Bryan Black’s choice of collaborators on Thrust—his first album under the alias Black Asteroid—says it all. Aside from fitting vocal foils like Cold Cave and Zola Jesus, the industrial-techno record was art directed alongside fashion designer Rick Owens and features his “fairy witch” wife/ longtime muse Michele Lamy on one particularly haunting track (“Tangiers”). Why, the only person missing is Depeche Mode co-founder Martin Gore, who became friends with Black while he was working on his last project, MOTOR. (They cut a Top 40 single together called “Man Made Machine”.)
Not that Black needs the help. Considering he got his start as a sound designer and keyboard tech for Prince (!), the producer certainly knows his way around the studio. Or as he put it in a Resident Advisor feature, “[Working for Prince] was a 24/7 job, always on call or in the studio. I learned so much, but the biggest impression I took away from the experience was the appreciation of Prince’s work ethic. He is the real deal.”
In the following exclusive, Black takes us on a tour of his long-awaited debut LP, which just dropped on Last Gang….
This is me showing off some of my favorite sounds. I spent about one week making experimental noisy interludes for this album and this made the cut. Every sound is made from scratch, fed through guitar pedals and different FX. It pays homage to my industrial side; this is the kind of music I started making at the beginning of my career.
I was in Frankfurt working on this track with Chris Liebing. We had just returned from a Depeche Mode concert and had the crazy idea to add vocals to this track, which was an instrumental for about one year. I went away and came back with a list of vocalists I wanted to work with. Top of the list was Cold Cave. We never met, but our mutual friend, Douglas McCarthy (of Nitzer Ebb) introduced us and we connected immediately on so many levels.
I toured with Zola Jesus back in 2014. I was the support act. I played these experimental techno sets, and we had lots of fun together. We were the misfits on the tour wearing black Rick Owens head to toe. So we bonded over leather boots. It only felt natural to collaborate on something after the tour ended, so I sent her a few tracks, and she was drawn to this track, originally called “Freeze.”
This is me trying to take my obsession with vocals and techno to another level. I thought I would alienate my hardcore techno base, but the song (and subsequent remixes) quickly became the highlight of my DJ sets.
This was an old song I dug out and started reworking. I wanted to include an instrumental, and play with the space theme, which I am so obsessed with. This was written before the film Gravity, but touches on the same idea of junk flying around in space. Also the horror and beauty of being lost in deep space.
In 2015, I found myself in Venice, Italy on a barge with Rick Owens and crew. We had set up a music studio on this boat, and recorded random things. I managed to get Michele Lamy on a beat. A$AP Rocky was in the studio when we recorded this. Mos Def missed his flight.
This was written with the same sounds as “Engine 1”, my first single from 2011. As I wasn’t including my previously released material on the record, I needed something that represented this sound that I became famous for—militant 1/16th note sequences and short vocal samples.
“HERE COMES FEAR”
This was an instrumental that I struggled with for years. Cold Cave recorded vocals on this in the same session with “Black Moon”. I think the vocals are really spot-on for the times we live in.
This track came out of my session recording experimental tracks. I wanted to showcase this side, to break up the 4/4 tracks. This came from the same session as “Thrust”, the first track. I was looking at newly released photos from NASA and trying to make music to fit the images of different celestial bodies.
This song was inspired by “Warm Leatherette”, by The Normal (Mute founder Daniel Miller). This was my second session working with Cold Cave, and this time I wanted them both, Wes [Eisold] and Amy [Lee], to sing. We were going for a stripped-down electronic punk vibe. This might be my favorite track on the album.
I wanted an epic album closer. I had been struggling with this track for years, and once I knew it would be on the album—and its purpose—I was able to quickly finish it. I wrote this on Ambien. Instead of falling asleep, I started making music. It must have been 5 a.m.