In a rather humble announcement earlier last month, long time Community member Bill Boulden alias DJ Spruke updated his Kickstarter following with news that his Space themed electronic musical, Music To Die Alone In Space To was now available for purchase via the iTunes, CD Baby and Spotify online marketplaces as three separate mixes. Although the musician only shared links to the US counterparts of those stores, he did later confirm availability in their international versions.
In news that might of greater interest to our members though, Boulden now expresses that while he’s more than willing to share rights on the purchased albums with you for use in your own independent Games, Blogs, YouTube channels & other Video Game creations, it would have to be done by approaching him personally for permission and then going through the required channels. Alternatively, as Boulden continues to toil away at the personalized versions of the album that have been exclusive to his Kickstarter backers, he states that he is now open to a limited number of personalized album requests from the Higher Eclectic community.
While the price of these personalized albums would naturally differ from the $10 of the albums available on the online marketplace, members should take particular interest in them as they arrive with a Creative Commons license that provides the owner with complete & all rights over their usage — allowing free usage in games & other projects as stated by Boulden himself via an Anti-Copyright statement on his campaign’s page. Furthermore, while no two personalized albums sound the same — their owners are given complete freedom of choice over the cover art and voice artists they’d like featured on their exclusive albums.
The news arrives over a month after the 22nd of December last year, when Spruke declared that he’d completed and QA’d to his satisfaction, the mixing, mastering and arrangement of the now publicly available Cepheus, Andromeda, & Tsuki No Usagi mixes of Music To Die Alone In Space To. Each of these mixes also differ in voice artists & cover art based on the results of a two week poll that Spruke had subjected his campaign backers to — to help decide which three of the eleven voice artists & cover arts involved in the album’s creation would make it to the online marketplace.
This led to the Andromeda mix featuring Laura Bailey — whose body of work spans games such as the BloodRayne series, Persona 4, The Elder Scrolls V, Final Fantasy XIII & Halo 5 — as its lead voice artist, the Tsuki No Usagi mix featuring Laura Shigihara — sound designer & composer for Plants vs Zombies — and the Cepheus mix featuring Christopher Sabat of the Dragon Ball series. Artwork by independent digital artists Ashley Lange, Liz Nugent and Martyn Knapton meanwhile clad their respective covers.
‘Nearly all feedback has been critically excellent’, states Boulden when asked about the response the album’s public release has been garnering. ‘I think that largely as a reward for spelling out my target so clearly, and enumerating so precisely what this album was meant to do, there was very little room to deny that I hit the target quite accurately. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a genius album or musically incredible, but it is one way of doing things– Call your shots, tell people “This album is meant to sound exactly like A, B, C with restrictions D and E”, and then they know exactly what yardstick by which to measure your self-stated aims. And I do think I nailed those. It’s exactly what everyone wanted to be, I think because I prepared them very well for what it is.’
Music To Die Alone In Space To narrates — through first person speech and an emotional, introspective, psychedelic play of electronic music — the tale of an Astronaut lost out in Space after a rogue speck of dust disconnects them from their spaceship. Our tryst with the Buffalo based DJ came in the midst of the album’s Kickstarter campaign last September, which led to us showcasing its development here in the hope that our members would one day make use of it in their own Video Game work.
Adrift, the album’s first track with Chris Sabat on vocals.
The campaign’s biggest USP at the time, was that those who contributed above a certain amount would avail of personalized versions of Music To Die Alone In Space To that would be unique to them and them alone. ‘The personalized copies are licensed under a variant of the Creative Commons because when somebody buys an individual album, they deserve to own it in that legal sense too,’ states Boulden in explanation of that particular ingenuity. ‘They’re free to stream with it, make it the soundtrack to their game, use it in a college VR project and so on. All of these things are happening and I can’t wait to see the outsize impact these individual copies will have.’
The album’s tenure on the Community for the past five months then, has been filled with exclusive renders of tracks provided by Spruke himself, an exclusive hearing of the album in its pre-release entirety & even a revealing interview with the man himself where he discussed inspirations & more. It’s worth noting that now with the online marketplace releases behind him, Boulden nears 2,000 of the 3,700 tracks needed to compile the final set of personalized albums which he hopes to send out by April.
