An Interview with the Creators of “Improvised Explosive Denied”

I saw faces growing inside faces, trees becoming people, landscapes melting like ice cream, and bodies turning into fruit. Even if this was just the effect of artificial intelligence and not drugs, it was still a head trip. I was watching a surreal video experiment—the brainchild of data scientist Ryan Cranfill—that used machine learning to produce a series of animated, Impressionist-style paintings that twitched, glitched and morphed to music.

Months before this I had written, “Improvised Explosive Denied,” (IED) a song inspired by a tangle of emotions spurred by relentless headlines of injustice and a mental health crisis. My world was being challenged and turned upside down and expressing weariness and confusion through music was my way to get through it. Unexpectedly this song led to another, then another and another. …

How playing other people’s songs can get you through tough times

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Artwork for single “Unmade” by R.M. Hendrix

What’s your favorite cover song? You know, a remake? Sometimes they are really bad, but maybe so bad that they’re good? Think: William Shatner singing “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” or Pat Boone singing “Enter Sandman.” And sometimes, when they are really good, they transcend the original.

The first great cover I remember is “I Love Rock and Roll,” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I loved that song and had no idea it was originally recorded by The Arrows in 1975. Her overdriven guitars brought out the raw desire of the lyrics and she flipped the gender role of the protagonist to boot. …

In the electronic era everything can become music, even whales and rocks

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Landeyjahöfn by R.M.Hendrix

Iceland and Icelandic musicians have had a deep influence on my own music, beginning with Sigur Rós in 2000 when I first heard their otherworldly album, Ágætis Byrjun, translated to English as, “A Good Beginning”. It had an an ethereal and grandiose quality that I would later understand as a reflection of the landscape of the island itself.

Iceland’s countryside is a teenage Earth. It’s unsure, curious and filled with potential. It is dynamic, unpredictable, and still in transition. That is its beauty. What you see today will not be the same tomorrow. It is filled with mystery. …

About the songs that influenced R.M.Hendrix’s War Is On Its Way

The author, R.M. Hendrix, posing as a passed out drunk, but instead of a bottle of whiskey, he’s holding a synthesizer
The author, R.M. Hendrix, posing as a passed out drunk, but instead of a bottle of whiskey, he’s holding a synthesizer
R.M.Hendrix under the influence by Solomon

During Wilco’s tongue-in-cheek song, “Late Greats,” Jeff Tweedy sings about the best song you’ve never heard: “You can’t hear it on the radio / Can’t hear it anywhere you go!” It’s familiar social currency to any pop culture nerd, the more obscure the band or song, the more important they are in the canon. Remember Rob and Barry bickering at Championship Vinyl in the film High Fidelity? This is essential music nerd behavior.

James Murphy, of LCD Soundsystem, one-ups the joke in his sarcastic “Losing my Edge,” claiming a string of bragging rights, from being at Can’s first show in Cologne (before he was born) to being at the rehearsal sessions with electro pop pioneers, Suicide (when he was four). “I was there in 1974 at the first Suicide practices in a loft in New York City. I was working on the organ sounds with much patience,” he sing talks over the beat before rattling off a litany of influencer records every collector claims to have on their shelves. …

How an absurd moment led to the artwork for War Is On Its Way

In 2015 I gave a crash course in record sleeve design to musicians in the SXSW artist lounge. Cheekily named, “I Shot the Serif,” the talk covered the basics of typography, image, metaphor and meaning with musicians in mind. I had seen a rise in DIY artwork coinciding with the rise of DIY recording. Some of it was cool but a lot of it was just… bad. This was a shame because great music was getting packaged in ugly wrappers. …

My new ep, War Is On Its Way, dropped 09/09/2020. I shared about each song through the lens of current events throughout release week.

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R.M.Hendrix, by Solomon

For a long time I wanted to write a song about actuaries, those statisticians that calculate your life expectancy for insurance agencies. I imagined the job could go one of two ways: a) making someone extremely mindful and careful about what they eat, where they go, where they live, or b) making them a gothic metaphysicist—someone that ponders the meaning of life while humming Joy Division. Of course I would write about option B.

As I’ve explained before, songs reveal themselves and then I decide how to shape them. In thinking about actuaries I began thinking about math and how amusing it would be to write a song that used the language of arithmetic throughout. This all seemed about as anti-rock as I could get so even more worthy of…

My new ep, War Is On Its Way, dropped on 09/09/2020. I’m sharing about each song through the lens of current events throughout the week.

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Conceptual artist Jenny Holzer created a series of graphic T-shirts in the early 1980’s that have become memes with staying power. One of the most famous, “Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise,” is a cultural maxim, even finding life as a motto of the #MeToo movement. But as familiar as this phrase has become, we are regularly caught off guard when the abuse actually happens.

Last week the German government confirmed that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent. Poisoning has become a well known assassination method of the KGB. Essentially, those who speak against the standing government get hit-listed. You could call this terrible practice a “tradition” that goes back to the Soviet’s “Special Office” founded in 1921 to create poisons which were undetectable postmortem. …

My new ep, War Is On Its Way, drops 09/09/2020. I’ll be sharing about each song through the lens of current events throughout the week.

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R.M.Hendrix, by Solomon

Would you call an album of modular synths, tape delays, and guitar stabs a blues album? Probably not, but the blues are here: in the lamentations, in the melodies, and in the grit. They are so deeply ingrained that I didn’t realize what this record was becoming until it was nearly done.

The first song, Secret Weapon, began with three sparse guitar strums that filled the void. After a beat, three strums replied—text book call and response. My initial inspiration wasn’t a blues song, rather it was a song named, “Rutti” from Slowdive’s 1995 post-shoegaze album, Pygmalion. I often admired the loneliness and patience of this song and wanted to do something similar because the feeling I got from the music matched the feelings of my…

My new ep, War Is On Its Way, dropped 09/09/2020. I shared about each song through the lens of current events throughout the week.

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R.M.Hendrix, by Solomon

“You should probably get a flight home,” read the text. It was 7pm in London and too late for a last minute return flight to Boston. I was going to have to sleep with this. It had been a difficult year — remember how many people were done with 2019? We thought it couldn’t get worse. And then this message. Someone back home that I loved dearly hit rock bottom and needed to be hospitalized. I hadn’t seen it coming. I should say, I had seen something, but didn’t expect it to lead to this. Back in my hotel I tried to keep the weight off my chest. It was in the center, like an accusing finger on my sternum. …

My new ep, War Is On Its Way, drops on 09/09/2020. I’ll be sharing about each song through the lens of current events throughout the next week.

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R.M.Hendrix, by Solomon

Soft targets is a deceptive term. It brings to mind plush toys, dart boards, or piles of Autumn leaves. But “soft targets” is a military term for people like you and me—unprotected civilian interests targeted by terrorists. Leave it to the generals to make something so macabre sound so… cute.

Soft targets are our friends and cousins who become casualties of improvised bombs like the ones used on Boylston Street during the 2013 Boston Marathon, or at the wedding hall in Kabul last year when 63 merrymakers were killed. The murderers really don’t care who dies. They certainly don’t care that people are out supporting their loved ones, pursuing a dream or celebrating one of life’s biggest moments. They care about the message they send (whatever confusing message that might be) and then capitalizing on that confusion to gain more power. …

About

r. michael hendrix

Boston experimental musician @rm_hendrix, Lecturer @BerkleeCollege, Designer @IDEO, Writing a book about design & music for @public_affairs. Views are my own.

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