Noise-driven techno from Berlin
BLUSH_RESPONSE is the vehicle for Cuban/American musician Joey Blush’s research into the sonic dimension. Reports occur at sporadic intervals, usually in concurrence with the discovery of new planes of existence.
Born in Miami, and now stationed in Berlin, Blush has brought his sound experiments to a worldwide audience.
His music is characterized by a heavy approach to sound design, combining rough, glitch-heavy beats with thick, distorted synths.
Noise-driven techno, industrial and traces of EBM characterise his sound but even through this wall of distorted synths and glitchy beats, he still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat and like his bio states: somehow magically make your feet tap along or, at considerable volume, rave.
Hi Joey, first we’d like to thank you for taking the time out to do this interview with us.
Thanks for having me on! I’m a musician and sound designer from Miami and now based in Berlin. I really like weird sounds.
You hail from New York City, a place that looks to the future rather than the past.
How was it making music there in the early days?
NYC was a crash course on music making and operating within a scene. I was doing different music back then, more pop structured with vocals, and often didn’t play to many people, so I had plenty of time to make mistakes and hone my craft in a live setting with almost nobody watching. Which was honestly probably for the best. It made me ready for anything, as I had plenty of fuck ups on stage.
Most artists have the fantasy of making a living from their art and not having to do anything else, but the reality of that can be much different.
At what point did it become clear you could make a living from music?
My first taste was when I played in Dangerous Muse, a popular synth pop/electroclash band from NYC started by my friend Tom Napack (Now Tommy Tranq). The first show I ever played with them was at the Out Magazine Out 100 awards, with all sorts of celebrities in attendance. I remember Anne Hathaway, Iman, and many others, through the blur of all the alcohol. I was fresh out of high school at this point and it was the first real concert I played anywhere, so the nerves were beyond a level that I could handle. We even opened for Kelis, and she played her song Milkshake at the top of it’s popularity. What a night! From then on I was convinced that I could make a living if I made the right connections and played my cards right. It took a long time from there though. The next real taste was when I joined Joey Jordison’s band Scar the Martyr, and then it finally really happened as a solo artist when I moved to Berlin. I always wanted to live from music, if only because I couldn’t imagine doing something else. I am really lucky to have found my true passion.
Anyone who follows you on social media will know you have some very impressive hardware at your disposal.
How does the work process in the studio look like and what are your favorite pieces of gear?
Over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of gear, which gave me lots of options to explore and experiment with sound, while developing my own sound. Now that I’ve developed a sense of the kinds of sounds that I like, I can extract my style of sound from pretty much gear I use. So, with any track I make, it’s often with just a couple pieces from my studio. One or two synths and a drum machine usually. I record all of my tracks as live jams, multitracked into my computer, so that I have the ability to edit and fix things after if I made any of my mistakes. Over the summer last year I did a series of videos on my youtube channel showing my process of starting tracks from scratch to finishing the initial jam idea, so anyone who is curious can go watch those. I first streamed them live on Twitch, and I would have viewers in the Twitch chat often suggest things like a BPM or vibe just for fun too. Lately, I’ve grown a bit tired of editing, so I’ve been contemplating just recording tracks as a stereo mix. There are a lot of tracks that I have not needed to do editing on, but I think it would be a fun challenge to strip away my ability to edit at all.
As for my favorite piece of gear, I’d of course have to say my Eurorack modular system. It’s built to my exact spec and to express the exact sounds I want musically. My favorite drum machine is definitely the Elektron Analog Rytm. If you’ve heard a production of mine, you’ve heard the modular or RYTM. They are essential and used on basically every single track I do.
Your music thrives off of heavy distortion, with a prominent sense of aggression.
As artist, who/what inspires you to create such emotional music?
My biggest influences are definitely artists such as Skinny Puppy, COIL, Autechre, Front Line Assembly, and Pan Sonic, just off the top of my head. There are countless other influences, but I have to give the biggest honors to those I just named. Their music has affected me and inspired me on the deepest level. As for the emotions in my music, without going too much into detail, there were a couple very serious events early on in my life which deeply affected me and my perception of the world, and I suppose they manifest themselves in my music. My sound is a direct extension of my mental state, I try not to force it too much, and it turns out I like distortion!
‘’VOID IN’’ was recently released on ‘Megastructure’.
It features 10 tracks of meticulously crafted sound sculpture that transmit the listener into a deep atmospheric liquid metal world.
What were the key pieces of musical equipment used to make this album and is there any particular technical process you’d like to tell us about?
VOID IN was the natural evolution of my sound from FISSURES IN THE MEGASTRUCTURE.
The full equipment list is as follows:
My Eurorack Modular (modules from Make Noise, Noise Engineering, Rossum, Industrial Music Electronics, Erica Synths, etc…)
Elektron Analog RYTM MK2
Elektron Analog Four MK2
Elektron Octatrack MK2
Circuit Bent Roland R-8
Ableton Live with plugins from Arturia, Eventide, Soundtoys, Glitchmachines, Ineardisplay, etc…
I did many other tracks around this time period, using other equipment, but those were the pieces used on the tracks that made it to the record. There are a couple outtakes from Void In on the release ARKIVE 20XX on my Bandcamp (Sanakan, NS5v).
As for the technical process, it was once again about painting with sound. I was just trying to push myself into new directions with my equipment and sound, to keep it fresh and exciting for me. I am always searching for new colors in my music. The entire album was recorded and finished in late 2019, just before the Covid pandemic hit, and then I immediately wrote another one, which will come out this year.
As your music is quite related to hardware and technology, how much are the new technological inventions important for developing your sound?
Well new toys are always exciting, but I find I work best with toys I know best. There is an initial excitement period whenever you get a new piece where you can bang out 3-4 tracks with it just because its a fresh vibe, but then it just becomes part of the setup and you have to be creative again. So I try to push myself to find the limits of all the stuff I have so I can extract the most juice possible from them. There is so much you can do with so little, I could mess with my gear every minute of my life for the next 100 years and not find the end of what they could do. That in itself is exciting.
As you know, our 5th anniversary is a great achievement for us.
What kind of mix have you prepared for Sounds From NoWhere this time, did you have a certain focus in mind before making it?
I’m happy to be a part of your 5th anniversary, thanks for having me! I just wanted to showcase some music I’ve been into lately, as well as some of my own tracks and some new sounds coming on Megastructure.
Last but not least question: if you had to give advice to your younger self, what would you say led to your global success today?
I would tell myself to go with my initial instinct of just making the music that felt natural, rather than trying to force a preconceived notion of what a song should be. The minute I stripped myself from the pop rubric I felt free and inspired to do anything, and it worked out. To anyone who wants to make music, just work hard on it and have fun with it. I have a strong belief that the real special stuff rises to the top on it’s own, as long as people do the basic stuff to get it out there. Also, make an effort to connect with other musicians in whatever scene you would like to be a part of. Community is a wonderful thing.
Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us, we greatly appreciate your courtesy.