Watch an all-new documentary detailing the dawn of The Glitch Mob's part-live performance instrument, part-installation, 'The Blade.'
Images courtesy the artists
The Glitch Mob, from the moment of its incarnation, did not lack in ambition. When the trio—comprised of ediT (Edward Ma), Boreta (Justin Boreta) and Ooah (Josh Mayer)—first started releasing music, they uploaded remixes to Myspace and Soundcloud, made mix CDs and passed them out, and formed Glitch Mob Unlimited for their individual tracks. They also started Glass Air Records, which they describe as an extension of a DIY mentality that finds output in album art, live show production, and everything else in its domain.
The Glitch Mob took this autonomous impetus to new heights in 2014. Following time spent experimenting with electronic musical performance, the trio came up with “The Blade,” a technology they describe as an “interactive instrument and art installation.” The live set resembles a futuristic machine of violent design, which which they pair custom software that allows them to switch live roles on the fly, like a traditional rock band that—instead of swapping solos—can trade off entire instruments mid-song.
Amidst their design process (and live performances), The Glitch Mob had a team filming a documentary centered around The Blade. Today, The Creators Project premieres Behind the Blade alongside a conversation with its creators about the ideas and the innovations that went into their futuristic setup.
“In the past we had designed everything ourselves—we built the light show, programmed it, designed all of the custom software, and so on,” Boreta explains to The Creators Project. “The Blade was the first time we had the resources to take our idea and collaborate with a team of experts, to take it to the next level.”
They wanted to, as Boreta said, play electronic music that had the same feel and “drama” as live rock. “It’s been our mission to get away from the utility look of keyboard stands, synths sitting around, stuff like that,” Boreta says. “The goal was to take music gear and wrap it in something that has the same creative seed as the music.”
During the conceptualization and build process, The Glitch Mob had a few friends follow them around to document the work on camera. In the piece, viewers can see footage of the group working with giant diagrams for The Blade—work that commenced a full year before the tour kicked off.
“Since we knew we were in uncharted waters, and nothing like this had been done before, we wanted to document the process,” Boreta explains. “We hope that being public with this process would ultimately benefit other people.”
To design and build The Blade, The Glitch Mob enlisted several collaborators. Many artists would be content letting the artisans and technicians do the lion's share of work, but The Glitch Mob wanted to be involved in all aspects of its production. As a first step, they brought in Martin Phillips of Bionic League, known for his work with Daft Punk's multimedia Alive pyramid, in a role that they saw as equivalent to a “movie producer”.
“[Martin] takes the vision that we supply him and makes it all happen,” Boreta said. “He’s an artist that works with the medium of live stage performance. He called in Vision Scenery to design the look and feel of everything.”
Perhaps best known for their work in film, television, commercials and videos, building custom sets, models, props and miniatures, Vision Scenery's style is eclectic, ranging from the surreal to the ordinary. Little bits of the future worlds pop up in their work as well, whether their creations are steampunkish or Terry Gilliam-esque retro-futuristic in look.
For The Blade, the band asked Vision Scenery to create a performance space that resembled spaceship consoles and video games like Fallout. This set is built out of steel, fiberglass, aluminum and plastics, which was then outfitted with programmable lighting designs.
“The placement of the screens was informed by live percussion—the way it’s tilted towards the crowd is actually easier to play than sitting up on a flat table, like a bongo or something,” Boreta continues. “Our setup has been comprised of touch screens tilted towards the crowd and drums for awhile now. It’s always been our goal to break down the wall around electronic music performance and create something more engaging than staring at a laptop.”
After reprogramming old and new tracks to work with The Blade, The Glitch Mob tasked Matt Davis—who has run touring rigs for Drake and Frank Ocean—with building the software that would make it the interactive art installation they needed.
“The main backbone is Ableton live, [and] Matt built custom software that does all of the networking, controls the iPads, deals with redundancy, monitoring, and so on,” Boreta says. “There’s also a lot of custom hardware that Matt built with Fred Carlton and Chris Legaspi, who also tour with us. It’s a few interlocking systems—the physical set, the audio system, and the video system.”
“It’s a living, breathing organism,” Boreta concludes. “We are constantly updating and improving it [because] it has bugs and crashes just like any other piece of software. That’s part of the risk, and part of the reward of being in uncharted waters.”
Visit The Glitch Mob's website for more info, including music, tour dates, and an inside look at their new collaboration with Metallica, "Lords of Summer," and stay tuned to Reddit at 11 AM PST on Wednesday, May 20, for an exclusive AMA with The Glitch Mob.