An Interview with Bright Light Bright Light
Bright Light Bright Light (real name Rod Thomas), has had a busy few years. From touring with Elton John, to collaborating with the Scissor Sisters, all the while making a name for himself in the US as the premiere gay electropop artist.
We caught up with Rod, who is currently on tour with Erasure, about his music, influences and upcoming projects.
Hello Rod! A pleasure to speak with you today!
You too - and from the comfort of my own bed - fabulous!
You perform under the name Bright Light Bright Light these days, where did the name come from?
It's from the film Gremlins. A lot of my work is inspired by 80s/90s film and culture, so it seemed like a fitting name to adopt given the eras that I love so much.
You are currently on tour with Erasure right now, I came to see you at the Liverpool show, it's quite the spectacle! How's that going so far?
Oh, it's amazing. The shows are BRILLIANT fun. Honestly, when you grow up in a Welsh coal mining valley listening to Erasure on the radio, you just think "these people are untouchable, they're in another world", and now I get to call them friends and hear them play every night, listening to those incredible songs and all the thousands of people singing along at the top of their lungs. I have so much fun on stage - I don't write the songs to be listened to sat down - so getting to warm up for my heroes, and be silly, energetic and in my element on stage before they go on is really the best feeling in the world.
You toured with Elton John a few years ago, quite a big gay icon, and he's all over your 'Choreography' album too. What was the experience like working with such a huge name in the business?
The man is in every sense a treasure. Not only has he written some of the most undeniably classic songs in recent history, he's the most warm and caring person I've ever met. He's the biggest music fan I've ever encountered: he goes on YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify... you name it ... to discover new music and new artists all the time. He makes a point of getting in touch with people he thinks show potential and offers advice. He took me as an unsigned independent musician on a world tour with him. AND he sings on four of my songs. Why? Because he loves music and loves making music. Working with him is just fun. We laugh all the time together - I'm ridiculous and I make him laugh and he has such an infectious sense of humor. So the two sessions we did (one for 'I Wish We Were Leaving' on 'Life Is Easy' and the second for 'All In The Name', 'Symmetry Of Two Hearts' and 'Running Back To You' on 'Choreography') were a few hours together of getting the vocals recorded then laughing. So utterly brilliant. I can't BELIEVE I get to work with one of the most beloved artists in history.
You've got quite an eclectic musical landscape, who are your biggest influences?
Erasure and Elton John are definitely two of my main influences. Other like Kate Bush, Björk, Grace Jones, David Bowie, Pet Shop Boys ... artists who shapeshift and genre swap, but ultimately you know it's them in a second. I'm very into the writing and production on lots of the Pointer Sisters albums, they're one of my favourite groups. I also love 80s/90s house and dance records, I'm a big disco lover, so France Joli, Diana Ross' 'The Boss' record, Donna Summer, and I spend a lot of time listening to movie scores. Like I said, film influences my work a lot, so some John Barry (Day Of The Locust), John Williams (Home Alone), Jerry Goldsmith (Chinatown / Gremlins) and Pino Donnagio (Blow Out / Dressed To Kill) scores really influence the production layering / instrumental arrangements too.
Have any LGBT artists shaped your music?
Aside from those mentioned above, I'd say RuPaul has very much influenced my music. I moved to New York in 2013 and I'd never seen Drag Race. I was a huge fan of Ru's music career ('Supermodel Of The World' os one of my favourite albums) but watching Drag Race and its overriding message of believing in yourself and being the best version of yourself that you can be flicked a switch in me. I had a few bad years in London before I moved where I really felt knocked down and deflated, and she really helped me rediscover the humor in myself, and in my own flaws. I learned to embrace the parts of me I thought would be laughed at as things to cherish and it changed my life, pretty much.
Being part of the LGBT community yourself, do you see yourself as a voice in the music industry for the community?
That's quite a loaded position, but I definitely see myself as a person of the LGBT+ community doing something independently in a very heterosexual world. If people see me as a voice for the community in the music industry, I've done something right. I'm never shy about my sexuality, and I do my very best to support LGBT+ causes in everything I do, so hopefully to some I'm a positive presence for our community in an industry that's historically been problematic for gay artists.
Tell us a little bit about your current projects. Obviously the tour must take up a lot of your time, but I'm dying for another full length LP from you! Is that in the works?
It is yes. It won't be out this year, but there will be new material. I'm working on something very special for the next album - which is always hard as being an independent, the budget is always restricting - so I might have to tailor it a little, but there's plenty of new music in the works!
Judging by your Twitter, you're a big RuPaul's Drag Race fan, what are your thoughts on All Stars 3 so far?
I love it! Bendelacreme and Shangela are making me SO happy. I can't wait to see what they'll do next! It's been a really fun season, and while one or two of my favourites may have underperformed, there have been so many belly laughs and some truly brilliant moments, it's been a joy. AS ALWAYS.
Now, I've got some quick fire questions for you. All time favourite song?
- 'Hyperballad' by Björk
Favourite concert you've been to and why?
Depeche Mode, Madison Square Gardens 2009. I went with Del Marquis and I'd never seen them before and it was off the hook brilliant. Dave was amazing, and they played 'Home' which is my favourite of theirs.
Favourite song of yours? (FYI mine is 'I Believe')
'In Your Care'
As a 'Final thought' what's next for Bright Light Bright Light?
More ridiculous colour and joy.
Rod currently hosts a party in NYC called 'Romy & Michele's Saturday Afternoon Tes Dance' at Alan Cumming's club Club Cumming and in C'Mon Everybody in Bedstuy, so check it out if you're ever in the city! Details here
Have a listen to Bright Light Bright Light's 'Best Of' playlist here if you want to listen to some bangers.