With his face veiled behind fabric hair that looks like a cross between a tasseled matador hat and Cousin Itt, the enigmatic industrial producer Headless Horseman exudes macabre mystery. His music amplifies this effect through ominous techno soundscapes. On April 14 the elusive Horseman will release his latest EP 47009 on Berlin-based Techno DJ and producer Tommy Four Seven's label 47. The label will also kick off its new Numerology event series featuring Headless Horseman on April 28 in Berlin.
The EP encapsulates his sound, with knotty feedback and hypnotic synth lines that convey an effect both necromantic and playful. In advance of its release, the artist shared with THUMP the track "Bleeding Arrows," which you can listen to below. Its bass echoes rev up like an exhaust-spewing truck before it takes off at a gallop into the sonic underworld.
We chatted with the Horseman himself about the inspiration for "Bleeding Arrows," the development of his sound, and how his persona relates to his music. Have a listen to "Bleeding Arrows" below, snag 47009 via 47 on April 14, and get a rare glimpse into the man behind the veil in our interview. Hold on to your hats.
THUMP: Is it just us, or are those hoofbeats at the beginning and end of Bleeding Arrows? What went into the production of this track?
Headless Horseman: Well, I tried to sample my stallion but he got very nervous on first sight of the recorder. I asked nicely and did mention the feature on the record but he politely declined. In the end, I had to create the galloping by hand with help of the sampler which was more than welcome to lend a hoof.
As with most of the Headless compositions, this one also portrayed a piece of my day transformed into a personal soundtrack. I do remember feeling a bit low during the winter season and this spiraling synth line gave me a comforting feeling of timelessness. Tunnel vision on loop. In one way or another, giving into feeling a certain way whether joyous or disastrous has proven to be therapeutic for myself.
What is your vision for this EP? Does it have a message or a mood you're trying to impart on listeners?
This EP is solely about a journey through the creative mind without boundaries. I've always made a conscious effort to have variety on each record. It's often hard not to repeat yourself and continue the story from a previous release. In this case for 47, Tommy and I simply picked out what we thought would be a well rounded listening experience that by no means has to follow a typical techno format. It wasn't forced and I believe his choice created a well rounded harmonious listening experience.
How would you say your sound has developed from the beginning of your 2014 performances to 2015's EP to this release?
I'm getting more and more into sound design as with the early releases and feel that a story can be told with as much impact even without percussive elements. I've re-visited the album from 2015 on numerous occasions and have a clear vision for the next collection of works. I see the development more so from me growing as a person as opposed to solely in the audible sense. I tend to bite off more than I can chew but the true happiness for me lives inside having a challenge to push the sound further. This directly relates to the fact that there is so much time in between releases.
Sometimes there are 100 unfinished bits of tracks and not one of them reflect my current life situation. In this event it's "back to the drawing board". If it doesn't sit well with my current surroundings and feels awkward then it gets binned. There is no harm in being picky. Less is more.
There's obviously a lot of interest in your identity and mysterious persona. How would you describe the Headless Horseman?
It all started out as a conscious effort to transform my existence into another body and mind. I needed some way to inject my creativity into an another vessel as I was in a very bad place at the time in my life shortly before becoming Headless.
The Headless Horseman was a person who had a negative outlook on life. At this current time, this music has shone a never ending supply of bright light at the end of this once dark and narrow path of doom. The incredible people I've met on the road have given me a new sense of strength and courage and an enormous part of the darkness has been lifted.
On a side note, my stylist is getting frustrated with my haircut requests so perhaps a little trim is in order.
Have any masked performers influenced you? Or what are your other musical influences?
I often tend to listen to music rather than find out who is behind it. This is what the fun of mystery means to me.
I'm hugely influenced by Baroque music, death metal and post rock. I was classically trained in guitar when I was younger. Moved on to more metal music. After discovering techno in the 90s I can safely say the machines have been haunting me ever sense. Rephlex records was also a huge influence.
What's next for Headless Horseman?
I want to give back all of the positive energy I've received. Currently attempting to put all of what I've felt and experienced into a short film that portrays this character I've created symbolically. It'll be intertwined into the new A/V show which will be stage-ready at the end of summer.
I recently gave two lectures in Seoul and Tokyo. The topic was relative to ways to transform your life situations into new methods of opening the mind in the hopes of a new creative workflow. I was amazed at the response and feedback. I plan on doing more of these in the near future. I had little to no guidance when I started my early naive experiments and I hope that I can shed a bit of light on the minds of young producers by talking openly and honestly about the personal struggle of music making.