Arriving on the scene in 2011 with two lauded albums on Rush Hour ('Plastic World' and the recent 'Black Square'), the enigmatic BNJMN demonstrates that the demand for forward thinking music remains as high as ever.
Although known primarily for his evocative live set, on the airpod below, BNJMN opens up his personal taste and gives us a flavour of what is moving him at the moment. Recorded in early November on the south coast of England, the mix features tracks from Bodycode, Ben Klock, The Field and Efdemin amongst others.
We caught up with BNJMN ahead of last Saturday's Phonica XMAS party to ask him about his musical origins, influences, travels and more…
Can you pinpoint a specific time when you first realised you wanted to make music?
'Yeah. It's a pretty cheesy one but one that will live long in the memory. My Dad was watching a Toto live in Paris on vhs, and as I walked into the room time pretty much stood still and I knew music was what I wanted to do. This was when I was about 6 years old.'
Are there any artists who were particularly influential to your output as BNJMN?
'The two main ones were Efdemin and Theo Parrish. At the time I was making down-tempo hiphop music under the name Jackhigh and I came across those two and really wanted to start making house/techno music.'
I understand you used to produce more down-tempo work as Jackhigh, apart from the general acclaim and success, why do you think you have persevered as BNJMN?
'Well I recorded the first BNJMN album back in 2008, since then I've recorded under various other names. Then the album came out on Rush Hour earlier in the year, which was good timing because I was just getting back into creating more house/techno inspired music. That's the stuff you hear on Black Square.'
It’s rare to find an artist outside of the familiar nucleuses of London and Manchester, did you feel limited in Bournemouth at any point? Reading some earlier interviews, it seems you stress isolation and escape as important components in your creative process, how do you think this ‘hermit mode’ manifests itself in your sound?
'I think it would naturally manifest in my sound, as I'm not part of any particular music scene. This is probably why my music is a bit all over the place, as I have no real point of reference, other than the music I'm listening to. I don't feel limited at all not being part of a scene, if anything I have more freedom this way.'
You’ve also previously stated that when you make music; ‘it’s all about the moment’. In this spontaneity which do you find more fruitful and important: a connection with emotion or an attention to experimentation?
'I naturally experiment, and emotion is something that drives me to create music, so I see both are as important as eachother.'
On ‘Black Square’ there seems to have been a particular attention given to the record’s structural development with the opening: ‘Enterlude’, a culmination in intensity on ‘Open the Floodgates’ and the eventual sedation of ‘Hallowed’, do you have any pre-conceived ideas about structuring a record before approaching it or is it a more natural, unintentional development?
'To be honest the track selection was done by the A&R guy at Rush Hour, obviously he sent it to me before release, but I was happy with the tracks he chose and the order. I just made the music and sent tracks to him.'
There’s certainly a hypnotic quality to some of your work, something that seems to stem from the layers you build on top of the basis of a loop, do you like to conform to a specific order in arranging each part or is it a more instinctual, less ordered process?
'It's definitely instinctual, and varies from track to track. Definitely not an ordered process ;)'
A lot of electronic music producers differ on how best to translate their record to a live setting – some stating the use of a laptop limits an engagement with the audience. Having released two records and later toured as a live outfit, where do you stand on this?
'I'm still relatively new to playing live, and am learning all the time. So far I havn't found playing with a laptop to be too limiting, but I may try to incorperate other elements and new instruments in future. For now I'm fairly happy using a laptop and a few midi controllers.'
Some of your work has been aligned with 90s rave, drawing comparisons with Lone. When your music is defined as referential and nostalgic in such a way, do you find it disheartening in terms of your motivation to create something new or do you consider such comparisons a compliment?
'I'm not really thinking about the past when I'm creating music, I'm always trying to create something new. But as I am influenced by music from the past it's inevitably going to end up in my music.'
Having recently played the Berghain, and toured in Denmark and Switzerland, how do you think the general attitude to electronic music/dance music differs?
'If you mean between Europe and the UK? Then I'd say people are more open to new things in Europe, not to say that there aren't real music fans here, but in Berghain for example no one cares what you look like or what you're dressed like, it's all about the music. Whereas in London it can often be the opposite.'
Having defied definitive classification yourself, in terms of genre, what do you make of British bass music’s fairly recent assimilation of house music?
'I'm not really aware of a lot of it, I like some of the Joy O stuff though.'
‘Nightvision’ came with a remix from Andy Stott – that must have been exciting for you, are there any other artists who you would consider an honour to be remixed by?
'Efdemin, Theo Parrish, Oni Ayhun, D'Marc Cantu, Actress.'
Similarly are there are any artists you yourself would love to remix or collaborate with?
'All of the above.'
Both ‘Plastic World’ and ‘Black Square’ have come out on the widely revered Rush Hour, are there any other labels around at the moment which you think are doing something special?
'Ostgut Ton, Mathematics, Glum, Astro:Dynamics'
Being the end of the year, the inevitable onslaught of the best of 2011 lists has come, what were the highlights for you?
'Reading Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut.'
What can we expect from your set at the Phonica Christmas Party on Saturday?