23 Feb Black Tiger Sex Machine Welcomes You to Church
Black Tiger Sex Machine Welcomes You to Church
By Delilah Bestler
*This interview is older and was in our Issue 61 magazine.
Black Tiger Sex Machine, often shortened to BTSM, is a trio from Montreal, Canada. They are known for blending different genres, post-apocalyptic visuals, and of course, their iconic tiger helmets. They’ve quickly set themselves apart from all the other artists. BTSM’s immersive cyberpunk adventure is one of a kind; an experience that creates a ‘church’ for fans to escape, connect, and come together.
Their Futuristic Thriller EP released earlier this year featuring eight tracks was their biggest one yet. The EP was created to tie in with the name of their tour which was unfortunately cut short due to COVID-19. I can’t wait to go back to church with them and experience their magic live.
You’ve been close friends since High School. How did the three of you meet? What initially brought you together?
Pat and Marc have been friends since kindergarten at the age of three or four. Julien grew up in the same neighborhood but met the two others in grade seven. In our late teens and early 20’s, we became closer as a trio due to interest in electronic music and the local Montreal scene. We quickly started DJing around town and getting to the ABC’s of production. From there we wanted to do something different and BTSM was launched along with Kannibalen Records!
Did you each early on have an interest in DJing and producing or did you each have a different life path planned? How did you get started in music?
We all had different paths planned. Patrick was in finance, Julien was in law, and Marc was in international business. Funny enough, these all help us run our label Kannibalen Records. The Montreal scene and the electro scene of the late 2000s sparked our passion to want to shift our career towards music. Luckily we got to a place where we could produce, DJ, and manage full time!
How did you come up with your artist name? What does it mean to you?
We brainstormed a lot when we were looking for a name, throwing a ton of ideas around. Way back then we included a lot of funk samples in our early productions, so The Sex Machine was inspired by James Brown and the Black Tiger from the movie ‘Apocalypse Now.’
When the words were put together by Julien, who was trying to shake off this dedicated admirer via text message with random, nonsensical replies, it rolled off the tongue too well to us to ever forget it.
For us, the name leans in on the punk ideology and with us being huge cyberpunk fans, it stuck. It’s futuristic, rebellious in a way, and it’s just fun to say; there’s a lot of intrigue around it. You hear Black Tiger Sex Machine or BTSM and you just have to find out what it’s all about.
How has your style of music changed from when you first started up until now?
When we first got into music, we had some french touch, electro, and disco house influences incorporated into our sound. Things were more house driven. We were always into the heavy stuff, but over time, we started to experiment more with dubstep, classical, and sci-fi influences, and that just really took over for us and they blend so well together.
Our music now really ties into our post-apocalyptic universe with various stories and visuals that we want to immerse people into. The heavier, more cinematic vibe is a better fit for that, however, we still like to throw in some of our more classic vibes like with one of our latest songs “Nobody Wants You.”
What is the story behind your cult-like following fanbase named the BTSM Church? Was this started by you or did your fanbase adopt this name for themselves?
It was an initiative by our fans at first. Around the release of our song “Religion” and the “Music Is My Religion” tour, the term started to circulate and really cement itself. It quickly became a decently sized, super active group on Facebook, and the fans really identified with it.
It’s a congregation. It’s a place where we all come together no matter who you are. It’s immersive. It’s an escape from this world and with everything, we do really try and give fans that all-encompassing, captivating experience.
You interact with your fans regularly. How specifically has your direct artist to fan relationship had an impact on your music career? What stands out for you?
It’s a blessing to be so connected with your fans. Without it, we couldn’t be a fully independent act. It’s rewarding to receive instant feedback and be so connected. It’s also inspiring to see ideas from fans and their perspective in real-time on the music, the set, and the world we’re building. With all of our work from the artworks, to the songs to the show visuals and our movie experience, the fans really go all in for it.
They listen to music and want to know more about the characters and the world. It’s a lot for us to manage, but it’s more rewarding for us and the fans ultimately. They dress up, theorize, and participate wholeheartedly which we are forever grateful for their excitement and dedication. We just try to do our best to match that!
Everything from your fanbase name to your merch adds to your identity as a group. One of the most integral parts of your brand revolves around your visual identity which includes the helmets you wear during your shows. When did you start incorporating these helmets into your brand? Who came up with this idea? Was this an easy collective idea to add to your look or did you face many issues early on?
We wore the helmets for the first time in 2012. The idea came out of a party discussion and an on the fly challenge for an industrial designer here in Quebec. Gab Hebert was able to design, build, and deliver them in a quick two month turn around for Montreal’s Igloofest winter event.
It was pretty easy to incorporate it into our look. The only problems we have are small technical problems here and there, but they generally get resolved quickly.
We’ve had three generations of helmets; each with different designs and new light features. At first, it was simply an on and off switch with only white lights. Then, we progressively added functionalities such as controlling the lights with a midi controller, movement patterns to the lights, and full RGB capabilities.
