Belial: Thanks, very much, man. I’m always willing to talk about music. I appreciate that people have picked up on the fact that I make a concerted effort to maintain a specific sound to my music. I’ve been making music for a long time, both as band member in the past, and for the past 15 years, doing my own instrumental music. I’m a guitarist first and foremost, but I seem to use more keyboards and software, as well as doing my own sound designs. I use the guitar for triggering sounds as well as adding melodic elements at times. Over the last three years I have devoted a lot of time to making new music and reaching listeners who like their electronic music with a slightly unsettling quality to it. I’ve always just placed my work under the generic “electronic” category, but I do love a good back beat. I really don’t see my pieces as dance music…there are too many dark and experimental aspects for that I think…but I do find that percussion is something that work long and hard at. When done correctly, percussion, which can be in so many different forms, carries the listener through any given track.
Corbin: I can understand fully… A lot of my own music has been influenced by the logic of 80’s music that usually just has that monotonous yet unforgettable beat and carries the song from start to finish.You seem to come up with new material all the time. How do you create songs? What DAW do you use? Have you just primarily used this one DAW?
Belial: I make music, or at least work on music-related tasks on a daily basis, so I’m always pushing myself to create new works. Sometimes I put together just some bits and then save that for future songs. Other times, I decide I have the time and energy to create an entire piece. You know how it is, some days are more inspiring than others. Before starting something new, I sit there for a minute and kind of think back to my most recent songs and mentally scan through the BPMs and tonal qualities. This kind of gives me a point of reference so I can deliver something that isn’t too close in sound to anything else I’ve done recently. But also, I strive for having a “sound” that I never stray too far from. When you make instrumental music, it’s a difficult task to have a recognizable sound. However, I think groups like Ratatat and Boards of Canada do just that.
Over the years, I’ve used lots of different DAWs…Cubase, Pro Tools, Reason, Reaper…but these days I’m using Ableton exclusively. For the way I like to work, this software really does a good job. It really is a product that was made for electronic musicians and producers. I do all my sound designing in Reaktor. Some days I will only work on coming up with new sounds and patches. I like to compartmentalize all the stages of producing music…it helps me in working quickly.
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Corbin: This seems very efficient logic, especially in churning out so much high quality electronic music that a lot of different people enjoy. I have been a big advocate of Reason for a number of years. How is the music scene in your home town? Are there any electronic artists that play live shows that are not EDM?
Belial: I have to laugh when you ask about the music scene where I live…there’s isn’t one. I’m actually from Los Angeles, but moved up to a very small agricultural town in Northern California with a population of about 5,000. I wanted to have some land and live in a more natural and quiet setting. All I can see from my windows are plum orchards. I lived in one of the world’s largest cities most of my life. I find living like this is much better for my personal creativity. That works for me, but not everybody. I know a lot of artists who thrive in the city. And if you are gigging a lot, my situation would present problems. In the early 2000s, I was in a band called One Good Meteor, which was the house band at Rugrats creator Gábor Csupó avant-garde club, Lumpy Gravy. It was an amazing time and I met a lot of talented people during that period. That experience would never have happened had I not lived where I did at the time.
When I want to see live music I usually go to San Francisco, which is about 3 hours south of me. If I was ever to play live, it would probably be there first. I don’t like crowds all that much, so when I do go see live shows, they are few and far between.
Corbin: So what would a live show from Belial entail and would we be expecting one in the foreseeable future?
Belial: I would only put the work into a live show if there was a true demand for one. I would basically pick a set of songs and have the original, un-flattened tracks at my disposal for creating new live versions. Things would be hooked up to trigger from the guitar as well as keyboards and laptops. And oh yes, it would be loud. I like the approach Lustmord takes to live performance, but of course on a smaller scale.
Corbin: I have started seeing that some of WEATNU’s artists are venturing out and adding vocals to their songs. Are you going to grace the mic in up and coming songs?