That and that he’s now looking to put together a music video for the album — solicitations for which have already begun via his Kickstarter page. ‘Am I losing my mind? Yes. As I typed this, Distant’s 186th render is sounding off right next to me… the hundred-and-eighty-sixth variation of this “I’m losing my mind out here, I’m dying” that I’ve heard,’ he adds, in reference to one of the many tracks from the album, Distant. ‘It’s getting so hard to hear the forest for the trees. And yet the tracks keep having surprises for me. I scramble the RNG again, I try putting a new effects plugin on a pad that didn’t have one before – saying, oh, for 15 renders let’s try that pad Flanged instead of Distorted – and suddenly it’s a new beast. This is the 1,865th variant of any MTDAIST track I’ve exported so far. And this is the halfway point! Right now I want to get out of this with my musical sanity intact and make sure everyone is satisfied.’
Naturally, it is to be a while before we hear of Boulden exploring anything of this scale and size again. When not lurking around our member forums from time to time, he can also be caught going Bump In The Night — a weekly podcast that sees him decorate the Internet with electro & house mixes every Monday. As always, any forthcoming announcements and major developments in relation Spruke and Music To Die Alone In Space To can be found on his Higher Eclectic Space. Do take a walk down there to celebrate how far he’s come.
Requests or queries regarding personalized albums can be left by contacting Spruke personally or via the aforementioned Bulletin. Not a member of Higher Eclectic Ground? Drop us a line and we’ll sort you out. Bought & listened to the album already? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.
A full-length LP electronic album by Spruke with a brand-new distribution paradigm that is unprecedented in digital music: every copy of the album is unique to that owner, re-recorded in full with new parts, new sounds, and a voiceover performance done by the user’s choice of performer of any gender, language, and cultural identity.
As Bill Boulden, alias DJ Spruke of Bump In The Night electro-house podcast fame, typed up the introduction to ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’s Kickstarter campaign, little was he aware of the magnitude of the impact those words would have on the creative backers that haunt the crowd-funding platform and beyond. A goal of $2,000 was set, providing various classes of contributors with a variety of privileges including picking their own voice artists, cover art and even guiding the actual recording of their albums. In the event that this new ‘distribution paradigm’ be a success, stretch – goals (Kickstarter lingo that specifies goodies or additional goals the creator might pursue should the original goal set by them be crossed) were set up to $10,000, before it was decided to retreat for the day.
In exactly 24 hours, the project’s goal of $2000 was funded by 74%. In another 48 hours, 200%. This incredible surge of activity on their platform led Kickstarter to feature the album on its newsletter – Happening – a week later, which in turn brought about another wave of contributors that would cause the campaign to reach the $10,000 mark in less than a fortnight. All stretch-goals were now accomplished and Bill was raking in cover artists and voice actors by the dozen.
Somewhere along the way Higher Eclectic Ground entered the fray. The artistic ingenuity of it all had us enraptured, coaxing us to take ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ to parts of the world that were yet to stumble upon such a paradigm. As we worked alongside Bill to achieve the same by taking exclusive renders of several tracks from the album to the indie video game and art community across social media, our understanding of ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’s genius grew stronger – An understanding that reached its peak when we listened to the album in its entirety and documented our thoughts within our article ‘We Died Alone In Space Too’, a couple of weeks back.
To regard ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ as another ‘Electronic’ album then would be to belittle its artistic significance. It is a journey of the senses more than anything – one that every artistic and self-conscious being should venture on, irrespective of their love for music or lack of it.
The Kickstarter campaign ended with a whopping $25,000 from 663 backers in its account on the 26th of September. As Bill, now fueled with the intention of producing and shipping up to 310 unique albums, geared up to retreat to his sound-mixing space lair for the next few months, Higher Eclectic Ground managed to catch up with him for one final tête–à–tête on the 2nd of October – hoping to discuss the creative genius’ musical journey thus far and its aftermath.
