“I could easily have spent 5 more years on this record. I can see how people get into taking time to do stuff. It was a total change of pace. I didn’t rush anything.” So says Ben Esser in 2012.
But you haven’t heard from him in 3 years. Since you last met Ben he has walked the street of New York looking for the ghosts of Andy Warhol’s Factory and evolved a new slow ethos inspired by the peaceful lifestyles of ambient pioneers Cluster.
While he has always been a producer, his latest work is more about production, experimenting with the sound of electricity. He’s been sequestered at his studio on Shacklewell Lane, focussed on the practise not the product.
In fact, he hasn’t even been writing songs. “I went in and just recorded stuff in a live context. Set up drums and keyboards, played stuff out. ‘Enmity’ started as something completely different and there are probably 30 versions of the song. It was a lot more about starting ideas and making little compilation of bits that I liked from different songs and then try and go back in and change them. It could have been 20 minutes long.”
And as the man evolved and grew up (he wrote his previous material 4 years ago) a new mood board of influences began to exert power over his imagination. From the junk-paced poems of “The Basketball Diaries” author Jim Carroll to the “quotable quotes” of Andy Warhol and the feel of the ever seductive “Berlin Trilogy” of fellow Brit Boy Bowie. He followed the trail to Berlin in search of this opiatic glitz. He lived on the Köthener Strasse. “I tried to connect with the past and there was nothing there” says Ben. “I went to NYC to look at where the old Andy Warhol Factory was and it was a car park. Max’s Kansas City was a CVS drug store.”
If he wanted to find that feeling he would have to (re) create it himself. He collected a stack of obsolete synthesisers with unfamiliar names from eBay (Tiesco, Ems) and saved a 2 track Revox A77 tape machine from gathering dust in an attic. He started to piece together a new sound with his bare hands. Literally in some cases, cutting up tape and gluing it back together, letting it loop and writing over the top. The dreamy analogue spaces of Chris Carter’s work, the skronk and clunk of Cabaret Voltaire or Serge Bulot’s orchestral constructions were his key influences. He changed his palette. His wife filmed a video for ‘Enmity’ inspired by Dada and Hans Richter on 16mm chemical film tape, he morphed physically. The ‘Enmity’ EP is the welcome party to his strange new world. “A lot of the music I’ve been listening to lately is stuff that the more you listen to, the more it absorbs you” says Ben.
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