It’s been five years since we last spoke to Ben Thomas about his music. In 2009 we featured an interview and mix from his Singing Statues alias, an altogether more experimental guitar-based project. Since then Ben has released two albums and a string of EP’s on the much-feted Dutch house imprint Rush Hour, certainly a fitting home for BNJMN music, the theme here being analogue-sounding, unabashedly synth-driven dancefloor warmth.
In the interview below, Ben discusses forthcoming EPs plus a collaboration album under the BNJMN name coming out later this year. We also asked Ben to create an all out experimental mix for us. His mix features music from Paul McCartney, Lukid, Legowelt, Kassem Mosse and many more.
Hi Ben, the last time we spoke was in 2009 about your Singing Statues project. What’s the latest on that project?
I released a 7 inch last year on the Astro:Dynamics label which featured a BNJMN remix of one of the Statues tracks. I had more than an album’s worth of material which is mostly still sat on my hard drive, but I’ve updated some of it which I recently signed to a publishing company. So I’m not sure if that stuff will see a physical release but I am still creating song-based music from time to time.
Since then you’ve released two albums and a string of EP’s as BNJMN. How have you seen your career and approach to production develop?
Since the flurry of releases in 2011 things have been a bit slower. Up until recently I was working quite sporadically with only a few releases in the last few years, with some complications when it came to releasing an album last year which was already mastered and ready to go but unfortunately wasn’t to be. In the last 6 months or so I’ve been busy working on a lot of new material and I’ve recently moved into a studio in Berlin, which is the first time I’ve ever had somewhere other than my own room to work in. It’s really nice having a routine every day and I feel a lot more productive these days. There’s a lot of new material ready to come out now.
What happened to all your vowels?
Originally there was one ‘I’ in the name but the guy who ran Rush Hour at the time suggested I take it out. So it’s his fault I ended up among the countless producers who chose the take the vowels out of their names. I do still like the way it looks though :)
Where are you originally from and what types of music were you into in your teenage years?
I’m originally from a really small town on the south coast of England called Christchurch. There’s a programme on the BBC at the moment which is set in Christchurch, where they nicknamed the town “God’s waiting room”. I think that gives you an idea of what it was like growing up there. As there was nothing to do I gravitated towards music, and played in a few bands during my teenage years, but was more drawn towards making strange sounds in my bedroom alone.
You’re currently living in Berlin, how has the city helped you to develop as a musician?
Obviously now I’m a lot more exposed to dance music, being in a city where house and techno is most prominent. I’ve seen some amazing sets here which have really inspired me but I still feel like I’m not really attached to any scene or movement, and like to continue to work alone without being influenced too heavily by other sounds going on around me. I’ve been in the city over a year so I’m sure the sound of the city is subconsciously being filtered into my own music, which I don’t mind at all.
When did you start experimenting with making music?
I was always experimenting even before I got hold of some music software into my later teens. Guitar was my main instrument since I was really young and was always obsessing about equipment, always trying to find the weirdest sounds I could with various pedals and amps etc.
Who are your idols?
I can’t think of anyone who really stands out as being an idol. Through different points in my life there have been various people who have steered me in the direction to make the music I’m making now, and I’m constantly inspired by new people all the time. I could try to think of names but I think the inspiration to make music has always been there.
What are you currently working on? Have you got any new music being released this year?
There will be at least 3 EP’s and a collaboration album under the BNJMN name coming out this year, as well as some other projects which I can’t talk too much about at the moment. I feel happy that I’ve found some labels that are interested in what I’m doing again, after the main A&R guy from Rush Hour left last year.
How does the music that you’re currently producing compare to your previous two albums, which you released in 2011?
For me it’s almost exactly the same process, although I just recently changed to using Ableton after using a 12 year old version of Cubase. It really inspired me and I made a flurry of tracks shortly after changing, and I now feel I’m able to get my ideas across just as quickly as before.
What was the process behind the production like? Have you employed any radically new techniques in the studio?
Not really, although Ableton is obviously different than using Cubase – I feel that once you get past the learning curve you apply the same techniques as before. I’m always looking for ways to do things differently, as I have since I started making music. If someone properly studied how to use Ableton from a course or teacher they would probably be shocked at how badly I’m using the program, but maybe this is how my music sounds unique, by taking these strange and not always obvious decisions when I’m making a track.
Can you tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve provided? How was it made and are there any particular tracks that you’re particularly fond of?
I made the mix in Ableton, and there is little to no mixing involved. I wanted to present it as a mixtape of tracks I’m feeling at the moment. Some of it is more suited to the dancefloor but I would say there is also a musical element to those tracks which are just as good to listen to at home. There’s also some exclusive and unknown bits which may appear later in the year.
What else have you got in the pipeline that we can look forward to?
There are a few projects which I can’t talk about yet, I’ve signed a NDA agreement for something I’m really excited about. I’m looking forward to updating the live set and DJing more in future.BNJMNRush HourElectronicaExperimental