1. Congratulations are in order Bill! Has it really sunk in yet?
I think so. I’m working like it has, anyway. At about 2 hours per album and 310 albums, I’ve got 600 hours of work ahead of me- or over a quarter of an American working year, to put that in perspective. I know that to hit my February promised delivery date I’m going to have to work nights and weekends nonstop, so I began hitting the decks immediately upon it closing (or actually, a few days earlier). So yeah, let’s see… at the time I’m writing this, about 10 days after closing, I’ve output 526 tracks. I have to output 3,720 tracks in all to make 310 12-track albums though.
But yeah, I’d say it’s kicked in. The fact that I’ve exported 526 distinct tracks so far has really driven that home, I feel the weight of this work, what with me doing it all day. Thankfully it’s largely unsupervised… I can work at my day job, do PR, or play some Hearthstone or another simple video game while the renders go. I just listen, listening to them do their things, and between each render tweak one knob or another to keep the track evolving.
2. And there’s Bump In The Night Too! In regards to which – and prior album releases of course – how much has the Kickstarter campaign changed things for you as an artist in terms of coverage and reach?
Sales numbers aren’t back from iTunes, but I don’t really expect to see a bump in sales, I didn’t spend much effort trying to cross-pollinate it with old releases. Bump In The Night saw a nice spike of KS backers who would listen to a #BITN to hear the exclusive previews, it was the only place to hear Refract!
3. Which reminds me – on last Monday’s (28th Sept.) ‘Bump In The Night’ episode, I happened to catch a mention of how you didn’t want to talk about ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ anymore until you were done with recording every one of the 300+ albums.
Given the amount of individual attention and end-user involvement each album’s render demands, has it ever felt like perhaps the whole new distribution paradigm was a curse in its self – especially with having to go through 3720 unique renderings?
Oh, the only reason I didn’t care to keep talking about it on Bump In The Night is that at this point, the people who’ve signed up for one are going to get one, and I’m not taking any further orders. I just don’t want to create feel-bads.
At this point the people on the list are well on their way to having their copies made, so they’re taken care of, but if you never signed up, then there’s nothing else I can sell you- I’m not printing any more of these right now- so talking it about it more would really just seem like rub-ins. Besides, a lot of my #BITN listeners back me on the Patreon, they’ve got that whole side, so they know they’re supporting me in all my efforts. I don’t feel like any of this is a curse, no. It’s the problem I asked to have.
4. Yet do you manage to pull time for yourself? Does personal space suffer much with the surge in work load?
Nah, not really. I don’t have as much as one as you’d think. I live with my wife and she’s still around the home, we both are. I guess I have to spend a little more time locked in my studio. But it’s already the room I work from and Bump from and game from, so the difference is minor. I guess I can’t really watch TV out in the common area with her, which is a bummer… that’s just too much downtime that could be spent doing renders. Anything else though, I’ll still make time for game night or some sport or a hike.
5. And even then, you’ve continued to maintain a close relationship with all of your contributors from the very start.
Based on your interactions with them – What in your opinion can the raving success of the campaign be attributed to? The musical journey itself, the fact that people get to avail of something that is unique to them, or both?
It’s hard to pin it down, for a question like this. It really required all the pieces to work together. The delivery method doesn’t work nearly as well for a different musical idea, and the musical idea is not that remarkably different from some great soundtracks already out there without the striking delivery method.
It’s really hard to isolate the factors.
6. ‘Without The Striking Delivery Method’, you said.
Has it ever occurred to you that the paradigm might be overshadowing the music itself? That it could be rather simple for people to overlook and appreciate the significance of ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ as a piece of art like you intend for them to?
I don’t think anybody’s going to miss the significance of the album as an album. I mean, nobody’s really even heard it yet, there’s a few people piecing together all the preview copies to create something like a full album, but don’t discount before it’s even had a chance.
When people actually GET their copies, individuality aside, I think they’re really going to like them for working music, atmospheric music, chamber music, meditation music, anything. And for the 300 other backers who just signed up for canon copies- I mean, they won’t individualized ones, they’re here just to entirely appreciate the work like it was a typical album, albeit one that they get to participate a ton in the creation of.
