With his self-titled debut album, Blunt Blade makes a mark for himself as an innovative songwriter and brilliant musician. Hailing from southern Minnesota, Aaron Jonn Ruppert aka Blunt Blade learned the piano, guitar, and drums in his childhood and teenage. Owing to his talent at a young age he attended college on vocal and guitar scholarships. The music of Blunt Blade combines elements of progressive rock with dance, disco, electronic, indie, hard rock, and classical music. He combines these genres with his baritone voice to create an original and distinctive sound. Blunt Blade has a plethora of truly diverse influences including Frank Zappa, Radiohead, Miles Davis, Tame Impala, Talking Heads, Iron Maiden, Soundgarden, Tool, and Dream Theater. With his stunning musicianship and background, it’s no surprise that we get a stunning record from him.
Blunt Blade begins with the track Tension. This is a retro electronic rock song with a walking bassline. It has a groovy and hypnotic feel. With a voice like David Bowie and stern delivery we get a glimpse into the innovative era of retro rock with electronic experimentation. We get a Porcupine Tree feel as the song progresses. Vocal harmonies and the use of the church organ add to this dazzling tune. Setting a great start for the album. This is followed by The Build. A kick drum that sounds like collapsing sense of calamity and an incessant rhythm. Riffing away with an engaging bassline and hi-hats propel the song forward. The harmonies change according to the tone of the song. Chord changes and vocal harmonies going with them are heavenly.
The third song is Coarse Reaction which features the Hammond organ and mostly closed hi-hats and kick drum beat. Firmly entrenched in its groove and stunning arrangement. A tight song with a melancholic feel and great chord changes, and a catchy bassline. Light Meadows takes the bass riff from the previous song, Coarse Reaction, to turn it into a synth riff. This is a slow song with great harmonies revolving around the synth riff hook. Disarmed is a techno 80s song with that classic sound with modern drums. A fast-paced number, the drama picks up in this catchy rock song.
Outsider begins with a click track and an engaging beat. This song has a certain Jazz House feel with guitars incorporated. The electronic production on this song is out of this world. The Sad Clown has a haunting piano riff with guitars and drums progressing the song to the next level. A sad song with beautiful harmonies, Trapped, is a song which will make a mark on your mind. We get some polyrhythmic riff treats with the song Destructive Intent. Just at one and a half minutes with a spoke work verse, this song acts as a great bridge. The album concludes with the now signature harmonies of Blunt Blade on the songs Struggling Skies and The End.
Blunt Blade is an aural vortex with a plethora of firm musicianship and musical innovation. It is a sophisticated and elaborate fusion of genres. The highlight of this record are the stunning vocal harmonies and chord progressions. This is combined with diversity in tones in the production. Blunt Blade is unquestionably an adventurous musical experience. Aaron’s signature baritone vocals with his signature harmonies keep you glued and waiting for what’s next. This is a record everyone from Frank Zappa to John Petrucci to Thom Yorke and the common listener would enjoy.
We get to speak to Blunt Blade about the album.
1. We get to hear some eclectic instruments on the record including Hammond and church organs. What instruments are you using and what was the album recording process like? For example, the crazy electronic production on Outsider, are you using analog synths or is it software based plugins?
I really enjoy discovering electronic sounds that fit within the feel of a current piece I’m working on. I just love molding them into shape to fit what sounds right to me. While I’d love to use more analog synths, most are software based. Admittedly this is solely due to budgetary constraints on the first record.
2. Something which is pervasive on this record is the stunning vocal harmonies. Where are they rooted in your musical DNA? Do you fit them into the song or do you come up with them first?
Beyond post writing alterations based on an occasional decisions to change a direction in a song, or the seemingly endless modifications to small areas once a song is mostly completed, the vocal harmonies are typically the last major portion that I write for a song. For me, much of what gets written is simply what sounds right to me. Like the melody line, I write harmony lines initially as single notes played on a piano and recorded into each piece. I then play those back to listen to make sure everything lines up and sounds cohesive. I often write a harmony line thinking it’s good, but after listening to the playback, certain portions don’t hit my ear right. For example, I may have the root and the fifth as melody and harmony at any given point in a song, but the notes that precede or succeed those don’t flow as well as they could within the phrase. In some cases, what is initially written creates musical conflict or semi-dissonance with other instrumentation within the song. So it all has to fit together well or I make alterations accordingly.
