“My life is based on the immersive experience of music. I write the songs, play all the instruments, and I build from the ground up the systems that audiences listen to music on,” shares composer, solo artist, and multi-award winning, genre-crossing producer Kris Halo Pierce. Parallel to his career as an Avant-pop artist and a producer, Kris is also an audio tech and engineer for major events in New York City.
Today, the self-contained musician announces his second album, Artificial Breed, a darkly cathartic collection that finds him teaming up with SMP producer and ex-Front Line Assembly drummer, Jason Bazinet, and welcoming guest appearances from members of William Orbit, M.I.A., and Peter Murphy. Artificial Breed will also feature remixes by Craig Joseph Huxtable, Seven Factor, and a host of others. To date, the album’s lead single, “Midnight Dive,” has amassed 2 million-plus spins, and it has been played overhead in most major retail stores throughout the United States.
As a composer and a songwriter, Kris’s aesthetic is moody and danceable, and draws from such genres as synth-pop, goth, industrial, classical, ambient, EDM, and pop. His work has garnered favorable comparisons to NIN, Depeche Mode, Halsey, Front Line Assembly, and KMFDM, among others. Thematically, Kris explores notions of dreams and longing with abstract and non-linear lyrics. “A lot of times, if it sounds like it is a love song, it’s probably actually about music itself. I don’t like to write about people or situations I feel negative about,” Kris says.
The album name, Artificial Breed, speaks to the melding of synthetic with organic musicality on the 11-song album. The beast is born from a collaboration between Kris and Jason. The story goes that the ex-Front Line Assembly drummer heard “Midnight Dive” and was moved to email Kris, offering seedling music ideas for a future project. Kris sifted through 300 of Jason’s demos, and cherry-picked 10 tracks. He fleshed out these core ideas with orchestration and lush production, and they now live on Artificial Breed.
The album opens with teeth on the visceral industrial-goth track “Empire.” The track epitomizes one key facet of Kris’s artistry which is bringing out the melody in melancholy and contrasting rugged soundscapes with hooky songcraft. He takes the listener on a white-knuckle ride with his A Perfect Circle Cover of “Passive.” The stunning goth -pop track, “Midnight Dive,” a co-write with Charlene Ibraham, features bold, haunting textures, and emotionally evocative but conceptually opaque lyrics such as: Pictures in the big sky/Across eternity’s face/Two ships in the night/Against a jagged mountain range.
Artificial Breed undergoes a dynamic resetting with the seething industrial track, “Jukebox Bullet.” The song unpacks Kris’s beautiful struggle with songwriting, and he sings: Bang bang, baby/Comin’ at me with psalms/Bang bang, baby/I got beautiful bombs/Bang bang, baby/You wanna tit-for-tat?/Bang baby, baby/I got a bullet for that. The sexy dark wave track “Blue Flower,” co-written with Jason Bazinet and Tijen Najarian—speaks to someone self-sabotaging romance. One choice passage is: Got me overthinking/hypnotized around/Heart is breaking/Pieces being torn in the ground. The album concludes with the ethereal and entrancing “Disrememberance” which utilizes a unique production technique of digitally stretching music tidbits from the other tracks until they are unrecognizable. Once this was done, Kris added fresh bass and drums. It was almost a happy accident that the process worked, and formed the perfectly disquieting concluding album statement.
Kris’s theatrical musicality might very well date back to his parents introducing him to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture which he nicknamed, “The Boom Boom Song,” at the age of three. At the age of six, he started playing piano, and at the age of eight he started on the violin. By the 7th grade, Kris’s fate as a musician was sealed when he scored his first orchestral piece and premiered it at the final school recital of the year to a standing ovation.
In 1997, Kris and his best friend, Wendi Hartnett, had started the darkwave band Mind Static. This was a formative project, and it was where Kris adopted the “Halo” part of his name. Wendi introduced Kris to the Florida goth scene where “Mindphaser” by Front Line Assembly was a staple in the clubs. He became a lifelong fan of the group, and first heard about Jason Bazinet via a live performance of Front Line Assembly’s "Lose.” Even back then, he intuitively sensed Jason would be an artistically compatible collaborator.
In the four years Mind Static was together, the group landed a couple record deals and a movie placement, and performed on TV. In 2000, Kris began writing electronic music under the moniker, Haunted Echo. Since then, he’s issued 13 Haunted Echo releases through Cleopatra Records, Interscope Records, and via his boutique imprint, Halo Askew Entertainment.
Parallel to his studies as an artist and an instrumentalist, Kris embarked on a freewheeling discovery adventure of audio engineering and production. This dates back to Kris recording Saturday morning cartoons and Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 show on this cassette recorder, and then sneaking in his room to do surgery on the tape, cutting and taping the cassettes to rearrange the music.
His private interest in audio engineering was further stoked when a co-worker invited him to a recording session. While there, the engineer and producer gave him an impromptu private audio engineering lesson and turned him onto the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Phoenix, Arizona. In a rare admission office turn of events, Kris was accepted to the esteemed institution right away, bypassing the standard two-year waiting list. Upon graduating, he landed his first job at the legendary Electric Lady Studios. Since then, Kris has not had to work outside the audio tech and engineering industry.
To date, Kris owns and operates Halo Askew Entertainment (BMI), a multi-platform, boutique entertainment and publishing company based in New Jersey. As a producer, he has earned placements with Interscope Records, Viacom Media Networks, Sony Creative, What’s In-Store Music, Cleopatra Records, and Conzoom Records; among others. As an audio tech and engineer, he’s worked at Electric Lady Studios and Jambetta Studios; on Broadway (Gettin’ The Band Back Together); on NBC's Emmy and Grammy Award-winning broadcast, Jesus Christ Superstar Live; and on Disney's Winnie The Pooh: A New Musical Stage Adaptation (Rockefeller Productions, Disney Theatrical Productions). In audio tech and engineering contexts, Kris has worked with Trevor Horn, Whoopi Goldberg, Cyndi Lauper, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Martin, Faith Hill, Paula Cole, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Snoop Dogg, Marc Anthony, Kim Cameron, Zef Noise (Peter Murphy), NativeLab, Rob DeLuca (Sebastian Bach), and Grammy Award winners, Angel Fernandez (David Byrne) and DJ Freddy Bastone.
Even with all of the impressive entries in his resume, Artificial Breed represents a milestone achievement for Kris. “That the people on this album trusted me to be in charge and create these tracks is hugely validating for me. I’m now not just this dude in his basement messing with music,” Kris says with a good-natured laugh. “I’m finally at a place where I’m making music and writing with people I look up to and admire.”