Aside from your helmets adding to the visual experience for your fans and keeping some mystery around who are the faces behind them, what cool features do they have built-in? What was the design process like to build them?
Sadly, there are no other cool features such as a fan or AC, which would help because they get so hot! haha. We keep them light and as simple as can be outside of their main purpose.
The initial design process was simple. For the last one, there was a tighter design process to try to improve certain things and keep the design evolving. We always want to improve on what we’ve done, so we work with various teams to get everything as good as can be for any given update.
What was the inspiration behind your EP Futuristic Thriller?
Last year we put together our Futuristic Thriller Tour, which debuted our live-action movie experience. We filmed some scenes from our post-apocalyptic world and incorporated them into our visuals for the show. With this, we created original tracks to go along with the scenes like “KILLZONE” and “Time Travel.”
We hadn’t done a big project in a while, so we just kept making music for an EP, our biggest one yet at eight tracks long. We wanted something a bit more cohesive around the stories we wanted to tell around some of our characters like Naomi, a resistance fighter, and the AI Zombies.
What was the collaboration process like for your track “Resistance” with Hairitage and Hyro The Hero? Who wrote the lyrics?
It started as a project Hairitage sent over with the melody and first drop. We built the song out a bit more by adding more layers and twists. We then contacted Hyro and gave him some direction for what we wanted the lyrics and the song to express. It was a very smooth process overall and we are very happy with the result!
What digital audio workstation do you use? What are three of your favorite plugins you used the most on Futuristic Thriller?
We use Ableton Live as our DAW. A lot of our sounds are made using Serum, Diva, and recently, Phase Plant. For effects, we use a lot of Fabfilter and Soundtoys plugins.
What is your mission and vision for your music? What do you hope your fans take away from it?
We want our music and overall mission to be an immersive, inclusive space for people to come together. It’s a place to escape to, a place to learn and connect with other people in a positive way.
Your label, Kannibalen Records, has signed artists such as Kai Wachi, Apashe, Dabin, and Lektrique. What three markers do you look for when scouting new talent?
The three markers we look for when scouting new talent are originality, unique sound design, and super song-writing!
What advice would you give to someone looking to launch their own record label?
Our biggest strength has been our unique identity. There are a lot of great bass labels out there, but we’ve always tried to stick with our vision and keep pushing ourselves in the space we’ve created within the dance music community.
If you can find a like-minded group of people and go all-in on your path as a label, not trying to be anyone else but yourselves, then you will succeed. Of course, a lot of hard work and long hours go into that!
Due to COVID-19, I sadly didn’t get to see you DJ in Chicago. What’s the first thing you plan to do after lockdown?
That’s an interesting question because just because lockdown is over, doesn’t necessarily mean things are safe again. However, once things are truly safe again, we really need to see our fans. We’d be nothing without them and although we’re trying to do as much as we can for them right now with music and new merch, there’s nothing like getting together for church in person!
How would you describe your set to someone who hasn’t seen you live? What’s something you feel you do better than anyone else in the scene?
Our set is an immersive cyberpunk adventure. We play a lot of different genres and want fans to feel like they don’t know what’s coming next. It’s a lot of fun for us and luckily our crowds have really connected with our entire set, even the styles of music we don’t necessarily release or push that often.
If we had to pick something we’re good at, it’d be creating that completely immersive space. Our set, the music, is just one part of the whole experience. Everything from the visuals, to the lights, our helmets, and beyond all work together for a one-of-a-kind experience.\
You don’t use a VJ as you trigger everything yourself live on stage. What would you like to incorporate into your shows that you haven’t been able to do so far yet?
For us, we want to continue to push the Movie Experience. We were lucky enough to debut it on our last tour, but we want to flesh it out and include even more scenes and characters. Initially, we weren’t sure how fans would react to such a story-driven experience at a show where they want to rage, but they connected to it and the risk paid off!
What has become the favorite part of your sets?
The beginning is always special. We can feel the tension build up in the room before we step on stage, and when the music and lights kick in, the reaction of the crowd is something to behold. Some people are transfixed and others go crazy, which in turn gives us a lot of energy.
How do you divide up the responsibilities among the three of you in your group? Who’s in charge of what tasks?
For the group as well as the label, everyone pitches in some ways with everything. Pat works more on composing and production. Marc focuses on the sequencing and programming of the live show. Julien leads on mixing and mastering along with the creative direction of the visuals. However, we all work together a ton despite each having strengths in certain areas.
Then on the business side, we each have areas we focus on, being self-managed and running our record label, with Julien being the social media, branding, merchandise, and content strategy guy, Marc running a lot of the general label operations, licensing, and PR and Patrick taking care of accounting and financial matters.
What can fans expect to see from you in the near future?
We’re going to continue to work on music and running our label Kannibalen Records. We’ve got a lot of new merch incoming very soon and we’ll be working on finalizing a tour when things are safe to do so again. With no shows currently, we’re gonna also take the time to work on the next installment of our Movie Experience!