Another VibeRight and Sensible Reason exclusive feature interview! This time with powerhouse duo Alex Russo and Chris Narainen of Blue Boy Productions, a Boston-based electronic dance fusion group who produce squishy, bass-heavy, “livetronica.” Their signature sound is clean yet multilayered: extraterrestrial class samples over neck snapping rhythms with the occasional smattering of hip hop vocals resulting in truly spellbinding studio work and body moving live performances. Ms. Jopachamama and I went to their house last Saturday to discuss their upcoming spring tour Dabs o’ Honey, the stupefying new honeycomb stage set up and visuals, their favorite rappers and a character named Blue Boy who ate bark off of a tree, pissed off a few policeman and subsequently inspired their name.
Check out their Indiegogo campaign to help contribute to the production of their upcoming tour here, only hours left to donate!
When did you guys start playing together?
A: Pretty soon after we met, it was more like jazz, piano and drums, improv stuff, and then we started doing electronic music a couple years after that. It was a lot different, a lot weirder, lots of free form improv stuff.
What inspired you to go the electronic music route?
C: My knees got fucked up. I got Lyme disease, so I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t do a lot, I couldn’t really play drums so we started experimenting with sequencer stuff, and then we started getting into electronic music.
A: Camp Bisco was a big part of it, seeing a lot of music like that, going to Camp Bisco 7 and the year before I went to 10,000 Lakes Festival in Minnesota and that triggered the interest. Definitely the whole Disco Biscuits scene started getting me personally more interested into that [electronic music.] Sound Tribe, also before the Biscuits.
C: Me personally, I’m not from here, I’m from Mauritius, so growing up there I’ve just heard so much house music, the music there is really French-oriented, everything European, you’ll get it straight up – real fast. So Daft Punk and Prodigy were big influences and already I was really into a bunch of other musical styles. Actually, here when we started doing some jam band stuff, it was the first time I got to know jam bands, you know you’ll never hear Phish back home. I’ve heard Prodigy and electronic DJs like DJ Sinclair and all this old house, but it was interesting for me to get into that and it was not too much of a switch to electronic music.
How’d you guys come up with the name Blue Boy Productions?
A: It comes from an episode from a show called Dragnet, have you ever seen that show? It’s about these two really uptight cops in the 60’s that bust hippies, basically. A lot of is anti-drug propaganda stuff and there’s this episode where it starts out and they get a call and there’s this guy acting strangely and he has his head buried in the dirt and he’s eating the bark off a tree. But it turns out he’s on acid and his name is Blue Boy and he proceeds to sell a bunch of doses to all these kids and at the end of the episode it says that he dies from an overdose of LSD and barbiturates. It’s supposed to make it seem like the acid killed him. That episode helped make acid make illegal too, so it was a big deal at the time. It’s just a fucked up, cool episode. 1967 I think the episode was made.
How does living together affect your dynamic?
A: I think it’s good. We’re just so used to it. We just get along pretty well with each other, I guess.
C: He’s cool; he’s a good friend. First of all it’s just about being able to be friends and good human beings, understand each other, help each other sometimes, and you know make things happen and work towards a common goal. We don’t go really crazy. I mean, we do sometimes, but we understand each other. It’s something we take for granted too because lately our friend was saying how bad it is living with one of his musicians like, “I cant fucking live with him.”
A: It’s hard keeping a band together, it’s nice just having two people I guess. [laughs]
C: Even hardly like living together, just keeping stuff together, we message each other all the time. It’s always really interactive.
Would you guys mind talking about your process a little bit? What does each person do? What is the vibe between you guys when you’re producing together?
C: Artistically, I think that, like any, we have specific roles. I do drums and percussion, my mind works in that sense and he does keyboards and sound and his mind works in that sense. But we both collaborate into a theme for anything first. Maybe sometimes I’ll tell Alex, “I don’t feel this,” and then he’ll work on it, it’s very interactive. He works on a bunch of different loops, and then puts it down and asks, “What do you feel about this?” “Maybe that?” It’s a long process. The important thing is to give him space so that he can work, you know, however he feels like, because it’s an art. Sometimes it’s good for me to be there; sometimes it’s too much for me to be there. It’s good just the way it works.
A: You definitely need room to fuck up and make shit that sounds bad. Explore things.
C: Explore things artistically. But this is how we work pretty much, we compliment each other in that sense, he compliments my ridiculousness, [I’ll suggest something] and he’ll be like, “dude…”
A: I’ll try it though!
C: I have a big influence on him, and he has a big influence on me. All those new tracks on Tuesday, they were at their first stage, so they’re going to transform. In our next release they’ll have the main thing [fleshed out] but they’re going to sound different.
When you play them do you look to see what the crowd feedback is?
