“Post Apocalyptic Rage Revolution” is almost the only way to describe Black Tiger Sex Machine. They have a sound that’s all their own and their fans are loyal as ever. In this interview they take us to church.
Known as BTSM for short, the trio of Patrick Barry, Marc-André Chagnon, and Julien Maranda have completely taken the dance music scene by storm since 2011. Known for their unique live shows that feature special light setups and darker sound, they top it all off with their signature tiger helmets. I had the chance to sit down and catch up with Black Tiger Sex Machine at Das Energi. Keep reading as Black Tiger Sex Machine talks with us about life on tour, technology, live shows, and even some exclusive talk about their new stage in 2017!
You guys have spoken previously on the group being formed from each of you kind of doing a bit of different things musically, and you have been friends since High School. What’s it like being able to tour the world and make music with your best friends?
Patrick: It’s awesome, its what we dreamed of when we started doing it. To be able to discover the world and just for example, we’re going to Australia in a couple months. It’s really amazing, we’re super lucky, and totally appreciative of it. And luckily, since we were friends, being on the road can be hard, but it’s cool to experience it with people you enjoy spending time with.
Our next question kind of leads into something you mentioned. Does being friends ever make it hard or put stress on the relationship when you have to make business decisions where you may not necessarily agree with each other?
Patrick: I think it can be hard for certain people. With us, even though we might have disagreements, we’re all kind of on the same page long term. If we have disagreements, we can work through them. We’ve always tried to stay in communication. I think the fact that we’re friends, it’s helped us have a strong bond and get through the difficult part of being in a business.
We saw you recently debuted a new version of the tiger helmets. Can you talk a little bit about some of the new things we’ll see from the helmets and what the design process was like to build them?
Julien: So literally, it’s not just new, it’s a totally different live helmet. Before, it was only an on and off switch, so we were just opening the helmets and closing them. Which was fine because the design itself, and the lights, it brought something to the shows and the fans loved it. It was okay for a while, but we were trying to integrate something different. The new helmets, they’re amazing. They have a system that works with an antenna, that works with a DMX system, and we’re sending the actual BPM to the helmets. So we can sync the movement of the lights with the rhythm of the track. I control the lights with an APC so we can change the colors, we can change the movement, we can change the color palette, so not just the color but we can play around with 2-3 colors at the same time.
It kind of gives the show something that we always wanted to bring. We don’t have to depend on the lighting itself. Having good lighting is great, but the lighting show now is inside the helmet so we can tell the story from A to Z. From the beginning of the set to the end of the set, using the lights on the helmet. The design itself is a little bit more than a helmet, before it was more of a mask. Now it’s a full design from the back to the front, it’s a little bit bigger. The design is a bit more clean, it’s slick, it looks a little bit more like the logo we have. So it’s just overall an upgrade, I think the fans will love it, we’re bringing it on tour starting now.
So you guys don’t do what most would call a traditional set where you mix using CDJs, you incorporate a lot of MIDI keyboards/synths, live drums, on the fly loops and samples, and so on. We’re seeing a lot of producers/DJs move over to this kind of system recently, do you think it’s a better way to perform for a crowd and something we’ll see more of in the future?
Marc: As a group of three, it makes more sense and it’s much more entertaining. It expands the possibilities ten-fold if not more. I think DJ sets will always stay around because they’re really efficient, there’s a lot of DJ elements in what we do, and we love to DJ also. I think as EDM grows and more people try to experiment, the DJ side is going to keep going but the live is only going to grow. Technology is getting easier and cheaper, it’s easy for someone at home to think up a live set that no one has ever done, just do it and bring it on the road.
Along those same lines of a live show performance, is there anything you’ve guys have wanted to incorporate into your shows that you haven’t been able to so far, whether that be related to the sound, lighting, visuals, etc…
Julien: Right now… I know Pat is going to say fire, but aside from fire, we’re build a new stage. So for 2017 we’re building a new stage out of Montreal. Man this is some juicy news here… We’re recreating the eyes of the helmet. It’s mostly going to be LED sticks in front of us that recreate the eyes on the helmet. Having a stage that’s all organized, with all the visuals, and all the lighting, that’s the next step. It’s not necessarily what we could bring, it’s step by step. The bigger we get, the more flexibility we have as to what we can bring. And Pat’s going to say fire so… fire.
So are we going to see a “BTSM World Tour” with that stage sometime next year?
Julien: Or maybe just a “BTSM Pyro Tour”
Patrick: We don’t even need to play music, just fire.
Marc: We’ll leave it at that, there’s some stuff we can’t talk about.
You once described BTSM’s sound as “post apocalyptic rage revolution”, and you are a group that is almost hard to define by genre. Throughout different songs you can hear bits of electro, bits of dubstep, bits of trap. Is that something you set out for when you produce or is it just part of BTSM’s signature sound so to speak?
