INTERVIEW & ART:CAST #147 Boulderhead

With a good few releases under his belt on labels such as Gene On Earth’s The Sound Of Limo, Gestalt Records, The Sound Of Steam or Craigie Knowes Bristol-based artist Boulderhead has built quite a formidable discography since 2020 and if pressing plants weren’t as busy as they are, the Welsh would have even more music of himself out there. Aside from releasing own music Henry James, Boulderhead’s real name, runs his own label Mint Tea, on which he’s been putting out VAs only so far, also including music from himself under his real name. However, since the label is a passion project according to Henry it does not follow a regular releasing schedule but now seems to be back with an EP and maybe more. In an interview with Torture the Artist Boulderhead speaks about the success of his latest release, the future of the label, how he likes his tea served and more. Additionally he’s mixed and compiled the latest edition of the art:cast series and it’s a deep-treat.

Torture the Artist: Hello Henry, tell us something about your day.

Boulderhead: I’ve just got back from doing a set in Manchester! Met some lovely people there, then I spent my afternoon drilling holes in some wood for my van and playing board games with friends!

Torture the Artist: First things first, how did you come up with your artist moniker Boulderhead, is it a hint to your character or a special interested?

Boulderhead: I have a brother who I’m lucky enough to also be really good friends with now, but when we were kids we were abit ‘nastier’ to each other. He used to call my “boulderhead“ implying I had a massive head! Fast forward a decade plus some years and I tell my friends this and they say ‘you should make that your DJ name’ so I did! 

Torture the Artist: If we are informed correctly, you are originally from Wales but now live in Bristol. What made you leave your home country in the first place and secondly what made you move to Bristol? Wa sit the deep rootedness of the city with electronic music?

Boulderhead: I am indeed from South Wales, I left for education studying creative music technology at Bath Spa, Bristol is only a short train ride away from Bath so whilst at university I spent a lot of time going out in Bristol, once I was done it seemed like a no brainer to move there, it has a lovely blend of characteristics that make it a great place to live. 

Torture the Artist: Before we speak about your music, where and when did you get in touch with electronic music and what made you become an active part of it?

Boulderhead: Music has always been a fairly large part of my life, my family often had music playing and encouraged me and my brother to learn an instrument so I chose piano. Fast forward a few years and I joined a band where I met some amazing people, one of the band members used to head down to Cardiff a lot to go out to nights so once I’d been exposed to that and the lovely crew of people that used to go out it completely pivoted my life and I became obsessed with making dance music.

Torture the Artist: What was your entry-track, meaning one of the first electronic music tracks you listened and where just blown away? Also where did you hear it?

Boulderhead: I can’t really answer this exactly, but I used to listen to loads of ‘dubstep’ or brostep as it probably should be called.

Torture the Artist: Let’s speak about your music: You just released your Bread, Butter, Noodles, Spice EP on Gene On Earth’s The Sound Of Limo-label. Were those groceries your preferred food when you produced the four tracker or how did you come up with the EP title?

Boulderhead: <laughs> The whole thing was spontaneous. I had been working towards an EP for Gene sending tunes back and forth for a while. Bread butter was one of those tunes I made in a few hours, it just made itself but it felt like something was missing. My partner Lucy was in the room and I thought to myself, some random words would be great on this. So I set up the microphone quickly and then asked her to just say random words whilst the song was playing. We did a handful of takes and that was it.

I’m not sure I’d put those things together! But I would buy them from the shop.

Torture the Artist: The question remains – mixing bread, butter, noodles and spice together does not sound too gourmet-esque, the track though is very delicious. Is this your way of making people try new things which they cannot imagine to be tasty in the first place or did you surprise yourself a bit too?

Boulderhead: I’m not sure I’d put those things together! But I would buy them from the shop. <grins>

Torture the Artist: Speaking of surprises, were you surprised by the feedback the EP has got so far?

