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Interview with Hidden From Blackout.
This week I interviewed Rick McDonough from the band Hidden From Blackout. Rick has been around the scene for a while now, having played and recorded with such artists as Paravell, Science Fair, and Michael Knott on his Struck Last May project. Hidden From Blackout marks his debut as front man for his very own project. The first album from HFB is a moody, ethereal, mysterious, dreamy masterpiece. The sparse vocals, when they are present, seem to blend in as another instrument rather than an individual's voice. I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself and see what I'm talking about. Enjoy the interview, and don't forget to visit Hidden From Blackout at the links below.
Brax: Can you tell me about the name of your band? I'm intrigued.
Hidden From Blackout: Hidden From Blackout came from an old PJ Harvey record she did years ago. It was a pretty sparse but moving record with wonderful song writing for sure. My favorite song on that record was like four or five songs in, and I would listen to it over and over as it really hit me on an emotional level. The song had a powerful line where she said, "I was in need of help, hidden to blackout." Somehow Hidden From Blackout just kind of leaped out at me and I thought it dovetailed nicely with the sound I had/have. It's not the most amazing name in the world, but I liked it and it seemed to work well.
Brax: What music project are you currently working on?
Hidden From Blackout: I'm currently working on several at the same time, which is how I tend to work. I just recently wrapped up mixing the new L.S. Underground record which is really powerful! Michael (Knott) and I mixed it and I play some guitars and other things on it. I'm also working on a new keyboard-based ambient project. I don't know what I'm calling it yet, but I hope to have that out sometime in the late fall. I also just finished off a two person project with a really talented friend called While Rome Is Burning which should be out in a couple of months. Then, I'm part way through recording (and playing on) a new, and very cool, four song ep for Paravell, and should be out this fall as well. I'm also part-way through Michael's next solo release which will likely be called Even Star. Hopefully that will be out by the end of the year. This collection of songs is really fresh and exciting, and we hope to play these songs live when all is said and done. Then, I'm also recording a second Hidden From Blackout project due out next year at some point. Finally, Michael and I are still working on a sophomore Struck Last May project as well. Not sure when that will be finalized, but it's going to be cool. I think that's it.
Brax: How do you go about writing the music for your band?
Hidden From Blackout: I usually start on guitar with a melody or hook. I tend to soak in it, playing it over and over for days. Then I like to see what sort of emotion the tones and overtones evoke so I have an idea of where to go emotionally and lyrically. From there, I tend to start layering with other guitars and/or other instruments. I don't always do things this way, but more often than not with the HFB stuff this is what I do. I don't like to get too wrapped up in strict formulas and methods as too much of that can really inhibit and restrict the creativity. I really try to allow the songs to lead me where they want to go, and just try to be as sensitive as possible.
Brax: What is your opinion on interstellar travel?
Hidden From Blackout: On a personal level, or in relation to our government? I think it sounds exciting, to explore new and unknown places, to reach out and experience other words. I trust this is something that you do. Let me know when you are taking your next interstellar holiday and maybe I can tag along, if you aren't opposed to it.
Brax: What's it like to work with Mike Knott? How did your collaboration come about? I'm a big fan by the way.
Hidden From Blackout: I love working with Michael. He's so talented. Working with him is exciting. He's super gifted and has an amazing sensitivity towards things. He really gets where a song needs to go and knows how to get the gasoline to the engine so it's able get where it's supposed go. He's so honest and so sincere, and really knows intuitively what to do when. Among his many talents, he knows how to gently motivate people to creatively contribute; he's an excellent producer like that. He's positive and encouraging while really challenging you to take it to the next level. I'm very blessed to have a great friendship with him and to be able to work with him on music.
Michael and I have been good friends for several years. He knew I had a studio and I opened it to him if he ever wanted to do anything in it. He decided he wanted to record a second Windy Lyre record, and he asked me if we could do it at my studio. Of course I was open to it. A few months into the record for Windy he says, "Why aren't we working on a project together?" and so began our wacky little project Struck Last May. We have started working on a second SLM record, and it is a little less experimental. I love the first record, but this second one seems to go down a little easier. We'll see though when it's all said and done.
Brax: Where do you see your band in 5 years?
Hidden From Blackout: Still recording material, I trust. I would like to see the project go live and do shows at some point as well, I just haven't figured out how to do that since it's a one person studio project. I want this project to connect with people through the music and through the live experience. However, I don't want it to be simply me playing to a bunch of tracks either, and that's the current dilemma. Beyond that, I would love to see Hidden From Blackout in a some sort of commercial or an indie film at some point. I think the nature of the music would lend itself nicely to that sort of thing, but we'll see. In the meantime, I'm going to keep pushing forward with that project with the intent of being creative, expressive, and looking to connect with others in and through it.
Brax: iPod, CD, Vinyl, or other? Why?
Hidden From Blackout: I've partially assimilated with this modern world. I do admit that I use an iPod when I'm on holiday or hanging out waiting somewhere. However, I'm still a fan of an actual physical product. I like the touchy feely of it, and the artwork with pictures, lyrics, etc. Most of my music is on CD these days, but I still have my record collection too, as there's a charm and nostalgia to vinyl.
Brax: Tell me about the best live show you've ever seen.
Hidden From Blackout: That's a tough one as I've seen a lot of really good shows. Although, one of the best I've ever seen would have to be U2. I saw them play years ago in Washington D.C. I couldn't afford good seats so I was way in the back in the nose bleed section. I could see these four little specs, almost like little fleas down on the stage. A few songs in I really started to embrace the music, the emotion, the whole experience. I made a real connection and it was powerful. It really made me think about how these tiny (seemingly from my perspective) four guys had this enormous sound that was so much bigger than them. Their music had the ability to reach me all the way at the back of that stadium. While each member brings a talent to the band the pieces work towards the whole, and the collaboration makes them so much better than they could be as individuals. It was really something, and it inspired me to want to reach out and connect with people with such enthusiasm and passion.
Brax: What is your opinion on robots?
Hidden From Blackout: I think they are scary. Not as scary as clowns or when people dress up like the Easter bunny at the mall though. Robots are usually cold and not very personal. I guess I shouldn't make such disgusting generalizations though as there are probably warm, personal, and loving robots out there. Also, I want to be considerate of our robot audience. I've just never met a personable robot. Maybe it's that I grew up on the East coast and the robots out there seem cold and distant.
Brax: Any advice for others trying to “make it” in music?
Hidden From Blackout: I'll let you know if I ever make it...
I guess it depends on what "making it" really means to the individual. I would always like to sell more records and play more shows, buy a new piece of gear, etc., as that's human nature. However, I love creating music and connecting with others through it, and just being able to play and record with good friends, and be creative is making it for me. That doesn't mean I don't want more, but I'm really thankful and blessed to be able to create and record. I guess it's the difference between being thankful and being comfortable or content.
Brax: Anything else you’d like to add?
Hidden From Blackout: I was wondering where you are from? Also, why would an alien want to interview musicians?
Brax: I'm from the planet Brax, and I like interviewing musicians because I'm an aspiring musician myself. There just isn't much of a music scene on my home planet.
Hidden From Blackout: Thanks.
Visit Hidden From Blackout:
Tell them Brax sent you!
Thanks to Hidden From Blackout.
Check back next Wednesday for my exciting interview with Preacher's Sons.