Name: Twin Drugs
Members: Blake Melton (lyrics, guitars), Alexander Wilson (drums, live-electronics) Christian Monroe (bass, additional percussion)
Interviewee: Blake Melton
Recent release: Twin Drugs' In Now Less Than Ever is out October 7th via CrazySane. Their first single, "Dust Worship" is already available as a video and on streaming platfornms.
Recommendations: Adam Curtis’ most recent documentary series titled Can’t Get You Out of My Head was a major spiritual influence for this record, so we can’t leave that out. It’s perhaps the most prime pairing with In Now Less Than Ever that can possibly be viewed.
I recently discovered the album Blqlyte by the artist Zeroh. It's a 42-minute fever dream of some of the most creative hip-hop I’ve heard in a long time. Most of the tracks have minimal to no percussion, and the production borders on whatever the polar opposite of easy-listening ambient music is. Lyrically, it’s one of the heaviest and most creative works I’ve had the pleasure experiencing.
If you enjoyed this interview with Twin Drugs and would like to find out more about their music, visit the band's official Instagram, Facebook, and twitter accounts.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I’ve been playing in bands since I was about 14. I would record my demos on laptop microphones and cosplay “producer” on Audacity.
I had the genre gambit growing up: my brother got me into some punk and emo stuff, my best friend leaned into the hardcore world, and my parents of course provided the classics.
It's hard to pinpoint the exact draw, but I think sound roped me in with the auditory ability to experience: love, decay, chaos, hope, it's all there and available to be felt.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
I always picture the live show. How would an audience react to hearing this? How could this sound be reproduced in a live setting? Does the stage energy match the studio?
My brain doesn’t allow music to be in the background and this ideology has absolutely fueled my thought process when writing. Sound and energy are platonic.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Truth is, I find it difficult to entrust others with the same attention to detail and writing quality.
From working in bands with Alex for almost a decade now, we’ve developed this symbiotic relationship where he’s able to fine-tune some of my rough edges. Christian is also one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met and knows where to tweak certain accents; ego check.
The three of us are a tour-de-force and our competencies together create this unique voice.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
Identity is something we struggle with: when someone discovers my role in the band they ask “what kind of music?” I think most musicians probably share the sentiment but I dislike comparisons. Half of the time they are inaccurate, and at other times too on-the-nose.
Twin Drugs started with maximalism in mind, but ripened by 6 years it has developed around my second answer - what is the energy you’re putting out?
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
As someone with an internet-blossomed attention deficit, I solely try to create things that command attentiveness. Subjective self-expression, vulnerability, reflecting on modernity, steering clear of echo chambers, and embracing the absurd are maxims I work off of.
Most of all, I try to make something that I myself would listen to or look at.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. Nothing in art is completely original and nothing in art is completely perfect, I’d even argue that imperfections are what make an item timeless.
John Lennon famously recorded vocals for “Revolution 1” while laying on his back, and now we have this non-traditional or “imperfectly” recorded but timeless (not my cup of tea) piece of music. A handful of friends thoroughly believe that guitar music is dead and I back that sentiment, but I think there are ways of making forward-thinking art utilizing traditional means.
The most timely method I can think of is the advent of effects pedals, all of a sudden the guitar does not sound like a guitar.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Honestly, YouTube. There’s an endless fountain of resources and knowledge from which to learn. During the recording processes of our last two releases, if there was any doubt in mixing, I could turn to some well-seasoned and educated professional for pointers.
I’ve used almost anything I can record a voice memo of to initiate a foundation for creativity, to the extent that I embarrassingly have a recording of an air conditioner in a public bathroom buzzing a certain note while I’m humming some impromptu motifs over it.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
Oh boy … you may want to skip to the next question.
During lockdown proper I would meditate every morning before heading to work 8 meters away at my desk.
Now it’s nothing special: the morning necessities, then choose what to listen to on the 30 minute commute to my IT-esque job. If by the time I get back home I haven’t found inspiration yet, I do chores until a creative spark ignites in my brain … which on most days, it just doesn’t. And that’s okay!
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
So right now I’m actually in the fetal stages of a new song for our second full-length, I’ve got an idea for percussion and some rhythmic accessories but have no idea what the chords will be. This is a fairly accurate portrayal of my creative process.
