We spoke to the producer behind Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ and Grimes’ ‘Go’ about what feeds his never-ending creativity
Growing up frustrated and disillusioned by the small town culture in Kansas, Michael Diamond struggled to secure an exciting future for himself. Desperate to explore new opportunities which would allow for the self-actualisation of his wide-spanning talents, Diamond instinctively moved to the more open-minded, metropolitan city of Vancouver to party the hell out of his insecurities and experience the rite of passage that uni life might provide.
Technically gifted, he would obsessively immerse himself in computers for prolonged periods of time, designing virtual games and dropping sporadic Soundcloud instrumentals. Operating under his early moniker Blood Diamonds, he was soon discovered by award-winning independent imprint Transgressive Records and his complex, glitch-filled electronic soundscapes quickly spread into the playlists and headphones of the internet-at-large.
These days, Diamond has become one of the most sought-after songwriters and producers in the music industry. Renaming himself BloodPop, Diamond has helped redefine the EDM-smattered sound of Justin Bieber for his most recent album Purpose, collaborated with Grimes on “Go” and 2012 track “Phone Sex”, and was drafted in to work with Madonna on modernising her sound for thirteenth studio album Rebel Heart.
Despite this, BloodPop’s dreams remain far from achieved. A non-conformist idealist, his aversion to mainstream fame has allowed his musical persuasions to flourish, swimming freely against trend undercurrents. Exploring wonderfully distorted planes of sound and space, and working on a narrative which will provide a progressive manifesto to the world, BloodPop locks himself away in his studio, safe from the hedonistic influence of the LA music industry, deeply secretive of the productions he is refining. The only thing he will reveal is that he has a debut album around the corner and its aesthetic focuses upon his wish for the world to “smile”, to rise up against the counter-productive influence of online negativity.
We spoke to BloodPop about what inspires him to be creative and how he helped transform Justin Bieber from bratty pop idol to music sensation.
Can you hear your own musical evolution when you hear your old music compared to what you are doing now?
BloodPop: Weirdly enough, l can never hear myself in anything l do, but everyone else can. Out of a stack of a thousand songs and beats, people seem able to identify my work. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a few years old. People seem to be able to say, “Oh. You did that?” I have no idea how. l guess its similar to not knowing what your own voice sounds like until you hear it back.
Bieber’s recent transformation from pop villain to hero is a topic discussed often. Do you see yourself as an active participate in his musical evolution?
BloodPop: It was a bit of both. His track “What Do You Mean?” sounded a lot like my old music. My Mum and uncle called me and asked if that had been my work because the pallet and tempo were so similar. That organically set the tone, and then that way of constructing music just made sense. l went to the studio on the first day and wrote some chords, which he then sang over and that became the intro to the album. That snowballed into another half-formed song, and we would redraft some songs out of ideas that he had started.
I had created “Sorry” with these writers l really love, and it immediately felt like very relatable song. l would play it for friends, which is my best gauge for knowing if something is good or bad. Their reaction was unanimously positive, so l went into it very confidently like ‘this is the song’. I had to convincehis team, but it came together very quickly.
I’ve heard that the LA music industry can be both hedonistic and superficial. Is this an issue which has had an effect on you?
BloodPop: I have definitely experienced what you are talking about and since l have navigated away from that, l really try to keep it contained. l go to my studio every day and l don’t really talk to anyone other than my friends or artists l’m working with because of that. I don’t really even send music out in that scene because you don’t know where it will end up. l have had so many things released and people saying they did them, but that happens to everyone. I am really happy and lucky to be doing what l am doing. At a certain point, you are forced to accept people claiming your work for their own.
Your friend Grimes has spoken about how a lot of her early material, before Art Angels, was inspired by taking drugs. Has that been an inspiration behind your work also?
BloodPop: A lot of people do that, but l draw inspiration from reality. My friends, the love l have for them, and my girlfriend – that’s real. I draw from them, not anything synthetic. I used to go out a lot when I lived in Vancouver and that was inspiring to a point, but this feels much more real because l want to make songs that people connect to and if you’re not participating in the human experience, it’s harder to do that.
What qualities do you think allow for an artist to become popular, independent of the machine behind the face driving the sales?
BloodPop: I think it’s a combination of their voice and their person, otherwise they wouldn’t have the resources to do anything. The job of a team when you get to a high level of fame is colossal. The fact you are simultaneously reaching young kids and adults means you have to maintain that fairy tale and it’s hard to be a “real” person. I am not speaking first hand, but if you were under a magnifying glass I’d imagine it would change your personality a bit.
BloodPop: I think Little Simz will be a force to be reckoned with for sure. Her and Kendrick Lamar are my favourite rappers. I take her very seriously and l was honoured to work with her.
She kind of says everything l acknowledged (was wrong) about (my old moniker) ‘Blood Diamonds’. l know what a real problem that issue is – hence the name change. Maybe we can make this world a better place by drawing attention to (a problem) lyrically, but at a certain point it’s not really rational. It’s like when something bad happens and then immediately something trendy happens (because of it) but you aren’t actually helping, whether it be a bracelet or a sticker or a tweet.