Rise and Shine with Boom Bip!
Artrocker.TV talks to Boom Bip about waking up to alarm clocks, working with Warpaint and Franz Ferdinand on his solo LP and the top secret return of Neon Neon...
"This damn Skype thing… I can’t see you."
"I can see you."
"The ringtone – is that yours or a custom ringtone? – it’s this nice 8-bit tune. I liked that."
This is Boom Bip's first time on Skype, and it's working better for him than it is for us. In fact, we can't even see the LA-based musician and producer - best known for his work on Neon Neon with Gruff Rhys - so we'll never know for example, if he's wearing some kind of twisted and obscene multi-coloured dressing gown ("I am, just so you know").
Morning has broken in LA and Bip, aka Bryan Hollon, has already woken up, slurped some coffee and taken a walk. He confesses he's been on a bad streak of getting up at noon lately - as we all do now and then - but not anymore.
"I actually have this kind of er… I have a new Blackberry. And I think it comes as a stock alarm sound, but it’s great. It starts off with ocean waves lapping, then it becomes the fog horn of a distant ship in the background… then the waves get a little bit louder, then the fog horn turns into this… shrieking siren."
It was all sounding so nice until the shrieking siren part.
"Yeah, when that happens you have no choice but to get up! But every time I’m awake and conscious in the morning I love it. Every time I manage to do it I think: why don’t I do this every time?"
As you'll have read at the top of this article, the new Boom Bip album Zig Zaj features everyone from Franz Ferdinand to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, unofficial Beastie Boy Money Mark, Warpaint and Neon Neon's Cate Le Bon. Let's be honest here: it's a good list. How did he get all these people together?
"Um… well, all these people are friends, so it wasn’t like a “my manager will call your manager” sort of a deal. How it all came about was, I had a place in Echo Park – a studio/jam space, and I shared it with the girls from Warpaint and Josh Klinghoffer, who’s in the Chilli Peppers and also drums for Warpaint."
"So it was me, Josh and the girls from Warpaint sharing this communal space where we could jam and record music. To be honest, I don’t think people even realised they were being part of a Boom Bip record. I didn’t! I was sometimes two months after [the jams] that I discovered ten second chunks that I liked and would start looping and working from them.
"So it wasn’t a stiff studio environment by any means. Which is exactly what I wanted actually – with the Neon Neon record we recorded that mainly in studios, and that was fun but it took a tremendous amount of time, because we always had to schedule it – I’d either have to be in London or Gruff would need to be in LA – it took two years to record that. With this record it all happened in one summer, then it took me a year to make sense of the album."
Boom Bip 'All Hands' (from new album 'Zig Zaj') by LexRecords
One of the more moderately known guests on the album is Cate Le Bon, whose deep ranges added a dose of cyborg-style to the Neon Neon single 'I Lust U'. She appears on 'Do As I Do', and as Bryan explains, the piece of music was completely transformed by her presence.
"It was originally going to be an instrumental piece, but I really thought Cate’s deeper register would sound great. Because I didn’t want a ‘singer vibe’ all over the song – do you know what I mean? With high notes going all over it – I just wanted a voice that could fit into the pocket of the repetitive nature of the song. And I knew Cate would do a good job, but when she did what she did, it blew me away."
Cate Le Bon is a very malleable singer isn’t she? She works equally well with folk and future-pop…
"Oh yeah, she’s incredible! She comes from a folk background, and has this amazing range. Also with er… ooo..."
I Lust U?
"Yeah! I nearly forgot the name of it! [laughs] With I Lust U, she had an amazing range too - one of the things with Cate is she has these fantastic ‘80s sensibilities, she’s a true fan of ‘80s music, so it’s easy for her to be inspired by and jump into a synth-based track, as it is a stripped back acoustic track."
Boom Bip's adventures on the Neon Neon tour transpired to be the most fun he'd ever had on the road: the band's Mercury-nominated album Stainless Style was conceptually based upon the life of John DeLOrean, the inventor of the car famed in Back To The Future. Subsequently, the cars ended up zooming to their shows as if magnetised.
"We’d be shoved in the venues and it would be like “oh! There’s a DeLorean here again!” That was taken care of really by the label and the publicists, and it was fun to see those things arrive. We got to ride DeLoreans many, many times throughout the UK and US [tours]. When we did our show here at the Viper Room we contacted the DeLorean Club of Southern California and we had about seven Deloreans show up outside. So this venue on the Sunset Strip was just surrounded with DeLoreans – and that was pretty incredible."
Rumours are also starting to emerge of the return of Neon Neon, and although Boom Bip confirms this, the project is evidently nailed down in a crate marked 'TOP SECRET'.
"We made a few demos the last time Gruff was over here doing his solo shows, and we got some new ideas down. So once things settle down I’m going to be spending some time in the UK. The thing [with Neon Neon] is we’re really into our themes, so it’s definitely going to be based on one theme – but it’s a big surprise so I really can’t talk about it. I can say it’s going to be a drastic change!"