Truancy Volume 143: BNJMN

There was a certain point in the last couple of years where people felt as if BNJMN had transferred into darker, techno territory from dreamier and more melodic house music. Releases on Delsin, Jericho One and his own label Brack seemed to imply this, but to him, all are just different aspects of his personality coming together as one cohesive package. People who paid close attention to BNJMN since his brilliant debut album Plastic World on Rush Hour back in 2011 will notice similar textures and left-field patterns to some of his most recent releases. “Sallow” from his recent release still show touches of melodic play and the ambient compilation he put together for Air Texture Vol. IV alongside Steve Hauschildt in 2014 capture a perfect insight into that aforementioned personality. With another release out on Delsin next month, we caught up with BNJMN for a little chat about his recent collaborative project with Best Available Technology, his label Brack and his relationship with ‘real’ instruments. He also kindly provided us with our 143rd Truancy Volume; a fifty minute mix representing the kind of mood and tempo he’s recently enjoyed playing out at the moment.

Hey Ben, thanks for taking out time to answer these questions. I want to start with asking about the fourth Air Texture compilation you curated back in 2014 alongside Steve Hauschild. How did that come about and what went behind putting it together? I’m asking because tracks like “Oder”, “Black Square”, “Lava”, “Hollowed Road” have always really resonated with me so seeing you working solely within these type of ‘textures’ was great. “Thanks for inviting me to do this mix and interview! That compilation came about as the label A&R James Healy invited me to curate a selection of tracks that would fit with the series. It took some time to gather tracks from various producers and I also produced a few of my own for the project. I’ve always had a love of ambient music and in the past have wanted to do full ambient albums, so being asked to finally put something together like this was really fulfilling. Most of the tracks came from people I know personally so it was great to give some shine to tracks that may or may not have been heard otherwise.”

I also want to talk about the Best Available Technology collaboration album. When I interviewed Kevin back in 2013, he had only great things to say about you having helped push his music into the ears of Luke over at Astro:Dynamics. Am I right in thinking this has just been a gradual ongoing project over the years, possibly since 2013. Why did the project and the collection of tracks that came together suddenly feel right to put out in 2015? “We had been talking for a while and sending each other music, and it was a really fun process when we started sending stuff back and forth to work on. He would send me very long sketches that I would then edit down, sample and work with in a way that felt like remixing. He would then take some of those and feed them through his machines. I think you can probably tell which ones are more him than me, although in the end I would say there’s both of our personalities in all of the tracks. It took some time to get that out but I was really proud of the album in the end.” You’ve also talked about in previous interviews that the process in making this album gave you a fresh perspective on your own solo music for EPs such as on Delsin. Can you just expand on that a little? “I think just in terms of the textures and possibilities Kevin was getting from his equipment, I would try to recreate things like that but using software, as until recently I never really used much outboard equipment. That has changed recently and I’m aiming to create more music from external instruments and try to use software less in general, not that there’s anything wrong with software but I’m always looking for new ways to approach creating music.”

After two releases on your own label BRACK in short succession, it’s been relatively quiet on that front lately. You want to quickly talk us through the decision in setting up the label and any future directions or plans you might be wanting to take BRACK in? Possibly a new solo album? Have you been doing the artwork yourself too? “From the beginning I wanted it to be something I had full control over. Luke from Astro:Dynamics helped me in some ways, and gave me advice in terms of tracks to use and also helped a bit in terms of the artwork. I definitely want to do more Brack related releases in future, possibly even releasing other artists if it fits with the label sound. I’ve been sent quite a lot of demos for the label but nothing yet that quite fits the sound and aesthetic that I’m going for.”

I was reading a post from you where you stated at one point in your life you felt ‘disillusioned’ with playing the guitar that you’d played since you were six, and that you found a great deal of satisfaction by doing away with any ‘real’ instruments and going completely electronic. Do you find that statement still holding up today? “I have a guitar in the studio but I do still find it hard to get inspired when using it. Over the years I had built up a lot of rules in my head about how to play it, and over time that eroded my sense of creativity when using it. When I play a synthesiser or drum machine I still feel like I’m a little kid who has no real clue about what he’s doing, even though I’ve been producing now for about as long as I was playing the guitar. For some reason it always feels fresh, maybe due to the fact that I haven’t formed as many rules in my head about what I can and can’t do.”

I delved a bit back with the research on this interview, but thought I’d dig this poster out as a bit of a nostalgic sentiment. From what I discovered is you initially started playing live as BNJMN with DJing coming second, which in a lot of cases is the opposite for most. What do you think you learnt from doing it this way? “I struggled for quite a long time playing live, as there are so many factors that come into it when playing your music live in a club setting. I used to probably go a bit too left-field for some dance floors, and while that worked in some settings most of the time I wasn’t totally satisfied playing live. When I started to DJ I also had a learning curve to overcome, and I still feel like I’m learning every gig, but I find that it is easier to express myself and feel more free when DJ’ing than playing live. Having said that my new live show which is all hardware-based is far more inspiring and I am able to improvise more and do certain things on the fly. I’m exciting about doing both now, I feel that with each DJ gig I am learning how to improve, as no two gigs are ever the same, and I would say the same about the live show and being able to improvise more is definitely conducive to being able to take the live set in different directions and being able to change and adapt depending on the kind’ve night I’m playing.”

Your new live set seems to be fully on the road now having debuted it back in January at the Griessmuehle. Can you run us through the preparation process leading up the show and what we can expect from people going to see you play live? “First of all I did away with the laptop and based it all around the Elektron Octatrack which I’ve been wanting to do for a while, I didn’t want to have a screen between myself and the audience anymore. I gave myself a month to prepare it so it was quite a mad rush during the last week of preparation. The octatrack enables me to do what the laptop was doing but gives more freedom for improvisation, like I said before. I want to continue adding to it in terms of equipment, it would be great to get to the point where I can take it in many different directions. There has been some interest to do a more ambient/totally improv set soon, so I am definitely up for that as well as doing the more Techno-orientated side of my catalogue.”

Can you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve provided for us? “Although it varies from gig to gig this mix represents the kind of mood and tempo that I’ve been enjoying playing out recently. There’s also a few exclusives from friends and something upcoming that I’m very excited about sharing.”

Lastly, what else can we expect from you in the near future if it hasn’t already been covered? “Next up is an EP on Delsin which features remixes from fellow-Berliners Cassegrain and Inland (Ed Davenport) who also used to live in Bournemouth which is where I’m from. I’ve gotten to know them and they were early supporters of the A1 track (the first time I’d heard my music in Berghain was when Ed played it, which had quite an effect), and I can’t really thank them enough for their support in recent times. I’m really excited about the release and after that I will be putting out a four tracker on Ed’s Counterchange label. I am also working towards another full length, it’s been almost 5 years since Black Square was out and I think a lot of my music suits the album format, so fingers crossed it won’t be too long before it surfaces.”

Tracklist:

Atom tm – Stromlinien
Donato Dozzy – Quadra Nove
Zadig – Journey Into The Wastelands
Cassegrain – Trappist
Conforce – Eclipse
Basic Soul Unit – Soulspeak (Shed Remix)
Surgeon – Spider
Abdulla Rashim – Crossing Qalandiya
Cosmin TRG – Serpenti
Dax J – Twilight Zone
BNJMN – Droid (Inland Remix)
Untitled – Untitled

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Riccardo Villella
Riccardo Villella

OG at Truants / Graphic Designer / DJ as Melmoth Twitter Soundcloud

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