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FRANK BENJAMIN FINGER (Norway)

 

Spear Of Broccoli VS. World Of Centrifuge

 

ImageAlready a director of short films, music videos and animated movies, Frank Benjamin Finger is also one half of the electronica duo Beneva vs. Clark Nova. He started his solo career in 2009. with the album Woods Of Broccoli (How Is Annie Records), this time just as Benjamin Finger. His music cheered up both audience and critics (who recommended his debut album as one of the freshest newcomers lately). And all hopes are that it will not become just one obscure manifesto in some edge of something. For those who haven't heard the record yet, Woods Of Broccoli is a skilled balanced organic-electro-acoustic-vitamin bomb which was indeed something expected from Benjamin, at least for two reasons (in which are all other reasons, I guess): a) first/supplement - supply body-mental system with energy. And with will. b) second/cleaner - clear from brimming and the accumulate trash of the modern world. It's interesting to listen attentively to people like Benjamin, what he says about himself through influences and sights around. Is there any special preparation in everything he does, what is the spring and the road? It's a marvelous thing that after such an acquaintance, some people can, through imagination, try to make something similar and transform their music into an act of reality. Such stimulus are the most positive ones.

 

Plastelin: Here we are at the very beginning to find out how Benjamin developed his interest in music.
Frank Benjamin Finger - Oh! Big question... Well, hard to say really. When I grew up my dad was a musician (now retired) so music was always being played in our home (Hamar, Norway) when I was a kid. I can still remember some of the tapes he had. He used to play a lot of various artists; The Beatles, The Bee Gees, Earth Wind and Fire, George Benson. And lots of jazz artists... When I was around the age of ten, I think, my dad practically forced me to take piano and guitar lessons. He wanted me to learn notes and the scales. But I wasn't very interested and didn't want to rehearse. I remember him getting very frustrated and angry at me every time we had a lesson and I wasn't prepared. Later he hired someone else to teach me how to play the piano but with no success. I practiced a little bit more, but was never really interested. Guess I was more interested in playing football and watching movies (James Bond/Peter Sellers/Steven Spielberg films. Hence the reference to film music). I guess that I was always interested in music. I had no choice, having a father who was so devoted to it. From I was 12, I started to buy a lot of cassettes, I just didn't want to play any instruments myself, just absorb music.

 

What pushed you seriously to music?
- Growing up with cable TV and being able to watch English and Swedish channels certainly presented me to a whole new world when it came to discovering new and alternative music. In England you had channels like Sky (with Pat Sharp and programs like Top of the pops). Also in Sweden they had really good music coverage and showed a lot of concerts (I remember crying watching an Elvis concert with my parents) and music documentaries. I can still remember watching the documentary "Style Wars and Wild Style" on Swedish Television and being blown away by the amazing grafitti scene and the new music presented there. It really opened up a whole new world for me. Not long after, I remember meeting two American teenagers who went to Norway for their summer vacation. I met them in the playground outside our home. I invited them home and they started breakdancing in my parents living room. My father recorded them on video and I used to look at them for years. The track they were breakdancing to was by Man Parrish (Hip Hop Be Bop Don't Stop) which still sounds as fresh today as it did in 1983. The song has a really special place in my heart. I cannot imagine a band like Autechre, for example, existing without their influence. So this experience lead me to hip hop at a relatively young age. I started diving into the whole culture and found myself buying every hip hop record I could get my hands on. I listened to artists like Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Melle Mel, The Rocksteady Crew, The Break Boys, Marley Mal, Afrika Bambaataa, Soul Sonic Force, Roxanne Shante, Douge Fresh and the Get Wet Crew etc... And of course loved the movies from that era; Beat Street, Breakdance... So I guess this is music that influenced me in the direction of independent/alternative music, since all of these artist were groundbreaking in their time. I think you can hear a lot of these influences in my other band, Beneva vs. Clark Nova (for example on the track "Thora's Inferno" from our debut album Sombunall). So all of these factors triggered my curiousity and got me into starting collecting music. We had some really great record shops in Hamar (The Pink Panter Shop and Rilla Platebar) where I could find more alternative music and buy rare 12 inches. I would also take the train to Oslo ocassionally (with my good friend PÂl Nyhus aka Dj Strangefruit which is making music under his project Mungolian Jet Set on Smalltown Supersound) to buy records in bigger shops. Today we are making very different music which I think is kind of fun.

