Blue Sky Black Death, a hip-hop/instrumental/shoegaze/electronic/atmospheric duo hailing from Seattle, Washington, have been shining for years. They came out with their first big release in 2006, A Heap of Broken Images, a dark hip-hop album intertwined with instrumentals and rappers that rolled with Jedi Mind Tricks.
Six years later, they have released six hip-hop albums (w/ Nacho Picasso, Hell Razah, Jean Grae, and Holocaust), two instrumental albums (their best work, in my opinion, Late Night Cinema and Noir), two electronic/pop albums (Third Party and Slow Burning Lights), and three mixtapes, including the latest instrumental mixtape, Aquatic Reverie. BSBD have done feature production on various hip-hop albums. They shoot their own videos. They do it all. I contacted them recently to ask a few questions for the Mishka interview and the duo are hard at work at some spectacles to come, especially their future instrumental LP, Glaciers. Check it.
neonpajamas: 2012 has seen the release of two Nacho Picasso outputs and an instrumental mixtape. Can we expect something else before the end of the year?
BSBD: We are trying to get an instrumental EP out before the end of the year, but as far as absolutes, the Skull & Bones project is going to come out on the 21st of December, the end of the Mayan calendar. Maybe you actually won’t hear it because we’ll all be dead. If we survive, though, make sure to check it out. Skull & Bones is a young duo made up of Bolo Nef and Caz Greez out of Seattle.
Your last instrumental output (non-mixtape), Noir, was released in April 2011. Can we expect your next album to have a different sound?
BSBD: Yeah, it should be a little different, but at the same time it’s still us and people sort of know our sound by now. All of our projects sort of have a different sound from each other though, so it’ll be a little different. It’s going to be called Glaciers. But we may put out the EP before and then the LP will come out after.
I’ve seen on Twitter that you are working with various rappers in the Seattle area. Are you planning a compilation project?
BSBD: We originally were going to do that, but we ended just producing a whole project for S&B and then doing a project with Key Nyata (Raider Klan) that we’ve been slowly working on for a while. They’re both coming out pretty crazy though.
You have come a long way since your 2006 release, A Heap of Broken Images. Progression and artistic evolution is so important. What inspires your creations?
BSBD: I guess working with different people inspires us to try different things. Some artists sound better over a certain type of sound we create especially for them rather than trying to force them to sound good over whatever we give them. Also, I think it’s a pretty good time for so-called “underground rap” right now. With the advent of all these social mediums, it’s really easy to connect with people you want to work with. I think we’re just conscious of never getting too comfortable in whatever it is we are creating.
What has been the audience reaction to your concerts with Nacho where you play live instrumentation?
BSBD: It’s been pretty crazy. Those shows are just parties. For us, and for the crowd. The last one we had in Seattle was packed to the brim and girls were fighting, kids throwing bows, jail bait girls flashing and trying to get on stage. It’s quite a different scene compared to what our instrumental shows would be, but it’s so fun.
From producing tracks to touring to shooting your own music videos, how do you manage to multi-task? Is every day a new day or do you have a strict schedule?
BSBD: Every day is a new day, really. We are artists first, I think, so we aren’t the best at organizing our days. We definitely try to stay on top of everything, but it’s hard when we are doing a lot more than ever before. Also, working full time gets in the way a little bit but hopefully that won’t last much longer. Sometimes I wish there were more people on our team to help us with the business side of things, but we are in the middle of figuring that stuff out right now.
Working full time? Do you have a job on the side? Might I ask what it is? Do you enjoy it?
BSBD: I work retail pretty much full time right now, but I won’t disclose the location! I don’t mind it, but it’s not ideal. I actually stress about music now, because my time is very limited for it, but I work pretty fast, so luckily I still get stuff done. And luckily, I can somehow get some of the business stuff handled at work (even though I’m not supposed to). I’ve lived off music for short amounts of time but it’s too stressful and that was years ago. Kingston had a full time job as well, but got laid off. I think working makes us extra focused in a way, because we know our time is limited so we don’t slack as much. Crossing my fingers that we won’t have to work day jobs much longer. It’s been a good year for us, hopefully the momentum builds and turns into gold.
