Category Archives: Artist Spotlight

Interview: James Kent Discusses Perturbator Project, New Album, & more

The shift from black metal guitarist to electronic producer isn’t necessarily a common path in music today, but a desire to create dark, synth-driven concept albums based on futuristic, ‘cyberpunk’ story lines is precisely what led Paris-based TuneCore Artist James Kent to pursue Perturbator.

With seven releases under his belt, Kent dropped his latest, The Uncanny Valley, earlier this spring as a follow-up to his 2014 full-length, Dangerous Days. It’s a tour de force of intensely layered synth wave tracks that tell the story of a religious group using technology to win (or steal?) the hearts and minds of vulnerable citizens.

Sounding a little like a sci-fi movie? Yup. James was kind enough to answer some questions from across the pond about his musical upbringing, his love of sci-fi and cyberpunk culture and more:

I read that your parents were music journalists. How did their profession impact the way you consume music? How did it change the way you read about music?

James Kent: That’s right, they are. I think it gave me more of an analytic approach to music listening. As a child, I was able to express exactly why I liked or disliked certain bands or musicians, and as I grew older, my passion for it grew bigger too. I was always looking out to hear new music that I could fall in love with.

I rarely read music reviews though, and I prefer to make up my own unbiased opinion about an artist or a release usually.

What was your first introduction to actually creating and writing music yourself?

I believe I was about seven or eight years old. I used to play the synthesizer we had at home, a huge Korg.

To be honest, what I was doing was complete crap, but it introduced me to crafting music. I was no longer a spectator nor listener, I could make it by myself. It was – and it still is – a very empowering feeling.

I got my first guitar at age 11, and I learned to play some of my favorite tracks on it – Tool, Slayer, Megadeth… After I felt comfortable with the intrument, I became bored of playing other people’s songs and started to delve more seriously into making my own sounds.

Tell us a bit about your black metal career and how it paved the way for Perturbator.

It’s not very fancy really. I became guitarist for a couple of bands, local stuff. Played a couple of live shows in nasty bars. It was okay for a while, but I was never truly pleased when working with other people.

Too many limitations, too many egos to please. I was looking to do something by myself without caring about if people around me liked it or not. Electronic music seemed like the best option at this time.

In terms of musical influences, what are some unexpected artists you look to for inspiration?

Unexpected ? I don’t know, maybe some jazz artists like Miles Davis, Christian Scott or Pat Metheny. I listen to and find inspiration in a lot of music genres. I think metal might be the most obvious one, but I also love funk, disco, soundtracks, shoegaze, old-school rap, etc.

Perturbator TuneCore Blog 2

What is it about the cyberpunk culture/genre that has spoken to you as an artist? How do you try to translate it using music?

I actually can’t quite put my finger on why, really. I love how pessimistic yet awe-inducing it is. It is timeless, it looks old yet speaks to the future. It is otherworldly and mysterious, yet still reminds us about the dark aspects of reality.

Science fiction has always been a great vessel for imagination and powerful ideas. I am not even sure myself how I translate it into music exactly. I just use unusual sound palettes that might remind you of some strange sci-fi movie you’ve seen when you were younger.

Some synth addicts are very particular about new and old instruments. Do you have a preference in the varying equipment you use? What has shaped this over time?

I’m a really “it’s not the tools, it’s how you use it” type of guy. I don’t like to boast about owning X or Y piece of equipment, and I believe good writing abilities are stronger than any piece of gear one can ever own.

It’s actually funny to me how some people take pride in that type of stuff. I do own a couple of vintage hardware synths at home but I still use software, samples and in-the-box production techniques pretty shamelessly. I just don’t want to restrain myself.

What kind of steps have you taken to improve or advance your live performances? 

Well, I’ve been investing in a lot of stage stuff – fog machines, LED bars etc. Hired my own lighting engineer, etc… I just want to keep making it larger, more of an experience than a live show. It’s about making the lights, the sound, the fog and the colours all come together to create an impressive atmosphere.

TheUncannyValley-Back      TheUncannyValley-Front

Tell us more about The Uncanny Valley. Does the record follow a concept or contain any similar themes as past releases?

The Uncanny Valley is the followup to Dangerous Days, storywise. It takes place after the events the latter one sets up. It’s an album about a religion using powerful technology as a tool to recruit fanatics and ultimately force their ideology upon everyone.

How did you link up with the guys at Blood Music? How has the experience with the small label been so far?

It’s actually just one guy, and he linked up with me. He came to me, and although I was on the defensive at first, I can safely say today that signing with Blood Music has been the best choice I’ve made in my little “career”. Everything has been just insanely great!

What are your plans for the rest of 2016 after the release of The Uncanny Valley?

Keep doing shows and maybe start working on something else? Another release. I’m not sure yet, I’ll just go with the flow for now.