 

ImageDid you have some experiences through playing in bands?
- None,except for the few lessons I had as a kid. But I have been playing accoustic guitar by myself for many years, just playing chords even without knowing the names of them. My biggest experience must be that I have always been extremely interested in music (all genres throughout really). I have listened to tons of records. My ear is well adjusted and blessed to receive different kinds and forms of music. I started to experiment with electronic music in 2004 when my stepfather gave me a Mac which contained a music program called Garage Band. Here I started using the synthizeisers, loops and putting all sorts of sounds together and mixing it through different filters. And I did some tracks with my girlfriend for fun and we decided to call us Beneva. (Which is the first three letters in my middle name and her first name). Then one day I accindentally saw a note at the music library in Oslo. It said that a new label (Skrudd records, RIP) were looking for different music and new young artists to put out on a compilation. Almost like a contest. They would pick out the material they liked the best. We were fortunate enough to be selected and from there on I've been making music ever since. And this lead to being asked about doing gigs. Since I had no experience, and my girlfriend was too shy to enter a stage, I decided to contact my friend Rudi Simmons who had a lot of experince playing in numerous bands at that time. He was in for the ride and really open to the idea. And after some pretty good gigs and concerts we decided to form Beneva vs. Clark Nova. Then a few nights after a gig we were contacted by a label from Oslo called FenÈtre Records, at that time run by Jorgen Brauti and Christian Evensen (the last one quit). This lead to a relationship with the label and we ended up doing a track ("I could eat a chicken evey day") for their first compilation called Rufs, followed by a "3" inch, Flotsam/Jetsam. And this finally resulted in our debut album "Sombunall", which came out in february 2008. The response was exceeding all expectations so we decided to keep the band going.

 

What is the status of Bvs.CN today?
- In November we released our new album - it's called "Dramadadatic" and it is a split release between How Is Annie Records and FenÈtre Records. We will do some concerts in Norway at the end of this year and next year, and hopefully play at some festivals next year. Our big goal is to do a European tour next summer. That would be a blast! We would love to play in Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Lisbon. And travelling by train the whole tour. You see, Clark Nova is allergic to planes. And the future? We have already started recording a new album. I think it so far tends to drift into more ambient related stuff, but I think it might end up being more pop than I thought.

 

What took you into your parallel solo career?
- Good question. I think it comes from buying myself a new guitar and finding a different form/space to record in. I didn't think of it as solo stuff from the start. It was just sketches that wouldn't fit in or make it onto the Beneva vs. Clark Nova stuff. It just sounded like something else. The first music I recorded was just with an electric guitar plugged into my computer. It was more drone stuff or more rock orientated, like a rough Modest Mouse or Dinosaur JR demo I guess. The guitar was out of tune, had lots of fuzz layers on it and my voice was cracking up all the time. But when I bought my first accoustic guitar with a jack input on it, I started doodling and these melodies and sounds came to me. Slowly I also started to use the piano to accompany the guitar or play separate pieces that just consisted of piano melodies. And after some time I suddenly realized that I had up to ten, fifteen tracks I really liked and which thought could develop and turn into songs. So it was like a puzzle, really. I started working with each of the tracks, adding more guitar or piano layers, field recordings, female voices or whatever I found was necessary to fill in so that it could stand on its own as songs. I guess it's a very abstract way of working. Like you gradually see the fruits, or like painting actually. You keep adding things until you feel that it is enough. It took me about one and a half year to complete Woods of Broccoli.

 

You've already promoted the album on gigs, how is it for you to play it in a live setting and how would you describe your contact with the audience?
- Yes, I've played a couple of shows promoting the Woods of Broccoli album (support for AU from USA in Bergen). It was a really great experience, since I had to find out how to perform the album live. I brought in a friend, Are Watle to help me fill in on the sound and I think we worked really well together. He's been playing some guitar and saxophone parts. I also played some festivals (By-Alarm and Rock Am Sogn 09) but I find myself more suitable in a club environment. Lesser people and warmer sound. Guess I'm a little shy and tend to relax a bit more in smaller venues and atmospheres. But I must say that Berlin was a fantastic place to play with Bvs.CN last summer. The people I met there were really friendly and open minded. It's like they let you play whatever you want. Hope to go back there any time soon with my solo project.

 

ImageSome time ago you said that you will gladly play in Serbia, are you still in that position?
- YES, for sure. I'll play in Serbia any day of the week. Always wanted to go there! Just call me ...

 

After all musical experiences, do you recognize your work as part of something, maybe scandinavian scene?
- I've never felt that being part of Beneva vs. Clark Nova or releasing solo albums as Benjamin Finger has made me feel part of the Scandinavian music scene. Even though both projects have recieved attention home and abroad and critically had a lot of success, it still feels like I/we are outsiders. But when we played in Berlin things changed a bit and I felt that it was really inspiring to play to a whole new audience. I guess if I lived in a bigger city things would be different. Oslo is really small. When you have played at five,six places or so, there really aren't any more venues to play at except maybe for some festivals during the year. And by the way, I'm not really trying to or want to be part of the establishment with my music. I feel really good about being somehow left alone to my own devices and being able to produce exactly the records that I want to make without having to deal with compromises etc. And that's a really wonderful thing about How Is Annie Records, they trust you to come up with your best material without interfering. A big thumb up to Morten Samdal and the staff!

