We caught up with Canadian producer Black Visor recently to chat about music, influences and what’s coming in 2018. Check out our exclusive interview here…
Hey Black Visor, thanks so much for agreeing to an interview. Where are you based? Do you tend to travel a lot, or are you firmly rooted at home?
I’m from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I live in the capital city of my province located at the south tip of Vancouver Island, an island off the Canadian Pacific coast. Over the last year I’ve made frequent visits down to Seattle, WA to attend & perform shows amongst my friends. Back in February, I had the opportunity to tour the United States for 2 and a half weeks with Sidewalks and Skeletons, brothel., Essex, and Resonata, providing and setting up projection visuals for each of them. It was definitely one of my most enriching experiences in my life thus far and I’m incredibly grateful for being able to be a part of it. Looking forward to more tours in the future!
Can you recall your first real exposure to music?
Back when I was probably about 12-13 years old I was playing a lot of online MMORPGs, and I was watching what was essentially the equivalent to an AMV on youtube, just with the MMORPG characters. One of the songs playing in the video was a System of a Down track and pretty much after that, I started binge listening to them for years. I picked up the guitar and started learning how to play their songs, and frequently visited a fan forum talking w/ other dedicated listeners. I participated in a couple contests on the forum by remixing or covering one of the band’s songs. I remixed my submissions with Audacity, backed with no knowledge of recording or mixing. Over the years my tastes in music would change from death metal to downtempo, and when I was 16, feeling fed up with writing on Guitar Pro 5, discovered FL Studio 8 (I think?) back in 2009. It felt so revolutionary to me being able to write complete songs without the dependency on other musicians to finish the music, it became a really enjoyable pastime. Although my tastes weren’t exactly rooted in downtempo electronica at the time, I would write essentially these 4 bar loops with stock samples & growling into the laptop microphone, making joke beats. As I got older I started to listen to a lot more downtempo and ambient musicians such as Bonobo, Welder, and BT’s This Binary Universe.
How and when did you first begin writing and creating music?
I’ve been writing music since I was about 14 yrs old. The Black Visor project began the summer of 2015, disbanding a previous project. I grew up being exposed to some music theory in class while learning how to play the guitar, but as time went on I distanced myself more from the guitar and gravitated towards playing on the keyboard. That’s really when things started to click with songwriting and music producing in mind. I switched from using FL Studio to Ableton at the beginning of 2014, and I’ve been using it ever since.
How did you decide on the name Black Visor?
In 2015, I was attending post-secondary in Kelowna, a city in the southern interior of British Columbia. We had just finished a day of class & I left to go to my room to produce some music. I was producing under my previous alias @ the time. I just had this thought in my head about being against wearing uniforms, and all I could think about was the black rimmed visors Subway employees have to wear when they work. I felt like I would have had a difficult time subjecting myself to selling my self-image to a job & stripping any resemblance of my human qualities, creating a disconnect from company to consumer, prompting harassment & disrespect to the worker. (The marijuana I smoked prior to leaving class contributed a lot to these thoughts keep in mind lol) So after that, it was the inspiration for an unreleased track that I was working on named Black Visor, and then, later on, I decided that it would become my next alias.
Have you made or released music under any other name?
Before Black Visor, I was producing under the moniker Mech Savvy, a project inspired by trip-hop & downtempo. I started it back in 2013 and I was about to release an EP in 2015, but I felt unsatisfied with my skills & lack of experience to carry on the project, feeling frustrated not being able to produce what I wanted. I started the Black Visor project to essentially ease pressure off of making the same, great song every time head-trap. It was also right around the time I was soaking up Burial’s music, in the car, at work, and when I slept. His music felt very therapeutic during a time of great distress and became influential to my music style & taste.
Can you describe your music for us? Is there one particular track or album which you think encapsulates who you are as an artist?
I’ve always had a really difficult time trying to place my music within a category, yet I’ve also been defying any sort of labelling when it came to writing for Black Visor. I wanted my music to become focused on the emotion, and less about what is considered sounding “right” or “wrong”. I would confidently say that my music is experimental in nature, meaning I don’t write/program the next track the same way as I did before, making the writing process as unpredictable as possible. I like to combine certain aesthetics with dialogue within the song names and the artwork behind them. If I had to pick one track, it would have to be ‘Untitled’ off the first album Lp1. The piano was recorded in one take, and I remember at the time feeling really bleak about my relationship troubles at the time, and the attacks in Paris had just happened a couple days prior. I was getting close to finishing Lp1 and I decided to end the album with a piano-driven track. After arranging the song, I bounced the track to cassette tape and recorded it back into Ableton. It attained this wobbly, aged sound coated over the recording and made the Ableton stock piano sound so much better.