New Music Friday: June 3, 2016

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

mariehines
Japanese Blossoms
Marie Hines

Singer/Songwriter, Pop

jackie queens
Sphiwe
Jackie Queens & Enoo Napa

Dance

redddakillerbee
Birth By Sleep
Redd Da Killer Bee

Hip Hop/Rap, Pop

laurensandeson
Center of Expression
Lauren Sanderson

Singer/Songwriter

bugzy
Facing Time
Bugzy Malone

Hip Hop/Rap

royal bliss
The Truth
Royal Bliss

Country, Rock

boli paave
Boli Paave (feat. Desi Crew)
Roma

World

monstercat027
Monstercat 027 – Cataclysm
Various Artist

Dance, Electronic

jillparr
I Still Want More
Jill Parr

Christian/Gospel, Pop

zach herron
Why
Zach Herron
Pop

melodime
Little Thing Called Love

Melodime
Alternative, Country

zachbolen
1001
Zach Bolen

Singer/Songwriter, Rock

New Music Friday: May 27, 2016

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

darkhorse
Dark Horse (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Anne Nikitin

Soundtrack

devonterrell
Live and Learn
Devvon Terrell

R&B/Soul, Hip Hop/Rap

joycewrice
Stay Around
Joyce Wrice

R&B/Soul

matthewv
No Bad News
Matthew V

R&B/Soul, Pop

kreeharrison
Dead Man’s House
Kree Harrison

Country

pegboard
Superstar (feat.Krewella)
Pegboard Nerds & NGHTMRE

Dance, Electronic

avgjoes
Ice Cold Summer
Various Artists

Country

astroidb
Fallback
Astroid Boys

Hip Hop/Rap, Heavy Metal

sauce walka
Holy Sauce
Sauce Walka

Hip Hop/Rap

eshonburg
The Passover
Eshon Burgundy

Hip Hop/Rap, Christian/Gospel

cassino
Bottlenecker
Cassino

Alternative

jayydee
Reality
Jayydee & Nick Kandler

Electronic

Interview: Ron Pope on “One Way Ticket” Doc, New Band & More

If you’ve been a reader of this blog (or a TuneCore Artist) for a little while, you may be familiar with singer/songwriter Ron Pope’s impressive independent music career. To catch you up, Ron went from performing his songs as a busker in New York City subways to touring the world over several years without the help of a label. He’s been a champion of adapting to the trend of streaming music and implementing the tools available to him to garner a fan base that spans continents.

Well, it would appear that he has no plans to slow down! Earlier this year, Pope released his latest full length album with a new artist collective backing him up, and took them all back on the road with him. From the time they began recording through their tour, the filming of the upcoming documentary One Way Ticket was underway. The film captures Pope’s goal of becoming a household name while remaining a completely independent artist.

More than just a tour documentary, One Way Ticket aims to present an artist who is control of every facet of his career, and the hurdles in place for music creators when it comes to truly ‘breaking’ in the age of the Internet.

One Way Ticket premiers June 29th in Brooklyn at the Nitehawk Theater, and if you’re in the area you can grab tickets to it here. TuneCore is proud to have been a part of Ron’s exciting career for almost a decade, and we caught up with him to discuss the documentary, his new album, and of course, the digital music landscape:

Begin by telling us a bit about the formation of your new band.

Ron Pope: The band came together very organically. All the guys I’m working with on this project are very busy New York session players; they’re my first-call guys and have been for years, but they’re always busy. It was a miracle to get them all together for a tour. Originally, our plan was for them to play as my backing band and then to go back to life as usual. No one even considered “starting a band” at first; we were just doing a tour with them as my backing band.

We went to Georgia and moved into a lake house for a few weeks to begin rehearsing and recording; while we were there, it just started becoming apparent that we were becoming a band in the most basic sense of the word. Everyone was sharing input and helping to shape the music and getting along insanely well. It was all a happy accident!

In what ways does the music you’re creating with the new band differ most from your previous solo stuff?

At the end of the day, all of my records have been made up of songs I’ve written by myself, (or with friends), and then produced on my own, (or with friends), utilizing various musicians to back me up. In that way, whatever the album cover says is fairly inconsequential; my first album, when I was “in a band”, (Ron Pope & The District), is no different than Daylight or the newest album. They’re chapters in the same book.

What kind of reaction did you get from longstanding fans?

I’ve been blessed with fans who are willing to follow me as I shift gears from one sonic world to the next. When I released Calling Off The Dogs in 2014, with all its crazy orchestrations and wild compositions, they were just as receptive as they were to Atlanta or Ron Pope & The Nighthawks, (which are much more organic sounding recordings).

At the end of the day, the production and all the arrangement stuff is just window dressing; the songs create the context, and my fans seem to realize that better than most.

After plenty of recording and touring as a solo artist, what inspired you to reach out to Kelly Teacher about filming your ventures surrounding the creation of this album and the tour?

Although my name has always been on the marquee, calling me a “solo artist” at any point is something of a misnomer. I have always recorded albums that feature full bands and have also always toured fronting an ensemble.