Perhaps it’s unconventional, but I typically start out with an idea of drums and slowly build layers on top. Vocals and lyrics are almost always last in the process.
“The Tunnel” off of our EP Hi-Pressure is a solid example of this: I knew I wanted driving, energetic drums that pummel aggressively throughout the track, and I knew I wanted some dislodged, uncomfortable chord progression. The lyrics came once I knew what I wanted the album to thematically represent.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
Ah, the bane of every songwriter’s existence: “let’s jam sometime.” How about let's not. How about I write some structured parts and we can rearrange or improvise within them?
My initial forays into the music scene led to a lot of uncomfortable band rehearsals in which one member (typically the guitarist) would spend hours coming up with a riff, then for a few more hours the other members would slowly piece together their parts. Track. By. Track.
Absolutely exhausting, time-consuming, and redundant.
Structural uniformity has always played a crucial role in my songwriting, and I find that the best results are those that developed from one person laying the groundwork for an entire song. This side-steps the occasional feeling that someone has misconstrued “your baby,” your song.
I’ve learned that it’s best to come forward prepared with an entire idea rather than a fragment, then it is up to your bandmates to adopt that baby, become its god-parent, and nurture it. I think that, although a large percent of a song is dredged up by a sole individual, that collaborative ironing of the kinks truly brings a track to life.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Think of all the songs in the world that mention “tonight,” all the party anthems, the break up songs, tracks about money, girls, cars, clothes. Although they are the contemporary zeitgeist, there's a great deal of spiritual hollowness that attracts these themes; I want to present substance. I want to make music that someone doesn’t listen to once and say “yup, I completely get it,” good music should warrant more than one listen.
Now obviously I’m not Matty Healy, nor my generation’s spokesperson, but Alex and I have always put out music that skates on the edges between philosophy and culture and I find that to be a statement in-and-of itself. If there’s a feeling to be had, a lesson to be learned, or an overlooked societal flaw, we are here to tug on that thread.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
The most blaring example to me right now is the loss of my grandmother a couple years ago.
I’ve so many memories of riding in her Ford Explorer with my grandfather and my brother, with ABBA playing non-stop in the cassette player. Now there’s an eternal association of my grandmother and the music of this artist. I connect to music more on a level of memory and occasion than I do in some sort of “the lyrics spell it out for you” way.
I remember the first time I was pulled over by the police (I ran a yellow light) was when I was listening to Giant’s 2005 album “Song.” I remember hearing the Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” at 5 years old while my parents drove us to the airport at 4am for a flight to the Bahamas. These songs definitely evoke a feeling further than just familiarity, it's almost comfort.
So, perhaps in lieu of simple remembrance, maybe when I hear “Take A Chance On Me” I’m gaining a perspective on my own treatment of grief.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Oh this is interesting, I’m more versed in the common sibling to this: the relationship between music and mathematics. ICP sings that magnets are a miracle, do we really need to go any further?
But really, I do think these fields lend to each other in more ways than just the effect that soundwaves have. Take the Tibetan singing bowl for example, an instrument of transcendental meditation that has become a standby for relaxation. How can this be explained further? I’m not sure, I’m not a scientist.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
There is definitely a difference between creative endeavors that are for personal solace, and creativity that’s intended for others.
The demos that we make before recording are barebones, dry, unmixed, unmastered, and are not developed for the general public. Did I work hard on them? Sure. Is it going to foster expression equally to the finished product? Absolutely not.
Not to place myself in some sort of hierarchy, but I firmly believe that a Michelin-star chef can put the same intention and expression into a meal as a musician can, and in the same way the intention is to be perceived by the public (or at least an audience.) When I get home from work and nuke a Lean Cuisine, am I participating in creativity? Lean Cuisine’s marketing team will attempt to convince you I am, but I am not.
Anything that can be expressed through music can also be expressed in other means. Even volume can be exemplified by a graphic icon, a photo of someone holding their ears, or a particularly horrible chef.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our eardrums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it is able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Transmission and reception. Dynamics. Context. The words “fuck you, buddy” mean something completely different if the transmitter is smiling than if they are scowling.
Possibly this is the answer to the aforementioned Tibetan singing bowl. There must be some link between the frequency of vibrations in the air and how our brains perceive that information.