Interview with Henry Blaeser

Ohio’s Henry Blaeser straddles a razor-thin musical line, releasing instrumental electronica on labels like No Problema Tapes, whilst carving out a whimsical & experimental vocal-pop niche with a true eclecticism informed by his past in Columbus acts Turtle Island, Mungbean, Montezuma & La Poré.

What’s your writing process like? Do you write the music or lyrics first?

I make sure never to song-write in the classical sense to guarantee that my songs end up a bit uncanny – so music is always first. I’m always creating musical sketches, vibes or backdrops & archiving them in a Dropbox folder. As the archive grows, the best instrumentals will always filter to the top. Vocal ideas typically come in pieces, when I’m listening to the folder on the go. I’ll record iphone voice memos usually, but the funny thing is, the best & strongest vocal ideas I NEVER forget, & usually don’t have to record them; they just stick. Then if I feel like a song is worthy of recording, I’ll spend some time grooming & mixing the instrumental, making space for the vocal. Then I’ll write & record all vocals mostly at the same time. I like the idea of spontaneity, usually writing 70% percent of the lyrics behind the mic. Then, mixing & finalizing the song is a long process with seemingly unlimited esoteric variables that would take a whole new paragraph to pin down. Is a song really ever finished? Haha. 

Who are your main musical influences and why?

I like to cherry-pick different things from my all-time favorites – not just musical aspects. People like Grimes, JPEGMAFIA, George Clanton, or Baths are what I call my “laptop heroes”. They work entirely “in-the-box” & have a musical universe constructed entirely on their own – adopting this ethos has carried me where I am today. I don’t play guitar, but take a lot of inspiration from the atypical vocal personalities & innovative guitar stylings of bands like The National, The Smiths, or Cocteau Twins. It’s my hope that translating the essence of these bands though a purely electronic filter will yield something strange & unique – which is always my goal. The National & The Smiths specifically really shifted the way I think about song-making. HIGHLY obsessed. Obviously I’m obsessed with electronic music as well – I’ll try to keep this short: I’m all UK specifically. Burial is my favorite artist & his approach to sampling is something I’ve been holding to the highest regard more recently. It’s not apparent on “Quarry” EP, but will be on my next stuff. Trying to make an organic sounding project that flows like Tegan & Sara’s “The Con” but with UK dance-style sampling, hahaha. My other favorite UK dance producers are probably Djrum or Synkro, & I have to nod to James Blake or The 1975 for juxtaposing vocal & instrumental releases that carry on the UK legacy within a “pop” platform. 

What’s the best advice you’d give to your younger self?

What a question! I would tell myself to work much harder…only within the last year or so do I feel like I’ve started to “hustle”, make sacrifices & put in work that might amount to something. Back in music business college, my close friends like Dallin, Aaron or Sky were very driven from the get-go & knew what they wanted more-or-less. I was lackadaisical & didn’t understand their motivation. These days I’m finally coming to grips with the harsh realities of the music industry & life in general. Sounds dark, haha, but it’s what pushed me to really start producing. The other thing I would tell myself is to be grateful. In general. I lost a lot of trust & connections with all kinds of people in my early twenties. I still struggle with that today & reflect on it a bit in the EP. I really want to push myself to replace envy, competitiveness & toxic hierarchical thinking with a simple gratitude for the people around me. But it’s tough – especially when people are possessed by that game as well. Once again, sounds grim, but you simply can’t take friends for granted & I didn’t understand that at the time.

What’s the music scene like where you are from?

Columbus, OH has a decent variety of stuff. Not many electronic producers, but a small elite bundle nonetheless. Some of my favorites include Giant Claw, galen tipton, Moxy Martinez (AKA Osea Merdis) Aero Montero, or The Secret. Around here it’s mostly guitar bands making me look like an extreme try-hard with my “soft-boy” electronic thing, hahahaha. Though maybe sticking out like a sore thumb in this regard is an advantage? 

Tell MoggBlog viewers about your latest release! What’s the inspiration behind that?

The 2 songs arose from a large batch of material originally intended to be an album. I ended up shifting gears & deciding to just put these two out – mostly because new songs I’ve started more recently have better structure + production…also it’s low-key objectively not the right time to drop an album. Not the first time I’ve scrapped an album – ”Of Love” was originally 1 of 9 album tracks in 2019. I tend to bite off more than I can chew. I’ve spent countless hours on pieces of music that will never see the light of day simply because of insecurity. And actually, I think this struggle is apparent in the sound of these 2 new songs – not to sound pretentious, but while answering this question I realized that I really do put everything into my art, tending to think & act in overdramatic ways while attempting to execute my musical visions. “Quarry” & “Melting” are intended to be whimsical & upbeat on the surface, but I wanted them to carry an undertone of desperation & melancholy to reflect my struggle in achieving goals, along with the deep depression I’ve carried as a result of this & more things for a several years now. With this in mind, the lyrics are also rather grandiose & about a lot of people & things. But I think I distilled them down to something digestible? Hopefully, haha.

You can find Henry on Instagram.

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