Boulderhead: Yes, very! I’m so very grateful to see people dancing to it, that’s why I make music!

Torture the Artist: We all have tracks that hit a little bit closer to us than another because of several reasons. What’s your personal favorite on the EP, and why?

Boulderhead: My favorite track on the EP is probably either Ultra or Moonstone Energy System, just because I feel these better align with what I like playing out in the clurrrrb.

One thing you need to be if you’re releasing music with labels is cautious.

Torture the Artist: You’ve released music under your Boulderhead-moniker since 2019 and have quite an impressive discography, especially when looking at the labels you have released your music with: Gestalt, Craigie Knowes, SITU and now The Sound Of Limo. However, producing-wise you have been abstinent for a moment, as the releases before date back 2021. What have you done in-between the releases and do you prefer a low-key output?

Boulderhead: I would like to be releasing all the time! Pressing delays and mix ups with labels have set me back a few times, one thing you need to be if you’re releasing music with labels is cautious. I’d say a good 50% of labels I begin working with don’t follow through on a release. I don’t get my hopes up until I get a copy of the record. Plus I make music as a side hustle in my spare time, when I’m on a good run I average about a track every week / fortnight so I’ve got a lot of demos sitting waiting to be released!

Torture the Artist: You also run Mint Tea, and which you lastly released in 2019. The last release of the label was in 2021. Now it seems the label is back with an EP from Otodojo, including a remix from you. Is Mint Tea now also back for good and can we expect more music to be released on it in 2023?

Boulderhead: Mint Tea is a passion project and has no strict timelines or release schedules, I work with people whose music I love and like to listen to! I don’t have any plans for 2023, but I’m feeling the itch to release another VA, so expect something in the next year for sure! 

Torture the Artist: If you are asked for your favorite beverage… how do you like your mint tea served and why did you name your label after it?

Boulderhead: I love peppermint mainly, but if going all out loose leaf in a teapot is great. I called the label Mint Tea after a discussion with some friends some years ago. I think we were drinking mint tea at a place and it just kind of seemed like a good name, it doesn’t really mean anything. 

Torture the Artist: Let’s shortly come back to you and your music on the label. How come you’ve never really seen it as a platform to releases an own EP or more music from you?

Boulderhead: I have included a few tracks from myself on VAs in the past, it was one way of jump starting my back catalogue, I couldn’t get anyone else to release my music so I thought, I’ll just release my own (this was back when I was under the alias James Henry). I do have plans to do a self release of Boulderhead stuff in the future on Mint Tea, but am waiting till the right tracks come together. 

Torture the Artist: As you have released your music with quite some quality labels, what’s the label you literally die for to have your music out on?

Boulderhead: I am very lucky to have released with the labels I have already! At the moment there are many labels I’d love to work with too many to list! 

It’s the amalgamation of all the music I’ve ever listened to combined with all the music making I’ve done.

Torture the Artist: Your music has influences from Minimal, House, Acid etc. but it always has this deep and melodic sometimes melo-note to it, where does this general vibe come from and why do you find beauty in it?

Boulderhead: I’m not sure where it comes from, I guess it’s the amalgamation of all the music I’ve ever listened to combined with all the music making I’ve done. I try not to think in terms of labels or styles and just start from scratch each project and follow what emerges. 

Torture the Artist: You are responsible for the latest art:cast (our mix series), when and where is your mix best listened to?

Boulderhead: It was a practice for a set so it’s quite pumpy, I guess it could be a good gym workout ha.

Torture the Artist: If you had the superpower of controlling machines, what would you do with it, and why?

Boulderhead: Superpower of controlling machines?! I feel like we already have this superpower, machines are typically made to have interfaces for humans. I’m controlling a machine right now as I type these words. My mobile gives me superhuman abilities, I can communicate with people on the other side of the planet and do complex math and find the best route to the beach as well as store copious amounts of data outside my brain.

Words by Holger Breuer

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