7. Indeed. Speaking of the album’s creation – when one backtracks to the interview with ‘The Public’, wherein you’d mentioned how the album was a product of you intending to create a musical trip of the senses and providing individuals with musical copies that they could call their own; A question arises – Why space? What did you read, watch or perceive that led you to base such an ambitious vision of yours in extra planetary territory?
Space in particular felt like a good place to explore the other component I mentioned in that Public interview- the need to make something one could lose consciousness too. There aren’t that many ways to die slowly over the course of an hour that aren’t just gruesome or horrifying; this method of dying, though, lent itself to that really well to that set of needs, especially because it’s kind of beautiful, you have a lot of ways to make peace with it.
8. And so in abidance by that vision, not an earth-based musical instrument is to be heard throughout the course of the album – Synthesizer reverberations and digital tones emulate what it would supposedly feel like to pass by celestial bodies trapped within the confines of a beeping spacesuit.
Where did this understanding and recreation of extra planetary vibes come from? Did it involve extensive reading and study, or was it all created on an artistic whim?
More artistic whim, although keep in mind, with a degree in music composition and a lot of classical music already to my name, one could argue I’ve just front-loaded the studying and reading. You learn a lot in university about how to represent abstract ideas musically. It’s like all the entire classical era has going for it, since expressing ideas lyrically outside of O Jesu or the occasional My Lady Art So Fair was pretty taboo.
9. Ha! While we are on the subject of the album’s composition – All of ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’s protagonist’s narrations are but messages they convey to a significant other through the void, yes?
Our Creative Head of indie game projects, Salman Iza wonders why you would choose that conveyance of messages to someone else as the basis of the album’s narrative aspect.
These passages were co-written with the help of the remarkable Natasha Lewis Harrington, and all I can say about it is that we both brought a lot to the table in terms of what a person might realistically feel in these circumstances (after panic passed, anyway).
10. And if we might be so bold to ask – is that narrative and the Astronaut’s struggle a reflection of experiences past perhaps?
I respect that you’re asking this question, but this is one of those places where it ruins all the fun if I tell you 🙂
11. Fair enough! Now as we draw towards closure on the subject of its composition – how did you go about finalizing what the 10 tracks of the album would be about, before their synthesis and recording?
What did their synthesis and recording sessions entail – Did you have a tune in mind to begin with or was it all impromptu?
This might be the first album I ever wrote where not a single song had a predetermined tune in my head before I started. Most tracks, I started by thinking about the restriction I was going to be worth it, and working from there. I don’t want to say particularly what the genesis point for each track was, but for a few of them, I’ve explained it already- Tides, for instance, I talked about that one in an update and why it sounds the way it sounds.
Absolute Zero, too, everything in Absolute Zero is the way it is for a reason, but it isn’t because I sat down with a tune in mind; I sat down with a list of things I wasn’t allowed to do and then asked myself “how am I possibly going to accomplish this goal, when I can’t do any of X. Y, and Z?” and then solve it like a puzzle from there.
12. They do say one can only trace the dots by looking back, yes? I think only when those reading this actually get a chance to sail through the entire album in one go, will they truly appreciate how that puzzle was solved.
Now, I in particular, am a fan of how backers that contributed towards a personal copy gain full rights over it under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. I’ve also noticed how a few indie game developers have even proposed using ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ in their own creations – Once the canonical copies are released, what do you envision for their usage in other artistic media? Do you think it would hamper the magic of your own creation or boost that of others in any way?
I am not prepared yet to speculate on where all this leads. In a Zen kinda way, I find that the more I expect a certain course of events from the future, the less I appreciate what I get, so I’d rather not make predictions about where the canon copies lead. I definitely am not worried about anything diminishing the magic of any other copy, though.
13. One of the teams of indie developers that exist within our community – SpaceVR – are working on sending a 3D 360 degree camera to the Cupola module of the International Space Station, capture footage of various extra planetary phenomena and make that footage available to Virtual Reality and Google Cardboard enabled devices. I can’t help but imagine the possibilities a pairing up of Virtual Reality space footage and ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ could lead.
Yeah, I have had a few backers mention their interest in syncing other things to this music and all can say is I am very excited about the possibilities.
14. All said and done Bill, when can we expect it to see the album on the Internet marketplace? I am aware that personal and canonical copies will be going out come November.
