Artist To Artist: Howie B & Borgar Magnason


Creative variation is limitless, this is perhaps most notable when looking at some of music's most prolific collaborators. Howie B has worked with an array of spectacular talent across a wide spanning career: U2, Brian Eno, Tricky, Bjork and many more have all been influenced by his studio wizardry. 

Most recently Howie B has been working with Borgar Magnason, a bassist who was involved in the Music For Astronauts and Cosmonauts project in which Howie B worked alongside Icelandic musician and artist Húbert Nói.

This summer will see Howie B and Borgar Magnason play alongside one another as part of a special appearance at Houghton Festival, the newly founded festival by Craig Richards and Gottwood. 

We asked the pair to interview on another, read the conversation below. 

Howie asks Borgar… 

I really liked when we met in my studio and we had no idea what we would do. I liked that very much, how about you ?

I had the same feeling about it.  No road map, no idea on style, form or function and coming from such different backgrounds we had no real way of being clever about anything. Then when we started working it went straight to “Oh, yesss. Wow. Thats why!”  And our first track (Drive Like Deamon) already demonstrated to me that we were on to something and made me excited about what else we could achieve.

If i said to you Hot Toast, did you see that as a musical direction ……

It depends on how you'd say it, I mosly understand you through observing your physical movements, your body language while you speak. But, yeah it´s a really interesting aspect of our working together. With our different backgrounds we don't really have an agreed upon language to communicate verbally so all communication is just by doing, thats the best. (Makes, "Hot Toast " as good a musical direction as any)

I find the physical distance (Reykjavik, Iceland – Ill D’Oleron, France) between us a creative boost, space. How do you feel about that?

I love it and I hate it. Creatively it´s a very interesting situation. Gives you time to reflect before reacting. That´s really interesting but then theres that part of me that would much rather be on stage every night, with no room to think.

The first live performance we did in London we used no monitors, our choice. I loved that, how do you feel about that ?

I thought it was a great experience,. It had the closeness of playing chamber music, for us on stage at least. It´s maybe not practical in many situations but I´d love to do that again sometime. In the classical world we are used to the sound on stage being different from what we project into the audience. Without monitors it all depends on the hall you´re playing in. Some of them sound great in the hall but terrible on stage or the other way around. 

Borgar asks Howie…

You chose to go completely analogue from the very beginning. I just love that. It really changed everything for me in terms of what we´d be doing. With no computers we never have any where to fall back on and no playbacks to hone down before going on stage.It makes everything immediate both for me and you but also for the audience. 

I felt since we were taking a new journey it would free both you and myself up and as you said would be more now. In fact more musical. I have been working in the box for a few years now and wanted to jump out and leave the monster alone and find myself through our realtime interaction. The only thing that holds us together now is Tempo, I like that .

Listening to you playing your all analogue set up from your end of the stage feels like absolute magic to me. Could you tell me more about it? Did you used to perform live with that same setup? Is it a situation where you are revisiting something that makes you nostalgic?

It's a setup I have been using since 1997 in various different guises. It consists of two step sequencers Notron mk 1 and Notron mk2. They are connected by a midi clock, one dictating tempo info to the other. They are then both connected to their own Nordlead 2 keyboard. One keyboard I have dedicated to rhythmic sounds and the other one has my bank of bespoke keyboard sounds: bass, organs and the like.

I have real time control of note length, note volume and pitch. I used some old patterns to get us going and then immediately stetted to adjust and act on what you were doing and very quickly we entered into our own unique world . Hey Presto.

These two sound worlds, are on the surface of it, so disparate. What we´re doing feels to me like finding common ground, sometimes it´s like holding peace talks between two worlds and sometimes it's like we are waging wars between them. What´s your feeling ?

For me the feeling is pure joy in all its manifestations: physical, emotional and musical. I couldn’t be happier, especially when we performed with no monitors, it blew me apart.

On genre. My feeling is that we could turn the knob right and have electronica with a twist, turn the knob all the way to the right and have contemporary classical, but then when we leave it in the middle there's no telling exactly where we are. Thoughts?

For me the fact that we can't define our sound is brilliant. I have always felt definition was “dynamite”. Every time I have read or heard someone define me musically it has always been time to move on. So I am happy you can't put your finger on it because neither can I and that is beautiful.

That's life.That's now. 

More details on Houghton Festival can be found HERE

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