a BLACKSUGAR transmission

Posted: December 3, 2014 by Soda in Andee Blacksugar, Black Sugar Transmission, Interview, NYC

Honored again I am to present to you another Interview with yet another Musical Monster, Mr. Andee Blacksugar. In conjunction with the interview (below) I also had the luxury of hearing the forthcoming Black Sugar Transmission record, Violent Muses. At first, I wasn’t quite sure of the statement Andee was trying to make, but 2 or 3 listens in I realize more than ever that BST is a place where ghosts and glitter truly collide. A gloomy, uber pop delivered with snot-nosed integrity at its finest. There is nothing subtle about what Andee does and it becomes more evident with every musical offering.

“Muses” is buried in juicy synths, fuzzy guitar and layered vocals, with tidbits of sonic assaults throughout and blasts of guitar wizardry cutting through the wall of sound. It is not however a guitar record by any means, and Andee does not overdue his prowess, however, he also does not neglect to let you know that it’s very much there with tricky solos thrown into precise pieces of the songs.

A few standout tracks are, “Taboo”, “God Loves War” and “Watch The Windows” which drips with a futuristic romanticism. I almost wish it was the last track on the record rather than second to last.

All in all Violent Muses delivers what the cover suggests. It’s dangerous and provocative. In this world there is no “safe word”.

Black Sugar Transmission - Violent Muses Cover

Black Sugar Transmission – Violent Muses Cover

MSG – Hey Andee, thanks for taking the time out to share some words! Let’s take a quick history lesson here. Back in the late 90’s you really started to make your imprint in a band called pOp stAr kiDs, pounding the NYC pavement and slowly building a name for yourself. Tell us a bit about that band as it has become a little bit of a cult thing all these years later.

AB – P*S*K was a solo project (despite the plurality of the “band” name) that I was able to turn into a proper live group just in time for a first gig at the 2000 CMJ music conference. The debut album was a CMJ-charting college radio hit that year, so it was easy to get the showcase gig at the conference that fall. All I had to do was find a band! Which, luckily I did: JB, G$ and Pete Angel came on board and a year later Pete left and was replaced by Clancy. By that time I’d made the second album, again essentially a solo record, and in 2003 we made our best record, The Revenge Of P*S*K, as a band.

In 2006 we split up – which was sad, because we were a great band and great friends, but morale had started to wane and it felt like the right time to bow out.

MSG – After that you linked up with Acey Slade (Muderdolls/Joan Jett) and worked in his project called The Dark Party. Can you tell us how you came to work with Acey?

AB – I met him at P*S*K shows; at the time he was playing in Dope and he and Andre (aka Virus) came out to see us a few times, including a great CBGB gig. Anyway, Acey and I stayed in touch over the years and in 2008 he emailed to ask if I’d play on a new solo track. I said “sure”, then ended up playing on pretty much the whole album. He and producer Shaun Morris had come up with some catchy electro-rock tunes and I did my parts in my apartment during an unbelievable heat wave. So there’s some real sweat on that album! Anyway, later that year the Dark Party became a live band with Percy Trayanov and Chris Kling joining Acey and I.

MSG – During this time you also focused on your own writing with your somewhat solo outing Black Sugar Transmission. At first it seemed like a bit of a side project and now more of a focus. Within BST you do just about everything yourself from the writing, to producing, to mixing and all mostly out of your own apartment. Tell us about your songwriting approach and how you manage to do most everything on your own. Let us inside that brain a bit.

AB – BST was something I started immediately after P*S*K broke up and the idea was that it would be a solo project of sorts with the option of involving any number of other musicians. Kind of like a collective rather than a “band”. But it’s always been my absolute #1 creative priority/outlet. It’s where I get to make the music I hear in my head.

It’s nice because I can work at my own pace (which is fast) and on my own time, in my pyjamas if I want, and then bring outside performers in later if I see fit.

The writing process itself varies: sometimes an idea falls out of the sky and hits me on the head while I’m walking down the street; other times a song comes from picking up a guitar, but mostly these days I start building ideas in the computer and developing them instrumentally. The ones that end up the most sonically, harmonically and melodically compelling get picked for further development (vocals and lyrics). Bringing in other players/singers is always the last piece in the puzzle.

MSG – The last year and a half has been pretty amazing for you. From releasing your own awesome Black Sugar Transmission records and putting together a live BST band to becoming the guitarist for the legendary Peter Murphy (Bauhaus) and touring the world with him. How did the opportunity with Peter come about? What’s it like working with him and what were some of the initial challenges?

AB – Acey had gotten wind of the guitar slot in Peter’s band opening up, and he recommended that they contact me. Peter went on Youtube, watched some of my videos and offered me the gig. No audition, just “can you fly to LA and start this tour in one week?” The initial challenge was to learn 30 Bauhaus songs in three days. And it was certainly a challenge which I took very seriously because that’s very iconic guitar work on those records and the fans of that music are religious about it. So I worked really hard to capture the “Daniel Vibe”.

