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Plastelin interview


Benjamin Finger´s smooth lessons on how to strip the piano down


ImageBenjamin Finger´s third album "Listen to my nerves hum" is kind of a travelogue. It is a genre of music that reports on travelling, or a musical documentary or pianomentary if you like. It is not one-dimensional, two-dimensional or even three-dimensional... And it seems that after reading all those reviews from various corners of the world every listener finds a unique dimension of their own in the music. Benjamin´s statement is indeed very personal. It is a statement that gathers images and memories from Benjamin´s childhood up until today. This is mixed with his understanding of the history of popular music. If someone thinks it´s an obscure approach, it´s not! And it certainly isn´t Benjamin´s problem. Plastelin was lucky enough to interview Benjamin a few years ago and explore the borders of his will to share his view on many topics from various angels. Fortunately, Benjamin is still a curious child within, full of energy and patience to challenge the world outside...So this is the right time to hear what has happened in Finger´s camp since his two previous albums.


A few years ago, we had a really nice conversation and, I hope we explained what build you as a complete artist, not only musician - what happened in between, what was your activities since the last album?
- I have basically been producing new albums. One of them is coming out later this year. The rest of them will probably see the light sometime in 2014/15. The albums differs very much in style. One is more ambient related while the other is more techno inspired and another one is very much a guitar album. There´s even some experimental jazz on another. I feel very much like a human yo-yo.


Also I have been lucky to have had my new film "Loops the loop" screened in the UK at Smith´s Row Gallery as part of an exhibition this year. The exhibition examined how 20th and 21st-century artists have worked or been inspired by the Super 8 format and low gauge film-making. It featured everything from iconic film-maker Derek Jarman to contemporary visual artists.


Ah! And yes, I was part stand-in for Vincent Gallo in the film Essential Killing (they filmed some parts outside of Oslo) directed by Jerzy Skolimowski. It was hell, I had to run through tons of snow with a helicopter chasing me. I would never do it again!


I have also shot some new music videos for my new album. And I have just delivered ten new films of Super 8 films to the lab.


As I know, you are like some shark, constantly moving! Did you discover some new things which influence your work and connected it all with your previous work? Maybe travels also gave some new dimensions...
- I guess I´m pretty restless musically. I´m listening to a lot of different music all the time, in all genres. I just saw a great documentary called In The Garden - A film about the classical avant-garde, which was very inspiring. And of course, travelling always helps me to get new ideas and impulses.


"Listen To My Nerves Hum" is for a new label, what happened? It seems that the new label is very happy to have you as artist.
- I got in touch with Time Released Sound because I had a deep respect for the label. I had been following them for quite a while, I think I even sent them a demo a couple of years back ago. But I think Colin gave me the wrong address, not sure, haha...It´s one of the labels that really gives 100% devotion to all of it´s releases. And nothing can beat that philosophy! I had just finished a piano album and Colin mentioned that he always had wanted to put out a piano record. The rest have been one smooth ride. We unfortunately had some problems with the test pressings (delaying the vinyl a month) but besides from that it has been a really enjoyable experience. Colin is pretty much the man! I hope we can work together again sometime in the future.


The new album certainly have a different sound than the previous ones, how do you feel about it? Did you have another approach when you worked on this album. It seems more minimal, simplified yet still very colorful.
- Yes, definitely. This album is more stripped down. I tried to limit myself this time. The "less is more" approach. I basically decided before recording it that I would use the piano as the main instrument and combine it with field recordings and tape loops. I also used old and shabby microphones to make it sound more lo-fi. I wanted it to sound old, but at the same time modern in the way I tried to combine the elements. I´m used to work with up to 60 audio files in a song at my worst. And that´s a lot to keep track of, so I felt liberated working with less on this album.


What made you decide to make piano as the foundation for the album, your previous activities was based mainly on subtile electronic. People have now named you a pianist.
- Maybe it was because I always hated piano lessons when I was a kid. I don´t see myself as a pianist, but more of an all-rounder. I´m trying to use every instrument I can get my hands on. Whether it´s a guitar, synth, piano or whatever I find available. I´m interested in the possibilities each of them can give me to create different moods or when I´m in search of a new expression.


Field recordings are a special chapter on the new album, can you tell me more about it, where were you when recording it all? And what was your criteria when using it in the songs?
- Field recordings were absolutely essential on this album. It was recorded in various places that I had been travelling to. Places I adore and love that I keep returning to. It´s a dedication to places and persons that are important to me. My criteria to select the particular sounds was decided by a lot of experimentation. I had to try many different combinations before deciding where it would fit in (and why). The record is based upon a journey, it starts with childhood memories and leads up to the present time.


Reviews are very positive and in a few examples almost lyrical, it seems that reviewers find ways not only to describe yourself music, but also to find a piece of themselves in your music. What can you say about it, did it give you some new ideas for further works?
- I am very grateful if this is the case. Nothing makes me more happy than to hear that people can find pieces of themselves in my music. Then I have achieved one of my goals for this album. I´m still absorbing the reviews without trying to getting too confident. That can make you lazy. I´m trying to think ahead all of the time. I have several albums that are in the making, so it´s hard for me to say if they are based on new or old ideas, maybe a combination. A bit too early to say really.


Just to keep the tradition, in a series of interviews for the future I hope. What is on your repeat listening, watching, reading?
- I have recently discovered a polish composer called Krzysztof Penderecki which really fascinates me. And I have just bought a record of Elliot Carter called Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello & Harpsichord etc...and Coil´s Horse Rotorvator on vinyl. Others I have been listening to lately are Morton Feldman, Motion Sickness of Time Travel, Aloonaluna, Bardo Pond, John Maus, Oneothrix Point Never and Grouper. And the artists I never seem to get tired of are Terry Riley, Arthur Russel, George Michael, Autechre, Cocteau Twins, Spacemen 3, Sun Ra, Loop, Alice Coltrane and Butthole Surfers.


When it comes to books I´m still very much in the world of Thomas Pynchon. I just finished "Vineland" a couple of months ago. What a trip! He is really a great inspirational figure and I never seem to get enough of him. I have to try and get through all of his works. And that will take time! And someone just recommended that I should check out Morton Mills. Looking forward to that.


I don´t think I´ve really seen any new good films lately. I´m undernourished on that field at the time being. I have hundreds of DVDs at home and find myself returning to classics like the Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers, Dead Man and Harold and Maude.


You told me few months ago, that you have another album already finished for american label Watery Starve, can you tell us more about it? And after that? Can we again expect something new and different?
- Yes, I have a new album for Watery Starve (US) run by Lynn Fister coming out on vinyl later this year. It´s a micro press looking to document music, writing and art in a unique and limited quantity. I´m just doing the last finishing touches these days, adding some extra instruments and vocals. This is more of an ambient record mixed with some classical elements in it, containing cello and guitar loops, voices etc...I wouldn´t say that it is radically different from my earlier records, but it definitely contains some new territory.


And after that? I have just started to record a techno record using old analogue synths. I think that will definitely be something different. And I have some experimental jazz stuff lying around that I think breaks new ground. And the new Beneva vs. Clark Nova record is nearly finished! Hope we can get it out anytime soon. So I can guarantee that I´m not going to lie on my back in the future.


Mileta Okiljevic
Photo: Carsten Aniksdal