Rescued From The Fire: Hieroglyphic Being on Blade Runner

An ongoing series in which we ask artists what record they’d risk life and limb to save from a burning inferno

While you might think you know everything about Chicago house, Jamal Moss aka Hieroglyphic Being can show you a new perspective. His afro-futurist lineage relies on the teachings of Sun Ra and the history of his hometown of the Windy City to make elliptical orbiting beats that don’t quite fit the usual four-on-the-floor.

While his early 1990s production mentors were Adonis and Steve Poindexter, he has forged his own path as a house outsider, which takes in the experiments of Throbbing Gristle, Suicide and Coil, and is reflected in his label Mathematics and its sub-labels Music From Mathematics and + + +. We asked him to reflect on which of the records in his vast collection would he risk life and limb, should the unthinkable occur...

Vangelis Blade Runner (OST) (EastWest, 1994)

Your house is on fire, you only have time to rescue one record. Which one would that be?

The soundtrack to Blade Runner. I heard it through the movie back when the movie first came out, but when I actually realised that they sold the soundtrack on vinyl to movies I had to get it. And I bought it and the music reminds me of a ex-love, so when I hear it, it totally reminds me of her. So, if I had to say one record, it would be that one. Because when I used to do a residency playing vinyl, I would always start my set off with that record, dedicate it to her, and end it with that record, dedicate it to her. So, it has an emotional aspect connected physically to someone else.

What impressed you about the movie?

The grittiness and they way it was set, it actually looked like they’re in the future, the way they did it. The whole concept, the cinematography, the architecture, the designs. Just the whole premise itself. When I first saw it, I was maybe 13 years old, when I first encountered it. I’d heard about it, but I didn’t know, I didn’t have the money to go to the movies and see it until it actually came out on VHS. And I had seen it at somebody’s house, and I was really captivated by the whole thing. I could actually see the future being like that, yeah. And it was written by Philip K Dick, right? And I support anything from my area, he’s from the Chicago area, yeah.

Vangelis - Theme

Was the soundtrack something new to your ears?

It was still around that time when I was coming to my teenage years, so I was able to go out and evolve and find things on my own. Instead having stuff given to me by my parents or whatever they was listening to. When I leave the house, got out of the neighbourhood I was able to be exposed to a lot of other things that wasn’t common in my home. So, I got exposed to other forms of peoples’ perception of life. Either through music, art, visuals or speech. It just let you know the world is much more bountiful and rich than other peoples’ expressions. That’s what I take from the whole thing when I see stuff like Blade Runner, listen to the soundtrack or follow the person who originally wrote the concept about Blade Runner, it’s just like an expression from another person’s perspective to the world through their eyes and ears. And they’re influenced by their perception and they pass it on either through their art, their music, their literature, their speed or whatever on to someone else. It’s part of human connection, that’s what I get from all of it, good or bad. But I try to sway towards the more positive aspects of it, yeah.

Funnily enough, I interviewed John Cale a few weeks ago and he said when he worked on his new album Blade Runner was a big inspiration because of the atmosphere and timelessness of it. Would you agree? Why did you get the soundtrack back then?

Because I like ambient soundscapes. And it had a lot of ambient, it had a little classic, it had a little jazz influence and it had a lot of avant-garde nuances touching here and there. So, that’s what attracted me to that soundtrack of Blade Runner because I grew up listening to eclectic music and house, like jazz or ambient stuff or free jazz. So, when I heard that it was easier for me to digest it and process it, but it encompassed a lot of things in a beautiful way from other stuff I was exposed to. I can’t really get elaborate about it because at the time, when you discover something wonderful you don’t have a thesaurus defining it, you just feel it. You feel the connection that defines the connection.

Hieroglyphic Being - Isosceles

How about the timelessness of the soundtrack? Is it something you would still put on today?

It’s something I still would put on today. But it’s just like I said, it has a connection to me because there’s a continuity from when I was younger until now, and it still builds on those influences when I encounter new music. So, if I hear something new that still may sound similar to that piece that captivated me, that emotionally ties me to someone else, that visually surprises people who actually seen the film or heard the medium of the soundtrack of the music, it’s all interconnected. I can’t really give true definitions to it, because when you are really captivated by something you just don’t define it, you feel it. You process it and then you can try as a human being using the brain to give a definition in meaning, but sometimes there’s beauty in simplicity.

Do you remember where you bought it?

I bought it on vinyl at a used record shop, it was like 99 cents or something like that. And it was an unused fresh brand new copy.

Did the Blade Runner soundtrack have an impact on you as a young producer back then?

Put it this way, it might have, but consciously at the time I wasn’t thinking of it, you can be influenced a lot of ways when you’re working at your craft and not be conscious of it, but the influence is still there. It’s like when you grow up with your parents and you’re taught certain things by your parents and it’s usually passed on down to you by culture or religion or politics or whatever. And when you go out into the world and you interact with other human beings it follows you, you act that out because that’s what has been ingrained in you. So, you’re not conscious at the moment where you’re having that philosophical or religious debate or interaction with someone, this stuff has been adapted from your ancestors or forefathers or parents. So, the time you don’t stop and say, hey, that’s my mama’s influence or my grandmother’s influence, you just be at that moment in time. And that’s the same thing when I’m creating, so yeah, everything, like the books I have, the music I listen to, or the magazines I have, or the movies I watch, in some way influences what I do. But at that moment in time when I hit that note and say, oh, it’s from that movie, I might not realise until after it’s done, that, oh, this is probably what influenced me at that point in time but I really wasn’t conscious because I was in the moment, the feeling, yeah. 

Header image: Brian Lear

By Florian Obkircher on November 8, 2012

On a different note