ABOVE: BLOOD DIAMONDS. PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS URIBE.
Mike Tucker’s sound is considered by some to be of “big room” origins, but the 21 year-old up-and-comer, who performs as Blood Diamonds, would simply call his electro-hinged variety, “fun shit.” And that’s exactly what we’re so into about his latest vertiginous EP Phone Sex. Released today, Phone Sex features collaborations with Claire Boucher (best known as Grimes), on the title track and artwork by Elite Gymnastics. It sounds pretty damn fun—like the way a day off spent sipping down spiked Tropical blended smoothies feels.
Here, Interview chats with the man who’s currently on tour supporting Grimes herself about everything from video games and his love for R&B, to plans for the future and the current state of Top 40. Hear the second track from his EP, “Ritual”, below.
MARCUS HOLMLUND: Where were you brought up?
MIKE TUCKER: I was born and raised in Kansas City. Then I moved to Vancouver to make video games. Now I’m in LA.
HOLMLUND: Did you actually go to school for video game design?
TUCKER: I studied art for video games at Vancouver Film School.
HOLMLUND: Any video games you worked on that we’d know?
TUCKER: No, no, no. [laughs] I started Blood Diamonds in the middle of school and then right when I was done with school, I just continued Blood Diamonds.
HOLMLUND: What really helped set off Blood Diamonds? Were you sending out demos to different labels? Do people even do that anymore? I heard you were just signed recently to 4AD…
TUCKER: It was definitely the internet. Anything can be posted on the internet and get distributed so fast. Blogs started posting the track I did; “Heart”, and that started making a dent on some music blogs. That’s what really got things going.
HOLMLUND: The buzz has all been really positive. Especially for Phone Sex. What shaped that sound for you?
TUCKER: I don’t know, I just wanted, like, a big, “big room” sound without being obnoxious or being like a carbon copy of other “big room” sounds. Because the “big room” sound is a really vague term right now, especially if you don’t know what it refers to, as far as artists. With my stuff, I just try shit with new instruments and see if anything would work, without using big rave synths and banging drops and shit.
HOLMLUND: What instruments did you experiment with on Phone Sex?
TUCKER: The pan drum sound I made with halo drums. They’re like a small inverted pan drum that I sampled. I just tried to be goofy and make something that’d be cool for the summer and not too thought-provoking.
HOLMLUND: It’s got this great atmospheric vibe to it. I could see how it’s sort of that “mindless island-y summer jam…”
TUCKER: Yeah, totally, the sound is just fun shit. I don’t really like to sit and overanalyze the shit that I do. I just do what I do. I do what feels good and what’s fun and I just go with it.
HOLMLUND: Tell me about your relationship with Claire [Boucher] (a.k.a. Grimes).
TUCKER: She’s a really good friend. I’m living with her right now in LA, actually. She’s in the other room. Say yo, yo, yo, girl…! [laughs]
HOLMLUND: How did you guys meet?
TUCKER: We met in Vancouver at my first show. It was her third show. I thought she was like 16, so, I was a little bit scared to go and talk to her ‘cause I thought she’d think I was some creep. She was wearing some fucking New Balance or some shit. Or Skechers? I was like shit, she really is 16 ‘cause her dad brought her gear in and I was just like positive she was mad young. But, as it turned out, she was three years older than me.
HOLMLUND: What do you like to listen to on your own?
TUCKER: [laughs] It’s funny, I listen to a lot of radio stuff when I’m out like getting groceries and shit and it’s always like—Katy Perry, Katy Perry, Karmin, Ellie Goulding, Jessie J—I don’t know, man, I just like pop music.
HOLMLUND: Amazing. Unexpected… Are you serious?
TUCKER: Yeah! Oh, and Flo Rida. [laughs] I love pop music just as much as love my friend’s music. Pop is actually a huge, huge influence for me. Goes back to that fun shit I like.
HOLMLUND: Now I get it…
TUCKER: I’m all about the pop sound right now. I’m all about new things emerging and trends and trying to take what people are doing and just like potentially making it better. And if I don’t make it better, then it just ends up being something else, you know?
HOLMLUND: What about R. Kelly? I have to ask because you’ve been very vocal in the past about your love for his music.
TUCKER: I’m in that age group where people were like “oh yeah, I have access to the internet!” and I didn’t, at least until I was almost in high school. Just ‘cause we like had dial-up and it’d go in and out and I couldn’t even play Starcraft 1… which sucked when I think back. [laughs] So, I was buying CD’s at the time and I remember having Outkast’s [The] Love Below and R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet opera. They amazed me because it had hit me that you could basically do any shit you wanted and have people be into it, so, R&B music has always been a big influence for me.
HOLMLUND: So, R&B is still a big thing for you today?
TUCKER: Yeah, R&B and melodic hip-hop. I listen to it so much that I don’t even think I have a choice about infusing into my music now. It’s just kind of there and will continue to be.
HOLMLUND: Would you say that’s what’s inspired your music the most?
TUCKER: That’s tough because it’s definitely in there, but, I’d have to say what drives my music the most is what I listen to on a daily basis—like, music my friends send me, all the way up to good radio, like Top 40 shit—it all inspires me, really. Also, just chatting with producer friends of mine about what’s happening now and how we can push it further collectively. Most of all, though, the public ear is the best filter. People know what they want. Especially now, when it’s become so democratic with music online and stuff. I like that it’s not about having a huge label behind you to get you where you want to be today… you can get recognition if you want it.
HOLMLUND: What can we expect from you next?
TUCKER: I’m collaborating with other artists, Grimes is one, producing shit… and I’ve got a full-length LP on its way for 2013… I love collaborating with other artists and making “beautiful sweet children.” [laughs]
HOLMLUND: What would be your dream collaboration?
TUCKER: I’d have to say… I think I’d want to do a theme song for a game featuring Amber Coffman from Dirty Projectors…and Drake. [laughs]
HOLMLUND: I’m really hoping that ends up on the new album.
PHONE SEX COMES OUT TODAY, JULY 24TH.