INTERVIEW

The light and dark times of Benjamin John Power.

Photography by Lee Goldup

Ten minutes into an interview with Benjamin John Power, we broach a subject already dogging Blanck Mass’ embryonic stages. As one half of the circuit-splitting Fuck Buttons, the comparisons between the two are starting to come mindlessly thick and fast. Derived more from lazy association, as opposed to contrast and context, it’s an aspect Ben is prepared for, if not overly exasperated by. Yet.

“I like the way you noticed that,” he says. “I haven’t done too much press yet for this so I’m still… fresh. The main difference between Fuck Buttons and Blanck Mass – apart from having another mind to bounce ideas off that might morph into something you never imagined before – with Blanck Mass, it’s much more direct and it was quite a secluded recording and writing process. I think that obviously allows it to become more personal.”

The result of an intensive writing and recording process that regularly saw Ben delve into 12-hour sessions. His self-titled debut is one of a black, bleak beauty. Enthralled with the defining work of Ennio Morricone and taking inspiration from nature, science and discovery, ‘Blanck Mass’, as Ben admits, isn’t an album to make a snap judgement on. It requires time, space and – a rare commodity in the face of current consumption – patience.

“It was such an intensive process, writing this record. I’d been spending 14 hours a day in the old place I was living in and I went at it quite hard. By no means was it me getting something out my system, but I did want to finish it in a certain time frame.

“The flat I was in before was not the friendliest of environments – there was no natural light and it felt quite sterile, like walking into a hospital. It was like a live/work unit with all this strip lighting that gave you a headache and I don’t think someone on the other side can empathise with that if they’ve got a few days to review or listen to a record. There are intricacies there that you won’t hear with a quick blast and I think it’s an album that needs to be listened to through headphones in the right environment.”

The importance of the right surroundings and environments play a prominent part in the Blanck Mass makeup. These aren’t songs chopped and hacked to fit; they’re scores and compositions created to evoke and elicit; inspire and introspect; delve deeper than your archetypal verse-chorus-verse. With the absence of lyrics, and a depth of theme and inspiration for the album, there’s a reliance on the instrumental journeys Ben creates to entice and hold your attention.

“I actually got asked an interesting question the other day, whether I thought the Blanck Mass album was a dark album or a light album and I thought about it and realised that I kind of see both of those things as not being separate from each other. Nature and science are really big things for me, and they go hand-in-hand, but I also think there’s loneliness in greater understanding and a happiness that can be found in isolation.

“I’m a huge fan of Ennio Morricone. His work was quite cold, quite isolated but it was also triumphant and quite hopeful as well. It’s the way I like to envisage Blanck Mass and would like to think the tracks on the album touch on those ideas.”

So here we are, faced with an album attempting to convey a deeper exploration of subjects that requires a willingness to step off the merry-go-round and invest in it. It shouldn’t be a lofty expectation but, as happens so often, when we’re faced with something we need to take the time to understand, we still want instant closure. We want context. We’re so smitten with immediacy that patience becomes even more of a virtue.

“It’s a pretty rapid time we live in,” nods Ben, “but I do feel like it’s a creeper. But it’s an interesting point. If I don’t start writing another one now… Blanck who?” he laughs.

“But I also think things don’t disappear as easily now too. I think the Internet is a perfect platform for things to get shelved and not go away. It’s endless but that’s a good thing. You see music-hosting blogs with records from the 70s that people are getting into now, so if I think about it like that, I think I’m alright.”

BLANCK MASS – ICKE’S STRUGGLE from Alex Turvey on Vimeo.

And so we come full circle. Do you pander to the pattern of modern consumption or take your chances that the blogosphere will immortalise you? With themes of nature, landscapes, isolation, loneliness, triumph, and cerebral hypoxia, it’s not an album that invites easy access, but it’s still an open invitation to use your imagination and paint your own picture. Open your mind and take your time. It’s a simple request. Let’s hope it isn’t beyond too many of us.

“Around the time I started to write ‘Sundowner’, I was speaking to a friend about the supposed feeling of euphoria that someone experiences before drowning – I really like that mental imagery and it rang quite strong with me.

“I’ve had the concept album thrown at me, but I don’t like the idea of a concept because you’re forcing an idea of what an album’s about. I think it’s important to be able to take your own impressions away from it. I didn’t want to say, ‘this is what it is and this is what you should think’. It’s nice; the idea that music can complement any kind of human experience and that it can change. You want to make your own story and make it personal.”

“It’s an interesting thing – it’s the unknown and that’s where the cerebral hypoxia comes from. It’s a juxtaposition. On one side, I hate the idea of it, but it makes sense. It’s a thinker for sure,” he smiles.

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »