Not overtweaking. Brian O’Shea

Bands, bookers, and engineers love him. He knows gear, but he doesn't overtweak. Erik Blood gets inside the psychology of a band's sound, and when he makes a suggestion, he's trusted. Mostly, he's just a pleasant human being. Blood's production credits include the Shabazz Palaces catalog, where he delivered their earthen, psychotropic, sarcophagus-Tut rap to Saturn's largest moon. Other Blood production work includes the Moondoggies, the Lights, Tea Cozies, the Redwood Plan, Partman Parthorse, his previous band the Turn-ons, and his own solo material.

Jeff Albertson of the Lights said, "He's instinctive, funny, tasteful, and talented. He's also fast, and never messes around. He became like a member of our band, knowing when to let happy mistakes happen."

Recently, Blood composed the score for a film shot in Brazil called Center of Gravity—his first work for film. Sounds range from pop songs to orchestrated instrumental interludes to building and flaring walls of guitar. On October 18, Music from the Film Center of Gravity will be released, coinciding with the film's premiere at the São Paulo International Film Festival. Thematically, the movie touches on questions about love and expectations of the beloved. Like I said, Erik Blood is beloved.

What is Center of Gravity about?

It's about a couple in São Paulo. The guy believes he's caught the girl cheating and demands to meet the other man, but he's not all that innocent himself. It's very moody and lovely.

What was your process for composing the score?

I was given the film without music and with "temporary" music. I basically ignored the temp music and just watched the film. In the studio, I played along with either my guitar or my Rhodes until the moods made sense. Then I expanded them later.

What are some of your favorite film scores?

Ennio Morricone is the fucking man. I always get inspired by his works for film. A lot of Italians come to mind. Riz Ortolani, Bruno Nicholai, even Goblin's scores for Argento films. I love film scores, though. I'm a huge movie nerd, so I'm always listening to film scores one way or another.

Did you find yourself thinking about your work on the Shabazz album while doing this score?

Not so much directly. The process of making music changes with every project, at least if you're growing as an artist. I've learned to trust my instincts more from working with Shabazz.

What would you cast Ish and Tendai as in a movie? What would you compose for them?

It's hard not to just cast them as themselves, since they're already crazy charismatic and interesting folks. I'd like to cast them in a Robert Altman–style political thriller. Ish as president and Tendai as the vice president who's a straight shooter but has a secret he must protect Ish from. I'd only use drums and electric bass in the score.

Were there any places in Center of Gravity where the director didn't think your music fit? Like a tender love scene where you had cock rock?

Some of the music I made was used in scenes I didn't write it for, and some just wasn't used, but I expected that. Steven did think that "Or Am I Wrong?" was too happy for the scene it was originally written for, but that scene ain't in the movie no more, and my song is, so... ya know.

What do you think of cock rock in general? I think cock rock played in the correct scenario can be a tremendous release and have positive societal implications. Like cranking AC/DC's Back in Black and pounding on a punching bag instead of beating up your neighbor or blowing up a building.

I agree with you. Unless your neighbor is a fucking asshole who needs his ass beat. But don't blow up buildings. Definitely go for the cock rock there.

What music did you grow up listening to and liking? What helped formulate your musical mind?

I can't remember a time without Prince. Mom played lots of Motown and disco that I loved. My sister got me into Duran Duran and the Cure. Remember Night Flight on USA? That was the SHIIIIT. My sister and I used to tape our favorite videos and she got so pissed at me when I passed on Nena's "99 Luftballons," though Prince was still number one. Then I heard Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" and my mind was blown. It was all about hiphop until I was 16, and then I heard Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine, which changed everything I thought about music. Still, Prince never left.

What's next for you?

I'm putting out another album in early 2012. Doesn't have a title yet, but I'm excited to let it loose on everyone. The album I did with THEESatisfaction should come out in early 2012, too. And I mixed Tendai's latest solo record, but I'm not sure what name he'll release it under. Also heading into the lab with Stephanie and hopefully getting started on some new Shabazz and Moondoggies soon.

This score for Center of Gravity contains songs, like "Or Am I Wrong?" and instrumental interludes, like "Wash-Up" and "Shut the Fuck Up." How did it all come together?

The cool thing about the film, and I think the reason I was chosen to score it, is the main characters listen to music on-screen. They'll put on a record or listen to an iPod, which pretty much gave me the freedom to write songs. "Or Am I Wrong?" was for a scene that got cut, but I talked the director into using it as the closing credits music. That one I literally wrote playing along to the scene with my guitar. The following day I had a vocal melody and drum part, and the rest just fell into place from there.

"Wash-Up" and "Shut the Fuck Up" were done similarly, though I was trying more to convey a certain mood and/or attitude. If you listen really closely, you can hear the vocals for "So Many Things" bleeding through "Shut the Fuck Up." If you see the movie, you'll get why.

Did you write the songs differently than you wrote the interludes? Was there a difference between the two for you?

There was a difference to me at first, until I realized that I was overthinking the process. I just needed to make music the way I make music and try my best to express what I was seeing, sonically. I tried to only use the film and my personal reactions to the film as inspiration.

How did you know when your music was working for the scenes?

Trial and error, mostly. My good friend and assistant engineer Peter Lynch helped keep me on track. I'd play something for him while the film played on his laptop and he'd give me feedback.

What was hard about doing your first film score?

Just worrying whether the director Steven Richter was going to like what I did. Making the music was surprisingly easy once I got rolling. It felt a lot like how I make music and demos at home.

What have you been listening to lately?

Stephanie is my favorite band. Toro y Moi is the jam right now. Gold Leaves is amazing. Neon Indian's new shit is great. Just recently stopped listening to the new Horrors record.

Prince never leaves my ears, either.

Prince should never leave anyone's ears. recommended