The Rapidian

Solo industrial act offers synthesizer, drum samples to music scene

This article includes mature content:

Michael Bussler of Grand Rapids draws on '80s nostalgia, David Lynch and his experience in local punk bands when experimenting with his solo project, Burnt Offerings.

Burnt Offerings:

Burnt Offerings Facebook

Burnt Offerings’ early cover of a Christian Death song: “Romeo’s Distress"

/Ryan Collins

Michael Bussler, the sole creative force behind Burnt Offerings, has been familiar with the Grand Rapids underground, do-it-yourself music scene for some time now. At 24 years old, Bussler has enjoyed the creative release of performing in various local punk bands. He spent time as one of the guitarists in Religious SS Disorder, and, briefly, as a bass guitarist in Dipshit System (DSS).

“I guess that’s how it started out…I was playing in these punk bands,” he says.

But Bussler feels he was always interested in doing something more personal, innovative and unique to the Grand Rapids area.

“[Burnt Offerings] is kind of like a strange thing for this area. I can’t think of too many weirdo electronic bands,” says Bussler.

Bussler does acknowledge other local musicians like Alexis, Jes Kramer and Dropped Calls as acts that are creating more original, electronically influenced music. However, he sees Burnt Offerings as something even more non-traditional.

“I guess it’s kind of taking it back to early industrial, or Suicide, but then I have pretty heavy influence from Throbbing Gristle and Coil. But that’s more in…the imagery or what I imagine it to be,” he explains.

The imagery Bussler describes is a large part of Burnt Offerings. Eerie pictures adorn his album covers and cryptic lyrics echo throughout his digital anthems. But Bussler channels more than obscure ‘70s and ‘80s electronic music when working on his tunes. He cites cult film director David Lynch and twentieth century German-American writer/poet Charles Bukowski as artistic influences as well.

Initially, the project found its origins as another creative outlet for Bussler. He was simply toying with sounds and attempting to resurrect elements from some of the bands he’s always appreciated: Joy Division, New Order and the Talking Heads, among others.

“It started off as just a recording project for a while. It was just, like, me fucking around recording by myself” says Bussler. “[Then] I can’t remember how it came about. I somehow got a show at Vertigo for Record Store Day in 2010.”

Bussler also says that originally Burnt Offerings sounded like something rooted in a completely different musical genre.

“I suppose [Burnt Offerings] started off a little more death rocky,” Bussler recalls.

In fact, the name, Burnt Offerings, comes from a song by legendary death rock band, Christian Death. Thereafter, Burnt Offerings’ sound evolved into something he describes as akin to early Ministry or Cabaret Voltaire.

“[Burnt Offerings] is all two minute songs; they all have dancy drums,” says Bussler.

He says the music is best described as a minimalist endeavor. He uses a microKORG synthesizer for the rhythms and Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), with either Garage Band or Pro Tools on his computer, for the down-tempo drum beats. As for the vocals, they’re usually dual tracked and reverbed, or given a “cycle echo” effect, like in his haunting rendition of the Talking Heads’ “This Must be the Place.”

“I try to make them like pop songs sometimes, but it just turns out as…you know, dark as fuck,” says Bussler.

Bussler says that he’s never really had any greater expectations for Burnt Offerings, and that’s what he enjoys about it.

“It keeps it more organic too, you know. I don’t have to worry about [thinking] ‘oh, people really like these songs, so I’m going to make songs that are like this one.’ I can do whatever I want. So, when things do happen it’s like alright, cool,” Bussler says.

“I don’t care for narratives / And I don’t care for plays,” Bussler chants in the title track from his EP, “The Curtain.”

For Burnt Offerings the “narrative” seems to be the course of the Grand Rapids music scene—or any music scene for that matter--and the “plays” appear to be anyone’s traditional concept of art or music. Whatever the trajectory of Burnt Offerings may be, Bussler is satisfied.

He says that hearing that people want to see him play or buy a copy of one of his tapes is always encouraging, but never to the point of an inflated ego.

“I guess you can’t be disappointed if you don’t have super big expectations for it. [Burnt Offerings] is something that, now, I can’t imagine not doing it. I guess it is a pretty big part of my life,” he says.

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