by Rose Blanton
ANT’LRD is the brainchild of Colin Blanton (no relation, don’t worry this FMJ is not practicing nepotism) While originally from Birmingham, Alabama he has spent the last few years in Chicago and now Portland. I had the chance to sit down with Blanton and talk about his latest release, upcoming collaborations, and sensory percussion.
RB: Cherubian took over two years to create, is that normal for you?
CB: No, early on I would write and record at the same time and do full construction in one setting. With Cherubian, I would take a bunch of songs that I had been working on and perform them live and see how far I could stretch them in a live setting. All these weird little improvisational things happen that can end up turning into more concrete ideas, the more you work with them. I decided to go that route and develop them and see what I like with the things I do live. Then I would let them sit for awhile and work, for like months, on new stuff and repeat the process until I had like a cache of songs. Once I was super comfortable with everything I would record it and then let it sit again for another few months and then I mixed it. It was an intentionally long process. I wanted the stuff to mature a little bit because I’ve recorded stuff in the past and realized going back I could have done so much more with it.
RB: Does the album have a theme at all?
CB: It’s all vaguely positive. The whole thing is a meditation on my friends. My friend, Kyle, and I call each other our lil baby cherubs. So it kind of translated to how I feel about my friends. The whole theme for the album is love and appreciation for friends and people that are close to you.
RB: I know you recorded and mixed this album yourself, but did anyone else help out?
CB: My friend Dave, who goes under the moniker Odd Nosdam, he mastered it for me. He’s based out of Berkley and he’s mastered my last three albums. I used to be obsessed with his music, and he’s been highly influential to me as a sound collector. I actually got to meet him at the height of my obsession, which was pretty big for me. I saw that he was playing this art opening in Chicago and I was thinking about moving there (this was back when I was living in Birmingham) so it felt like a perfect excuse to go up there. I showed up to the venue super early and by doing that I met Dave and two of my best friends I’ve ever had in my life, so showing up early and being a nerd payed off.
RB: You’ve done some splits and collaborations and been in bands before but do you prefer working solo?
CB: I like it alot. I prefer the ease that comes with planning or touring, I don’t have to consult with anyone. At the same time I love playing in bands. I’m pretty satisfied and it’s (my music)moving in a different direction. Although I am working on a collaboration with dolphin midwives called Loom. You should definitely check her out, it’s like ethereal harp jams through a bunch of petals.
RB: Can you speak at all to the music scene here, I know you lived in Chicago and they have surprisingly different dynamics.
CB: Before I even moved here I played a show at Human Flesh Body World, it’s a house venue that at the time, was inhabited by mostly transplants from Chicago. From my perspective there’s a lot more house shows here and little art space type venues. It’s different. The landscape here is just so different, chicago is just more of an urban environment with tons of apartments, etc so it’s a bit more challenging to have house shows there maybe.
RB: I think because of all the DIY spaces here in Portland, I personally think it creates a far more nurturing space…Do you have any favorite gear?
CB: Sensory percussion, I just got this like less than 3 weeks ago and it’s fully changed the way I approach music, especially drumming. It melds samples and percussion in a way that I’ve been waiting for. It takes like the tactile functionality of playing drums and adds in the endless world of sampling. I’ve been playing drums for nearly my entire life, but I went through a bit of a deep phase where I wanted to be more textural, so I stepped away from performing with a kit for awhile, and just focused my attention on texture made mostly with electronics. My Roland 404 sampler too, I’ve had it for a decade and it’s my cornerstone. Also any kind of field recorder.
RB: That is actually a great segue for my my next question. A Lot of samples seem like sounds you’ve pulled from the real world – do you just carry around a field recorded with you at all times?
CB: Yeah or a phone. I have a little cassette recorder that I’ve been using for years and it’s super handy. I take it everywhere with me.
RB: I bet you got some rad recordings from your recent tour in Japan
CB: oh yeah just people slurping ramen. They also have like all these coin operated machines that have cool little melodies. Also every train station has its own melody so that was cool to record. The idea behind this from what I’ve heard, you’re supposed to recognize your stop by sound so if you like fall asleep or something you won’t miss it.
