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“It Reveals Everything,” Glitch Mob On ‘The Blade’ and Ghostwriting

From left to right: Boreta, edIT, Ooah. Photo Courtesy of Chad Wing

Too often these days in electronic music, charting on Beatport and friends in high places are the key to acceptance and, more obviously, success. But the path less traveled by has its share of footprints as well. True to that trail-blazing character, The Glitch Mob arrived at their success by a much different means than what we regularly see today. The original quartet, now trio (Boreta, edIT and Ooah), started off in the underground beat scene of LA and gained notoriety through guerilla-style street performances, opening sets and word of mouth. After the release of their debut album in 2010, “Drink the Sea,” The Glitch Mob became a household name and have since risen to such a level that their newest album, “Love Death Immortality” debuted at #13 on the Billboard 200 and have since been delightfully flabbergasting fans on their current tour with their new stage setup, dubbed “The Blade.” Designed by The Glitch Mob and Martin Phillips of Bionic League, the mind behind Daft Punk’s Pyramid and deadmau5’s Cube, The Blade appears like it was designed by a samurai hired by Skynet. Unlike the previously mentioned Pyramid and Cube, The Blade is unique from other stage setups in that it is not simply a visual setup. It’s uniquely equipped with touchscreens, trigger pads and futuristic, electronic taiko-esque drums. When you combine The Blade with the massive nature of The Glitch Mob’s music and the complex geometric symmetry of their visuals it becomes a show to remember. Luckily, EDM Sauce was able to catch up with edIT, Boreta and Ooah backstage before their show in Salt Lake City last week and we were able to get to the bottom their new setup.

The focal point of The Blade is the myriad of musical devices. The screens, pads and drums are used as keyboards, triggers and modulators alike. Some saw it as an important new innovation in the electronic music scene, but to the group, it was needed more out of pure utility. As edIT puts it:

“It wasn’t like we had The Blade made because we were trying to be cooler than everyone else or anything like that, it was out of pure necessity that we had The Blade made because there was nothing out there currently on the market that could allow us to play our music the way we wanted to play it.”

One of those ways they wanted to play it was with most of the controlling surfaces facing forward, allowing the audience to see everything they are doing. It’s been something they didn’t just start doing either, says Ooah:

“We’ve been doing that for years actually. Even before we used any touchscreen devices we were doing that with Trigger Fingers and MPDs five or six years ago. It makes more sense and people get to see what’s going on. It reveals everything.”

Boreta added:

“There’s never a point during the set where you look up there and think ‘What the hell is that guy doing? He’s got a box up there and a rack of stuff?’ We’ve gotten rid of the technical mystery behind it. You see everything that we do. So we feel like it creates a closer connection with the crowd.”

The Glitch Mob performing with The Blade, from left to right: Boreta, Ooah, edIT. Photo Courtesy of Chad Wing

And it certainly does. While The Blade is certainly is a technological marvel, it actually adds a level of humanism to a genre of music so often berated for its mechanical nature, by allowing for imperfection in the playing of the rhythms and melodies. It’s refreshing to see that not every aspect of the music is played exactly as you hear it on the recording. There were even a few points during the show that Ooah improvised a massive ‘boom-bap' style beat on the touchscreens while Boreta and edIT added the melody and backing percussion that seamlessly fit into the set. The music is actually performed and not just played.

Arriving at this fully customized instrument/controller/super-computer wasn’t exactly easy, but it certainly helped to have the experience of Martin Phillips. Boreta laid out how Phillips’ experience really helped The Glitch Mob bring their dream to life:

“Before Bionic League was doing deadmau5 and Daft Punk, [Martin] did a big Nine Inch Nails tour. He comes from the rock world. He also did a Radiohead tour back in the day. So I think for Martin and the people that have been doing this for a while, it was an exciting project… He was like ‘Oh great, electronic musicians that are going to play and do something. Sweet!’ He wants to push us further, he wanted us to have this whole extension that was even crazier and motion set. We had to rein him in [laughs]!… He wants to merge the rock and the live show. For us, it’s a merging of electronic music with the live rock performance.”

Boreta continued by saying that the long process of putting The Blade together wasn’t merely just a matter of building the hardware either:

“The guy that actually programmed the software that plays the music on top of Ableton Live, in Max/MSP, Matt Davis, wrote the software for nine months before we even toured. It’s basically a custom piece of software that only we have… we’re kind of out in uncharted waters doing stuff that’s all customized.”

As edIT puts it, the “labor of love,” that The Blade is, requires more than a dozen unseen faces to make it operate in the smooth fashion that it does. Earlier in the night a similar, but much more divisive, theme of unseen faces was brought up in our earlier discussion on ghostwriting in electronic music.

With stories ranging from 10 year old producers with ghostwriters to big name DJs being accused of not even knowing how to operate a computer, it has become a hot topic in the electronic music world. And as it pertained to the three members of The Glitch Mob, Boreta plainly described it by saying:

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“We would be the type of people that would be ghostwriters, before we would have ghostwriters.”

But both Boreta and edIT were pretty clear in stating that even though they’ve never used ghostwriters, they weren’t the type of artists to harshly criticize those who do use them. They took a much more inclusive and measured approach to the controversial subject by saying:

Boreta: “There’s a mentality in electronic music, that it’s always been a very DIY thing because it hasn’t been a very mainstream thing until recently. But I mean, bands have producers. Bands have always had people there to help massage the product. But in electronic music it’s like, ‘No, you’re supposed to mix and master it and write it and engineer it and record the vocals.’… I’m no one to judge. Maybe if I was sixteen years old and I was up and coming and one of my favorite producers said ‘Hey, come and write beats for me’ I would probably say yes. To each their own. I don’t judge artists who do that.”

edIT: “We don’t judge or discriminate people who do use ghostwriters and we definitely know plenty of producers who do. There’s really no right or wrong way to do it per se… There are some artists out there where maybe the music itself is not the focal point of their artistry. Maybe it’s more about their persona or their personality or them as a comedian and the music is a secondary afterthought but for us, I don’t think [ghostwriting] would ever work for us.”

Whatever the trio is doing these days is working for them, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The group is already booked into 2015 and will be stopping at places all over the country throughout that time. When asked what last message they had to everyone, edIT ended our time with some class:

“Thank you. Glitch Mob loves you. Thanks for coming along for the ride.”

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