Belial: Interesting you should ask that question. My feeling is that vocals that fit the sound of the music and elevate a song, adding an incredible human condition to a piece. However, if not done properly, can kill a track. And I’m not talking necessarily about how trained the voice is, but how well the quality of tone fits that particular type of music. Case in point, Fujiya and Miyagi…that vocal style is amazingly perfect for their sound, but it’s not really what I would call singing per se. That said, I’m starting to collaborate with other artists who are very good singers. I’m slated to work on a remix with Adryelle. I also have been thinking of doing some songs where I add some vocals of my own.
Corbin: Excellent!! Also looking forward to the remix with Adryelle, if it wasn’t for her and Odd Common, I may have never ventured to see if something like WEATNU existed.
I too come from a guitar background and played in bands. What caused you to decide to become a solo electronic artist?
Belial: I love to collaborate with other artists. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a vacuum in just working by myself, so it’s really a lot of fun to create with others all around the globe. WEATNU is a great portal for high-quality underground music and I just see it opening up all sorts of new avenues for making great music available to those who seek it.
I’ve found that over the years I’ve become adapted to working alone for most of the time. It allows for total control over the end product, but can also lead to re-covering ground that you’ve already traversed if you aren’t careful. The thing is I’m really used to being the only person involved in my music. I think I compensate for that by having very strict quality control standards when it comes to what I publish for others to hear. I can remember working on pieces for a long periods of time and right before uploading, dumping them. Completely. I find being hard on yourself helps in the sense that there is no other set of ears listening to the material before release.
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Corbin: This is so true… I am my own best and worse critic and I listen to each song at least 50 times before even considering its first public appearance.
I like your reference to WEATNU as a portal. How do you see yourself in the next months, years, and beyond in reference to the “movement” of which we are part of. Would you consider becoming more involved with its inner workings as I have?
Belial: The music business has had a paradigm shift which has made it possible for independent and underground acts to reach audiences in new and exciting ways. The ideal is always to try to reach people who might dig your work, and through sites like WEATNU, the foundation has been set for doing just that. I would always consider becoming more involved with WEATNU because there’s nothing quite like it out there and I believe in bringing good work forth. There is a LOT of electronic music out there, especially now. The most difficult task reaching the right people at the right time with the right sound.
Corbin: Yes, the good old days of PR for money are coming to an end as every aspect of purchasing music is going digital. Do you think that it has leveled the playing field enough for WEATNU to compete and subsequently allow you fair exposure in the industry market?
I notice you retweet some of the events, posts, and updates that WEATNU sends, while others do not. Do you find our promotion to be effective in your endeavors?
Belial: It’s a very strange thing, indeed. It really depends on what you’re attempting to achieve as a musical artist these days. I don’t actively go on the road and promote my music, so my expectations are based on that assumption. For myself, I’m just into expressing myself through music and hoping for it to reach people who like their music unusual and dark. It’s good to dream, but you also have to be realistic about the odds. The reason I promote some of the WEATNU materials through social media is that I believe in the talent on the roster. There is some very unique and important music on this label and I do what I can to help push the revolution forward. I’m in the marketing industry by trade as a graphic designer. I understand that promotion and packaging play significant roles in establishing an artist. The bottom line always comes down to making good music.
Corbin: That is a great point!! You also have great music and the graphic design background I can see helps to draw people in I might add. Your pictures used in songs and albums is something that I believe really makes you stand out.
I often wonder what each artists job is by day and what their goals are for their music. If you had one song or album in particular that sums up Belial Pelegrim, your life and your music career, what would it be and why?
Belial: Thanks Roofy! I feel that music and a visual representation of the music…like in the old days, when a great album cover was all part of the package…is very important. I’ve always try to paint a surreal sonic landscape with my work, in the vein of what Magritte or Dali were attempting to accomplish with paint and canvas.
It’s rather difficult to pick one one song that sums up what I’m about musically, but I’m going to throw out Premonition. It’s a good balance of attention to shadowy detail and electronic music. Controlled chaos with a groove.
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Corbin: I really like that, Chaos with a groove! Sounds like an album title. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Belial: Haha…very good. All I can say is that it’s an honor to be able to reach people with the universal language of music.
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#WEATNU Digital Magazine – Interview by Corbin Roof
Intro by Almark