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|About The Boom Bip
by Leanda Quinquet
Bryan Hollon a.k.a. Boom Bip has become widely recognized as a top notch hip hop artist and producer and has worked in the past with DoseOne and Buck 65 to name but a few. Recently his music has taken a different route, and with the release of his latest record, Blue Eyed in the Red Room, Hollon has proved that he is one multi-instrumentalist to be reckoned with, versatile and truly genius in creating amazing genre-blending electronica. At Southpaw in Brooklyn he talks about touring, his hip hop fans' reaction to his new style of music, and his recent move from Cincinnati to LA.
Leanda Quinquet Ė Youíve been in the city for a few days, howís it going?
Bryan Hollon Ė Good. The weatherís been nice. I had a good day today; I went to check out the Basquiat exhibit at The Brooklyn Art Museum which was wonderful.
LQ Ė Youíre wrapping up a tour opening for Mice Parade?
BH - Yeah, we have tonight and tomorrow night then weíve a couple of days off. Then weíre doing a tour on the West coast with Fog which is about 8 dates, then we take a month off. Weíre at about 50 shows that weíve done and literally have had a handful of days off. Itís pretty ridiculous at this point. I have no idea what weíre running on.
LQ - Do you enjoy touring?
BH - I doÖitís like a strange love/hate thing, you know? At first itís really exciting, and then you get really sick of it after the first few weeks, then you fall into a groove and you really start to enjoy it. But we have this thing called ďtour face,Ē which definitely takes over after awhile. Itís like a blank expression that you walk about withÖ.
LQ Ė Yeah, I saw it as you were walking down 5th Street!
BH Ė Yeah! You have no idea where youíre at (laughs).
LQ Ė Where did the name Boom Bip come from?
BH Ė Ah, well it actually started here. I got the name whilst here in New York. It was like '91/'92 and I was in NYC visiting a friend. I was just starting to DJ and needed a name to start gigging with, something to put on the flyers. I was at one of the "Giant Steps" nights here in the city and this girl was doing some slam poetry, and she did a poem called "The Boom Bip." I was like oh wow, thatís kind of nice, it has a nice ring to it and sounded goodÖ.coming from her, anyway. Then I went home and was looking through some old jazz records and I canít remember which record it was but it was probably Dizzy Gillespie or Duke Ellington, and they were describing the sound of the drums in the inner sleeve. They were talking about the Boom and the Bip, and you know itís the basic term for the sound of the kick and the snare. I just picked the name because I had a really small coffee house gig coming up, so I was like Iím just going to go with "Boom Bip" and that was itÖ.now Iím stuck with it!
LQ Ė Thatís deadly! For those not familiar with Boom bip, how would you describe what you do? Iíve heard a lot of descriptions and a few of them are really mad!
BH Ė (sighs)
LQ Ė Oh no! (laughs)
BH Ė I donít know how to describe my music. Thatís kind of not for me to do, you know? A good example is going to the Basquiat exhibit today and to read those write-ups and descriptions people have written describing the pictures you are looking at is really nauseatingÖit was like what the fuck?! Thatís kind of how I feel about describing music. You have about 15 genres to choose from, and itís really difficult because I pull inspiration from all different styles, genres and forms of music. Iíve kind of taken what I like and it comes out in my music. I draw inspiration from rock and strictly electronic stuff and jazz, so little elements of each come out in there. So for me to sit there and say my music is electronica with a touch of rock and just a sprinkling of jazz, it just doesnít come out rightÖ.so I have a really hard time with that question.
LQ Ė Youíre originally from Cincinnati and are now based in LA, how do you like your new city?
BH - I really like LA; itís one of those places that usually get a bad wrap. You mention LA and people are like ďOh! Sorry about your luck.Ē Itís actually a really wonderful place. Itís not like New York where itís wonderful from the minute you step into it on the surface. In LA youíve really got to spend 6/7 months there to find out whatís below the whole sort of fake, cheesy Hollywood element to the cityÖ but in reaction to that there are a bunch of really genuine people in LA. It takes a while to get adjusted to it but itís fantastic. The weather is amazing, itís the best city on the planet for weather, the food is great and it's minutes from the ocean. Iíve really found my niche. I have my local pub which I go to, my favorite restaurants, a nice group of friends and thatís all you need, I find...thatís what itís really all about.
LQ Ė Your album Blue Eyed in The Red Room was released not too long ago. Whatís the story with the title?
