What do you get when a magical girl from the painted deserts of Arizona, a few wild boys from the reclaimed lands by the North Sea and a seasoned OG reigning from the music legends of Detroit collide? The answer to that question is emerging super collective BLACK NEON, combining the talents of Detroit producer Bishop 7, vocalist, writer, producer Sam Bruno, Dutch legend Sander Kleinenberg and EDM producer Thomas Helsloot. Collectively they have worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Puff Daddy, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Madonna, Daft Punk, Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Skrillex and many, many more.
Now with the world at their feet and the stars as their mission, BLACK NEON will stay true to their intergalactic moniker, aiming to inspire an era of change with their boundless creativity, timeless art and can-do attitude. Touching the border of the uncharted only to purposefully journey beyond, the collective is on a mission to push the limits of time and space whilst simultaneously bringing a spark of neon light into the darker spaces of our galaxy. BLACK NEON truly is the new black. As they revel in the magic of their latest Armada Music release ‘Midnight In LA’, DMC World Magazine caught up with all four to find out more…
Hi BLACK NEON, welcome to DMC World Magazine! Can you tell us where you are in the world right now and what you’re doing?
Sam Bruno: In LA, being creative in quarantine.
BISHOP 7: In LA, mindin’ my business.
Sander Kleinenberg: I’m currently holidaying in the North of the Netherlands!
Congratulations on setting up the new group. Where did you all meet?
Sam Bruno: We met in LA through a mutual biz acquaintance.
Sander: It was a mutual friend who worked in A&R who thought we should work together as a single collab effort. We hit it off, the result didn’t fit in with any of our paths but it intrigued us and so we kept on writing.
Is there a central ‘mission’ or message to BLACK NEON?
BISHOP 7: We are livin’ and learnin’ like everybody else. Live and let live. That’s the message of music, harmony. That’s the basic instincts of life.
Sander: Exactly that. Bringing people together by spreading positivity and a unified message of love and vibes.
What drew each of you to working with the other three people in the band, and what do each of you think you bring to BLACK NEON that the others don’t?
Sam Bruno: Well I bring the feminine energy that is much needed in a group of dudes. Haha. All of us naturally work well together and it’s been that way from the start.
Sander: We all have a specific role so no-one else is in the way of someone else’s vibe. I guess I’m the most central figure in the process, connecting all the dots and working most in both LA and Amsterdam.
Sander, you’re incredibly well known around the world for your electronic music. Why the move towards a more pop sound?
Sander: I’m simply following a creative intuition and have not really thought about what this means one way or another. What I do know is that there is more money in DJing so I guess I’m keeping it real 😉
Sander, do you think fans of your earlier works will naturally translate over to this new sound or are you expecting to have to start all over again in terms of building your audience? Who do you think the BLACK NEON audience is?
Sander: You start all over again every single day when you’re trying to make a difference in this scene. Also, when you have become a copy of yourself by repeating the same thing over and over again, my guess is you do that because you have become too comfortable.
Bishop and Sam, you’ve both had incredible careers writing and producing individually and as a partnership for some seriously A-list artists. Who were the most exciting people for you to work with and which tracks are you most proud of?
Sam Bruno: One of the most impactful experiences I’ve had was when I wrote with Kanye. I wasn’t even in the music business yet, just recording music because I loved to. He heard some of my demos and flew me out to London to write with the G.O.O.D. Music camp and my first song placement came from that trip. It was such a surreal moment of “I belong” for me. I’ll always remember that. And a track I am proud of is ‘Famous’ by Lil Wayne. It was my first platinum selling song that I wrote and produced and it came out 6 years after I wrote it which taught me that good music will always survive.
BISHOP 7: I’m such a product of American music that I’m just very grateful and happy each time I get a chance to express my creativity with other artists or musicians who are extremely creative or talented.
Bishop and Sam, how hard/easy was it to bring Sander and Thomas into your already established creative process? Did the chemistry change much or was it a natural fit?
BISHOP 7: It’s easy to work with super talented people who have all put their own hours in. People who take it just as seriously as you do.
Sam Bruno: When everyone is bringing their best at their highest level, it just flows. Every now and then you’ll want something your way and someone else hears it another way. But that has been a big lesson for me in this dynamic. Being in a band is a lot of give and take and deciding what is important and what isn’t and letting what isn’t go as fast as you can so all of you can keep it movin.
Thomas you’ve had some huge success writing for some of the Netherlands most famous DJs like Sander and Laidback Luke. How do you and Sander work in terms of sharing the electronic production elements of BLACK NEON? Do you work on similar parts of the music or have you got completely separate roles?
Thomas: Well, we always start doing a few sessions together where we both work on the idea and production and try to make all the decisions straightaway. Mostly a lot of arguing going on which brings out the best in both of us. After those sessions we send the project back and forth to each other like 7 or 8 times before we send it to the mix board. The difference between working with other DJs and Sander is that he always tends to inspire me to look after all the small details in a project.
Your latest single ‘Midnight in LA’ has just come out on Armada Music, which strikes us as an interesting choice of label in terms of you guys being a collective and Armada more known for working with individual acts. How has it been working with them and did you not think one of the major labels would have been a more natural fit for your sound and size?
BISHOP 7: Absolutely. But we chose to test the water with Armada for our first EP. It’s been a great experience working with them.
Sander: Armada was ready to take the next step by investing in local offices in New York and London and that aligned with our ambition. Apart from that we believe major labels are not what they were 20 years ago anyway.
‘Midnight in LA’ sounds like a love letter to Los Angeles. What is the song actually about?
Sam Bruno: You got it. That’s exactly what it is. Have you ever experienced the magic on a late summer night in LA when the air is warm and you see the city lights twinkling up from the hills? ‘Midnight In LA’ is that magic.
Sander: It’s a love letter to LA for sure, to me specifically it also reflects the start of a new path in my life.
How has the reaction from fans and media been to the debut EP?
Sam Bruno: SO. MUCH. LOVE. The feedback has been incredible and strong. They get to listen to all of the songs together as one project and it’s a whole other experience than individual singles. They are really connecting to it.
Sander: My fans are my two daughters and they love it. You’re the media so you should tell us!
What do you have planned next?
Sander: More interesting vibes, maybe a bit less polished.
Sam Bruno: Thankfully before lockdown we had a week long studio session in the Netherlands and pretty much wrote the entire second EP. We will definitely be putting out a second EP and continuing to release content digitally and get even smarter and more creative about how we do that. Then once the world opens back up… TOUR!
Did you have any plans to tour when the live industry is back up and running? How do you see a BLACK NEON performance?
Sam Bruno: YES! It will be a mix of electronic and organic, future and classic, it will be a journey and always fun. We will make you FEEL SOMETHING.
BISHOP 7: I can see BLACK NEON kickin’ ass at takin’ names on any stage that we get an opportunity to showcase our skills on and I advise anybody to go to that show when you hear Black Neon will be there.
Sander: That’s why we started this. For now it’s a vision in our minds, hopefully we will be able to put it into an experience soon.
Final question for each of you: what do you want to get out of BLACK NEON?
BISHOP 7: I want to experience our music being played in every corner of the world, and in places where there is no hope and only a shitty lil radio station with static and our music comes on, just like Bob Marley’s, and that person that hears it knows that everything will be okay.
Sam Bruno: I wanna ride (and drive) the BLACK NEON train to winning at the Grammy Awards, living at the top of the Billboard charts with several global number ones, and reaching every space and place on the planet with our sounds, our unified attitude and our positive light.
Sander: Artistic fulfillment.