After falling in love with their album "The Sadist" which released via Giallo Disco Records, I wanted to get to know the two fellows behind Ubre Blanca. Enter Joel and Andy, the founding fathers of this outfit, who are now here giving us all the inside information based around the synthwave lovefest. Read on to discover more about them, where to find their past releases, and the story behind "The Sadist":
Let's get started with the basics. Give us a little introduction to yourselves and Ubre Blanca.
Joel - "We’re a Glasgow based band who make a mix of disco and soundtrack-inspired synth music. Andy plays drums and I play synths and guitar. We’ve just added a third member to the live band, Tom Straughan (ex-Park Attack, Haunted House Party, Shitdisco) on synths."
You have both been in a number of different outfits, including Shitdisco, Divorce, and Remember Remember. But when was it that you guys started playing an instrument? Was it from your younger years or did it catch on later in life?
Joel - "I got a Yamaha DD-11 drum machine when I was about 10. The drum pads broke really quickly so I mostly played with the sequenced rhythms, putting them through guitar pedals and things like that. When I was in high school I pretended my family was on benefits so I could get free drum lessons but I got found out and thrown out of the class. Then I started playing guitar."
Andy - "I didn't start playing drums until I was about 18 or 19. Before that I was writing a fanzine, reviewing and critiquing other bands. I realised that I was judging the ability of these musicians without knowing myself what it took to play an instrument or how to compose a song, which seemed pretty snide on my part! I took up the drums as they were the most appealing; although I love a great melodic hook as much as anyone, rhythms and the structures of songs have always been the things I've intuitively been excited by in music."
Judging from your album "The Sadist", I would imagine that a lot of your influences come from composers of seventies and early eighties horror films. Who would you say, out of all the people you've listened to, have influenced your music the most?
Joel - "I think John Carpenter, both compositionally and in terms of his approach of using one or two synths layered and arranged like an orchestra, and definitely Goblin for the way they used ‘rock’ instruments in a cinematic way."
And when did you two first meet? Did you automatically connect based on similar interests and tastes?
Joel - "I can’t remember actually, it probably would either have been at Optimo (legendary Glasgow club night) or an after-party. Shitdisco used to play house parties on West Prince's Street, which is a Glasgow band tradition that goes back as least as far as the 1960’s. I think Andy played some of our parties with bands he was drumming in at the time. He might remember better than me… or not…"
Andy - "I don't remember to be honest! Glasgow has always had a very fertile musical and creative community, but it's also very small in it's own way, links can be made easily between everybody involved. I certainly knew Joel prior to me playing in my previous bands Divorce or Remember Remember, I think it felt like a good idea to start working on music together after knowing each other for so long."
Did you guys think of Ubre Blanca as soon as you met? And when did you two decide to join together to create the act?
Joel - "No, we’d known each other for years before we worked together. At first Ubre Blanca was a name me and some friends were using to release remixes. We started writing our own stuff, which led to roping Andy in, at first in the studio then playing live. In the early days we were a four-piece, but our two synth players had to leave as they have non-music careers and we were starting to gig a lot, it gets hard to do it while holding down a proper job. We decided to continue as a two-piece and write a new set from scratch, which is where the John Carpenter approach became useful. Also the bands Zombi (US) and Zombie Zombie (France), who are a two and three-piece respectively, were big inspirations."
And, out of curiosity, what does Ubre Blanca mean and where did the name come from?
Joel - "Literally translated it means ‘White Udder’. It was the name given to a cow in Cuba who set a world record for milk output in the early 80’s and was held up as an example of the superiority of communist agricultural policy. Castro was passionate about dairy products (seriously) and has made several attempts to have Ubre Blanca cloned. I like to think it was Ubre Blanca’s fervent commitment to communist ideals which enabled such a prodigious yield."
I know of "The Sadist", but now would also be a good time to ask if you've any other songs or albums released under the Ubre Blanca name, and where they could be found.
Joel - "We have two other EPs, they’re both available for pay-what-you-like on ubreblanca.bandcamp.com. ‘Polygon Mountain’ is our take on psychedelic sci-fi and ‘Terminal Island’ is our 80’s action movie soundtrack.
And let's talk about "The Sadist" a little bit more. In my review for the album, I got really into it and creative, crafting a story as I went along with the music. Did you guys have a story as you went along with the album? Or was it just pure music and nothing more?
Joel - "Yeah, we loved your take on it. In many ways it’s better than the film we had in our heads so I’m reluctant to be too detailed on our version of it! But yes, it was conceived as a 60’s giallo slasher set in the Vatican. The first side introduces the Sadist and has him stalking a Quarry, which becomes a chase and then a kill. The second part takes on ritualistic tones and suggests the opening up of a more Lovecraftian, cosmic, sense of horror.
Your take on it reminded me of a Wes Craven style American teens-in-peril slasher though, which in some ways works better."
How did you go about writing the music for the album? And what exactly did you do to perfect the pure eighties horror movie mold?
Joel - "The theme in ‘Fear of God’ owes a heavy debt to one of the greatest horror themes ever, ‘Suspiria’ by Goblin (which in turn owes a bit to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells). In both of those tunes there’s a really unsettling place right on the line between dissonance and sickly sweet harmony. There’s a space for melancholy and tragedy which you don’t get in some of the more ‘functional’ horror scores which purely use frequencies to make the audience unsettled. Of course that can be amazing when done right, I’m thinking of Gaspar Noe’s scores for instance. For us as a band though, I think we’re more interested in the borderline between the dissonant and the harmonic."
The cover art is interesting to me, as well. What inspired the cover art and who designed it?
Joel - "The cover is a really degraded copy of a painting I did from a stock photo of a skull. The idea was to paint an old-fashioned horror movie poster in the style of the Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava posters. That style is really hard to imitate though, especially when you’ve been to Art School. It came out looking more like a Ken Currie painting, far too tasteful. So I photographed it (badly) and processed the image until it looked sufficiently cheap and nasty. Eric Lee who’s the in-house designer for Giallo Disco added some fake ringwear and the effect was complete."
So far, I've seen nothing but positive comments about the album. Have there been any negative remarks so far about it that you just don't agree with?
Joel - "It’s all been really positive so far, which is nice. I’m sure eventually someone will hate it."
Andy - "Like every record, there will be people that it won't appeal to. So far I've not read or heard anything, neither will I be too concerned if anyone wants to let us know they dislike it."
And, now that "The Sadist" is out, are you planning on sticking around with Giallo Disco Records? And are you working on anything new that you may be able to shed light on?
Joel - "We’re writing the first full length album now and scouting recording locations. We like using spaces with interesting natural reverbs. The album will be using sounds from the EPs but in new ways and we plan to rope in several musicians on instruments we’ve never used before, which is quite exciting."
Have you any plans to play live anywhere at all? And, if so, where can we catch you playing?
Andy - "We've just played a couple of shows in Glasgow and Edinburgh to promote the release. Ideally we'll be playing further afield next year, if there's a demand. In the meantime we'll be performing a special one-off show as the live backing band for Umberto at Nice'N'Sleazys in Glasgow on October 28th, which we're extremely excited about."
Lastly, I thank you for your time and wish you luck with your career!
Joel - "Cheers!"
Andy - "Thank you!"
Having said all that, I did used to call my willy Adolf because he liked invading foreign territory!
Global Citizen, Apr 28 2014
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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