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Interview with Ben Lukas Boysen

After listening to the superb Spells album (released on Erased Tapes Records), what more natural than to get better acquainted with its author, Ben Lukas Boysen ... who kindly agreed to answer some questions :
(photos by Claudia Gödke) : Your new album Spells is taking place after Gravity, with stunning tracks blending piano, harp, cello... How did you compose and record the album ? Can you tell us about the musicians you worked with ?

The pieces were all written and pre-produced in my studio in Berlin. Since I don't have the means to record drums or harp here, I sent the files off to the musicians (Lara, the harpist, is based in L.A.) mentioning that what I send should rather be seen as a proposal because she knows her instrument a lot better than I do and I'm always happy if musicians add their own personal touch to it. Same with Achim, the drummer, and Anton, the cellist. I had rough ideas for the tracks and discussed them with everybody, keeping them open to change. This continued at the mixing session. Nils (ndr : Frahms) always has great ideas to tweak mostly small but very significant bits within the songs to get them to their full potential. : Why did you join Erased Tapes Records ? Apparently Nils Frahms played some role with Spells ? Any collab in the future with him or one of the label's artists ?

I worked with Erased Tapes as my publisher for a few years already and we always liked each other a lot (already before that time). I guess it felt quite natural and like a good idea to try something on the label side of things as well. As a huge fan of the roster and work released here, it was a gigantic honor to be added. Especially since I worked with Nils on a few projects before and being granted a record (including the re-realease of Gravity) felt like a serious accolade. I can't think of an artist here that I wouldn't work with really, so I'm more than open to any collaboration, but at this time there's nothing planned for the immediate future. : In your musical career you seem to experiment very different musical fields, as Hecq at first, and now under your real name. What leads you in your sound exploration ? What would you like to try next ?

For now I find the separation between Hecq and Ben Lukas Boysen enough. Hecq is a completely open project - allowing pretty much anything, while Ben Lukas Boysen lives more from conceptual ideas and also compositional austerity. These two complement each other quite well. When I feel the need for total, Jackson Pollock-like experimentation I'll do something under Hecq - if there's a need for a more focused, controlled and channeled release I'd work as Ben Lukas Boysen. I have plans for a new Hecq album at the moment but they are only a few days old so they need to sink in for a little while. : From Spells emerges a deep melancholy : does this reflect a contemplative mood or some sadness ? Something else ?

It's interesting that to me personally Spells feels a lot lighter and almost more "pop" than Gravity. A few people already told me though that it radiates some rather intense sadness - which i'm yet to discover. Yes, I enjoy writing contemplative composing and music but it normally ends up being my personal impression of beauty and equilibrium more than anything else. I feel some people automatically think of something as sad when they are unsure how to feel about something emotional (I obviously won't deny any personal definitions of feelings, it's just the experience I made in a few cases). If Spells should do or be anything then I'd say it should be a gateway drug to being okay with (your own) emotions and aesthetics and probaly find some different and helpful beauty in it. : For me, Spells is like a beautiful musical poetry, both vibrant and soothing... What is your own definition of poetry ?

That's a tough one. I'm actually not really sure. I like things (music, art, film, poetry) that express any kind of honest, undecorated emotion very straight forward without taking itself too important. It should be a serious statement but no ultimate truth. True to it's craft and form but not over polished, creative but not forced into existence. : Has the poetry still the place it deserves in our world ? Where and how do you find it around you ?

It has place but I feel it's appreciated by not enough people. Any kind of artistic, philosophical or poetic thought can help so much (even though often only in an abstract way) to spark really useful ideas for very worldly and imminent questions and problems. If nothing else it's a source to widen your personal horizon, find beauty and creativity. I find it all around me normally - it's really right in front of you normally. It's more the personal mindset that will help or hinder you from uising it. : You've been based in Berlin for 10 years. Is this city a special place for musicians, and artists in general ? How do you explain Berlin is so attractive and remains an incredible source of inspiration : history, people, a way of life ?

I think mostly the people and way of life - history is also a part of it for me personally but more on a meta level. I think the most obvious reason is that it's still relatively cheap in comparison to other capitals across the world and it's a fairly relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. I moved here because there's no real interest in the things I wanted to do in my small hometown and I thought to myself : "if it won't work in berlin, I will have to reconsider my choices in life". This city normally welcomes you and gives you a chance, I have to say, at least that's how I would sum up the last years here. : What are the current musical trends in Berlin ? Is it really as dynamic as we french redactors suppose it to be ? (Last time I was in Berlin was 5 years ago ; I need to update my knowledges)

That's a good question. I would not consider myself really connected with trends or scenes in general. I'm not a club person but that's where a lot of the taste making happens. A lot of festivals (like Atonal or CTM) tie together all sorts of arts, workshops, concerts and events under one roof, which makes it alot easier to enjoy a variety of inspiring things before and outside an excessive all night club event. From how it feels, I'd say it as dynamic as always, maybe even more - many wonderful people doing their best to keep artists and audiences connected and busy, which I'm incredibly thankful for. : What artists are your major influences, musical or others ?

There are many really... Most recently i have been listening a lot to the Leopold Stokowski orchestra transcriptions of Bach and other composers. It's like transporting already amazing compositions into a completel different, new and vibrant realm.

I listen a lot to everything by The Caretaker, Thomas Köner, Stuart Dempster, Tim Hecker, Lustmord, Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, Henryk Górecki, Bach, Bruckner, Rachmaninov, Fauré, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Boards of Canada, AtomTM, Monster Rally, The Orb... and many many more. There's always something to be found anywhere as I mentioned earlier... I love movies a lot more than books to be honest, it's simply more my kind of medium and/or communication and embrace things from Star Wars to Dancer In The Dark.
Without knowing the first thing about architecture I always feel being an architect would have been my life goal in a parallel universe as I enjoy architecture of all kinds so so much and find it an amazing testament for what we as a species are able to achive in terms of creativity and idea development. This will never stop to amaze me, just like the paintings of Rubens, Gustave Moreau, Peter Nicolai Arbo and also an artist I only discovered recently called Guillermo Lorca - wonderful, moving works. : A new artist or a late album to recommend ?

I was listening a lot to the The Faex Has Decimated by Legiac recently and are happy to see there's a new album out now, called The Voynich Manuscript.

Another constant in my playlists is the Open Road album by Luke Howard and Janos Bruneel - probably one of the most honest expressions of emotions I was mentioning above. Truly touching.

Just like the socre to the Denis Villeneuve movie Enemy by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. As chilling as the movie itself. Perfect Beauty. : Any tour on its way for those who wish to listen to you in live ?

I'm still working on this but it is looking promising. All my life I was a studio musician, composer and arranger and was suprised and flattered when request for live shows came in after the album release. My dilemma is that I need to find a way of becoming a good live musician pretty fast - wich is a wonderful challenge but it will take a moment. I started rehearsing with fellow musicians already to evaluate what is happening, how, where and when. A few more sessions are needed but I'm quite optimistic that good things will happen.

Propos recueillis par : Lacar.
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