Artist Profile: Erik Blood

photo by Dave Lichterman

When a 4-year-old, Erik Blood began sneaking 45-rpm records from his sister’s room and listening to them while she slept, a future was being formed. Music shapes us like few elements can. The sounds, words, and images associated with certain songs can leave lasting impressions that often influence who we become. For Blood, this early exposure to his sister’s Cure records and his mom’s R&B, Motown, and ‘70s disco albums proved significant.

“The music I grew up listening to made me who I am, musically and otherwise,” says the Seattle-based producer. “It was, and still is a tangible force in my family that brings us lots of joy. The first song I ever heard was “Sunshower” by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band on the night my mom brought me home from the hospital and it’s still my favorite song.”

Today, Blood is the producer of other people’s favorite songs. He’s mixed and produced albums from Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Moondoggies, Vox Mod, Champagne Champagne, Tea Cozies, and The Lights. His production gifts extend to his own music. Three solo albums meld gorgeously layered guitars with dreamy pop. It’s a cinematic style that evolved from his family’s early music introductions and gained traction when he later discovered Cocteau Twins and My Blood Valentine.

When the colossal, staggering, seasick, guitars of My Bloody Valentines’ “Only Shallow” rose to the throne of shoegaze, Blood took notice. The impact can be heard on the four albums and EP he recorded with his band The Turn-Ons. But Blood is far from a recycler of sound. While MBV may have influenced Blood’s fascination with thick, trembling guitars, he’s built a sound all his own. It’s a synthesis of musical history. And this history is a cornerstone to the albums Blood produces. Bands trust Blood’s instincts and mixing decisions. With Blood behind the studio dials and faders, the artists know they can rely on his experience and well-earned sensibilities. We learn from history and bands learn from Blood.

KEXP recently caught up with Blood to find out more about his studio prowess.

At 14, you started recording beats on a four-track cassette recorder. What motivated you to start recording so young, and what did the tracks sound like? Was this the genesis to you later becoming a producer?

HA! I made pause tapes forever, which was fun. Then I got a Peavey SP sampler and a 4-track, which changed the game for me. Still, none of those beats are worth listening to.

Do you still have any of the recordings? Have you ever used any of these ideas on any of your solo work or albums you’ve produced?

I still have a few cassettes of that stuff. It wasn’t until I was 16 and heard Cocteau Twins that shit got anywhere near interesting. That’s when I started using my drum loops to play guitar over and sing. That became a bit of a style for me for a long time and that led to me working with Mountain Con several years later.

You’ve produced and mixed albums by artists with diverse styles ranging from hip hop (Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction) to roots-rock (Moondoggies) to electronic (Vox Mod) to local rock icons (Tea Cozies, The Lights). Is there a central theme to your approach or do you adjust it based on the band?

Yes. Make good music sound great.

Today, many young artists record themselves on laptops in their basements and forgo the conventional studio. How is this changing music? How is it changing the way studios and producers function?

I love that everyone has the means to make music. People who normally wouldn’t make music are doing it now, which results in a lot of shit but also a lot of new and amazing sounds. I like it because it forces producers to really step up their game. It’s not the gear; it’s the ears.

Your solo albums blend shoegaze with dreamy pop and psych rock. How have you so successfully married these styles into one cohesive sound of your own? Touch Screens opens with the song “Phenominal Pornography,” a track that would fit well on a My Bloody Valentine or Swervedriver record. Yet the next track, “The Lonesome Death of Henry Paris,” takes us in a more electronic realm. Do you feel like being a producer helps you navigate diverse styles on your own records?

I don’t know how it happens, really. None of it seems like a stretch to me.  Having worked with some amazing and innovative artists has helped me expand my realms, though. I don’t think about where things have to go, just where I want them to go. At the end I’m just trusting my limbs to do what I want.

Tell us about how you got involved with the film Center of Gravity, which ultimately led to your second solo album, Music From the Film Center of Gravity.  

A dear friend of mine gave my album to the brother of the director (Steven Richter). Steven liked my album (The Way We Live) and thought there was a cinematic element to it. We met up in Portland before a show and he let me see two rough scenes from the film and I was pretty much down immediately. It was an amazing process and I hope to do it again.

From film to albums to live shows, who is Erik Blood?

Brian’s boyfriend.

What should fans expect from your show at Sasquatch?

Sweat. Lots and lots of sweat.

Erik Blood plays the Sasquatch Music Festival on Friday, May 24 at 4 p.m. on the Yeti stage. Get more tour dates and keep up with Erik Blood on his Facebook page and website. In the meantime, here’s a video of his band performing “Today’s Lover” live on KEXP:

Watch the promo video for Touch Screens:

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