Probably about ten days after the backers get them. I want there to be a nice little period where the backers are enjoying something nice that nobody else is getting to hear yet, you know? But waiting that much longer is starting to ask for a leak or a torrent, and I do want to sell the canon copies, so I’ve got to put them up for sale not too long after or I can’t sell them.
15. Sooner the better for us too. Lastly, I know it’s a bit absurd to ask at this point of time but what are your plans as a musician besides rendering the 300+ albums and the podcast over the remainder of the year? Also, do you have anything else shaping up in your mind for after Music To Die Alone In Space To is launched next year?
Based on the success of Music To Die Alone In Space To, it’s unlikely that this adventure in handmade, unique music ends here, although I’ll probably want quite the refractory period after these 300 albums. I also wouldn’t mind a conventional album before then, either. It’ll have been three years since Lies Synthpop Told Me at that point, and I really do have a lot to say. Since that album, I got sober, got married, and “got kind”, I mean I changed a lot of things.
LSPTM was written to be a lot of my bitterness’s and depression’s last hurrah of sorts, I mean it’s the album that really turns on all the self-loathing and self-destructiveness that “Factor Friction” and “Laura By Spruke” and “Let’s Throw A Party” just bathed in, in so many ways. That album was about turning away from all that and looking forward, but it ends on a note that lacks confidence- with “All My Dreams Are Nightmares” you don’t really get to know if maybe things do get better, if a person really can be happy- but I really want to come back and make an album that’s a lot gentler, checks back in with me, like, “hey I want to write some songs about maybe not everything is not terrible not all of the time”. You know?
Anyway, so that’s what’s up for me as a songwriter. As far as Bump In The Night goes, I just got to stick with it. I think it’s enough of a habit at this point that I don’t think it’s going to change much if at all. I’ve got to put my creative energies into Music To Die Alone In Space To, so I would expect Bump to kind of stay business as usual for a little while. I’m going to keep up with it, same commitment to a fresh hour of no repeats music every week, but I don’t think it’s fair for me to innovate on it or give it any makeovers before these albums are in my backers’ hands.
16. Godspeed Bill, it’s been an absolute pleasure. This might very well be the last time we hear from you for quite a while now and so in parting, is there anything would like to send out to the hundreds of indie gamers and artists we reach out to daily?
Thanks for having me! Hmm. I have a ton to say to indie artists, I don’t know how to limit it to one thing. I guess I would tell them that enthusiasm is everything. Make sure you believe in what you’re doing, because everybody can tell. Looking back on this project, I think enthusiasm was my greatest asset… and with 3,720 tracks to export ahead of me, I think it will continue to be… or at least it had better be 🙂
In the days over which the interview took place, Bill initiated a massive poll from the 28th of September that served to provide his benefactors with the ability to vote for their choice of desired gender + language + combination which would in turn guide him in hiring respective voice actors for the album. The poll has resulted in an already stupendous roster (Mikey Neumann from Borderlands, Laura Bailey of StreetFighter & DragonBallZ, Brina Palencia from The Walking Dead ) being filled with the likes of Chris Sabat ( Vegeta and Piccolo in DragonBallZ), Laura Shigihara (Composer of Plants Vs Zombies) and more.
And that’s without taking into account the fascinating ensemble of illustrators and designers he’s managed to put together for the additional six cover arts that will go into the album. Here’s a recent piece by Chris ‘Rally’ Benimati, photographer and illustrator behind the popular Japanese Web Manga – Vultures.
Fascinating isn’t it? Oh and yes, while the album we listened to had ten tracks in total – Bill has since then gone onto add two more tracks, the themes for which were decided by his loyal supporters. For now, he’s back within his studio – creating track after track, each with unique flavor and passion as if they’re his first. Higher Eclectic Ground meanwhile, will continue working with him, following his progress from the sidelines , bringing you anything and everything worth knowing on this or any other musical journey he might have planned in the days ahead.
He is after all, our indie community’s pride. To catch samples of previous tracks, learn of his journey so far and even stay tuned to his future – stop by his Higher Eclectic Space only on the Ground.