Can we expect any collaborative projects in the future with other rappers/solo artists?
BSBD: Right now we are working on a project with SAS (Streets All Salute) who, for those of you who are unfamiliar, are a brother duo from the UK who used to run with Dipset. The project so far is sounding crazy and very cohesive. There’s some very exciting guests on that project as well. Then, of course, we have the Key Nyata project, new Nacho Picasso, Skull&Bones, and other various beats on people’s projects. We are very busy right now. We’re always working on multiple things.
In the past, you worked with singers on entire albums, like the enchanting Slow Burning Images and the dreamy Third Party. Are you handling strictly hip-hop (other than your solo work) at the moment, or are you trying to reach out to singers/vocalists?
BSBD: We haven’t reached out to any new singers for a while because we’re still having lots of fun with rap. I guess we go through phases. We’re also in a little bit of higher demand now, whereas years ago we’d have to convince rappers it was a good idea to work with us and we’d have to deal with egos. We chose to work with singers because they don’t have the egos that a lot of rappers have (not all rappers of course–we’ve met tons of down to earth ones).
It’s completely different working with singers, of course. You can experiment even more on the production, not as limited and they’re usually more open to it. I’m sure we’ll link with some eventually, though. Actually, I almost forgot we are doing a song or two with Phlo Finister. And also we’ve been doing a lot of remixes for bands, that are not out yet: Reptar, The 1975, and Child Actor. Also a Kimbra remix that came out last month in her remix EP.
What is your favorite album of 2012?
BSBD: Man, I don’t really know. There are a lot of albums that we’ve been slacking on, I’m sure. It’s really hard to find time to listen to music that much because we’re always working on our own stuff, and I don’t listen to music on my phone or anything. But off the top, a couple projects that have stuck out to me are the 100s project (Ice Cold Perm), the new Godspeed album (ALLELUJAH!), and I need to go buy the new Neurosis album. I need to go back to listening to more albums rather than just linking songs from Twitter to YouTube because that’s been my listening experience recently. Tons of good music that I’m sleeping on right now.
What rap line is in your head at the moment?
BSBD: It’s usually a Nacho line, and at the moment it’s from a yet-to-be-released track: “I’m just a bastard from a basket…a fucking douchebag, that deserves to get his ass kicked, but ain’t no one gon’ do it, so there ain’t no sense in askin.” I think he’s the first rapper to call HIMSELF a douche bag. I was dying when I first heard it.
BSBD: There are so many, but right now it’d be a track with E-40 and Danny Brown. We were trying to make that happen earlier this year via Twitter, but it hasn’t fleshed itself out yet.
What album did you listen to before you went to bed last night?
BSBD: I didn’t listen to any album. But I fell asleep to old Unsolved Mysteries on YouTube.
Do you have an international following or is it more U.S.-based?
BSBD: Yeah, we have quite a few international fans, but it’s hard to tell what our strongest markets are over there, because we haven’t been (abroad) yet. But we’ve connected with lots of people overseas since our first albums. I think we’d do pretty well over there, so promoters should hit us up like yesterday.
Do you have any upcoming shows planned?
BSBD: Doing a BSBD/Nacho show in Seattle again for a Hyundai event at the Showbox on the 17th, and then we might do a small West Coast run (instrumental) with Child Actor. They’re really good if you haven’t heard them.
Any final thoughts/shout-outs/words of wisdom?
BSBD: Shout-out to everyone that has been supporting us these past couple of years, be it fans, artists, writers, and everyone in between. Too many to name, but we love y’all! Shout out to Mishka, they were actually the first brand to send us clothes for a photo shoot back in ’05!- neonpajamas