Tell us about your recent album ‘Rainy Sundays’. Was there a particular sound or theme you were trying to express with that album?
I was inspired by a lot of Dean Blunt’s work w/ Hype Williams and Babyfather, and I was eager to create a vast amount of music to create this unique universe to run around in. I wanted the album to encompass a lot of what I had been influenced by in the past, and arrange a compelling story through multiple genres and styles. I had been going through a depressive phase the past several months, and only now have I been getting better each day. I knew finishing the album would be a big achievement for myself, and I predicted that it would help towards my poor confidence and anxiety that I have been experiencing. Figuring out the theme and the name of the record didn’t come instantly, however. I was playing around with words, and I really liked the polarity of the phrase “Rainy Sun-day”. I began incorporating the concept into my music and started ‘rounding up tracks to finish. I made the artwork using royalty free stock imagery creating the world that I had envisioned. I was really proud of the end result, and I wanted to especially thank my friend Jaclyn for providing vocals on the track “Burden”, every time I record with her it turns out better than what I initially expect.
Have you played live recently? Would you like to do more shows or tours in future? Anything coming up soon you’d like to tell us about?
The last show I played was at the Copper Owl in my city back in March. Before that, I was on tour and had the extreme pleasure of being able to DJ an after party in Phoenix, Arizona, and then later on at the show in Dallas, TX w/ Essex, Brothel, Resonata, and Sidewalks and Skeletons. It’s been a fair few months focusing on music producing and working on my mental health, so I’m hoping in the new year I’ll be playing shows more regularly, and include more emphasis on performing with gear rather than DJ mixing. I may be joining another tour in the future, but I have no details to share about it just yet. Until I can grow my fan base more, I won’t be embarking on any tours without the support from my peers.
What have been your biggest influences?
Lately, my biggest influences come from my friends. I learn so much from them every time they show me new ways of producing sounds, and their determination always leaves me feeling impressed, inspiring myself to work harder and to keep trying to break my own boundaries. Life is also a big influence on what I do, I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of my friends and family. They’re the ones that believe in me during the times when I don’t. They encourage me to keep going whenever I’m feeling pushed down.
Do you think producing electronic music requires technical or creative skill? Or both?
In order to produce a piece of work that demands quality and consistency, technical skills are a must. However, that can all be learned. What you can’t learn is how to love doing your work. Your passion towards the craft will determine your skill via experience over time, and eventually, you learn how to hone your creative skill. At the end of the day, anyone can learn how to write a song. It’s the experience and the connection it has to the listener that determines it’s valued.
Do you tend to find the creative process a cathartic or therapeutic experience? Has creating music helped you cope with difficult times in your life?
Writing electronic music has always been my go-to for escaping the real world, getting lost in the process of it for hours every day. Music has always given myself a tool to use while whatever is going on in my life at the time is my script for inspiration. I believe despite some disturbing events, my music is directly influenced by my experiences, and my music wouldn’t be the same if it had been otherwise. I feel a sense of relief when completing a project, and I always come back feeling stronger prior to when I was struggling. Music is medicine.
Any collaborations, remixes or joint projects on the horizon?
I have a collaboration with a musician from France known as “C O / M E” in the works, I’m feeling pretty excited about the direction on that one. I’m working on one special remix for a friend at the moment so I’m working really hard towards that one too. I would love to write an EP with Jaclyn (Childs) someday soon. I will be focusing more of my energy towards Uncharted, I am in the process of uploading the rest of the catalog onto distribution services, and then I can begin making goals towards supplying affordable & efficient physical media.
Any new genres or musical styles you’d like to explore in future?
I’ve been really getting into GQOM, a style of house music originating from South Africa. The rhythms are infectious and they really inspire me to experiment with different musical accents & structures. I’ve been practicing playing the keyboard a lot more, perhaps looking towards a more jazz-influenced route in the future. Also been taking a shot at writing wave tracks, I’m looking forward to releasing more of those.
Do you have any thoughts on the future of electronic music? Do you think the scene will evolve further?
