Christian Bland is perhaps best known as the guitarist and founding member of local psychedelic favorites The Black Angels. But the prolific musician also participates in a handful of side projects, as well as running his own graphic design company.
I spoke with Bland at a recent Christian Bland & The Revelators show. The group’s sophomore album, Pig Boat Blues, was released in March and Bland has already started working on the Revelators’ third album. We talked about his bands, his screen print work and his recent dabbling in the DJ realm. Bland will be DJing at Fear and Loathing in Hotel Vegas, a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson, on Wednesday, July 18. Learn more about that show here.
When I called you to ask for the interview, you said you were recording the next Black Angels record. Can you tell me when you plan on releasing it?
Christian Bland: It will probably be January or February. We’re actually going to start recording on August 20 for 20 days and we’re hoping to go to El Paso to do it at this place called Sonic Ranch. Hopefully I didn’t just jinx that. We’re working with a guy named John Congleton who came down this week. He’s helping us structure the songs and stuff. It’s been a good experience, just like an extra band member.
My first introduction to the Black Angels was during free week at Emo’s in 2006. Since then the Black Angels have gone on to do some pretty cool things and you have been able to travel the world to play your music. What has been the most amazing thing to happen to you in the last six years?
Bland: I think, just getting to travel… getting to go to Australia and Japan. We’re going to go back to Australia again this year. It was crazy, we went there for the first time and we were playing in front of like a thousand people in each town. It was pretty crazy. I remember one of the most amazing things was, Alex and I started the Black Angels on May 1, 2004 and on May 1, 2009, five years to the day, he and I were sitting in Sunset Sound, where the Doors recorded. I looked over at him and was like, ‘Dude, did you ever imagine five years from then that right now we’d be right here recording, where the Doors recorded?’ That was just like a… you know, I mean, that was a special moment.
I saw a post on Facebook about some 9-year-olds who were studying your visual artwork and they came up with some Bland-inspired designs. How did that make you feel?
Bland: It’s crazy. I can’t believe that an art class of 9-year-olds is looking at my stuff. It’s just like… surreal. I’m glad that people are inspired by that kind of art because that’s what gets me excited. So, I’m glad that the younger generation is into that as well, so it’ll live on forever.
What do you get more personal satisfaction out of, your visual or musical creations?
Bland: I think probably musical. I went to school and studied the visual aspect and in my last year at Florida State, studying advertising, I used to do track and I broke my ankle doing a high jump. For a whole summer I couldn’t do anything and I picked up the guitar. Playing music, playing the guitar and designing a poster is two different types of creativity. The reason I’m so drawn to music is because it’s like instantaneous creativity, like, you play it on the guitar and there it is. When you’re designing something it’s more of a process. It’s not as instantaneous. I guess I’m just an impatient person, that’s why I enjoy the guitar. I like both because they’re just different ways of creating. So, it’s nice to have both options. To design a poster and see it all the way through to the screen printing process is amazing. Creating a song from the ground up is… there’s nothing like it.
How did Christian Bland & The Revelators come about?
Bland: That came about just because I’m constantly creating stuff and not all of my songs work in a Black Angel context. You know, The Black Angels, we’re kind of on this set schedule of like, one year we record an album, the next year we tour on that album. It’s a cycle, tour, record, tour, record. Because I’m constantly creating it’s nice to have, you know, in the years that a Black Angel album isn’t put out, to put out a Christian Bland and the Revelators. I can always find a weekend here and a weekend there when I’m home in Austin. That’s actually what I’m doing now. During the week, for eight hours a day we go into the studio and work on the Black Angels album. On the weekends I go in to my friend Bret’s studio and I’m recording the new Revelators album, the third Revelators album.
The last time I talked to you was during South by Southwest, and you told me that you wrote Pig Boat Blues a while back and you didn’t like it at first. Did you write it before you wrote The Lost Album?
Bland: No, The Lost Album was first. The first album was supposed to be called Pig Boat Blues but it didn’t come out for like two years because I didn’t have it mastered and I just felt like the songs weren’t done. But, you know, my philosophy is that those songs were of that time, so just leave them in that time and that’s it’s own thing. There’s like a time limit, I feel, on songs. It’s like, you can overwork a song to death and just be like, “Oh, it’s not right yet, it’s not right.” But sometimes you just have to let go and that’s the time factor thing. It’s like, these are of July 2009 to November 2011 and that’s what it documents. So, that’s what this new Revelators album will hopefully be. Hopefully it will be a little quicker. I’m going to try and get in there the next seven weeks. We laid the foundation for four songs last weekend, so, at that rate, in seven weeks, we should have the album. So, we’ll see.
So, was it that you didn’t like Pig Boat Blues or you just thought it wasn’t ready?
Bland: The reason it took from July 2009 to November 2011 is because I recorded almost all those songs in 2009, but it took like two years for them to marinate, me listening to them and thinking like, what else did I want on here. And, not that I didn’t like them, I just think that they weren’t completely realized at that point.
I’ve looked at Do512 and seen that you do DJ sets. How did you get into that facet of music?
Bland: I did DJ at Cheer Up Charlie’s a week ago. I DJ with my buddy Pink, who lives in Hotel Vegas with me. He and I have big vinyl collections. My friends work at Cheer Up Charlie’s; they’ve been in my room, seen my record collection and they were like, why don’t you come on in and play your records. So, that’s kind of how that happened. I would love to continue doing that. It’s fun.
So, then you use a turntable and not a laptop?
Bland: Mainly just records. Yeah, two turntables. So, you can get one going and fade out and bring the other in. Every now and then, if like you need a save, to where like, one of the records you know isn’t going to make it—boom, then go to iPod. [laughs]
How do you pick your playlists?
Bland: It’s kind of, I guess, random really. Whatever I’m feeling at that moment. What was fun was that we brought in guitar effects and we ran the sound of the records through a tremolo. I could step on the tremolo and like, if I was playing “Tomorrow Never Knows” [starts singing song], you know that Beatles song? It’s the last song on the Revolver album. But, like if I click on the tremolo it would be like [makes the effect noise while singing lyrics ‘turn off your mind’] and then it bursts back in and echo pedals would be like tenh, tenh, tenh, tenh, tchshh. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun to integrate guitar effects with the LPs. It’s almost like a whole other kind of art form. It’s making it into, instead of just like, put the record on, it’s more involved. It’s fun.
*Listen to Pig Boat Blues from Christian Bland & The Revelators below.