RB: That’s really smart! You’re opening up for No Age in February, which is exciting! Will this be the biggest show you’ve played?
CB: I played with Tycho in chicago at Lincoln Hall once. I didn’t really know who he was at the time, and I just agreed to play and while I was loading in I learned that the show was sold out. That was probably the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of, it was like 500 people.
RB: How did you come up with the name ANT’LRD?
CB: There’s this band that I was obsessed with for a long time, Dymaxion. They were around in the 90s. They’re this weird surf/spy rock thing, but had a bunch of reel to reel tape players and samples going on. I’m not even sure if they had a real drummer or if it was tape loops. It had this fucked up, taped together, collagy sound and I got really obsessed with it. They had a song called Ant’lrd Ally. It’s my homage to them. My friend Kevin, who continued to work at Reckless Records after I moved here, told me how somebody found my record and brought it up to the counter and was like “Do you know what this is?” and Kevin said “ Yeah that’s my friend Colin” and the guy said “I made this word up”. It was one of the guys from Dymaxion. Kevin told him where I got the name from and dude was pretty surprised I think.
RB: That’s pretty wild, what a small world! Do you have a favorite track off of Cherubian?
CB: Maybe “Zoned Hugs N’ Harmony,” my friend Tom came up with that title. Sonically, I like the really scratchy melody of “Zoned Hugs N’ Harmony”. I liked how it made my brain feel. Cherry I really like, it’s like this signifier of my music moving in a more active direction.
RB: We talked about Dymaxion, are there other influences you can sight or just share with our readers who you’ve been listening too.
CB: Huerco S. They can sometimes be more beat driven, but they put out this record last year that’s really minimal, beautiful, ambient loops that kind of just start and stop. Great headphone music. The way that music pans. It’s like someone scrubbing your brain in a satisfying way. I also really love this band called Sumac, they’re metal. They’re all over the place, really. They are hard to pin down. Sometimes it’s really complex. Sometimes it’s brutal and heavy and sometimes it’s ethereal almost dark ambient. They have some songs that are around 12 minutes and you just warp into these zones and you’re like how is this still the same song? It’s such a transformation. 555, is this chap, Christopher Farstad. His music is super fantastic.It’s this synthy, warped, tropicalia kind of stuff. He’s really awesome to watch live because he plays some different wind instruments and makes live loops. Amenta Abioto is another one, she treads this line of hip hop and r&b with a very experimental nature to it, also makes live loops and uses auto tune in the most effective and pleasing way. She’s a portland local. Oh and Bitchin Bajas, and Don Gero.
RB: I know back in fall you did a short tour through Japan, did you play Cherubian on that tour?
CB: I made a whole new set just for that. We(Joe Bastardo and I) had to travel pretty light so I couldn’t bring all the gear that I normally play with so I just had to create all new stuff. I had a sampler, looping pedal, ipad. It was a tiny little table top setup that fit in my backpack. It was a fun challenge. It makes you stretch the resources you have.
RB: Will you play Cherubian at the No Age show?
CB: I played all that stuff to death when I was making it. I’m also using different gear now. With a lot of Cherubian I had a modular synth and an op-1, but I don’t even have that stuff any more. I sold it and bought this sensory percussion.It’s a whole new palate. So I can’t really recreate it. I still have all the samples, but it would come out totally different now.
RB: That’s interesting. Keeps things fresh and evolving. So what’s next for you?
CB: Keep writing new stuff. I want to try to go back to Japan in the fall. Steadily writing and recording. Making plans to tour in 2018 at some point. I’d really like to go to the east coast, I have a lot friends there that it would be good to see. I also have a collaborative record coming out with Benoit Pioulard at some point, and some shows with Sage as Loom lined up.
You can catch Colin Blanton at Mississippi Studios under the moniker Brin on February 22nd opening for No Age.
Photo credit: Joseph Bastardo