I’m extremely curious to see what the next thing is going to be, and who is still going to be around in the years to come. There’s without a doubt that I’ll be carrying out my projects throughout my life, so I’m really excited to see how my own music will evolve compared to what is trending at that time. It’s a very exciting time knowing peers and mutual friends are working side by side, creating the next big thing. It’s very humbling & they turn out to be the nicest people. I’m really looking forward to how the Wave music scene will grow, and how I’m planning to make an impact in any way possible. I’m happy to have friends who are flourishing in their craft and I’ll be more than ready there to help.
Any new releases coming our way in 2018?
I’ll most likely write at least one album, that seems to be my creative flow lol. Perhaps later on in the year, I’ll start accepting submissions for a compilation for my label Uncharted, I’ll be keeping my mind open to that idea. I’m interested in collaborating with another musician on a body of work, like an EP or LP. Just depends on who would be willing to spend the time and are interested. I’m feeling very eager to release limited physical copies of my past and future releases, including cassette and vinyl distribution.
Any artists or other individuals/collectives you’ve not worked with yet that you’d like to work with in future?
There’s always those dream labels that come to mind, but I gotta put in the time for those ones. I’ve always really admired the quality and consistency of the work Inner Ocean Records put out. If I had a project that I wanted to pitch for cassette distribution, they would be the first I’d choose. I’m also thinking sending some specific tracks to Liquid Ritual would be really cool too.
Do you have a favorite track/song of all time? Favourite artist?
For at least a few years now, my most favorite track has been a song called Hayling by FC Kahuna. I’m not always the best describing how the music I like makes me feel, but whenever I listen to trip hop I feel an overall sense of calm, and it’s aged so well since it’s inception. It gives me a feeling of the past in a not so negative outlook. Overcome by Tricky comes to a close 2nd favorite. I feel like my favorite artist is bound to change at least every 5-10 years, but as of now, I would still say Burial is my favorite. He has been a big influence on my work, and his style of music has led me to discover the kind of music that had inspired it in the first place, exposing myself to new ways of addressing sound design and evolving my music taste. I’m not sure what to call it but I have his pinwheel (?) symbol tattooed on my right wrist, so I definitely had to know I would be listening to his work forever, if not, a long time.
It’s been said that a life in music can be a hard one. Would you agree with that?
Besides the fact that it’ll be hard no matter what, it’s also going to be an incredibly rewarding journey. Juggling relationships, full-time work, and actively promoting and creating a project can be extremely strenuous. There were points in my life where I’ve had to let go of certain people who didn’t see eye to eye to what I wanted to achieve, and volunteer a lot of my time and energy just to establish serious connections with people. I’m confident to say the rewards out way the hardships, if you really do love what you’re doing, you’ll do anything for it.
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring young producers?
You are your own worst critic. Practice healthy self-talk & dedicate yourself to writing great music that YOU love. Nothing has stopped myself from getting anywhere except for the negative aspects that I fixate on myself and my insecurities that contribute to my self-doubt. Although I’m still practicing to do the same, remember to go easy on yourself. Sometimes it’s difficult to not compare yourself/your work to other musicians, that’s why I take the time to look back & listen to my tracks from years previously. It really gives you a perspective on how much you’ve done to change since then, and you can point out certain qualities about your music that transcends technical ability.
Any other projects on the horizon that you’d like to tell us about?
Besides music, I would really like to work more on my graphic design & visual art. Down the road, I would really like to start rendering 3D models to add another dimension to my artwork. Debating whether I should spend the money & time going to school for it vs. scrounging through youtube videos. Another aspiration of mine is to be able to teach music, and actually, make a living off of what I love to do! Hopefully someday.
And finally – are there any tracks/artists that are relatively unknown that you’d like people to know about?
One of my closest friends produces downtempo & mind-warping instrumentals sometimes made entirely with analog gear. We try and get together as much as possible to jam & share music we’ve been listening to. He was the one that taught a lot about Ableton to me, and his incredible craftsmanship continues to go unheard. I would absolutely recommend all music made by Cohesion. He recently uploaded one track in particular to Soundcloud named “It’s Ok, You’re Ok” that’s incredibly stunning to listen to. I highly recommend leaving the play button untouched and let his tracks roll after one another.
Thanks so much Black Visor!
Thank you Antony 😊