Interview: Black Boots
Mon, 10 Jun 2013 09:17:08
Black Boots stomp right into the future of electronic dance music. The Las Vegas duo of Pedi Amiri (a.k.a. Lightknife) and Mikey Francis (formally of Afghan Raiders) take the genre to a new level altogether. In fact, they bring a futuristic concept as well as artful rock 'n' roll-inspired songwriting to the dance floor, yielding a sound that's as sexy as it is soaring. It's also unlike anything else in the genre—or elsewhere for that matter. When it comes to electronic music, these two are the saviors we've all been waiting for…
In this exclusive interview, Black Boots talk "Flash of Light", "Streetwalker", and so much more with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino.
What's the story behind "Flash of Light"?
Lightknife: It was actually the first Black Boots song ever recorded.
Mikey Francis: It's a special song. We were at this chaotic point in our lives, and we randomly collided together. We got together, started slugging away, and getting ideas together. It was one of the most organic tracks lyrically and musically. It was a great start point. It's really about hard times, going through struggle, finding meaning and purpose. At the time, we didn't really have it. It was this idea. We knew that this idea of Black Boots would be there for us. This is what we were devoting our time to and our lives to. We put all of our cards into it. There's this idea of going through struggle and either counting on someone to be there for you or being a part of something.
Lightknife: "Flash of Light" was a breakthrough for us. When we met, much like any cosmic coincidence, we don't believe it was a coincidence. We merged organically and created this unit—Black Boots. Our first real go at making music in the studio was "Flash of Light". It was our first glimpse of hope as far as this project goes. It's all in the title. Prior to that, we weren't really sure what we had. It was an emotional time in our lives, and it was honestly a flash of light. It's inspirational in more ways than one.
The video expounds upon the narrative too.
Mikey Francis: It's one smaller idea in the larger concept we're trying to create here. The video is reflective of a lot of things going on today like thought control and mind control through media. It takes a look at these two people who are part of this Black Boots movement and are doing something different. They're reprimanded for that. They're taken in and being oppressed. Their captors are trying to erase their memories.
You're giving EDM something bigger and bolder.
Mikey Francis: The whole Black Boots idea isn't too far from the real world. We're creating a dystopian vision. We're only doing that to relay our thoughts on our current culture. In the society we've created, it's emotional repression, it's censorship, and it's misinformation. It's very much what we we're dealing with as a collective group of people. If people take a good look at it, they'll see it's reflective either of the people around them or themselves.
It's like you're holding up a mirror, while encouraging people to dance.
Mikey Francis: Absolutely! We encourage free thinking, being rebellious, and doing your own thing. That's what it's about for us. That's the whole rock 'n' roll spirit. Rock 'n' roll is an idea of rebellion. When things get mundane, you'll always have figures who are trying to do something a little bit different. That's what we're trying to do.
Lightknife: Mikey comes from the band world, and I grew up on all kinds of music. As far as being a musician goes, I really came up on electronic music. When we merged, the point was to bring a rock 'n' roll edge to EDM. Electronic music is very evolutionary in character, but it's very primal in spirit. Black Boots allows us the opportunity to relate to people in lyrics, really tell a story, or have a narrative. As you said, we're also able to do something that makes people want to move, dance, and have fun. Electronic music is a great medium for that.
What artists shaped you?
Lightknife: There are so many influences we have independently and jointly. For me, I grew up listening to very moody and dark bands that did a lot of untraditional and creative things. Before I was a producer, I used to do a gothic, industrial, new wave party in Las Vegas. My inspiration comes from guys like Amon Tobin or Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead. Then, there's a lot of the old electro clash and Massive Attack.
Mikey Francis: I got into electronic music a little bit later. I dove in during the early 2000s when I was introduced to Soulwax, Daft Punk, The Presets, and Death from Above 1979. I grew up on punk and rock like Sex Pistols and The Ramones through the nineties like Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, and Stone Temple Pilots. Then, I got into thrashier music like Blood Brothers. It all comes back to the more moodier emotional, lyrical, song-based electronic music. It's fun to escape to pure dance music, but you can really connect to people through lyrics. I grew up on that so I wanted to bring it to the project.
Where did "Streetwalker" come from?
Mikey Francis: It's a great track. It's very emotional lyrically, and it's a nice progression from the others we've released. It's really about isolation and feeling empty and being alone in a very big world. At the same time, you have someone—whether it's somebody special to you, an idea, or a group of friends you can really lean on, connect with, and count on.
Are there a lot of film influences?
Lightknife: Absolutely! Films are a huge inspiration. Mikey brings that lyrical, human element. I'm often thinking of soundscapes. I'm focused on creating a mood with the music. I was a huge movie kid. That history has allowed me to help sounds tap into certain emotions. "Streetwalker" is a good example of that. There's a lot of organic instrumentation such as strings and cellos in there.
Mikey Francis: The whole thing is film-driven. We look up to guys like Stanley Kubrick and Darren Aronofsky. They have a message, and there's so much meaning and content behind what they're trying to do. At the end of the day, we're telling stories.
Have you heard Black Boots yet?