I did the remaining 20 shows of the “35 Years Of Bauhaus” tour in California, Russia, China, Australia and NZ last year, and this year in June we started the LION tour and a set list that comprised tunes from Peter’s solo catalog. So far it’s been a lot of fun and Peter’s been easy to work with. He allows me to play guitar the way I play guitar and gives plenty of praise, onstage and off.

MSG – Back to your own music, you’ve done everything from Remixes to TV/Movie soundtracks. Do artists contact you for Remixes? How about TV? Tell us some of your favorite experiences doing that kind of work. And some other musical projects you kick about, (Sheer Velocity, Sword Fight, iGOD.)

AB – As for remixes, sometimes the artist comes to me – dUg Pinnick has asked me to remix a couple of his solo tunes, for instance. And a gal named Chrissy Shefts, who played guitar on Seal’s massive debut album and now is in a band with Tony Sales (Iggy Pop, Bowie) had me do my thing with her new single, which will be out soon. Other remixes I do strictly for fun, like the GusGus and TV On The Radio ones.

As for TV, I have an agency that pimps my music to the networks. It’s a nice way to make money because I can let the songs do the work for me.

Sheer Velocity is my all-instrumental, guitar-centric, self-indulgent, musically absurdist alter-ego. It’s a musical letting-off-of-steam, sort of like hitting a punching bag or going to a shooting range. It’s all about getting my ya-yas out on the guitar. I make a ridiculous amount of that music, and put one or two albums’ worth on Bandcamp each year.

MSG – 2015 seems to already be a cool year for you starting with the release of another Black Sugar Transmission record, Violent Muses. How do you feel about this record? What are your plans for it and how do you juggle that and working with Peter now?

AB – I’m really excited about Violent Muses! I came off the road in early September and found myself with several months of essentially free time, so I immediately started working on an album. With the exception of two songs, I wrote and recorded the whole thing between September and November. My plan is to release it in early 2015 along with a record release gig with the band, which now consists of Ava Farber, John Clancy (from P*S*K!) and me.

I have no idea when more Peter Murphy touring will happen, but I am essentially on call. There are plans to do Europe next year but nothing’s been booked yet.

MSG – You’ve made quite the name for yourself as a guitar genius over the years. Anyone that has seen you play knows the skill that you bring to the table. Not only can you shred, BUT you are an excellent songwriter as well. How long have you been playing? Are you self taught? And how long did it take you to become the speed demon you are today?

AB – Thanks! I’ve been playing for more than half my life, but I hit my ceiling, speed-wise, fairly early on. What takes a long time to achieve is your own voice on the instrument. I’ve come leaps and bounds in that department over the last decade by getting deeply into exotic scales, atonality and unusual effects. And yes I’m self-taught.

Andee Blacksugar

Andee Blacksugar

MSG – Tell us a bit about your gear, from guitars to pedals to software. What are your weapons of choice? And do you consider yourself a gear head like so many people out there today.

AB – I am so NOT a gear head! Talking about speakers, tubes and potentiometers bores me to tears. That said, my main guitar is a custom job, which has essentially replaced my trusty old workhorse Stratocaster as my Number One. My good friend Tom King (Atomic Amps) helped me pick out the parts and he designed the headstock, too.

Pedal-wise, I am a big Eventide user. They make phenomenal sonic tools and they’ve been very good to me. Pedals are my favorite aspect of guitar gear. It’s where the ear candy really happens. I also must mention Fractal Audio’s AxeFX2, a world-class digital amp modeller/effects unit which I have used for every stitch of guitar I’ve recorded since 2008 or so. They also take great care of me, as do the folks at DiMarzio pickups.

I use Cubase 5 for my DAW and have an AKG mic. That’s about it, no fancy pre-amps or anything.

MSG – What else do you have planned for the coming year Andee? Share some stuff that’s on the horizon for you, BST, Peter Murphy and whatever other adventures are set to unravel.

AB – My only plans for 2015 are to get Violent Muses out there, play some shows with BST and whatever touring Peter Murphy has in store.

MSG – And, like me, you are a music lover first and foremost. Hit us with some bands/records that we should check out. Throw some of your favorites our way!

AB – Recent faves: Niki & the Dove, Dum Dum Girls, Phantogram, Sunn O))), Fantomas, Little Boots, Little Dragon, MIA, Roisin Murphy, Santigold, Autechre, The Sea & Cake, The Knife, Squarepusher, The Netherlands, Actress, Bassnectar, GusGus, Deerhoof, DFA1979

To experience some of Andee’s music please visit his bandcamp site:



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