C: That’s the main point. As we grow with a track, the track kind of forms itself with the response to the crowd. [People will tell us] “the breakdown was great on this,” or “the new track is awesome.” But earlier we were listening to the recording [from Tuesday’s show] and Alex asked, “What do you think of the recording?” and I was like, “It’s fucking awesome!” but I could hear myself fuck up sometimes, so I’m not really satisfied with that, we need some more work. I could really hear [my mistakes] though, I feel like somebody else would hear to the whole recording and their response would be “Wow!”
It seems like you guys have some hip-hop influence?
A: Damn, like a lot, I definitely like a lot of rap. Underground stuff, not mainstream, really at all. Right now I’m super into Busta Rhymes. So I guess that’s about as mainstream as I get. Definitely MF Doom is a really big one, Hieroglyphics, Souls of Mischief, those dudes.
C: I was into just a lot of mainstream; my brother was a heavy hip-hop guy back home. Everything that would drop in the US – he would buy it. He would get everything, Tu Pac, all of his albums. So I grew up next door to my brother’s room hearing Tu Pac early in the morning. You don’t really understand the culture [when you’re listening to hip-hp from a different country], because you’re in a different culture, but music is so influential on you, my brother was just buying all their stuff – everything Dre, T.I.
A: We have like five or six rap remixes: Collective Efforts, KRS One, Busta Rhymes obviously, Boom Bap Project, they’re from the West Coast from Seattle – they’re really good. Definitely, definitely into hip hop. [laughs]
Do you have plans to incorporate what you’re doing in your side projects (MicroSorcerer, techno sets, Mad Mauritian) into Blue Boy Productions live?
A: Just like a whole techno set? Possibly. We definitely need some new more techno tracks right now.
It seems like that would be tiring on the drums.
A: I would say boring more than anything. [laughs]
C: We could make it not boring; I don’t think that’s the point. I will say that in what we do, a big part of what we do as Blue Boy Productions is just having a brand name for Blue Boy and having a separate brand name for MicroSorcerer and for my DJ stuff. For them to evolve and grow bigger and be different, not to be as close in their styles. One other thing is I think Blue Boy has a more innovative way and a bird’s eye view on electronic music that gives it a different, weird edge. When Alex does his DJ/techno sets, straight four the floor, which would be something different [for us to do as Blue Boy Productions], which would sound different too because it’s not a drum but it would all be great. But it’s never going to be the same is what I’m saying. Sometimes there’s gonna be DJ sets, Blue Boy DJ set that Alex is gonna do too, but it’s still not gonna sound the same. The point is those are different brands that produce different music. They all have their respective sounds.
Do you think about the genre and the different style? Does it have a different feel to it when you’re producing?
A: Yeah, definitely. I usually set out to make something in particular with a certain vibe. I usually know going in, the basic drum pattern that I’m going to go for and the tempo and that establishes the genre in a lot of ways. As I’m going along throwing the sounds together there’s definitely elements of the stuff I’m playing out in my DJ sets, the music I like the most tracks seeps into our material and I try to switch it up and collaborate on it, I guess.
You run Music Ecology, right? So essentially you know what people want. Are you guys considerate of that or are you individual enough that you try not to conform or answer to trends?
A: Personally I think it’s not necessarily what people are into trend-wise but just what gets people going crazy at a show. I definitely pay attention to what’s popular and why. I think it’s really important even with stuff I don’t like to listen to it or pay attention, to understand why people like it: what elements of that work and what about it I personally don’t like. You can take elements of some song that you hate and still make it into something that you like.
C: Music Ecology is really good too, besides what he is saying, to see the trends, but on the other hand to also be able to influence people with underground weird stuff. To influence people and create underground heads and bring music on a new little path here, which is also interesting. So it’s both, it’s seeing what the trends are, and working with the trends, as well as just being like “hey we love that too,” and slowly pushing what we love. People are slowly getting it, I think the younger crowd is going to go really nuts about it – they just cant get in there because it’s 21+ [everyone laughs]
Is it a goal for you guys to continue expanding to the level of playing arenas?
A: Oh yeah! Take over the world. World domination.
Would you want your music on the radio? Would you be down with that?
A: Yeah. We want our music everywhere. I love the underground scene and I love smaller shows but [we need to get to that level] to facilitate what we want to do. I want to be able to get around the world, personally.
What’s your dream spot to play?
A: I haven’t even been there, but Red Rocks and the Gorge, in America anyway. Festivals like Glastonbury and any of those European festivals.
C: I would love to destroy Glastonbury. That’s all. Glastonbury. One. Destroy one of the biggest.
A: I think it would be cool (as much as I’m not super into the lineups and the crowds right now) but to play Coachella, Bonnaroo and Ultra.