Henry Blaeser has spent time playing drums for bands like Turtle Island and Mungbean as well as collaborating with Coastal Dives and producing songs for other artists like Alé Campillo. This week, Henry’s releasing his first EP as a solo artist consisting of the indie-pop tracks “Quarry” and “Melting”. Henry took some time on EP release eve to answer some questions for us.
Listen/Save the EP on Spotify
This is the first interview on the site since January 2020. So, how are you doing from a mental health standpoint? Was 2020 a rough year for you or did it allow you to focus on your music and take the time you may not have had things been “normal” to dedicate to it?
First off, I’m honoured to be the first back on the site! To be frank right out the gate: My mental health has been quite lacking for several years, but through all this, music has been a mostly reliable outlet of fulfilment. That said, the pandemic (in combination with my pre-existing health condition) gave me more time away from others to invest deeper levels of this emotion into my work. I’m grateful for 2020 also considering my privilege & luck in general – my situation could always be worse & I work to remind myself that.
While your name hasn’t appeared on Columbus Calling, a few projects you’ve been involved with have been covered (Turtle Island, Mungbean). As a way to introduce yourself to readers, who is Henry Blaeser?
Elevator pitch? Hmm…Henry Blaeser is an artist that releases two very different types of music: 1. Dense, cinematic & percussive instrumental electronica 2. Experimental vocal-pop equally parts whimsical & emotionally potent. OR Henry Blaeser does whatever the hell he wants. Hahaha!
You wear many hats – DJ, producer, artist – and each likely fulfills a different need for you. Does the fact that you’re releasing your first EP mean that “artist” came last in terms of chronology or have you always been creating music but waiting for the right time to release it?
Right. “Artist” did come last. It’s always been my one true goal to be a solo artist – but taken many endeavours & struggles to come to the realisation. I have music dating back to 2015 & have “almost released” (then scrapped) MANY projects. Only recently have I seen my material begin to reach my personal “standard” & be worthy of release. Artists are their own worst critic & it can be difficult to discern the quality of your music if it’s a solo operation. I also wouldn’t say this is the “right time” as there’s so much I still need to improve upon. I wouldn’t even bank on Henry Blaeser being my final moniker, haha! But I do recognise my material is beginning to get good enough to start putting out & build bits of momentum.
I can’t exactly relate but I had a job where I handled some behind-the-scenes things and, on rare occasion, was in the spotlight. It felt uncomfortable for me, I’m much more into enabling other people to shine while playing a supporting role. Where does your comfort level lie between behind-the-scenes and in the spotlight?
Well, interesting thing is I think I’m an excellent & effective side-man or supporting role. I’ve got the brain for it & I’m very proud of all my past contributions serving other people’s musical operations. But I also have another 50% of me that’s extremely opinionated & wants to do me…so once being an artist came into question, I had to leave that comfort of being a cog in the machine in order to even have a shot at realising my visions. Some might view this complacency as a trap. It hasn’t been easy & I’m far from realising a more substantial music statement (album, etc.), but I have to remind myself that the transformation will come from the struggle!
About 8 years ago, it seemed like there were a lot of artists and bands earning record deals because somebody at a label heard a song on Soundcloud and thought, “I can do something with this.” How far has your music – either as a producer or a performer – reached and do you have dreams of getting somebody to support what you’re doing and take it to the next level?
Great question. Even careers created from a viral Soundcloud demo are starting to become a thing of the past I feel? In a similar lineage to MySpace’s relevance. I’ve also had many sad realisations that I’m simply not Jai Paul, if you know his story, haha. I’m me. Plus independent artists have so much leverage these days! For my next few releases I plan to gain momentum independently & just see what happens. If I had to assess my current material “objectively” I’d say that it isn’t the “right time” for a label to step in. I’d love to get signed, but know if it happens, it’ll be when the quality of my music & my industry relationships simultaneously reach an exceptional high. Also may have to start fresh & change my artist name too.
You’ve got a number of producer/mixer credits – can you talk a bit about your role on some of those projects, what your involvement was and what it means to be a producer?
Over a year ago I began making music with Roger Phelps (Columbus guy, AEG + Promowest Live) under the name Boy. I found a lot of enjoyment in the process of constructing full productions out of his song ideas. This, along with encouragement from him & others led me to start working on other people’s tracks strictly as producer. Since, I’ve made a few tracks with Alé Campillo, a very talented vocalist at Yale, & contributed to tracks by former Columbus resident La Poré, among several more. Collaborating in this regard has been quite refreshing, & I believe I bring a truly unique flavour to the mix being an artist myself. I also have to shoutout Groove U, my college alma mater, for giving me production feet in the first place.
Alé Campillo – “Piñata”
Can you tell me about the “recipe” you followed to create the two new songs you’re releasing, “Quarry” and “Melting”? When constructing a song, what comes first (title? lyrics? melody? music?), and how do you build from there until you’ve got a completed song?
For me, backing music always comes first. The stage has to be set, haha. If I make something pleasant to listen to without vocals on it, adding strong vocals will only take it to the next level. “Quarry”’s creation was a special exception – an idea for the overall mood, chords & tempo popped into my head one day during lunch. That NEVER happens to me, so I had to stop eating & lay down the basic tracks. In a similar manner, all of its lyrics & melodies were written & recorded intuitively in one sitting. Have to believe the two are connected somehow… Melting was a more laborious process & took longer to realise, but I knew it was going to be something strong from the inception of its original backing music, so I had to see it through.
The transition between the two songs is smoooooth. I have to be honest, when “Melting” started playing, I thought I was getting a call on my phone 🙂
Hahaha thank you & excellent observation!! I’ve used doorbell-like melodies & other clock textures in many of my other songs I have out. It’s quite strange & niche, but those sounds have an emotionally provocative & attention-grabbing quality to me. That main synth sound in “Melting” is also the main chord synth in my songs “Divey”, “Of Love” & “Ghost II”. PS I’ve had one too many people tell me that synth sounds like the artist Owl City, who himself made all the current sounds & ringtones for iPhone IOS…so that’s probably why you thought that? Hahaha.
Any plans to make any videos? I did a quick search on YouTube and came across the .boy video for “Bowie” and in the “small world” category, Emily Engel is the daughter of friends of ours that we’ve known for 15 years!
I currently don’t have a budget for bigger videos, like the exceptional Boy “Bowie” video, but have been filming & editing iPhone videos of myself recently that are doing the job so far! Love Emily, I’ve known her for a long time! Also, if you didn’t see, that “Bowie” video was shot on film by the one & only Annalisa Hartlaub!
I’ll admit the world of music you make is not one I’m all that familiar with. Is there a live element to it? Will you be performing these songs on a stage at some point or are they studio creations that were made entirely on a computer?
For my vocal music, it will be awhile before I’ll have enough material I’d want to play out. Everything is created entirely on the laptop, but I want my vocal music to have a fabricated/animated indie-rock feel to it that can be interpreted by a live band. But my instrumental tunes & frequent collaborations with Columbus’ CoastalDives will yield some live events here soon I’m sure.
Big picture, what are your goals for these songs? Are they a way to introduce Henry Blaeser as an artist (rather than a producer)? Are they to capture somebody’s attention that can help you take the next step? Do you hope to land them on Spotify playlists?
Yes to the latter three! My goal as an artist is to be unpredictable – consider the vast differences between “Quarry” EP & my last release “Ghost II” which, now that you mention playlists, is doing quite well, getting a couple thousand listens a month. Hoping this vocal EP will land some decent playlists as well & cross-pollinate with my instrumental releases. In other words, my target audience is someone who’s two favourite artists of all time are, say, Aphex Twin & The National, haha.