Black Tiger Sex Machine Tackle Gimmicks and Social Media
It’s always a surreal experience when one gets to meet one of their favorite musical groups, let alone have a productive conversation. We caught up with Black Tiger Sex Machine at Spring Awakening Music Festival to ask the questions only a true fan could dive into. From the questions about inspiration to why they put those helmets on, we made sure to tackle what their fans have always wanted to know.
Sensible Reason: I’m trying not to fangirl, but it’s pretty tough right now.
Marc: We see you have the pin.
SR: It was one of my first pins! Kinda got me started on collecting them. I really love the fact that you guys are still doing electro when not many people are anymore. I thought your set tonight was great, what did you think?
Julien: It was good. Chicago is a really cool place, you were talking about 4-on-the-floor, it’s a really good place for that. Some cities in the states are all about the rail and dubstep, but here you play a little bit of electro house and people really get going. We’ve played a few times at Lollapalooza and Concord [Music Hall]. It’s always a really great crowd and special for us because we haven’t been here in a while. We’re coming back this fall, so it’s a great show to play before announcing the fall run. Playing early for us is a little more difficult because the helmets obviously look better at night. It went really well, the crowd was into it, we saw a lot of fan-made helmets. We saw a lot of merch, it was packed so I’m happy.
SR: You were still in the shade, so we could still see the lights, but it was an early set. Almost seemed unfair, but it’s an early festival.
J: It’s a great lineup, us, Ganja White Night, NGTMRE, Flux Pavillion.
SR: Were you super hot out there with your helmets and long sleeves?
Patrick: Nah, it actually wasn’t that bad.
M: There was a little breeze. I’m usually the one that sweats the most. We had a fan, so it was actually quite nice.
SR: My first thought was ‘oh my God they must be so hot.’
M: We just came back from China where we played 8 shows for an hour and a half each show with no fan, that was way hotter.
SR: How was China?
M: It was crazy. It’s like a crazy jungle.
P: It’s interesting. Usually, in the US we’ll play more of a festival or a venue, but it was all bottle service clubs. That’s like the big clubs where they listen to electronic music, that’s pretty much what they listen to. Las Vegas style. You have the headbangers who go there, but it’s an interesting mix because you have random bottle service “I want to buy champagne and play dice games.” And then there are these crazy kids headbanging. They have a weird way of headbanging, it’s new for them and they’ve taken it from seeing other festivals. They won’t be at the rail but in multiple ranks all holding onto each other’s shoulders all headbanging in unison. It’s like a rugby team kind of.
M: Some people come in and they watch and they don’t fully understand and try and get into it. It’s cool to see.
P: The clubs are over the top. The LEDs and confetti and production really go all out.
M: Every night is like the biggest night of the year in Vegas.
P: We played 8 shows in 8 days and we were wondering how the Monday show was going to go, but they act like every night was Saturday. People went all out.
SR: Do you prefer playing at clubs like that or do you prefer the festival setting?
J: Over there, you don’t really have a choice. Doing a venue tour would be complicated. We went there with Live Nation, they took us there for 8 shows. It’s a great step to go to EDC China or Ultra, all that stuff. Playing festivals in China is the next move, so we did the run. We also played in Seoul, South Korea, a festival there and that was crazy! Usually, our shows in the states make more sense when we have our full production, more than playing a festival depending on the visuals. When we do the headline tours, the production is organized in a way where it’s very immersive, more than a club. Clubs can be a little less immersive because we’re with our tour manager and less of our team. But like Pat said, the production was over the top over there, like a Vegas club everywhere. They have these huge LED panels in every club, so the visuals and everything we do…there’s no difference, we’re going to play shows everywhere as long as there is an opportunity to get into a market and step up to go to festivals.
SR: Some people harp on musicians with helmets, masks, etc. What would you say to those people in response? What started the helmets in the first place?
J: I think people are right. In general, helmets, even if you pay a bunch of money to build something it’s gonna look bad, you know? It’s hard to get into the market with something on your face and really stand out. Which is weird, because you think it helps you.
SR: Yeah, some people think you have to have a gimmick of some sort.