I knew that this tour was going to be special and when Ted Young, (who worked on this project with me), suggested that we have someone document it, I thought it might be an adventure. In the beginning, neither Kelly nor any of us knew exactly what the movie would be about; the point of our story came into focus as we moved forward together. I hate to keep using this term, but it was very organic.

At what point did this film shift from being a story about an artist and his band to a commentary on the state of the music industry?

All of that happened naturally. We went into this journey hoping to capture our travels and the making of this record; we ended up telling a much more complex story. That started with talks around the breakfast table and conversations over smores at the lake house.

Kelly just kept capturing things that seemed to point towards something more significant than just a concert film or a “band makes a record and goes on tour” movie.

Do you feel you’ve gained new insight on ‘making it’ as an indie artist when reflecting on your recording/touring with the band vs. your previous experiences?

Every day, I find myself learning more and more about how to keep progressing as an artist and a businessperson. Living at the intersection of art and commerce can be a daunting experience, but the deeper you dive into the process, the more adept you becoming at navigating it all.

Are there any particular obstacles that you feel have gone from ‘terrifying’ to ‘doable’ for indie artists over the past few years?

I have always been of the mindset that anything is possible if you’re hard working and creative enough. As Kanye said, “Never gave in, never gave up, I’m the only thing I’m afraid of.”

It’s on YOU to get yourself where you want to go. There is very little about this business I’ve ever found “terrifying.” We’re not in a race against the clock to try to cure a terminal disease; we’re adults who get to make up stories, stay up late, and make noise.

I think it is important to maintain perspective; even when music isn’t your job, if you want it to be, you have to treat it like it is and do hard, focused work; but beyond that, you can’t let it drive you crazy. The business is complex and multifaceted; control what you can control and don’t sweat the bullshit, (because God knows you’ll have to wade through mountains of that to get where you’re going in this game).

ron pope one way ticket 1

What do you feel indie artists who watch One-Way Ticket will be able to take away from the film?

I think the movie really gives people a sense of how hard we work every day. My career didn’t come out of nowhere; we spent a long time working very hard to get to this point and continue with that work each and every day.

That is probably the most important lesson a young artist can take from the movie; if you want it, outwork your peers and go get it.

It’s been awhile since we’ve talked to you about streaming – which has been a big part of your career. Any thoughts on the progress that’s been made in the past two years?

The emotional tone within the industry in regard to streaming has shifted significantly in the last couple of years, obviously. In 2014, I felt like I was part of a very small minority of artists who were excited about the possibilities that streaming offered.  In that era, we saw marquee artists like Taylor Swift taking their music off of Spotify in protest.

Now, we see Ms. Swift starring in advertisements for Apple Music; clearly, the prevailing winds have shifted. I think that the conventional music business has finally come around to the idea that steaming affords them real value.

That’s been the biggest shift in my mind; less people are crying that streaming is causing the sky to fall and instead, those people are trying to find ways to generate revenue via these platforms that aren’t going to disappear any time soon.

New Music Friday: May 20, 2016

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

brandnew copy
I Am a Nightmare
Brand New

Alternative, Rock

honeyradar copy
Blank Cartoon
Honey Radar
Rock, Alternative

areyes copy
Sexy Hot
Alisa Reyes

Pop, Dance

mattwertz copy
Gun Shy
Matt Wertz

Singer/Songwriter

montana3000 copy
Fire in the Church
Montana of 300

Hip Hop/Rap

3pillmorning copy
Electric Chair
3 Pill Morning

Rock

aguess copy
10 Times Out of 10
Amy Guess
Pop, Alternative

wolfparade copy
EP 4
Wolf Parade

Alternative

jswiss copy
Sunshine to Rain (feat. Maya Azucena)
JSWISS

Hip Hop/Rap, R&B/Soul

area21 copy
Girls
AREA21

Dance, Pop

theaces copy
Stuck
The Aces

Pop, Alternative

bagoftricks copy
Cat’s Out The Bag
Bag Of Tricks Cat

Hip Hop/Rap, Alternative

Wednesday Video Diversion: May 18, 2016

Did you know that 5 years ago on this date, John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for the classic “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” sold for over $237K at an auction? It did. How does that make you feel? Like you want to run away from the world and hide in an amazing series of audio visual distraction? We’ve got you covered:


Pollyn, “Too Late to Change the Past”


Charlie Forster Anderson, “Let It Be Right, Let Her Be Mine”


David Clavijo, “Fragile World (feat. Laura Powers)”


Meyhem Lauren, “Blackberry Cabernet (Bless the Booth Session)”


Gia, “Only A Girl”


Death Division, “The Truth”


Montana of 300, “Here Now (feat. Tabrielle)”


Drew Baldridge, “Dance With Ya”


Tine Velvet, “Heart Of Me”


Bag Of Tricks Cat, “For the Culture (feat. Henny Flatz)”