Renowned for his production work with artists such as This Mortal Coil, Depeche Mode and The Wolfgang Press, John Fryer has launched several of his own musical projects in recent years. His current focus is Black Needle Noise, where he collaborates with a variety of vocalists and takes full advantage of online distribution by releasing songs as they are completed. In an email interview, Fryer discussed the origin and process behind the project.
“Before the Tears Came” is your latest album with Black Needle Noise. Could you explain a bit about the history of this project?
John Fryer : Black Needle Noise is made for the modern listener, the streaming listener. I make the music, give it to a singer to sing, get the vocals back, mix it and release it. I release songs when I want and as often as I want. There are no rules for Black Needle Noise.
Its up to you how you listen to the songs, you can listen to just one or as an album. They all fit together sonically as an album and they all stand alone as individual songs.
How does your approach to Black Needle Noise compare with other projects that you’ve been involved with?
JF: With Black Needle Noise, I can write whatever kinda music I like and release whatever I like when I like. With the other bands/projects, they had to have a uniform sound, like most other bands, it has to fit into a box.
How did the various collaborations with vocalists come about?
JF: With Black Needle Noise I have been asking singers I like and admire. It’s a great honour to be working with such talented and awesome people.
Did any of the vocalists particularly surprise you in terms of what they brought to the track(s)?
JF: To be honest, I don’t know if surprise would be the right word, as they are all awesome and talented vocalist, but it’s always nice to hear where they take the songs. I don’t like to be there when the vocals are done, so when they send me the vocals back, it always bring a big smile to my face as they always elevate the songs to a whole new level. To a level that they can only achieve because of who they are. So it’s like listening to a new song for me, familiar but yet unfamiliar at the same time, but in a very super duper cool way.
Have you done or do you plan on doing any live performances with Black Needle Noise? If so, how would vocals be handled? (Touring vocalists? Limited to special shows with available album vocalists? etc)
JF: With my other bands, DARKDRIVECLINIC & SILVER GHOST SHIMMER the songs were written with playing live in mind as well as the set up of just having one singer. BLACK NEEDLE NOISE hasn’t been approached with a live show in mind at all. Of course, it would be possible to do, but it would be a hell of a job to try and coordinate everybody and get them in the same place at the same time, but anything is possible. Right????
You’ve also put out music fairly recently with MURICIDAE and SILVER GHOST SHIMMER. Would you say that any particular project is more of your overall focus?
JF: Over the last 5 years I have put out albums or music under 4 different names/bands, but now the only 2 that are left are MURICIDAE & BLACK NEEDLE NOISE. BLACK NEEDLE NOISE is my day to day focus. MURICIDAE will be a more sporadic musical outlet.
Do you tend to keep your projects completely separate, or might an idea that doesn’t fit into what you’re working on be saved and used elsewhere?
JF: YES, they will all be kept separate. Well actually, there won’t be any more DARKDRIVECLINIC or SILVER GHOST SHIMMER song in the future, but the thing with BLACK NEEDLE NOISE, everything fits, as there are no boundaries or rules, anything goes, as you may have observed in the songs that I have released already.
So DarkDriveClinic is over?
JF: I’m sorry to say, that DARKDRIVECLINIC has been officially laid to rest now. There will not be any more songs for DDC. You have to let sleeping dogs lie.
Do you feel that the evolution of musical and recording technology over the years has impacted the way you work in any particular ways?
JF: Yes , of course it has. It is much easier to make music now and in my mind it makes it easier to write songs. When I’m writing a song it can take many twists and turns before I settle on an arrangement/structure, but even in the mixing when I have the vocals and want to make an arrangement change, it’s just a couple of clicks on the mouse away. Back in the day if you were recording on tape, you either had to cut the tape to make an edit or mix it in different sections and edit them all together, but if you were a live band, you would probably go back and rehearse it in its new structure and re-record. Lots of hard work but now 5 mins and you can totally change the whole arrangement and make it sound like it was written that way.
What are your thoughts looking back on the Nine Inch Nails album “Pretty Hate Machine”? At the time did you realise it had the potential to be so big/influential?
JF: When I finish a record/album, I always sit back and think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but you can never second guess what the public will think. Some albums I’ve had the feeling, wow this is gunna be so big and it sells next nothing and others you think, so this will do OK and it takes off and becomes massive. So you never really know what will happen but when they do become big it’s a very satisfying feeling.
Are you working on any other projects right now, either of your own or as a producer?
JF: Always working on music, either it’s my own or other people’s. Written enough new music for another album for BLACK NEEDLE NOISE, waiting on vocals and will try and sing at least another song myself. Also, just finished editing the video for “I Face The Wall”, taken from the album “Before The Tears Came”.