Foto: Youvalle Levy (BNJMN)
Little was known about BNJMN when the British producer started releasing record after record, but one thing was for certain: He was here to stay. After seven years and about 20 releases on labels like Rush Hour, Delsin and Tresor later Ben Thomas doesn’t show any signs of stopping, launching his second label Tiercel with a release by himself and returning to Tresor later for the second instalment of his Body Reflections series. Perhaps it only makes sense that BNJMN’s contribution to our Groove podcast takes things slowly and ventures into Ambient territory.
You started out under different monikers producing Downbeat and Hip Hop beats before turning to Techno, citing Efdemin and Theo Parrish as two core influences. What is it exactly that drew you into the world of dance music?
It was a natural progression, as I was always interested more in sound and how it was produced rather than specific genres – still today. For me there wasn’t such a big difference between J Dilla and someone like Theo Parrish. What inspired me was the emotion more than the technicalities of the music. Saying that, making functional club tracks has interested me more and more throughout the years, although I always try to retain emotion rather than just making tools. It’s a balancing act.
While you mainly have been releasing music under your BNJMN guise in the past few years, you have also revived other projects like Singing Statues. What is the difference between that and what you do as BNJMN – and why did you leave some others behind?
I havn’t made any guitar-based or down-tempo music for quite some time, other than some publishing music I’ve done recently. BNJMN is definitely main focus in terms of music that I release to the public. I feel that focusing on one project helps to keep all my energies in one place and not spread myself too thin. In the past I used aliases so that I could feel free to go in any direction I felt like, but I now feel like I can go in many different directions even under the BNJMN name. Each release is unique from the last.
Interestingly, one Singing Statues release is called No Disguise. In your early days as a producer and DJ however, you didn’t show your face and wore a mask instead. What were your reasons to do that?
The main reason was nerves, I had a really hard time getting up in front of an audience. For the first few shows I wore a mask until it fell off during my first show abroad in Switzerland. After that it didn’t feel so bad and gradually over the years I’ve revealed more of who I am behind the music, although I don’t really go into detail about my personal life as I think the music itself is much more interesting.
After releasing a slew of records on labels like Rush Hour, Delsin or Tresor, you’ve recently launched your own imprint Tiercel with a release by yourself. What prompted that move and what are your plans with the label?
Tiercel for me is an outlet that I can continue to evolve with, and to release music when I feel like I have something new to say. I’ve found it harder in recent times to find labels that fit with the vision that I’m going for, aside from Tresor who I’m really happy to be working with. I also had complete control over everything for Tiercel001, from the artwork to picking the pressing plant, distributor and mastering. I had a great deal of satisfaction overseeing the release from start to finish.
It’s not the first time you start a label: On Brack, you have released two EPs and mixed tape in 2015. What happened to that label?
I felt that I had said everything I wanted to say with Brack, a more distorted or warped take on Techno. My music is still pretty warped, but I felt that Brack had a particular sound that I couldn’t even recreate now if I tried. It was time to move on.
Your contribution to our Groove podcast is an Ambient mix that apart from a Vainqueur classic features mostly new material. What was your idea behind it?
I wanted to include tracks, old and new that have been inspiring me lately. Some of the tracks are probably quite well known already but are fresh to me so I was inspired to include them. Ambient music has a big place in my heart – I curated an ambient album for Air Texture back in 2014 but since then havn’t presented much Ambient music to the public, although I have done on various releases, and I felt this was a great time to do so. I have more plans for Ambient music in the future, which this mix hints at.
Whereas Techno has in the past few years not only gotten bleaker but also harder, a lot of producers have started producing Ambient music. Where would you say does that need for more subtle sounds stem from, both for you and in general?
Maybe it’s something to listen to or make in contrast to the more harder Techno stuff, but also I don’t think there is much difference between an Ambient track and something that you may play out. They can be subtle in their own ways, and I find the creative process almost the same in making either an ambient track or something for the floor – it’s all about vibe rather than something technical.
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the near future and what are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?
I have been enjoying DJing hugely in the past year or so, and I hope to play out more soon. I’ll be playing in Berlin and also Amsterdam in the near future, and I hope to get out there more now that I feel I can command a room, which took quite a bit of time and experience. Release-wise there is the Paean EP out on Tiercel at the end of April and then Body Reflections Pt. 2 will be coming out on Tresor. There will be more from Tiercel later in the year and I’m also working on a new set which I can’t talk too much about yet, but very excited about.
Stream: BNJMN – Groove Podcast 103
01. Varg – Fonus (Northern Electronics)
02. Function & Vatican Shadow – Things Unknown (Hospital)
03. Untitled – Untitled
04. Vainqueur – Solanus Extracted 2 (Tresor)
05. Verge – Suspension (Avian)
06. Untitled – Untitled
07. Acronym – Final Descent (Auxillary)
08. Alessandro Cortini – La sveglia (Hospital)
09. Silent Servant – End / Optimism (Infrastructure New York)
10. Untitled – Untitled
11. Best Available Technology – No. 37 (Working Nights)
12. Rote – Sun In The Night (Bleed)
13. Sigha – Porcelain (Ideal) (Token)