Earlier this month, Welsh-born Rod Thomas, a.k.a Bright Light Bright Light, launched his latest single, Disco Moment at London Fashion Week. He has also been busy DJing around London, remixing tracks for other artists and working on videos for each and every song on his forthcoming debut album. Here he talks to Londonist about his musical influences, the new record and his favourite London night-spots.
When did you first start making music?
When I was about 13. I was trying out ideas for songs until I was about 16 or so. Then I bought a 4-track and started recording them. When I saved up enough money I bought an 8-track so I could do a bit more production and messed around with the whole recording thing in my teenage years, playing guitar, keyboards and the drums on my keyboard but then when I went to University I started working on more serious demos.
What brought you to London?
I came here to do work experience at PIAS [record label Play It Again, Sam] - I really wanted to work for a label and they gave me the chance to get some experience with them. I came back to London properly in 2004 after Uni. Some friends of mine had a spare room and I had nowhere else to go and really wanted to move back here so I just stayed with them.
Initially, you released music under your own name until, a couple of years ago, you adopted the name Bright Light Bright Light. Why the change?
I wanted to do something which had much more of an identity, something that was lot more coherent. I started producing, remixing and DJing, which all had a certain aesthetic. So I wanted to have a name that kind of linked all of those things together. A 'brand' might be a vulgar way to put it but it's all got a personality and a character to it so it's like a thread going through everything. I work quite closely with Alun Davies, who is my creative director, to make everything fit, to reflect the sound. I'm also working with fashion designers to bring it all to life. So I chose a name to reflect the style of music a lot more.
Were there any other contenders for your 'act name' apart from Bright Light Bright Light?
When I thought about having another name, this is the first phrase that came into my head. When I tried to think of others, I couldn't actually think of anything else that I liked and it kind of stuck.
Tell us about the music you listened to when you were growing up.
Well, my parents are really into stuff like ABBA and Queen and the Beatles and they are also into musicals - a lot of the Andrew Lloyd Webber - the drama [laughs] - surrounded by drama! And then I started listening to Atlantic 252 - I was very chart and dance-influenced. I got really into pop and the beats of the production and then when I started buying records I was buying stuff like Ace of Base, Bjork, Tori Amos, Madonna and Lightning Seeds.
You often mention being a massive Ace of Base fan - is there a song from their back catalogue that you wish you'd written?
Yeah. Dancer In A Daydream. It's quite different from the singles because it's really dark and has a really good, filthy bassline. It has plenty of attitude and I find it quite hypnotic in the way that it is structured.
How did you feel about their recent change of line-up?
Completely pointless. And the fans have totally failed to respond to it. Terrible mistake.
Do you remember where you played your first gig?
Yeah! My first ever gig was at the Celtic Pride in Swansea - it was an open mic thing but then my first proper gig was in Gloucester. It was brilliant. I was supporting a band that I had previously performed with at the Celtic Pride and they were amazing. It felt really special to have them ask me to go and support them.
One of the strings to your bow is your remix work, a notable example of which is the recent re-working of Kelis' Acapella. What attracts you to remixing other people's music?
Remixes have always been really important to me. If you think back to the Mariah Carey / David Morales combination - she would re-record vocals for his remixes and I found that really fascinating when I was younger, that you can make a new song out of an existing song like that. So the idea that a remix can be something completely new has always excited me. I love the old Morales, Todd Terry and Junior Vasquez remixes - old Madonna and Bjork stuff. They're really cool. So to be able to tap into that world and use little pieces to make something new is very exciting. It's like a collage.
So who would you most like your own songs to be remixed by?
I would absolutely kill to have a Morales or Vasquez remix of one of my tracks. That would be amazing. And also I would really love to have Royksopp or a Simian Mobile Disco remix.
And whose music would you like to remix next?
I'd really love to get different bits of Bjork's back-catalogue and do remixes for some of her stuff.
Any song in particular?
[thinks] Umm.... "Crying". I love that song. And it's not one that people really talk about that much. But it's one of my favourites. I love how she subtly points out that English is not her first language. Like when she says: "everyone are so vulnerable and I'm as well". I think it's a really clever way of pointing out that the English language is flawed because, technically, if you look at the logic of what she is saying, it makes perfect sense. But it's considered wrong.
You DJ quite a bit. What's your favourite place to DJ at in London?
My favourite club-night is either the one that I run, Another Night, or Dirtbox - it is so much fun and the guys who run it are absolutely wicked. Vogue Fabrics in Dalston is a wild space, quite New York. Rough 'n' ready but full of character.
And what's your favourite London venue to play live at?
Hammersmith Apollo was amazing [Rod supported Ellie Goulding there last year]. But I also love the Lexington. It's really cool and the people who run it are brilliant. You get excellent sound and it's also got quite a unique shape to it so you can be a bit more playful. I really like it.
Apparently, there are going to be music videos for each track on your new album...
Yes. I've done five videos already. Well, six if you include Falling, the Twin Peaks cover I did. And then I'm working with other people on the rest of them now. The idea is to explore the underlying theme of the songs and the idea of the album, as a whole, which is connections between people and places and how a moment in a place or with a person can flip things round and make you feel more optimistic. So, in the videos we have used imagery to represent things falling apart and then coming back together. And it's been really good working with these different directors who have explored the songs and given them a really interesting interpretation.
When's the album out?
In February. I'm in the process of working on something very exciting for the release of the album. It's got a lot of thought and heart going into it and I want it to be very special because I have waited a long time to get the chance to release it.
Will it be preceded by a new single?
Yes, the next single will be "Waiting For The Feeling". It's a song that taps into my love of the 1990s and the dancefloor and club-scene. It's an empowerment song about the point where you hear someone tell you that they have feelings for you but you don't want words, you want action. Kind of like "Show Me Love", right? So it's one of those moments when you go - stop talking, show me!