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Artists To Watch: Blitz Berlin

Compromised of a group of friends who met each other in high school (and who originally performed as the metal-core band Theset), the electronic punk group Blitz Berlin have been making quite a name for themselves since their debut EP “One”. Thrust into the public radar with their incredible score to the 2014 film Extraterrestrial, the boys followed it up a year later with a fantastic 10 song debut album “Distance“, which was released in October of this past year. With both a brilliant score and a great debut album under their belt, it seems like Blitz Berlin’s talents know no boundaries, and we are all very excited to see what they’ll bring in the years ahead.

Earlier this month AltWire’s Derek Oswald had the chance to sit down and interview Blitz Berlin’s lead vocalist Martin Macphail. Read the interview below.

AW: In promoting yourselves, your band calls Blitz Berlin a ‘group of film composers’, and certainly with the score you wrote for Extraterrestrial you’ve lived up to that label. However with Distance we’re seeing you release music that is completely seperate from movies or film. Is this the direction we can expect you to be heading? Do you prefer writing albums like this to film scores?

Martin Macphail [Blitz Berlin]: Dean, Tristan, and myself all came from a background of playing in bands, and honestly most of our music education has happened in a jamspace or on a stage. Scoring films is something new for us, and although we really enjoy collaborating with visual artists like Colin and Stu on Extraterrestrial, we’ll always get that itch to create original standalone music. Distance was the product of a few years of pent up energy working predominantly on film projects, and it felt like an album we had to make – kind of for our own sanity!

AW: Talk to me about the recording process for the album. How does your approach to writing music for an album differ from creating a score for a full length movie like Extraterrestrial? 

MM: When we write music for a film, the process is much more strategic – we have conversations about story and character and interesting ways to motivate scenes or surprise an audience. Writing and recording an album is kind of the opposite process. It’s much more reliant on what’s going on in our lives mentally and emotionally, and the music has to come naturally to the three of us.

AW: Musically, Blitz Berlin is a pretty decent departure from the sound and feel of your former band Theset, whose members all are now a part of Blitz Berlin. What gave all of you the inspiration to head in an electro-punk direction after releasing several metal-core records as Theset for so long?

MM: Theset was our project right out of high-school, and really those were our formative years musically. A few years ago life kind of pulled the band apart, and when the dust settled and Dean, Tristan, and I regrouped, the Blitz//Berlin sound evolved in a jamspace with restless ears and a lot of experimentation.

AW: As of the time of this interview, what is the status of Theset? Are both bands currently still ‘active’ (meaning that in the future, Theset will go off hiatus and more ‘Theset’ albums may be released), or is Theset officially a thing of the past?

MM: Theset is currently on a permanent hiatus. We all still keep in touch, and I feel proud of what we accomplished together, but a lot has changed over the years. I wouldn’t say another album is likely, but never say never.

AW: Are there certain electro artists that give your inspiration when chasing the sound for Blitz Berlin, or do you find your inspiration in other places?

MM: When we moved to Toronto from the west coast, we found ourselves listening to a lot of hip hop, r&b, industrial, pop, all sorts of things. Toronto has a very diverse music scene unto itself, and we just kind of immersed ourselves in it. I’d say one of our constant sources of inspiration has always been Trent Reznor. He’s just so damn good.

AW: Going back to your film score, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Leviathan and then discovered your band was actually responsible for the entire score for Extraterrestrial. How did the opportunity to score the film come about? Is scoring movies something you hope to continue?

MM: Yes, in fact most of 2016 so far has been purely film and TV work for us. Extraterrestrial helped launch us into that world, and we really enjoy it. We’re huge film buffs, and we hope to continue on this path and see where it leads. We landed the job to score Extraterrestrial when the director Colin Minihan reached out to us. He’s an old friend, and directed several music video’s for Theset.

AW: What was the story and inspiration behind Leviathan? What inspired the lyrical theme of the track?

MM: To be honest, the lyrics for that song were written on a red-eye flight from Texas coming down off adderall. Inspired by a lot of turmoil in my life at that time. Sounds made-up, but that’s the truth. Weird times.

AW: The score for that movie really deviated from traditional Sci-Fi movie music. When you think Sci-Fi movies you think Ambience, Spacey Pads, or Orchestra-Heavy Scores. You had EDM, Metal, & Alternative music in the score! Did you have a certain demographic in mind or did you just want to be unique in that aspect?

MM: Actually a lot of the songs you hear in Extraterrestrial are licensed tracks outside of our score. The EDM and Metal and such were songs from other artists, not part of the film’s original score. Our score for that film is focused around a synth-based approach to orchestral music. We definitely aren’t thinking too much about demographics when we create, just what’s most effective for the atmosphere and emotion in a scene.

AW: How do the songs connect with the scenes? Songs like Baptism, which was played when Seth & Kyle were drinking, are obvious but, how about “Taste of the Same”? Should we pay more attention to lyrics in this case?

MM: These tracks were selected by the directors outside of the original score we created, so they weren’t chosen by us. I’m sure Colin and Stu would have a story about that for you!

AW: The Vicious Brothers have contributed some pretty interesting twists to the sci-fi and horror genres, since Grave Encounters. Were you a fan of them prior to scoring Extraterrestrial, and what was it like working with them on the score?

MM: We were fans of Grave Encounters for sure, and friends with both Colin and Stu before that. Working with them was a real pleasure. They trusted us to take on this massive project, and gave us a lot of freedom to experiment and create unique sounds and themes throughout.

AW: Your band’s shared love of Sci-Fi movies made that movie pretty great fit. If you had to pick, what are some of your favorite sci-fi movies and TV shows of all time? Did you catch the X-Files Revival and if so what did you think of it?

MM: I’m personally a huge fan of 80’s and 90’s sci-fi. Escape from New York, The Thing, and Total Recall are a few of my favourites. Yeah I watched the new x-files. Overall i enjoyed it aside from that one blatantly racist episode.

AW: Do you believe there’s intelligent life out there beyond our Earth? Do you believe we’ve already been visited?

MM: Absolutely there is other intelligent life in the universe. The concept of visitation seems less likely from a scientific standpoint, but there are some compelling UFO phenomena throughout history that i love to read about.

AW: Finally, what are you most excited for with Blitz Berlin in 2016? Anything your fans should look out for?

One strange thing about the film score game, is that you’re perpetually working on projects that you’re not allowed to discuss. So as it stands, I can promise lots of new music this year, but you’ll just have to stay tuned to our websites and socials to find out more.

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