The Blue and Red 3D Spectacular
A New York City based organic electronica musician, Rob Bowman of The Blue and Red 3D Spectacular creates music that is a fusion of rock and electronica. Considering live performance to be the essence of true electronica, Bowman relies on live instrumentation to create his energy-filled sets. Here he talks about laptops, opera houses, and most importantly, salsa.
Blue and Red 3D Spectacular
SoundsXP: How did you come up with the name The Blue and Red 3D Spectacular?
Rob Bowman: When I was 5 or 6 years old, my parents got me these blue and red comic books with cheesy blue and red 3D glasses. When I was starting to work on solo stuff, I started writing this one song that made me think about that and the name sort of just came to me. I was writing music and I wanted there to be a visual aspect to it. So it’s sort of the chicken before the egg. I had the name before I ever wanted to incorporate the visual element.
SoundsXP: I just came from Bonnaroo where I saw Ghostland Observatory and they had amazing visuals, this laser light show that they travel with. What kind of visuals are part of your shows?
Rob: At this current stage I have two people that do computerized TV visuals. When people walk into a venue or a club where I’m playing, we hand them blue and red 3d glasses to wear.
SoundsXP: When you were growing up were you always listening to electronic music? What were some musicians that influenced your style?
Rob: One of the first bands that got me into electronic music was Phila Brasilia. They’re a band based out of the UK, and I started listening to them when I was in 6th or 7th grade. You know how they say that music is the soundtrack to your life? That band is the soundtrack to my middle school experience for getting into electronic music. I started playing drums after listening to DJ Shadow’s Introducing album. I heard how live drums incorporated with a certain vintage sound can give such meaning and depth into an electronic setting. I played that album constantly. My biggest influences as a musician are John Coltrane, Miles Davis, The Bad Plus, and David King is one of my favorite drummers of all time. I am an avid Mars Volta fan and everything that Omar Rodriquez Lopez does, I’m in awe of. His solo work, as well as the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Quintet which he did in between albums with the Mars Volta.
SoundsXP: Have you ever seen The Mars Volta live?
Rob: I’ve seen them several times. When they came through with their Frances the Mute tour I saw them three times in a span of four days. So I’m a bit of a fan (laughs).
SoundsXP: Just a bit.
Rob: John Theodore, the drummer from Mars Volta at that time was probably one of my largest influences in terms of rock drumming.
SoundsXP: What albums do you listen to when you’re not playing music? Do you have a certain album that you can’t live without?
Rob: On my iTunes it tells you how many days worth of music you have on your iPod. I have 84 days worth of music.
SoundsXP: That’s incredible.
Rob: I could play my iPod straight for 3 months and it would not repeat.
SoundsXP: Do you have the 80 gig one?
Rob: No, I actually have a 30 gig. You can hold a lot of music on these things. Yeah, I wouldn’t say that there are set albums that I constantly listen to. If you were to ask me a question such as “you’re stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life and you only bring five albums”, definitely DJ Shadow’s Introducing, the Mars Volta’s first full-length, De-Loused in the Comatorium, John Coltrane’s Love Supreme, because that’s just a jazz masterpiece.
SoundsXP: Do you think it can be really difficult to book gigs on the New York music scene?
Rob: I’ve played all over Philadelphia. I moved to NYC about nine months ago. Since moving to New York City it’s inspired me in so many different ways, living in the heart of Brooklyn. The first track on the EP is called Sounds of the City, because I live in a renovated opera house and when I go up to my roof on the opera house, I have a phenomenal view of the Manhattan skyline.
SoundsXP: Did you intend to move to New York from the very beginning or it just kind of happened that way?
Rob: I knew NYC was where I needed to be. The Philly music scene right now…it’s very tough to say that it is there. A lot of music venues in Philly have been closing down. I am starting to get into the NYC live venue scene. I am an organic electronic musician, so I don’t necessarily fit in at electronic venues and I don’t necessarily fit in at rock venues. I fit in with both of them. Anything that you hear on my new EP, nothing is sequenced, what I do is completely live moving.
SoundsXP: So there’s a lot of improvisation?
Rob: Yeah. A lot of imrov. No matter what, I’m a jazz musician. It’s very improvisational.
SoundsXP: Will your songs take on a new twist once you’re performing them live?
Rob: Yeah, they constantly evolve. I’m getting into sampling a bit, but it’s all live looping and live sampling. Every electronic musician out there goes for already sequenced material, they’ll sit there on their laptop and they’ll play a show, and I’m never like that. I have a laptop, but I don’t play the laptop. I want to put on a good show for someone when they pay to come see me. I don’t want to be standing in front of a laptop. So I use a lot of hardware as opposed to software.
SoundsXP: Do you look at it as a negative to use a laptop? I saw Holy Fuck at the Music Hall of Williamsburg a few weeks back. They don’t use laptops, any electronic sounds they create with the hardware, like toys and things like that.
Rob: I’ve heard of Holy Fuck, I just haven’t heard Holy Fuck. One of the bands that I’ve recently come to discover and am really appreciative of their music is Fuck Buttons.
SoundsXP: Yes, I know the Fuck Buttons. They use laptops, don’t they?
Rob: They basically do all laptop stuff. There are still a few other things there.
SoundsXP: I wonder if the use of laptops is looked upon negatively by musicians.
Rob: It’s not really black and white; it depends on how you’re using them. If you’re DJing a set, with records and laptops, that’s understandable. But if you’re going to play wide looping, and live electronic music only through a laptop, then that’s where I would personally draw the line. But I’ve seen some people do crazy shit that I would never be able to produce without a laptop.
SoundsXP: Do you plan on collaborating with other musicians or will you always stay solo?
Rob: Right now I’m having a great time doing my solo thing. I would always be down to collaborate down the line if the opportunity was right.
SoundsXP: Are you doing this full time right now or do you have a day job to support yourself?
Rob: To be an independent musician nowadays means you either have to be dirt broke or one in a billion. Right now I have an online music promotion company, which is onlinemusicpromotions.com. I’m also working on a salsa company, which is completely out of left field.
SoundsXP: A salsa company?
Rob: The food, not the dance. It’s called the Brooklyn Salsa Company.
SoundsXP: So you’re a real big fan of salsa or what’s the deal here?
Rob: I’m a real big fan of good food. My business partner makes a damn good salsa.
We decided to expand on the idea and we’re currently finalizing our business plan and looking for investors. At the end of the day, I am a nine to fiver, which is not something that I’m very happy of, but I’m also an entrepreneur. I’m a Gemini, the Twin, so I’ve always had my music side, and I’ve always had my business side. Would I ever say that I’m a starving musician? No. I’ve always been able to balance those two elements of my life. The beauty of owning an online music promotion company is that now that I have my own music to promote, it makes it much easier.
SoundsXP: How do you go about promoting music?
Rob: I’ve been promoting my music through myspace. Friend blasting and stuff like that. I put in a bunch of Fuck Buttons fans and told them to check out my music and I got a great response from that.
SoundsXP: That is how I came across your myspace. I am one of the Fuck Buttons friends.
Rob: Yes, that could very well be the way that you found me. This EP that I’m releasing cost me a total of 300 dollars. I mean it’s absolutely nothing.
SoundsXP: That’s incredible.
Rob: I had connections to a recording studio. I have a phenomenal artist friend who’s doing all the artwork for my EP.
SoundsXP: Are there any plans in the works to book more shows after your EP is finally out?
Rob: Yeah, I’m trying to book as many shows as I possibly can in NYC and then an East Coast tour would be something that I would absolutely love to do.