J: But for us, I asked someone in Montreal, a friend who was studying design. I asked him if he could give me a few designs, he contacted a friend for some designs and most of them were horrible and one stood out. It ended up being something unique, the lights just stand out. I think that’s something that rarely happens with helmets. For most people, helmets can look gimmicky but with what we build and the way the lights are built it makes sense. We hit the jackpot with that and it’s our brand and it turned out great. There are not many artists with helmets that end up making it. A lot of people try.
SR: Yeah, it always seems like there are more when there are those few people who make it big and still have something covering their face.
J: I don’t think covering up your face and never showing who you are really works in the rave community in the states. I think people really love to connect with the artist, so that’s why we take the helmets off at the end of the show and interact with the audience.
SR: You guys are really active on social media with your BTSM Church group on Facebook and other outlets. How do you think it works for you versus someone who does cover their face and never interacts with their audience?
J: We do this for the fans, everything we built, the show we put on is for them. Some people say they make music for themselves only and whatever people think is nice, but that’s not how we work. From building the shows to making music and building the brand for the fans, people showing up to our shows is really important. That’s why we try to give back on social media. For example, the BTSM Church, someone said that they’re going to have a meet-up at the Ferris wheel. So they organized a meet-up and I chimed in and said I’m going to be side stage at the end of the show to sign your helmets. I went and that’s a way to make it become more real. I would have loved to see the guys from Justice or Daft Punk take off their helmets and come to sign my t-shirt or whatever. Something we can connect with. It works in this era, the rave era, where we can walk around a festival and people recognize you, you take a picture. It’s not forced.
SR: It’s more inclusive, I agree. Now, when it comes to your music, it’s a bit darker than over electronic groups. Are you guys into metal? What inspires songs like “Death” and “Hell Motel?”
M: For me, when I discovered electronic music, it was like the late 2000s. Everything was about new drums and creating new sounds. There weren’t many remixes of club stuff except for crossovers like Steve Aoki and Kid Cudi, the poppy stuff but it was about the energy and going hard. That’s what we like to do, we don’t really like the breakdown or anything poppy. Sometimes we have a sweet tooth, but that’s pretty rare. We like to discover new textures and new sounds and really put everything into our set. That’s my approach, that’s how we like to do it.
SR: No metal fans? I feel like there has to be a harder influence out there.
J: Not super hard metal, but we liked Slipknot before. I think the brand itself is dark, so when we’re making music, we’re trying to write a movie with every track and when we’re building the sets there’s a sort of sci-fi vibe. Whatever it is, it needs to fit the universe. We’re not doing to make this poppy track because it’s not going to fit our universe. I think it’s about writing the story. We don’t want to sell out, we’ve never done that.
SR: You don’t need to, though.
J: For example, our album charted well when we released it. It charted on Billboard Dance. So to see that something darker and different can chart, it means the fans are loving it.
P: Like Julian said, it’s about creating that vibe. We do like some metal but I wouldn’t say we’re metalheads, really, but more a bit of influenced by things that are dark and have a particular vibe.
J: Prodigy is an example of something we all like. Fat of the Land was probably that album. It’s a good crossover between this punk rock vibe. I’m a huge Rage Against the Machine fan. Metal? Less. I liked Slipknot and the masks and everything. I remember watching Slipknot videos going “What the fuck is this?”
SR: So, what’s next for you guys?
P: We’ve got a collab with Selena Gomez coming up.
P: I’m kidding. We’ve just been touring like crazy right now. We started working on a few songs and just kind of getting back into the studio after this run of shows. Hopefully putting out a couple songs in a couple months, a few singles. Also going to start on doing a remix act of our latest album, kind of like what we did with our first album where we came out with a remix album for every track. Then festivals this summer, and in the fall we have another crazy tour coming up so that’ll be fun.
M: Another Futuristic Thriller Mix at the end of June. Movie to be decided.
We can’t wait to see what Black Tiger Sex Machine has in store for the rest of the summer and of course for their fall tour. Their set at Spring Awakening was a breath of fresh air in comparison to the bangers we’d heard so far that weekend. Their visuals and their brand took over the Equinox Stage for the entire set, and their fans had the energy only a festival could bring. Each track they dropped was easily recognized by everyone in the front row. Their ability to work together and mix a set so perfect for their brand is why their fan base is so diverse and widespread. BTSM always puts on an amazing show, all with the mentality of putting their fans first. The trio was down to Earth, said hi to their fans, and truly take themselves out of what they do for the sake of entertainment. Much love.