BH Ė Well, the title came from a number of things. What was strange was when I was making the record that title kept popping up in my head. That could be simply because I have blue eyes and my studio is red, itís as simple as that (laughs) or is it?! So that title kept popping up into my head and I kept thinking what is this?! Was it something I just heard? Was it a song title? And it might sound totally hooky and cheesy, but one afternoon when I was done in the studio, I went up to my deck and was sitting there relaxing, and I turned around and there was a reflection of a super, super red sunset, and I could just see the reflection of myself, and all you could really see were blue eyes and a red backgroundÖand I was like, there you go! It sounds cheesy but thatís exactly how it happened.
LQ Ė What a great story! Where did you record the album?
BH Ė At my home.
LQ Ė Did you produce it?
BH Ė I did. My studio is still sort of developing; Iíve only lived there for a year. Thereís still a lot of work to be done, though, so I wasnít capable of recording vocals. When we recorded with Gruff Rhys we did that at a friendís house. Everything else I did at home in my studio.
LQ Ė How is the album being received in LA?
BH Ė It seems to be doing well, but maybe people are lying to me! The response seems to be really good and I was a bit worried because I did change musical direction with this record. I kind of left the whole hip hop element behind. Even though Iím inspired by hip hop and I love hip hop, it was something I didnít feel like dabbling in with this record. It wasnít a conscious choice to not have hip hop on the record, it just didnít seem to come out of me. I was a little bit worried at first, how people were going to receive it. Maybe theyíd think it was a too much rock or too much of an electronica record or whateverÖ too far out from what I was doing. That hasnít been the case. Iíve been getting a lot of support from people who really like the direction that Iíve moved in, and thatís good enough for me, if a few people are digging it then thatís fine. I think some hip hop sites have given me 1 out of 5 stars, but thatís fine, thatís okay. Itís not a hip hop record so I wouldnít imagine that they would be praising it, you know?
LQ Ė What brought about the change in style of music that you create? What happened?
BH Ė To be fair I never was fully a hip hop artist, you know? The very first thing that I did was called The Low End Sequence and was like early '90s jazzy beat stuff and then I did Circle with DoseOne. It was a hip hop record, but we hoped that it was more than a hip hop record. I mean thereís stuff on there like me sampling Bad Brains at 180 beats per minute and stuff like that, almost like thrash metal. The most standard hip hop thing I ever did was with Slug from Atmosphere. So to be fair I donít feel like Iíve shifted drastically. If you kind of trace back and listen to Circle, there are several things on Circle, different elements that are actually on the new record as well, like live guitar, a lot of instrumentation and field recordings, stuff like that. Seed to Sun had its own thing as well; I worked with Buck 65 and DoseOne on there because they werenít typical hip hop artists. Theyíre more like poets to me, and even though Iím doing some more beat driven stuff I donít feel as if the shift has been that drastic. I think things are just coming full circle, Iím used to being in bands, and well thatís where I started off in rock bands and stuff like that, and then I moved into sampling and started using live instrumentation over sample based stuff, and now itís come full circle where Iím doing pretty much doing all live instrumentation and very few samples. I just make the music that I make, and whatever I make comes out. I mean the next record could be a whole new hip hop record, Iíve no idea (laughs).
LQ Ė Did you set out to give this last album a distinct tone/mood? Or is it something that just happened?
BH Ė Itís definitely one of those things that just developed. The way that I kind of work is a compose-as-you-go style, where I donít really think to hard about what Iím doing. I just let whatever comes out come out, and whatever comes out I try to keep. One of the things that I like to do with my albums is to capture a certain period of my life with the albums. Seed To Sun captured basically the time that I spent in Cincinnati, wrapping that up and sort of being very isolated and what not. It was basically a soundtrack for those 8 months that I was pretty much working on the record. When I got into a certain mood I would try to record and thatís exactly what I did with this record. It was about moving to Los Angeles and gaining a fresh new perspective on things. A kind of fresh, clean slate that I was starting with and on the record you can hear the emotions that someone goes through when making a major change in their life. The excitement, the anxiety, you know? All the different sort of things you go through.
LQ Ė You played most of the instruments on the album, yes? Why did you choose to do that?
BH Ė Yes, I played all the instruments on the record. I guess it was a challenge to myself. I enjoy it. Itís easier for me to work out ideas on instruments than it is to express myself with live instrumentation. Rather than searching for the great sample that someone else has recorded or whatever, I chose to come up with that myself. Itís easier than searching for hours for the perfect baseline to go with this sort of like organ riffÖitís easier for me to sit there on the bass and work something out and mess around with that and change that. It just feels better.
