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Conversing with Composer Fischer King

The EP of Fischer King is out today! It’s beautiful, thought-provoking, and urges one to confront the darkest parts of oneself in order to reach the most significant characteristics — in other words, the painful process of self-discovery is worth it. There is both beauty and darkness from the latest music from Brad Fischer of Fischer King.

Los Angeles based producer, composer, songwriter, and singer, Brad Fischer, creates pitch-black alternative pop, with influences that range from James Blake and Nine Inch Nails to Claude Debussy and Herbie Hancock. As a child, he forged an early love for tense, bombastic classical music before diving headfirst into the punk rock and hip hop scenes that surrounded him in Detroit. After moving to LA as a young adult, Fischer has spent years working behind the glass for a host of artists, producers, and directors, constantly absorbing inspiration and refining his sonic identity.

His self-titled EP will be his first time stepping into the light with a personal, singular artistic vision. King shares, “I combed through a mountain of half-finished ideas, pages of lyrical snippets, and after a few months of intense pre-production I landed on a core group of songs and a “textural signature” that felt as honest as it could be.” Sonically the EP has a streamlined palette, with regular appearances of simple drums, pitch-shifted guitars, cascading strings, and synths that feel like they might fall out of tune.

Leading single “Fault Lines” showcases beautifully muted tones and a grumbling bassline which acts as a juxtaposition to the scintillating synths. His music has been dubbed as “existential crisis pop”, with narratives concerning what one’s purpose might be, what in life holds actual value, and how one’s environment can affect those perceptions. This is particularly true with “Lost” – a track about losing your footing outside the context of a relationship. “Lost” features an amalgam of sounds that gradually build into a unique, cinematic release.

Gemma Magazine was thrilled to speak with Fischer regarding his debut release as well as his personal views on music, life, and the time we are currently living in.

How did you get started in music? Did someone introduce you to it or it was a natural interest?

My family is full of music fans so it was always around. I remember coming up with sort of silly things that I could beatbox when I was really young, but that was mostly just for me and my friend’s amusement.

Things started to take shape a little more when I started playing the violin. It was just something I had to do for school at the time, but it didn’t take long for me to create sort of… “picturing” music in my head in a more serious way. Somewhere around then, my old brother introduced me to an early version of FL Studio, and I started building a library of very, very poorly produced song ideas. It was just kind of a goofy side hobby, but hey, we all start somewhere.

How did you make the jump from classical to punk rock? Do you still enjoy classical?

So Rage Against the Machine was one of the first bands – music with lyrics, even – that I fell in love with. One of their albums just happened to be lying around after the family moved, and I just popped it in a CD player. I was hooked immediately. It pulled my focus towards music played by bands in a way that nothing had before.

Not long after, a kid I knew in school asked if I played the guitar, and I (hah) lied and said yes. I mean, it completely wasn’t a lie – I took a couple of lessons – but I was terrible. He ended up teaching me, and in the process, we formed a band. Driven by his influence, it started as a pop-punk outfit, but things got heavier and grimier the longer we played together. Before long, it was much more Dead Kennedys than Green Day.

And yes! I still enjoy the hell out of classical music (but I lean towards things written around the turn of the 20th century). Being a full-time composer also means I get to work in that arena often, which I love.

You are also a producer and composer. Did that help in creating your own music? Absolutely. When I started to get serious about music as a teenager, I didn’t want to rely on anyone else, so I was determined to teach myself everything: Recording, production, instruments, music theory, singing – everything I could. That process has been painful, but a decade and change later, I have a pretty sharpened and diverse skill set.

Please describe your music now, which is quite beautiful.

Thank you! I’m always worried about finding a balance between tones – beauty, darkness, aggression, tenderness – but it does seem to be working for some people!

I’ve been calling it “existential crisis pop,” and the more time passes, the more it fits. The songs are all about attempting to keep your bearings in a complicated world. Even though everything in the music is a bit dark, grimy, and askew, I feel like it’s tied up in a neat package. Almost like unfamiliar elements in familiar territory, you know?

The production’s full of a lot of my favorite hits: simple and aggressive electronic drums, bent metal, floor rumbling bass, synths, and textures that sound like they might break apart pitch-shifted guitars, and creaking strings. On much of the EP, my vocals are also super up-front and exposed, which I never did before this project. I attribute a lot of that to Billie Eilish’s album coming out while I was really in the weeds with this – it inspired me to be more confident with my voice.

 Did you have formal training while living in Detroit?

I took violin lessons for nearly ten years! But that fell by the wayside in favor of the guitar and drums when I went to school for audio engineering – think I’d had enough by then. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a violinist now, but I can make it work in a pinch. Or like on the EP, where it’s not a focus.

After so many years of working behind-the-scenes, how do you feel stepping into the spotlight? Are you excited about the release?

I am excited! Partially for it to finally be out there, and partly for it to just be done. I haven’t completed and released anything just for myself in years – woof; it has been an experience.

It’s wild putting yourself out there – like this is the most “me” it could be, and that’s a strange sensation. You second-guess it a lot. I thought about just… calling it off frequently. Even though I’m a bit of an extraverted person, to begin with, it still feels odd to be so deliberately drawing this kind of attention to myself.

What would you like the audience to take away from ur music in terms of themes or storytelling? Or you prefer to leave it up to their interpretation.

That even though it hurts, it’s worth confronting the darkest parts of yourself in service of becoming something more significant.

King’s music reflects life’s less glossy moments with addiction and deception (both of yourself and others) being major themes throughout the EP. The musician confides, “Anyone who’s familiar with the former knows it invariably breeds the latter, and unfortunately they’ve both touched my life to a considerable degree. I’ve lost friends, I’ve seen family struggle, and I myself have flirted with going down the wrong path.” (Brad Fischer)

What’s up next for Fischer King?

The world and the industry are pretty tumultuous now, so I’m just trying to do everything I can. I’ve already got more Fischer King music in progress, I just finished my first full-length film score, and have a couple more projects incoming. I’ve also been arranging the live versions of these songs – god only knows what form those will show up in, but I would love for it to be with a band in a venue as soon as possible!

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