There’s a contradiction at the heart of black metal. Despite possessing a core ideological tenant that espouses individuality, outsider-mentality and transgression, there are countless acts who stick vehemently to the blasts, shrieks and atmospherics formula that the genre is so well-known for. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it can ring a little hollow when musicians vigorously talk up their determination to be unique and distinctive but then create music that sounds identical to literally thousands of others.
None of which is to say that every act has to be a boundary-busting innovator. There are great black metal bands out there who just do the fundamentals well, in service of excellent, genre-conscious entertainment. Just this year we’ve seen top-class releases of this kind from Spectral Wound, Wode and Paysage d’Hiver. However, there are also some who do little except ape the genre’s past, regurgitating aesthetic memories, leaching from history. This is a problem throughout the wider metal sphere, and in a contemporary cultural landscape that’s crippled by nostalgia, metal needs to do better.
Enter Blue Bedroom Records. Not content with re-treading the footsteps of black metal gone by, the label, based in Madison, Wisconsin, abstracts and obfuscates the genre’s trademark qualities in service of an aesthetic that is bold, unique and original. The projects they release (many of which are affiliated with label founder Cameron Davis) feature layers of ambience, electronic embellishments, guitar drones and, in the case of their forthcoming Devour Every Star release – murky trip-hop atmospherics. There’s riffs and savagery, but these are always underscored by a dense, viscous glaze of textures and effects. It conjures up a dreamlike, frequently surreal vision of the potential future of metal.
We spoke to Blue Bedroom Records founder Cameron Davis to find out more about their label and its singular brand of heavy music.
Before we talk about the label, can you first introduce yourself?
My name is Cameron Davis. I’m a 31-year-old transgender woman who’s been writing music since 2008. I didn’t really have an interest in music until my friends in high school started a band together. As the odd-one-out, I picked up a guitar to join in on the fun. Shortly after this, I found out about black metal and have been hyper fixated on the genre ever since. I’ve played in a ton of bands over the years. Some are good. Some are questionable. There’s not too much to say beyond that. Music has definitely kept me going.
When did Blue Bedroom Records first become a thing?
If I remember correctly, BBR started at the tail end of 2014 with the release of Cicada the Burrower’s The Oasis and blue bedroom. I got the name for the label from a poem by Charles Bukowski. I have a thing for alliteration and blue is my favorite colour so it was a perfect fit. I was in a lot of different bands at the time and wanted to have one place where I could put all that music. Starting a record label seemed like a solid solution at the time.
What do you think first ignited your interest in the more experimental side of heavy music?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted people to understand me. That desire has definitely been the driving force behind all my experimentation. I’ve found that the more experimental shades of extreme metal do a better job of conveying my feelings and experiences than other kinds of music. If I had to pick an album that started my progressive streak though it’d probably be Enslaved’s Isa. That record really exposed me to some musical possibilities. It helped me think more outside the box.
Can you introduce us to the corner of the world that you’re based in?
For sure! I’ve lived in Madison, WI, USA since 2000. The winters here are cruel and the summers are loud with construction work. While a lot of people live here, it’s really easy to feel alone and isolated. Most of the time, interactions are met with a degree of passive aggression or simple platitudes with no meaningful follow-through. It’s certainly not all bad though. I’ve found an oasis in cooperative living. There’s honest kindness in my home, though the prevailing culture of this city is less than perfect.
Do you feel like living there has had any impact on the music you release?
Definitely. There’s something about the fall and winter here that strikes me with creativity. I can’t say why exactly, but I always wind up writing something around this time of the year.
How do you choose the bands to work with at Blue Bedroom?
90% of the music that I have released on Blue Bedroom has me involved in the songwriting to some extent. I used to release music by my friends as well way back when I first started the label, but now I just want to spend my time focusing on the music I create. It’s way more fulfilling, I’ve found.
Which projects that you’ve released on the label are ones that you’re involved in?
Cicada the Burrower, Devour Every Star, The Fire Sermon, Weightless, Corpser, It’s All You Cowboy, Voidwalker, mmhmm and Hallowed Hands. Cicada the Burrower is definitely my primary project though. Out of all the bands and one-offs I’ve done, that one is the most like a diary to me.
Do you feel like a musician first, a label owner first, or neither?
When I first started BBR, I definitely felt like a musician first. But ever since Corpseflower, I’ve been feeling more like an even-keeled hybrid.
You say you specialise in both “depressive and uplifting metal”. Your releases often blend these two emotions. Is this intentional?
Absolutely! I really want the music I make to reflect the emotional complexities that we often face in life. I feel like if I can do that, I might be able to get closer to a near-perfect kind of self-expression. Something that sounds honest and naked.
Outside of music, what else has influenced Blue Bedroom’s aesthetic?
Lots of loosely connected things. Religious iconography, literature by people like Bukowski and Burroughs, as well as surrealist and impressionist art. Surrealism is probably one of my favourite art periods. Unica Zürn, a surrealist artist and author, has had a major impact on my lyrical approach especially.
What would you say is your personal favourite release on Blue Bedroom?
That’s hard to answer, though as of right now it’s kind of a two way tie between Cicada the Burrower’s Corpseflower and Devour Every Star’s Antiquity. Both of those records mean a lot to me on a personal level. I spent half a decade just practicing so I could write them. None of the other music I’ve worked on up to this point necessitated that much prep time and both records helped me work through some intense personal trauma.
Going forward, what new directions would you like to take the label in?
I’ve got three more full-lengths set to release over the next year or two. Once the dust has settled, I’d like to do more with R&B and soul. I see a lot of potential in mixing those styles of music with black metal.
Words: Tom Morgan