern futuristic sci-fi movie. Alien: Covenant (2017), Divergent Series, Blade Runner 2, Resident Evil, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, The Lost Boys, The Abyss, Oblivion, and Tron.
Emily Koopman: Can you describe a typical day in the studio?
Beautiful Machines: It’s not really a “day” so much as a blur of hours that drift by in a haze of musical madness. But there is nothing that’s typical anymore; songwriting styles have changed so much. I imagine back in the days of Abbey Road and Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Stones, they would roll up with an engineer, producer and entourage, crafting songs and thoughts over the course of several months, whereby the collaborative process between all of them would yield a delicious stew of songwriting. Now, we do things ourselves – its laptops, DAWs, software, controllers, live vocals and guitar. Still go through mastering as a final QA with an engineer to listen on proper speakers and get their thoughts. We worked with Piper Payne on this album and went through a few revisions, which is a great compliment to the way we work. The benefit to mixing solo is that there is no “red light” that puts pressure on the musicians to get something “right” whether it’s because of schedule or money. The drawback is that we lose expert advice and production skill, as well as outboard gear you typically find in a nice studio. I recall a question: what is your favourite studio tool, and the response was, “whatever allows me to be creative.” So, a typical day might include being solo and geeking out with the tools, sculpting and refining until it feels good. Or it could be all of us just riffing together and creating on the fly, then refining later. Some real magic of songwriting happens unintentionally when you just throw yourself into it and are working with amazing musicians like Veli and Stef, as I am fortunate to have. Also, we are less geographically confined when it comes to writing. For instance, we once went to the edge of a cliff in the Grand Canyon and composed on the fly, not sure how good that one was, but the experimental nature of it, was refreshing.
Emily Koopman: You recorded a lot of your new album, Bridges, in Europe, other than working, what sort of things did you get up to there?
Beautiful Machines: It was an amazing journey, for sure. We went to Europe for fresh perspective, inspiration and a quiet space to concentrate, but also to be steeped in a different creative atmosphere. This story begins with David Bowie, art festivals, CERN, and ends with Dark Side of the Moon. It was all by chance, sort of. We stayed in Berlin, in Friedrichshain, a hip district of old eastern bloc of Berlin, amid the myriad murals and endless wall of concert posters. People might describe Berlin as cold in December; I would say that’s an understatement. We didn’t do much of the typical sight seeing, apart from the Christmas markets and train-ventures, but rather wanted to experience the real volks life. A life that includes drinking in the streets, which helps when it’s cold, it’s such a diverse, artsy and amazing city. Soon after our arrival in Berlin, we flew to Geneva to experience CERN and the LHC (Large Hadron Collider, the largest scientific instrument on earth and birthplace of the Internet so to speak) with the plan to record machine sounds and atmospheric sounds for our upcoming album Singularity. We also had interviews and conversations with some top particle physicists, who create antimatter, which I thought was all theoretical. Back in Berlin, it felt like serendipity that we arrived at Hansa Studios for David Bowie’s birthday and simultaneous release of Blackstar. Hansa is the studio where David Bowie recorded Heroes, Lust for Life by Iggy Pop, Achtung Baby by U2, and Black Celebration by Depeche Mode – so this is one magnificently creative space. Listening to the tracks of Black Celebration, I discovered the sonic mastery of Depeche Mode – powerful and intriguing. We met with David Bowie’s ex-girlfriend (who I will leave un-named, but as a hint, her name was the inspiration for the lead in Labyrinth), who we became friends with and all went out to give food to homeless on the streets, visit her ashram, and hang out at Bowie’s favourite Berlin cafe, while being regaled with Bowie stories all night. We went to yet another Bowie party in one of his old digs at Neues Ufer, the first openly gay club in Berlin. Many a night, which is the majority of the day in Berlin at that time, was spent throwing logs on the modern rectangular fireplace under a transformed living room into a studio to create and write. We took a train to Leipzig and randomly went into an art gallery down an alley because I was drawn to the artwork. Over a cup of coffee with the artist, he recommended that we contact his friend, the “commissioner of culture,” in Halle, which is an old industrial city that has been transformed by artists. In our meeting with this gentleman, we were invited to help construct and be a part of a festival that takes over the whole city with projections on surfaces and art on every area. More to come on that. Finally, our flight got rescheduled and we were able to meet with Dan Abbott of Storm Thorgeson Studios at a cafe in Kreuzberg. Seriously funny guy who we instantly kicked it off with and will perhaps request his skills in our following album design. Apart from being the creative and design force behind some of rock’s most memorable album covers, Dan was a seriously hilarious Brit. Some of those albums include Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Muse’s Absolution, Biffy
Clyro’s Puzzle, and so many more.
Emily Koopman: Your music has a somewhat 80’s Depeche Mode-ish sound as well, if you could open for any 80’s group or singer who would it be?
Beautiful Machines: Glad you mentioned Depeche Mode, that would be awesome to open for. Tangerine Dream, New Order, Echo and The Bunnymen, Siouxie and the Banshees, Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, The Cure, Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult – all would be really fun.
Emily Koopman: Electronica music seems like it would be a lot of fun to play around with, what’s your song writing process like?
We are still grounded in band and live-playing world with electronic elements. Since the songwriting has so closely merged with production techniques, there is a lot of producing music and then letting it sit for a few days, listen and refine, then go back and adjust things to taste or add new parts or remove parts, re-arrange and just
play with sounds and ideas. I would consider my songwriting process as experimental and everchanging. There are no sounds that are off-limits: analog, digital, sampled, distorted, synthesized, acoustic, raw, granulized, etc. But
there exists within all that openness, a subtle guided aesthetic throughout.
Emily Koopman: Last but not least, what do you hope fans take away from a live Beautiful Machines show?
Beautiful Machines: Everyone will experience the show through the lens of their own reality and for each will have a different experience. I can only speak to the emotional content put into the music and live performance aspect, which tends to lean into euphoria, elation, openness, introspection, fantasy and the balance between negative and positive. Overall, I hope you enjoy the show and get a shared sense of awe of the magic of life that we have.
. . .