March 25, 2010
Hands Upon Black Earth Interview
In the latest of our series from San Francisco-based music collective, RTFM Records (see previous interviews with Divasonic, Artemis, Daniel Durrett and Colfax), we got to chat with Bobby Cochran, who calls his project Hands Upon Black Earth.
1. Bobby, it looks like Hands Upon Black Earth is almost entirely your creation. What all do you do on HUBE projects?
I’m the primary songwriter/performer, playing a bunch of instruments and doing all the computer-y bits. A Number of my songs have been collaborations with various vocalists, who come up with their own vocal melodies and lyrics (though I did write lyrics for a few of them). My first album had my good friends Winter and Michael Bruce playing guitar on them, but other than that, all the musical performances have been done by me.
2. What kind of musical background do you have that prepared you for your role as the HUBE workhorse?
I’ve been a drummer since I was a kid, and a guitarist for almost as long (though I never really took it very seriously and am a pretty average player). I’ve played in a lot of bands through the years, and in about 97 or so I decided to focus on making electronic music by myself. I’ve really just been learning along the way with help from some of my friends, who are amazing musicians.
3. A lot of musicians sit with a guitar or at a piano to write. Is the process a little different for the type of electronic music you make?
Well, the way I write is somewhat different for every song. A lot of the time I sit with my guitar and record myself just fooling around and playing various things and pick through to find the good stuff. For older songs, I used to start with a musical loop or phrase that I might sample from someone else, then eventually dump the loop and keep building from there. Other times I’d start with making a drum beat and then finding some synth sound that might fit with it and play till something comes out. There have been those less common moments where I have an idea in my head already and have to rush to the computer and lay it down before I forget it. Some of my favorite songs came about that way.
4. Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
The list is long, but I’d say the influences that comes out the most in the music I make would have to be The Verve (first album), Massive Attack, Fields of the Nephilim, Slowdive, old U2, and various mid-90s progressive house music.
Though really, I don’t think the music I make sounds anything like any of those bands. I listen to a lot of different music, and I suppose it all comes out in little ways here and there, but the above listed I would say have burrowed themselves in my subconscious enough to really make a dent in the music I make.
5. What types of things inspire you to write? Do you tend to build on a musical hook or begin with an idea or mood?
Those times where I’ve had a specific mood or idea in mind before I write have been few, but they’ve been really good. I usually come up with the best stuff when I’m feeling some sort of vibe or energy… some sort of mood that pushes me to sit down and work. I savor those moments and do my best to invoke them as much as possible.
6. How did you end up in San Francisco? Were you drawn there by the music scene?
I actually grew up about 45 miles south of SF, so I’ve been here my whole life. Though now I live out in the woods a few hours from SF. I’m still there regularly though.
7. We’ve interviewed several RTFM artists and there seems to be really good energy within the community. How would you describe what’s going on there in San Francisco?
Well, without a doubt the RTFM folks are awesome, and I love working with them and listening to what they do. Since I live outside the City, I’m kinda removed from the scene and definitely don’t get to spend as much time going and seeing music as I might like. However, in all my years of being around SF folks and performing, I can say there’s definitely a great crew of people who do great work.
8. There seems to be quite a bit of collaboration going on between RTFM artists?Why do you think the collaborations there have been so productive?
Because we all love and respect each other’s work, first and foremost. But, really, there’s just something about our music that just seems to fit pretty well together.
9. Is there ever a downside to the one-man-band aspect of what you do?
Definitely the live performance aspect of it. I come from the rock n roll school of live performance, and getting up onstage with a laptop and gizmos just feels strange to me… I’ve never really felt comfortable doing it. I fantasize about having a full band that might reinterpret the h.u.b.e. songs, but that’s only gonna happen when the right group of people show up at the right time. I’ve tried here and there over the years, and thus far haven’t quite gotten it together.
10. The name Hands Upon Black Earth sounds very literary. Do you care to share any inspiration behind the name?
It’s a line from an early 20th Century inspired writing that’s very near and dear to my heart. The whole line is “So she answered him, bending down, a lambent flame of blue, all-touching, all penetrant, her lovely hands upon the black earth, & her lithe body arched for love”…
11. Where should people go for more information about HUBE.
Check out www.myspace.com/handsuponblackearth and www.RTFMrecords.com for more information.
Thanks Bobby! HUBE’s album Translucent is now among our favorites, and new album, The True Harvest, is now available. This group of true musical artistry are definitely someone you should keep an eye on.
Posted by A. Sogal at 5:14 am