Interludes after midnight can be anything from a frantic rush to catch a train, to an encounter with someone you’d like to slow down and spend some quality time with. For producer Blockhead it’s the title of his latest album as he looks to use his unique brand of hip-hop meets downtempo instrumental production to encapsulate one of the biggest post-midnight influences from his childhood – New York public access television. It may seem like a non-traditional topic to create an album around, but as Blockhead told us, it’s not the only way he’s breaking tradition with Interludes After Midnight. When he sat down with RapReviews he revealed not just how public access TV inspired him, but also the intricacies of his evolving relationship with music.

Adam Bernard: Interludes After Midnight is the new album. What’s so interesting, or inspiring, about when the clock hits midnight?

Blockhead: I’m a night person in many ways. A couple of my albums have been dedicated to a more late night atmosphere. I tend to think a lot of good things happen between midnight and two. It’s kind of when I feel like I do my best thinking. I don’t know if that relates to the album at all, but I definitely have a high regard for the late evening.

AB: I notice you said from midnight to two. Does everything go to crap after two am?

B: {*laughs*} On the flip side I think nothing good happens after two. Actually, there should be a little addendum to that – great things happen after two, but nothing that starts after two. NY bars are open till four, but I always stop drinking at two because I’m like “I gotta stop now or else this will get out of hand,” but when I was a single guy those were the hours when things would really go down, the two to four hours, so good things do happen after two, but good in the sense of well being… not really. Good in the healthy sense? Not really. By all means, stay out till four, I’m no stranger to that, but if there’s a party and someone says “there’s this other party,” and it’s after two, that will not be a good party. You shouldn’t go to that party because it will just be a bunch of people doing coke and arguing.

AB: Not a good time at all. Moving to the music of Interludes After Midnight, was it inspired by your personal interludes after midnight, or the stories of friends?

B: The title is actually based on an old Leased Access show that was on channel 35, or channel J even further back in the day. It was a TV show where they basically showed a lot of escort commercials, but the show itself was this naked guy interviewing naked women. It was a very distant thing from my childhood. If you lived in NY at any point in the last 20 years it probably was there in the early part. Basically, my album is an ode to the era where that was a defining point of my life.

AB: Public access nudity?

B: Well, public access. I learned a lot about sex via the worst ways possible, but it wasn’t just that, it was that era when I was in my late teens, early twenties, and watching that kind of stuff all the time. Not just that, but public access in general, because I had a public access show back then. It was a very weirdly creative time in New York’s history, I think, that has kind of fallen to the wayside since then. It was a cool time. You would turn on the TV and see some crazy shit at like ten in the evening and go “what the fuck is this?” It was like weird student films or escort commercials. It wasn’t hardcore, but it was definitely weird. There would be like 976 commercials for 976-SEED, the one you call if you want to hear brothers and sisters have sex. Shit like that. Really weird call-in numbers. Stuff like that was like the pinnacle of humor to me and my friends back in the day. We would watch it and crack jokes. It definitely wasn’t a sexual thing.

AB: We had one in CT, this guy who called himself Jerry Jer the Tampon Man. He was a black dude with an earring that went Jane Child style.

B: Of course! Good reference.

AB: Thank you. Sometimes he had a maxi pad with red marker taped to his forehead and he was cursing about everything. He had a death list. Across the screen it was like “hobbies – raping your grandmother.” There are only two clips of him on YouTube, though.

B: You’re lucky to have any. When I was making this album I was looking for vocal samples from old public access shows and I couldn’t find ANYTHING on YouTube. I was on a show that aired from ’97-2001 and there’s like one clip on there and it isn’t anything special. All the old shows I loved back in the day, it was nearly impossible to find anything. It was the era of VHS tapes. There was no YouTube back then and I guess no one transfered those tapes to DVD.

AB: To be fair, it’s a VERY limited audience that would want those on DVD.

B: That is true, but it had a fan base. There were people I revered as much as I revered normal celebrities just from seeing them on public access shows. I’d see someone on the street and be like oh my God, that’s the guy from whatever that TV show is. There was a fandom to it, and I don’t think it’s around anymore.

AB: Even in music it’s tough to find true fans at this point. You find people who “like” things, and who “follow” things, but fandom doesn’t really exist. What happened to fandom? As a musician it has to bother you a little bit that fandom isn’t cool anymore.