 

Knowing your personal interest and multipotential of your music, did you have plans to work on soundtracks? To make the question a bit wider. What are your current plans?
- No, not yet. But it would be a dream to create the score for a film that I really liked. In my wildest dreams I wish I could have done it for Vincent Gallo's debut film "Bufallo 66" or Julio Medem's "The Lover's of the Artic Circle", two films I absolutely adore and keep coming back to. I've used some of my own music in short films that I have directed earlier and will be using some of my music when I'm directing my new short movie in a while. Current plans? Well, these days the new Beneva vs. Clark Nova record "Dramadadatic" has just hit the stores. And we will start to record stuff for our third album right after the promotion and touring. I hope the American photographer Sandy Skoglund will do the artwork on the next records as well. I'm also doing the last mixes for my new solo album "For you, sleepsleeper" which should be out somewhere between February/March next year. I'm really psyched on that release since it differs quite a lot from Woods of Broccoli. This one is more up-tempo and contains some shoegaze, ambient, jazz and techno related stuff. My plan is to release solo albums that are really different from each other, but that still has my signature on it. I've been lucky enough working with Bryan Voell (USA) who makes these great collages and he has done wonders for the artwork on the new album. I will also be making new music videos for Beneva vs. Clark Nova and for my new solo record. Stay tuned! Here's my youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/frankbeneva

 

Remix CD's are very popular these days. Is there any criteria on which you will choose artists for co-operation, someone from whom you will want to hear a reinterpretation of the music you've made. Do you wish to do something like that?
- Ah, yes! Of course. I think most artists that are open will find it interesting to hear interpretations from other musicians remixing their stuff. I guess you can also learn about your own music from that. So a remix cd would definitely be something to think about in the future. But I feel somewhat new to the idea of being a solo artist and would like to release about three records at least before I'm thinking about having someone remixing them. But artists I would love to collaborate with would be people from the Norwegian underground scene that I like and some foreign artists. I'm afraid to mention their name yet, have to really think it through carefully.

 

ImageEscapism is named as one of your biggest influence. What is escapism for you and on which level does it affect you?
- I use the term because I think it defines the music on "Woods of Broccoli". What people put in the term can be different from person to person. For me it is about getting away from every-day life, trying to create an own personal space, (like going to therapy I guess). Just as the term implies, you can say that I tend to drift away into a zone, blocking out things that you have deal within the adult world and being very romantic about it, hehe...For good or worse. This is also one of the reasons why I don't read the newspapers or watch TV. Even though I have worked as a music video producer for NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) on "Kometkameratene" after I finished film school. But I do listen to the radio every day. It's such a great medium and tends to keep you focused as a listener.

 

Do you eat broccoli? Is it some kind of fuel for you?
- Of course, YES, indeed. Everyday! I guess you could call it fuel for me. I feel that it cleans my body. And it contains iron, which is good for you.

 

Tom Sawyer or Harry Potter?
- Definitely Tom Sawyer. I used to be an addict watching Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn on Swedish Television when I was a kid. Simply loved it. That is what I call escapism.

 

Swimming or skiing? Bicycle or car?
- Swimming. I can swim for hours during the warm seasons. The best exercise in the world. And bicycle. Allthough I always seem to wreck them. I don't have a drivers license and I will never get one. Afraid of traffic. Not my world and I don't understand the rules. And why are there so many aggressive drivers out there? Freaks me out.

 

ImageDo you have a category of fave CD, books... What occupies you in the moment?
- Oh la la! That's really a tough one. Let me just say that my whole appartement consists of records, books and films (I mean a lot). Let me see... Favorite cd for the moment is difficult to answer because I listen to so many every week. But let me just say that I love Arthur Russel's album; "The world of echo". It's such a beautiful and groundbreaking album. Escapism at it's best. The book I'm reading at the moment is Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita and I'm so thrilled about it. Can't wait to go on reading. Other writers that I really love and adore are Witold Gombrowicz, Julio Cortazar, Robert Walser, William S. Borroughs, Boris Vian, Andre Breton and Thomas Pynchon to name a few. Of the Norwegians writers it has to be Jens Bjorneboe, Tor Ulven, Kjell Askildsen, Thure Erik Lund, Jon Fosse and Stig SÊterbakken. Movies... I've just bought two box sets, volume 1 and 2 by Claude Chabrol (consists of 14 films) and Eric Rohmer (8 films) so I'm going through these French films at the moment. I really think they have created wonderful plots and have their own way of thinking when it comes to narration, telling a story etc. Other directors that I really like are; Louis Malle, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Francois Truffaut, Julio Medem, Woody Allen, Jean-Luc Godard, Werner Hertzog, John Cassavetes, Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. The list could go on and on...

 

God. Religion. Or both?
- I was raised as a catholic since both my parents are from Poland. I don't attend to masses anymore (I was forced to go every sunday as a kid, it was a drag!) but still I find myself believing in something, even though I tend to think of it as something more abstract. Saying that, I've also caught myself praying at night sometimes. And I must say that I remember really liking the music in the catholic ceremony. Especially the choir voices at times. I guess I really believe in something - how can you not? - seeing what state the world is in. Will we ever get rid of these stupid wars?

 

Author: Mileta Okiljevic

 
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