The love of modulators (of which all EDM fans should possess a bit), can take one down some interesting, not necessarily conventional musical rabbit holes. As the first purveyors of electronic sound as early as the 1920s, mods have been instrumental (pardon the pun) in creating all forms of electronic music, including EDM, right the way through to present time. That said, it’s not just EDM producers who are mod heads, and in fact, as EDM gets bigger, artists from all other genres, including indie rock are turning to mods to created unique yet recognizable electronic sounds for their own work. 1st Base Runner is one such indie artist.
The difference between how mods and electronica are used in the indie world now versus in previously (see: new wave, krautrock, et al.), is the electronic production is being integrated into the relative analog rock sounds more than ever before. Rather than being a side dish or an accompaniment, the mods and softwares that create the electronic indie rock are not only integrated but integral to the sound.
Having just signed to Universal for his distro, 1st Base Runner (1BR) is about to join an elite list of indie EDM and indie rock artists who’ve broken the mold and straddled multiple genres while creating a unique sound that will find fans on both sides of the electronica divide. With a Radiohead sensibility and a Venetian Snares-level mod ability, 1BR is heading into his next EP with collaborator former band mate and namesake of the project, Bryan Ellis focused on that unique sound and what it means both musically and personally.
It was only a matter of time, after following 1st Base Runner, given name Tim Husmann, before we would start scrambling to interview the Austin-based artist here at Your EDM, and it comes none too soon after the success and industry interest of his first album, Seven Years of Silence and before Ellis and his many other upcoming projects hit. Check out these words from the elusive and sometimes cryptic artist about his life, times and mods. Premiere of the single “Flux” off the upcoming EP follows interview.
Boiler plate questions first: why did you decide to quit working on other musicians’ tours and focus on your solo work?
There was a longing sense of self doubt I was unable to reconcile. In some ways it has always been easier to play a part.
What’s the significance of the name of the project, 1st Base Runner?
I think it addresses the elephant in the room: the longing to be made real. It’s also a play on my physical condition.
Your first album, Seven Years of Silence, seemed like there was a lot of emotional openness required and, despite having a lot of styles musically, its songs were unequivocally think/feel pieces. With Ellis, the work still seems emotive but it’s more sort of sweet and reflective, thematically. What kinds of emotions were you trying to connote on this EP versus Seven Years…?
Seven Years… was what I had to explore to become free again; a reclamation of sonic space of sorts. The Ellis EP was a collaborative effort with an old band mate from Austin, Bryan Ellis. It was a return to the origin, but through the lens of being once removed. The hope was to revisit the feeling of teenage longing, perhaps mixed with an adult notion of acceptance.
Speaking of differences between the two releases, while Seven Years… had a lot going on stylistically and each track seemed completely different from the last, Ellis feels more bound to a singular theme. What were the themes you were going for this time?
Yes. Seven Years… was more about standing up in the sunlight after being caked in mud. About owning the fluctuations and still being okay with them in the mirror. Ellis is an attempt at reconciliation and finding meaning in earlier life; while trying to exist in a singular world.
You’ve just released a performance video for a one-off single, a cover of “Rabbit In Your Headlights” by Thom Yorke’s UNKLE project, a version one could actually call a remix since you’ve basically re-written the song with mods. You did a similar format with your cover/remix of “A Hymn” by IDLES. What do you enjoy about remixing indie tracks like this with mods?
Ownership. It’s not a proper cover if it is done through the same lens. It has to be made whole and different in its own right.
What do you enjoy most about the podcast-style performance videos? Is there a specific reason you enjoy them for your cover/remix tracks?
I find them to be quite awkward, but to be real, we all have to exist somewhere. To be made real is to be laid bare. There is a feeling I appreciate in each of them.
You’ve made it pretty clear that you’re a mod guy on your Instagram and elsewhere, and you’ve exhibited a number of your builds. What do you enjoy about them and how do you feel they help you express your style?
They lend a depth and a nod to other artists I truly appreciate. People that have forced me to think and feel.
Did the desire to focus on modulators influence your decision to move away from touring so much?
No, touring is a necessity. I have been in the throes of assembling a live band for a few months. Really hoping the lineup will be completed soon. Music has to be accessible in real life. Although I may naturally prefer to be a hermit.
In terms of style, there’s a lot of artists one could name that appear to have influenced you, but which artists do you think most helped craft your musical consciousness?
I think there are lots of references available here, everything from the Louvin Brothers to Tones On Tail. I am wanting to convey a mood more than a style. Anything that creates a feeling, good or bad, is still relevant in my world. I think my musical consciousness was crafted by life experiences lived. I tend to seek out feelings across all genres. Sometimes those feeling align with where I am at in life.
In terms of the videos released so far that aren’t performance or one-cam studio based, it seems you’ve got a pretty specific aesthetic in mind that seems to blend well with your sound. How did you find these directors and do you plan to have a similar aesthetic in the future?
I had the good fortune of meeting Dilly Gent (former creative director for Radiohead), because my partner Lisa had a dream indicating she should call her. A creative director is a bit like a wizard pulling levers behind the curtain. Dilly has a deep understanding of the 1BR project as a whole and puts a lot of thought into which director would be the best fit for my music videos.
Dilly set me up with Matt Mahurin for “Break Even” and “Only One” and we really clicked. Matt’s a bit of a creative savant and a highly respected photographer, artist, director and teacher. He literally makes all the props (you see in the videos) by hand. He brought in a really talented child actor to play me in “Break Even,” which is about my being in a car wreck on Christmas Eve just shy of my 6th birthday. These are dark topics but life is messy. Overcoming challenges is messy too, but it gives you grit, and Matt did a beautiful job of putting my origin story into artistic visual form. I think the aesthetic is both dark and hopeful, simultaneously.
Speaking of future, aside from the impending release of Ellis, what do you have coming up in terms of releases, videos or general developments?
Professionally, I’ve got two EPs coming up: Night Stalker, which is a four-track electronic recording with a dark stream of consciousness vibe, and Light Roars, a five-track “live” electronic full band project. I’ll be traveling to Montreal in January to have Light Roars mixed at Hotel 2 Tango, the famous analog recording studio. We recently signed to Universal as our distribution arm thanks to the help of Rob Gordon. Live shows will be announced early 2022. Other than that, I recently had the good fortune of acquiring an ondes Martenot, (an early electronic mod/keyboard invented in 1928).
Featured photo cred: Dilly Gent