Ambitious, that’s the least that we can qualify the project of Boy Apocalypse.
While releasing Coming Back, his first single, the producer is teasing a full cyberpunk anime dealing about artificial intelligence, war and the future of humanity.
Want to learn more about this project, check out the interview!
Headphones For Robots: Who or what is Boy Apocalypse?
Boy Apocalypse: Boy Apocalypse is both the name of my solo music project and the 3 part science fiction trilogy I have written. The music is essentially the soundtrack for the movie, and each album is thematically based around a film.
HFR: Where does the project come from? Music or anime?
BA: I really would say that the music came first, and that I knew I wanted to write songs about these concepts. Throughout most of the last 3 years, I had been feeling really overwhelmed about the state of the world, and my music reflected that. At some point, though, I realized that the entire project was going to be a major bummer, and that I wanted to tie it in with animation. I think anime has always been able to convey heavy themes in a medium that is engaging for children.
HFR: What is the pitch/thematic of the story you’re telling?
BA: Boy Apocalypse is the story of two children raised in captivity by the US government who are told they are going to save the world. They are given mechanical suits and computational integrations giving them superintelligence. The first book is about them coming to terms with the fact that their mission is actually not to save the world, but rather to extend the reach and influence of the state.
HFR: How did you approach writing the music for the story? Is it different than producing “standalone” music?
BA: I think the process of writing for character is really natural for me, actually! I started in musical theatre, where it is very common to write about other people. I find it really thrilling to filter current events through the lens of a child trying to understand the world – it challenges my own preconceptions.
It definitely is different than producing standalone music, though! I work a lot with session writers and musicians in LA, and there’s usually a completely different focus if you are writing for pitch, or for someone’s artist project that is grounded in their experience. Switching gears can be confusing.
HFR: What are your main influences for the project?
BA: I love David Bowie and Kate Bush – these are really the first major artists to build broad concept pieces around characters. I grew up loving pop punk, grunge and rock, and in college I dove headfirst into electronic music. As far as contemporary artists, I am really into Grandson and Grimes. If I had to choose a song that inspired me to do a concept piece, it’s probably “Kill V. Maim” by Grimes. Lastly, I have been writing music like this since 2017, but things really coalesced for me as I watched Billie Eilish rise. I never thought an artist doing this type of music could achieve that kind of popularity. It was really inspiring.
HFR: We imagine making a full-length anime is time-consuming. How do you handle that?
BA: By never sleeping! I write a lot on planes when I am captive and can’t do anything else. In the very beginning, I wrote a plot summary so that I could at least finish the songs. I am halfway through the manga for the first book and film, and I have already begun working with artists like Alfred Cabillon and Simon Falk to start bringing together the visuals. I’d like to start a Kickstarter to raise funds to make the manga, and then eventually work with a studio to put together the films.
HFR: What do you think about artificial intelligence, war and the future of humanity?
BA: I wrote Boy Apocalypse because I am troubled about the burden we put on children to solve the problems of the future. II went to UC Berkeley to study cognition and mass media, and I think that the overlap of those two areas is really interesting. Perhaps surprisingly, I am not someone who believes we are at the edge of an apocalyptic scenario brought on by AI; the idea of inventing a self-replicating, conscious mind seems unlikely. Holly Herndon said that AI is just “us, but at scale” and I firmly agree with that.
I do, though, worry constantly about the consequences of mass surveillance, data ownership and privacy in the modern age. I think the real questions about AI should revolve not around the possibility of creating new life, but that we should instead ask how rapidly developing technology can be used to create a permanent underclass of people who do not own their own data and cannot access augmented information.
I certainly believe that we need to act now to prevent climate catastrophe and to mitigate the loss that ultimately will be felt by the poorest people living in the most exposed habitats. I believe that drone warfare and cyberattacks are the preferred weapons of global combat, and we are about to enter into a new era of mass conflict dominated by these mediums. I am, fundamentally, a technologist who believes that we will invent our way out of the problems that we are facing, but I place a high priority on equity. I am equally concerned about alarmists who want to slam on the brakes of civilization and by tech CEOs who are pressing on the gas pedal without regard for the most vulnerable.
HFR: Will you play the tracks live?
BA: Absolutely! In fact, I have already begun playing shows.
HFR: Do you have other projects?
BA: Yes! I am working on an alternate artist project called Seraph with a New York based producer named Husks. Seraph is a more pointed and political statement about life here in the United States.
HFR: Last words?
BA: Thank you for being the first blog to fully cover my project! There is a lot to explain, and it means a lot to have press coverage to help convey to people what is at the center of my project.
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