Black Tiger Sex Machine Once Upon a Time in Cyberworld

The Black Tiger Sex Machine story continues with Once Upon a Time in Cyberworld

The Montreal electronic duo have dropped a new album and a new chapter in their sci-fi dystopian narrative.

Since their debut in 2011, the local dark electronic bass/dubstep music trio Black Tiger Sex Machine (commonly referred to as BTSM) has been obsessed with a coherent aesthetic in their music, art and live experience. With their latest album, Once Upon a Time in Cyberworld, they are expanding it even further. 

This obsession with making sure all aspects of the show and music flow has been a successful one for members Marc-André Chagnon, Julien Maranda and Patrick Barry. BTSM has sold out the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater back in October 2021 (see that show here), has toured over 200 venues in South Korea and headlined and played some of the biggest world festivals including Tomorrowlands, Lollapalooza and EDC Las Vegas.

From the illuminated tiger helmets they wear live to the overarching narrative they have been working on for just shy of a decade, science fiction has always been the glue that holds their creations together. But in order to understand the narrative impetus for Once Upon a Time in Cyberworld, we need to dive a bit into the BTSM universe.

Every album since Welcome to Our Church has taken place in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, ripe with chaos and technological advancements. This is the literal movie backdrop experience that plays behind the members of BTSM live. 

Until the 2020 Futuristic Thriller release, there was no real protagonist for fans to follow in the BTSM universe. This is why BTSM created Naomi, a girl trapped in 2058, where a mad scientist, Kannibalen (named after the real-life BTSM label), is creating AI zombies. 

“The world really just goes apeshit and nothing is controlled anymore. The AI zombies are just on the loose trying to kill humans — it’s just a free for all,” says Maranda. 

Luckily Naomi is what is called a “connected fighter,” and can control a giant BTSM mech to fight off the AI zombies and Dr. Kannibalen. However, near the end of the movie experience, she begins to lose the battle. This brings us to Chapter Two and the world of Once Upon a Time in Cyberworld

“Think of this one as a cyberpunk spaghetti western,” says Maranda. “The songs from beginning to end, the titles, the lyrics, all of it comes down to this kind of dystopian future; this broken world, but there’s this sense of utopia. There’s this sense that maybe something better is coming.”

Musically, Once Upon a Time in Cyberworld, features the most vocal guest spots on a BTSM album, and for good reason. When BTSM was creating it, the trio knew they wanted the album to stand on its own, outside of the tour. Touring obviously wasn’t looking that bright with the ongoing pandemic. 

“We wanted lots of vocalists we have worked with in the past to help tell the story,” says Maranda. “And now that we’re going back on tour in the U.S. … Canada is still very uncertain. We decided to really put efforts into creating this blending of Chapter Two through the live video experience. I’m directing the next video and I think it’s going to have an interesting effect on people.”

The live show is extremely important to the very essence of what BTSM is and it’s safe to say Maranda and his bandmates thrive off the energy.

“We do lots of live remixing and the sampling can really change every night, but it’s insane sometimes because the structure of the song itself controls the visuals and the lights,” Maranda says. “You basically have to be a director, musician and fan at the same time.” ■

The Black Tiger Sex Machine story continues with Once Upon a Time in Cyberworld

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Cult MTL. 

For more on Black Tiger Sex Machine, please click here.

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