LQ Ė Youíre lucky to have the ability to do that.
BH Ė Well, Iím not great, I get by.
LQ Ė There are some excellent guest vocalists on the new record, how did you hook up with them?
BH - I hooked up with Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals, because they had contacted me to see whether I wanted to go on tour with them. They had heard Seed To Sun and they contacted me through Warp and asked me whether I wanted to go on tour with them and I said Iíve heard of you guys but Iím not sure what you sound like, so let me check out what your musicís like. So I bought a couple of their records and was like "wow, this is a pretty interesting band." They have this pop structure and incorporate other genres into their songs and dabble in electronic elements. So I thought, yeah...this would be very good. So, I went on tour with Super Furry Animals and it was myself doing a solo show and I brought my video guy and we were on the tour bus with the Super Furry Animals and in doing that we became really close friends with them and Gruff and I talked about doing a project together. We were going to do just something where he didnít use vocals. We were going to do some sort of alternative instrumentation, a concept project, and it was difficult to do that because he lives in Wales and I live in Los Angeles, so it was hard to find time to sort of do that. Then we finally had a chance when they wrapped up a tour in LA and we spend a week recording at my house.
I was a fan of Nina Nastasiaís music [who also sings on the record] and we had a mutual friend at Southern, who put us in contact together. I phoned her and told her I was a huge fan and that I would love to work with her, and she was like ďokayĒ and that was it.
LQ - When youíre on tour you perform with a band, why did you decide to do that?
BH Ė I had done a solo show for a while; the lap top set, guitars and keyboards. It was cool, but I really miss the band element that I used to have back in the day, in high school, and in college. I just like the idea of having room to improvise, and for happy accidents and stuff--mistakes are one thing that are lacking from electronic musicians on stage. Thatís one thing that is missing from lap top sets, there are absolutely no mistakes. It just sound like the recordÖI just like to hear things a little grimmer. I found myself getting bored seeing a lot of lap top artistsÖ.even though Iíve seen some people do great lap top shows, I was getting bored with it, itís kind of like watching a DJ on stage, if you're not dancing thereís nothing really to look at. I wanted to step it up a notch and get back to that old band element, and make it more satisfying for me and better for the audience.
LQ Ė What do you use for inspiration when youíre writing? How do you write?
BH - My writing process is not what a lot of people probably do. I canít read music, I canít write musicÖso I donít sit down and say ďokay, Iím going to compose this sort of thing right now." It goes back to that compose-as-you-go style, when Iím inspired to make music, I sit down and just start with one thing and start developing off of that and see what comes out, whether itís good or bad. If itís bad, I get rid of it. Iím not one of those people that have 500 beats or songs sitting around. I donít have any songs at the momentÖI make the songs for the moment, you know what I mean? Like if Iím not going to use something, I get rid of it. Maybe thatís my obsessive compulsive behavior too though (laughs). I donít like keeping stuff around, I go with the moment. It could be two weeks and I donít even touch anything in the studio. Procrastination is motivation for me a lot of times, it really is. Iíll be like "Shit! I have to have the album done in a few months," then Iíll just stay up for like four days straight and just record, record! It wasnít like that with the last record. I wasnít stressed, didnít have to pay attention to any deadlines. I had no pressure for it to sound a certain way, it was great. I like recording to be casual, its better that way. It sort of captures emotion a bit better that way and thatís whatís important to me--to get emotion and feeling across, more important than any sort of noodley structure, or trying to impress people with the technical aspects of it. I like to keep it simple and focus on emotion, and the best way to do that is to let it come out when it has to come out.
LQ Ė Will you be recording again soon?
BH Ė Iím going to take all of June and July off so hopefully I feel like making music during that time. Iím looking forward to getting back into the studio. Iíve talked to a few people about collaborating. Weíve been listening to a lot of new music on the road so I feel like we have all this sort of fodder to take and use as inspiration. Iím really looking forward to getting back home into my routine and recording. Something will probably come out in the fall.
LQ Ė What are the big plans for Boom Bip this year?
BH Ė I donít really have any goals or plansÖ.(sighs).
LQ Ė Thatís okay, because that means no matter what comes up youíll be up for it.
BH Ė Yeah, Iím pretty content at the moment; I just hope that I can continue to support my habit of making music. As long as I can get up, make music, eat good food, Iíll be okay.
LQ Ė Thanks for chatting with us at The Wig Fits All Heads, Bryan.
BH Ė Thank you.