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Interview | A Deeper, Darker View Of Black Marble

Chris Stewart's bedroom synth project is a stark reflection of an artist's musical process and personal expression.

Patrick Greenby Patrick Green
Photo: Joseph Jagos

Black Marble is a true reflection of Chris Stewart. His self-described “bedroom synth project’s” latest release is It’s Immaterial on October 14th. Written, recorded, mixed, and performed entirely by Stewart, the new songs are a singular look into the complex mind and creative process of an artist exploring time and place.

I had a chat with Stewart over email where he opened up about his varied influences, songwriting approach and what he would do if he could manipulate time. 

Crave: You describe Black Marble as a “bedroom synth project.” That’s an apt description because it feels as if you’re opening up your door to let the audience in a little deeper, darker. Tell us the influences behind it? 

Chris Stewart: The fact that its inception was a result of my effort to find a positive outlet for issues I was dealing with at the time. The result of that being that I was looking for something that could be some sort of a stamp – the amalgamation of all my influences, not just musical, but aesthetic and literary and just how I feel when I see some situation unfold in front of me on the street as a bystander, some argument between strangers or how I feel about modernity, my relationship to it, the struggle of trying to be useful, the uncertainty of its value. All those things are influences.

What activity do you picture people doing while listening to It’s Immaterial?

Probably not what they are most likely doing, which is typing some email out with headphones on in a raw space in New York or LA, but I’d like to think they are laying in their bedroom in some blank suburb turning the pages on a yearbook or something romantic like that.

Everything from Black Marble to the title of  It’s Immaterial, to the striking image on your album cover has underlying layers to it. In a world where everything is so on the surface why do you choose to make people think a little bit harder? 

I think you just have to assume that there are still some people in the world who want to engage with creative work even if it takes some effort and that some will find it more interesting that it’s not so one- dimensional. Everybody doesn’t drive around singing Rihanna songs and being thrilled by life. There’s a reason why my band is only known in New York, Los Angeles, London, ect. Because that’s where younger people go when they want more…when they want to scratch below the surface and find something.

Does it get frustrating?

I don’t get frustrated even if there was reason to, because I don’t need Black Marble to be some financial juggernaut in order to keep doing it. Having said all that I think this record is accessible enough that It can be enjoyed by just about anyone as long as they have five minutes to give it a chance.

“Iron Lung” feels like it could be in a Brat Pack movie from the ‘80s, but it’s dangerous, more “Less Than Zero” than “Pretty In Pink.” Are you fan of these types of movies? 

Sure why not. I would say in reference to your comparison that I have more of an affinity for Less Than Zero, so I guess it makes sense if you think my music is more that way. Im not saying that I think its necessarily all that cool to be that way but I’m definitely drawn to the more “stare into the abyss” approach to things. At one point because I thought that’s what artists were supposed to do, and I read Please Kill Me one too many times but also just because its more fun and easier than being responsible.

I can definitely hear the Joy Division and New Order influences. There’s so much great drama behind the history of both of them. What about them do you identify with? 

I think I probably identify more with Martin Hannett their producer sitting in a room trying to build weird reverb chambers and chain smoking.

You wrote, recorded, mixed and performed this album. How did you get “outside of your head?”  How will this play live?

I’m not sure what you mean by get outside my head but I do have a process where I try to gain the perspective of an outside listener by tracking things very quickly and intentionally coming back to it later after I’ve forgotten it so that I can react to it the way I would react if I were not the one that made it. I don’t know if this is common or not.

Do you prefer this creative process over a more collaborative one?

I like a collaborative process, if for no other reason than it’s much more fun and goes more quickly, where I find making every single bit of sound that goes on a record to be a bit tedious, but ultimately I like the idea of one person’s unfettered vision as well. For some reason you can always somehow instinctively tell when a music project is written by just one person and I like that feeling.

Black Marble’s music has been described as “creating something new, but going  back in time to do it.” If you could go back in time, what time would you go back to and what would you do?  

I would go back in time to middle school and I would be cool.

Black Marble’s new album, It’s Immaterial is out October 14th on Ghostly. Go here for more information. Check out his current tour below:

10.14 San Diego, CA @ The Whistle Stop

10.15 Tempe, AZ @ 51 West

10.16 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

10.17 Bakersfield, CA @ Narducci’s

10.18 Modesto, CA @ The Shire

10.19 Oakland, CA @ The Night Light

10.20 Sacramento, CA @ The Red Museum

10.21 Portland, OR @ The Secret Society Ballroom

10.22 Vancouver, BC @ The Astoria

10.23 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey