Set up by Jamie Blacker in 2002 Electronic Substance Abuse (ESA) rapidly became a noticeable project dealing with multiple influences such as rhythmic-noise, industrial and electro-ambient. Different productions have been released on defunct labels such as Hive Records and Tympanik Audio. After having accomplished the last part of the “Themes Of Carnal Empowerment”-trilogy on WTII Records, ESA this year stroke back with the impressive “That Beast”-album released on Negative Gain Productions. I asked a few questions to Jamie Blacker while he was busy touring with iVardensphere (a band he’s also involved with).
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Your latest official album “That Beast” has been released a few months ago now. I think it became the most sophisticated ESA-album ever, but how do you look back at this opus?
Jamie: Honestly, I personally would not see it as the most sophisticated ESA release. I would probably hand that title to the last of the “Themes”-trilogy albums (“Penance”), just due to its many moods and disciplined focus on concept.
What I would say about “That Beast” is that it is a result of increased production skills knowledge and directs attention more to the beauty of ‘hooks’ in tracks.
My aim was to create a really solid standalone product with “That Beast”. Something that was memorable, not just due to the actual music, but also the really focused artwork and the music videos that have been released and will be released. It’s a package that I’m really proud of and so far it’s been received far more strongly than any other ESA release. I feel like ESA is finally getting the attention that it deserves from lots of different sub-genres within the scene, which I’m massively thankful for.
Q: You just mentioned the trilogy “Themes Of Carnal Empowerment”. Artists seem to like trilogies, but how did it feel working on a ‘conceptual’ theme and moving on with a more ‘classical’ album?
Jamie: It felt massively liberating if I’m completely honest. I’d been so tied down with previous releases. I’m really proud of those albums, but I almost felt like I’d created a bit of a prison for myself with the “Themes”-trilogies.
What also came with the alternative direction to writing with “That Beast” was an opportunity to create a much more personal link to the album. The listener will have a massive flag as to just how personal this album is within the first 15 seconds of the album. It felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders if I’m honest.
Q: E.S.A. has been always linked to industrial-music and rhythmic-noise, but quite progressively you injected trance elements, which I think have been never that explicit as on the new work. That’s an interesting evolution to analyze don’t you think?
Jamie: I agree. I love rhythmic noise. I still get excited by the power of that style. I like how oppressive and hypnotic it can be, but I also feel that can be applied with the 4/4 techno style. I think the genres can be merged together quite easily, whilst still remaining very dark and powerful.
It also provides more of an invitation to a wider audience, with techno being more accessible, though I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision to create a wider fan base by introducing this style. It just feels right.
Q: Industrial music productions are often characterized by this typical ‘harsh’ and ‘distorted’ effect. Since a couple of years now I noticed artists are more taking care about how to get a high-tech and professional production. I think you’re definitely concerned about this item, but can you reveal a few details about how you get this sound?
Jamie: Yes absolutely. I’m an extremely non-technical person. First and foremost I am a musician, I love to pick up instruments and use them as an extension to myself. To allow them to be my personal sounding boards.
So the quick answer is I’ve learnt how to work with frequencies better. I’ve learnt that a wall of distortion will not allow for a punchy kick to cut through and holes have to be made in that wall of sound for everything to breathe correctly.
I’ve also stripped back on layers. I’m much more disciplined about what I throw in a track. The more layers you add… the messier it can get. That’s definitely something I’ve learnt along the way.
Q: There’s an interesting and here again very ‘professional’ clip of the song “Bad Blood Will Out”. What did you try to express with this clip and what’s the importance of making clips today?
Jamie: So myself and a gentleman called Myles Fearnley have been increasingly becoming involved in video making.
Myles himself has taken this on as his next career step now and I am also devoting as much time to it as possible along with him.
So far we have filmed two music videos together, those being “The Hold” and “Bad Blood Will Out” the latter being a huge leap in professionalism and result in comparison to the former. We’re really enjoying making these and are currently in the middle of filming the next music video for the track “I Want it Now”, but I don’t want to give too much away on that just now.
I think video is massively important. You’re only able to give away a small amount of a message in just audio. For me (being a massive film fan), narrative and story is so important. So what we are doing right now is merging film-making with the ESA music and I’m super happy on how this is turning out.
Q: I noticed you were into metal music before dealing with industrial music. Do you see some links and similarities between both genres and especially when you’re composing music?
Jamie: Yes. My style is very influenced in metal. More nodding toward the ‘feel’ and ‘tone’ of metal. It’s really all the I listen to still and I think there’s still a hell of a lot of life in that genre.
I think that a lot of metal fans would get something out of an ESA album. The first track on “That Beast” – “I Have Clarity” to me is massively leaning towards the feel of a heavy metal track. It’s heavy, mid paced and very groovy. The vocals are also straight up doom / death-metal. I’m really happy that this track is a lot of people’s favourite on the album.