3. The chord changes and harmonies feel of the album is heavenly. What is your songwriting process like?
I usually begin with the main hook and write accompanying chord changes. Then I’ll go to the bassline, followed by building the other instrumentation around that. Next I’ll do the drums/percussion. Then I’ll move to the chorus using a similar process, followed by the bridge (if it feels like it needs one) and, in a few cases, a musical interlude. Once that is written I’ll concentrate on the melody line, followed by the lyrics to fit the feel and the rhythm of the melody line while maintaining the feel of the overall album. Finally I’ll write the harmony line or lines as it relates to everything else.
4. Can you please tell us more about your interesting logo?
I really wanted it to be a simple design, yet somewhat unique, original, and memorable. I’ve always been fascinated by symmetry expressed in shapes, angles, geometric design, etc. For developing this logo, I came up with roughly 12 different options in an excel spreadsheet. From there I narrowed it down to the rough final logo after receiving feedback from some close family and friends. I then hired a friend to do the design work which included a few tweaks/accents to the logo.
5. Could you please tell us about the thematic arc and concept of the album?
I would categorize the album as semi-conceptual, at least in my understanding of the term. There are reoccurring themes such as searching for kindness and empathy while struggling with loss coupled with the hunger for hope and garnering the strength to overcome. It’s a journey through a gamut of emotional struggles until acceptance and healing are finally reached.
Tension kicks off the album with what would be coming to terms with a deteriorating situation. The Build deals with disillusionment and the realization that some are not who they portray themselves to be. Coarse Reaction is rejection in the face of a strong desire for resolution. Light Meadows talks of isolation and how it can be overcome with the support of those around us. Disarmed is about the exhaustion that often accompanies long and drawn out struggles. Outsider is very much what its name implies, the perception of no longer fitting in, but more so as the assumed perceptions of others. The Sad Clown points out the dangers and damage that can result from a lack of humility and objective introspection. Trapped illustrates the crushing nature of the loss of hope, while offering a path to overcome. Destructive Intent is a full and exhausted surrender to resentment. Struggling Skies is centered around resilience and calm during times of extended challenges. The End comes to the realization that things can no longer carry on as they once had, and that there is hope and healing in moving on.
6. When we move from Coarse Reaction to Light Meadows, the bass riff/motif is moved to synths, if I’m not mistaken. How do you link your lyrical themes with the instrumental/musical flow of the record and maintain conceptual continuity?
I feel that the lyrical themes need to be faithful to each individual song as well as the overall concept or theme of the album. This can be challenging because there is often a tendency to write lyrics solely within the captive confines of each song. I believe it’s important to have at least a rough idea of the direction I’d like to go, even if that doesn’t appear until after I’ve written a couple of tunes and become aware of how my emotions and ideas manifest in musical and lyrical form. From there I like ideas that develop naturally, almost organically, as the writing progresses.
7. We know you’re influenced by the likes of Frank Zappa, Miles Davis. Could you please tell us more about your musical upbringing?
At a very young age (3 or 4), I became aware of the abundance of feelings of excitement and contentment that engulfed me whenever I listened to a piece of music that really spoke to me. I became a bit obsessed with a gluttonous desire to consume as much music as I could get my ears on. Early sources were mostly from pop music. It soon moved to bands such as Guns ‘n’ Roses, Metallica, Pantera, Tool, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, pretty much every classic rock band I could find, Yes, Rush, Dream Theater, Dr. Dre, Beck, 311, Incubus, Tool, Linkin Park, NIN, Radiohead, Reel Big Fish, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish, Cake, Tame Impala, Metric, Blond Redhead, Flaming Lips, Japanese Breakfast, Khruangbin, Mitski…just to name a few. In reality I could list hundreds of bands/artists that I’ve been into and still love. My mother recognized this capacity and aptitude for music and wisely encouraged this development by enrolling me in piano lessons at age 7. By high school I was involved in all available music classes/activities and also playing guitar, drums and bass.
My desire for music has only grown since, admittedly becoming a bit of what I’d characterize as a healthy addiction. There are very few moments of any given day where I’m not consuming music in some form.