Marc: All of us, our love for electronic music comes from the years 2005-2009. It was very electro-oriented, that was the genre that was very cutting edge, so our heart is there forever. We listened to Justice, Boys Noize, all stuff like that. Then we created the label, so that brought a lot of influence. Snails, Apashe, Kai Wachi, Dabin, LeKtriQue. That brought so many new aspects to what we like. So that’s what it is, but Post Apocalyptic is you have to keep it dark, gritty, and energetic.
You had the Welcome To Our Church LP come out earlier this year, and just released a remix album for that as well. Can you talk about how you chose the remixers for that album?
Marc: We download a bunch of music. Guys we’ve been looking around at, or we’ve been playing their tracks. We got in touch, they were super open-minded. It was a super cool project from A to Z. We just reached out, most people were down to do it. We just sent them the stems, most sent it back between 2-4 weeks. Now it’s out, and it’s awesome, it really brings the LP to like another dimension. Some tracks get a super hard treatment, others get a really different musical style.
As a follow-up to that. What was it like hearing your work re-imagined by so many other talented artists?
Julien: Personally, there are so many good young producers out there now. I think that a lot of people we’ve been looking up to in the past few years. They’ve also been reinventing themselves. From Boys Noize to Skrillex or whoever. And what’s really cool is to see these younger kids look up to these big, big guns. And never getting too comfortable. So even the younger kids that are no super known, or the smaller acts that are getting more and more known. They’re always reinventing themselves, from YOOKiE, to Twine, to Sullivan King, they always have new elements and their own style. So for me personally, it’s fun to listen to music that’s like unique to all these producers. They all have unique styles.
All these young producers should take time to analyze what their branding is, what they want to bring live, and what their style is. But most importantly I think it’s the general idea of having an album that we released, and then having a full remix album with a track remixed by one band or producer, that makes it a totally new story. Having a second story to a first album, that had its own story is what’s very interesting. What you said about us building that post apocalyptic world, the rage revolution, the BTSM Church… Everything we’ve been doing from the beginning, its been linked to the Sci-Fi world, and to the post apocalyptic world of like Mad Max, Bladerunner. We’re always trying to bring that on stage. I think that’s like, our style. These kids bring their style to that [the remix album]. It creates a whole new world, and the artwork of the Remix LP is kind of that feel where we’re in this post apocalyptic world, in a bar, with other people, like the remixers kind. It’s a different vibe it was really cool. It’s a great, great remix LP.
I noticed that you guys went to Electric Forest and seemed to love the experience as it’s not the first time you’ve been there either, you went last year as well. What is it about that festival or event that you love so much and keeps you going back?
Julien: This year we didn’t play, we just went to see Apashe play. It’s been his breakthrough year. At Electric Forest he played two shows. Last year, it changed our lives. So we wanted to support him over there, so we went. And it’s just such a live experience, going in the forest. It’s something like… we’ve never went to Burning Man, but I’m sure it’s in the same vibe. Where you’re in the forest, and it’s like another world. So I understand why everyone loves it so much.
To follow-up that question, is there a festival or event that’s a goal for you guys? That you may not have gotten to play yet but are aspiring to?
Patrick: Yeah I mean the big ones we haven’t played that are kind of a dream for us… EDC Las Vegas, it’s huge, everyone loves it, and to get the opportunity to play there would be huge for us. Hopefully it happens next year, I mean it’s a huge platform and a huge stage. Besides that, Julien mentioned it, playing a set at Burning Man would be pretty far out. Obviously kind of a different situation, not being a commercial setup. Who knows maybe one day we’ll go out there and build a weird BTSM art car.
Julien: And Coachella, that’s a big goal of ours. All these big festivals in Europe like Dour, or Defqon in Australia. There’s so many festivals. EDC Mexico, Ultra Japan, Tomorrowland. All these festivals are huge, but Coachella is a big goal of ours.
If you guys had to name 2 or 3 artists that you think are up and coming, or that you’ve been really impressed by recently, who would they be and why?
Julien: I’d say, from the label you’ve got guys like Apashe, or Dabin, Kai Wachi, they’re killing it. Apashe has already kind of broken through the scene in the states, but I’d say Dabin is almost there, and Kai Wachi is going to be coming on tour with us in the next few months. Dabin has an album coming up, Kai Wachi has an EP coming up and it’s out of this world. Apashe’s first album is coming out too on Kannibalen Records, and it’s crazy. Aside from that, Illenium is doing an awesome job, he’s playing after us tonight. RIOT is really good, they remixed us on the LP. Personally, I saw Gorgon City in the forest, their live setup is out of this world, and they’re really, really good. Total opposite end of the spectrum but I love what they do.
Now we have one bonus question we always kind of ask from all of our interviewees: If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only bring 3 things
Patrick: I would bring, a soccer ball, a fan, and a novelty hat with a little spinner on top.
Julien: I would bring the three tiger helmets, only thing you need.
Marc: I would bring a swiss knife, an encyclopedia, and a flare.
You two are over here only going to survive for a day, he’s over here like “I want to get saved and get off this island.”
Marc: I love this life, I don’t want to die!
Well those were the questions I had, we appreciate the time you guys took out to sit down with us.
BTSM: Thank you!