If you can imagine the darkest of horror movie soundtracks thrown into a blender with cartoon music, performed by a musician constantly striving to push her guitar in new directions, then you’ll have a general idea of what to expect from Reg Bloor’s debut solo release “Theme from an Imaginary Slasher.” The primarily instrumental album is strange and crazy sounding, but instantly pulls in the listener with its frantic energy and surprising sense of melody. Though this is her first solo album, Bloor has been acclaimed for her work with projects such as The Paranoid Critical Revolution and the Glenn Branca Ensemble (Branca is her husband.) In an email interview, she told us more about “Theme from an Imaginary Slasher.”
Having been involved with many different projects, what made you decide to do a solo album now?
I was offered a solo slot at the Red Bull Music Academy New York Festival last year while I was still playing with THE PARANOID CRITICAL REVOLUTION. At about the same time Roger Oldtown, the singer in that band at the time, had found that surviving in NYC had become untenable and he was leaving town. The solo show went over well and I ran with it.
Are there any other projects you’ve done that you feel had a particular influence on “Theme from an Imaginary Slasher”? Or were there perhaps things that you’d wanted to do that didn’t fit within the context of other projects?
All of the projects I’ve done have had an influence in the build up to this record. When I first formed THE PARANOID CRITICAL REVOLUTION in 2005 the intention was to have a full rock band. At the same time though I didn’t want to be in a project that couldn’t play out because we were missing somebody. So, the drummer I was working with and I decided that we were going to play gigs as soon as we had 30 min of material no matter who we had. Initially, I was leaving room for bass and vocals, but we didn’t find anybody. As time went on, I just took up more and more of the space. Eventually, the drummer quit and I felt comfortable by that point playing alone. I did try playing with a singer for a while, but when he left I didn’t want to stop.
Playing with The Glenn Branca Ensemble has definitely increased my ear for density. You can certainly hear that more on this record than on anything else I’ve done.
Was the album composed as a whole, or is it material you’d been doing on the side over the years?
It was composed over the course of a year and a half. Some of it was originally intended for THE PARANOID CRITICAL REVOLUTION.
Do you feel you had an overall concept of what you wanted to do with the album?
There wasn’t a concept going in. I just wrote music the way I always do. The title “Theme from an Imaginary Slasher” was originally just for the one piece – since it reminded me a bit of John Carpenter – before I decided to use that as the title of the album. Horror movie music has always had an influence on me. I love my ‘Psycho’ chords. So, it was kind of a joke.
At times, the music strangely makes me think it would be appropriate for a cartoon. What do you think about that observation?
Absolutely. As is reflected in the artwork, it’s all done with a sense of humor and it’s a slap/slash-stick gallows type humor. It’s Tom and Jerry, it’s Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, as well as The Evil Dead movies, The Young Ones, Adult Swim. That’s where my sensibility comes from.
What are you currently using in terms of gear?
I use a vintage Les Paul Custom that I’ve had since I was a kid. On the record I doubled all the tracks – one with a Marshall JCM-800 for high end and one with a Fender practice amp for more low and mids. The only pedal I use is a Digtech Whammy II.
How did “Eastbound Train” come to be the one track on the album with vocals?
The song was written years ago, around the time the shooting happened. I’ve never been a singer and have always been at the mercy of other people to sing lyrics I’ve written. None of them have been willing or able to sing “Eastbound Train”. I hated to see it go to waste. So, I forced myself to sing it.
“Theme from an Imaginary Slasher” is unusual and experimental sounding, but also very focused and at times catchy. I’m curious as to how much thought you consciously put into accessibility and how it will be perceived by listeners?
I think I always write melodies no matter how twisted and strange. That’s what I like. That piece is very dense, but there’s melody there if you listen hard enough.
Part of the point of playing music like this is to say what I want to say and have people respond with a ‘me too’. Obviously if what you say is ‘hey, let’s party’ then you’re going to get more ‘me too’s, but if you express something that no one else is expressing, it’s more satisfying to hear the responses even if they are fewer. It’s about making a connection with people who are like me, who don’t identify with the rest of the culture.
When composing, to what degree does the experimental nature of your style drive the process? Do you feel like you’re constantly trying to push the guitar in new directions, or at this point is it just what comes naturally?
That’s just the way I think. Trying to push the guitar in new directions is what comes naturally – coming up with something I’ve never heard before to entertain myself. I’m easily bored.
I’m always curious as to how primarily instrumental musicians come up with song titles. At what point in the process does the name for a song generally come to you?
It’s different for every piece. Sometimes the music reminds me of something, as I mentioned before. Sometimes the title comes about separately. There are a few pieces on this record that Roger Oldtown had vocals originally for PCR. I kept a couple of those titles.
How much of a focus do you see your solo career as being?
Glenn Branca Ensemble gigs always have to take priority since that’s what pays the bills, but it’s not very time-consuming most of the time. About 3 times a year there are 2 or 3 intense weeks and then a lot of down time. So, I can work on my own music the rest of the time. PCR is sort of on hiatus though there is some possibility of doing something again. Things tend to arrange themselves without me having to think about them.
What are your immediate plans now that the album is out? Do you have any touring plans? Further NYC-area performances?
I’ve been working on some things, but don’t have anything solid booked at the moment. I can’t really afford to do these self-funded vacation-disguised-as-a-tour things. Hopefully I can piggy-back something off of Ensemble trips.
For more info on Reg Bloor, visit her official website at regbloor.com.