B: I see it when I tour. There are still people where you’re like “wow, you’re a really fuckin ill fan,” but I feel in the overall scheme of things it’s how music has become so disposable. Very few people listen to albums all the way through. I feel like everything moves so fast. The process listening to an album back in the day would be taking a cassette, or a record, or a CD, and puttin it on and it sitting there and listening to it. Now it’s like you download it onto your computer, skip through the tracks, 30 seconds each, pick a couple songs that you think you might like, and then that’s it, and I think that doesn’t really make fans. That makes for iPod fodder.

AB: You mentioned touring, and I saw you live at Mercury Lounge in the city. Something I found a little strange was the crowd’s reaction to what was happening on stage. You were up there with your laptop, your DJ was next to you, and everyone was staring.

B: Well that’s New York. {*laughs*} That is definitely a New York thing. It’s changed a little bit. It’s funny, I don’t have a DJ anymore, so the crowd is even less enthralled, but New York has always been that kind of set and stare crowd. I’m that guy, too, but I wouldn’t do it in the front row. I’m not an asshole. I’d stay in the back and quietly watch. It’s kind of evolved. The show you went to was a while ago. My crowd has kind of gotten a little looser since then, especially outside of New York. A lot more dancing, a lot more feeling the vibe kind of thing. It’s not a weird, pensive watching, type of show anymore, which is good because I really hate that shit. I feel weird about even performing like that, but that’s kind of the only way I can do it because I’m not gonna bring my sampler up on the stage and even if I could I wouldn’t know what to do with it live, so there’s a weird mixed feeling I have about the live performance aspect of my music. People want to hear it, and it’s definitely different from what I’m recording on my albums, but visually it is what it is, you’re not gonna get much. I’m not a crazy dancing guy.

AB: Have you ever thought of dry ice and lots of stage lighting?

B: Believe me, things have been discussed. The best I can do is hope the place I’m playing has a screen I can put some visuals up on.

AB: Maybe some hula hoop girls?

B: That happens in places like Portland, and anywhere where there’s a burner scene, which somehow my music has slipped into the cracks of. There are hula hoops, there are glow sticks, and there are girls dancing.

AB: Not a bad combo. Circling back to the equipment you don’t want to bring on stage, what kind of instruments, or programs, or even simply ideas, did you use for Interludes After Midnight that you hadn’t used before?

B: I pretty much stick with what I know. I’ve been using the same sampler since ’95, an ASR-10, and I’ve been using Ableton for the past five years, and my friend Damien Paris always plays live instruments. I like working within a small spectrum as far as how I create. I don’t like to overwhelm myself with too much equipment. I bought a Slim Phatty Moog. I’m into it a little bit, but for the most part it’s just me working within my little bubble. This way I know what I’m doing with everything. I don’t have an instrument where I’m like “Wow this could be cool if I knew how to play it, but since I don’t let me just use it to the minimal effect.” I know a lot of producers who do that kind of shit and it just doesn’t seem to pan out too well.

AB: So other than the influence of public access television, how do you feel this album differs from your previous efforts?

B: I just think it’s a constant growing. I’ve just been changing from album to album in the sense that I’m refining everything I do. My albums have gotten more and more dense and filled with different sounds. The way the songs are put together is more ADD now than it’s ever been. If you like this one part, it’s changing, eight bars later it won’t be there, and this new thing comes in. The songs are this evolving mass, whereas on my first couple albums it was a song with hook, chorus, bridge, break, verse kind of thing. It was very typical of how songs are made. These are just kind of meandering travels through different soundscapes. I’ve kind of become that kind of guy where I have no patience for one thing looping over and over again.

AB: You’ve broken the traditional song structure.

B: Yeah, that’s basically what I was trying to say.

AB: Finally, what’s the greatest high music has given you?

B: Listening to it, it would definitely be something that happened when I was younger because I don’t feel the same way about music that I used to. I’m jaded by now. When I hear a song I love I still run it, and I still get into it, but nothing will give me the feeling I got when… I remember hearing Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s “Joy and Pain” for the first time when I was like ten and just being like “this is SO GOOD,” and then just runnin it over and over again, and getting the bumblebees in your stomach just from hearing that kind of stuff. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen anymore to me because I’m old and I’m not that invested in music in that sense anymore. Like I said, I’m jaded, but those old memories of hearing something for the first time and just being blown away by it, those are definitely my greatest moments in music. As far as making it, it’s when I’m working in the studio and something just clicks and I hear the two things match up and I’m like “I got it!” I remember when I made the beat for “Daylight” and I layered that flute I was like “oooh, that’s something! I don’t know what that is, but it’s something. That hits a chord.” Those kind of moments are always really satisfying and you can go back to them and really feel like you created something special at that time.