A Sit Down With DJ Bonobo
Bonobo aka Simon Green is one of those rare gems, with an impressive body of work and a constant evolution of his craft I would dare to say he is one of the greatest electronic musicians of this decade. He is what you might call an OG, emerging from a golden era in electronic music's history when vinyl was the format and turntables the tool of the trade.
"I dont know if its where my head is at right now. Im always trying to find new things that I havent done before."
Under which genre would you categorize your music?
I dont know. I dont think anybody likes having their music pinned down to a genre, but people need to know genres. I didnt want to be associated with chill out lounge music. Theres everything [in my music] from psychedelic jazz to hip-hop; its really broad. I wouldnt want to put it in a box with a name on it; I like to think its broader than that. Its for people to decide.
How do you find the writing process these daysdo you still have those 4 am wall-hitting moments?
Yeah, all the time. Some tracks fall out there and are a real joy, but with others you have no idea where to go. I think you havent tried enough sometimes unless youre suffering a bit.
There seems to be some hip-hop influence in your work. How influential has it been?
I dont think you could say hip-hop itself. I mean my kind of era of hip-hop is that early 90sits like Tribe and like Native Tongues. That was my introduction to it. But I think I kind of approach music without saying my aesthetic is hip-hop. Especially now, I dont listen to much new hip-hop. Im more into the aesthetic of approaching music in a more live, recorded kind of way rather than using or following the trends within hip-hop. Its a different approach I guess.
You recently moved to LA...
Yes, but as soon as I got here [in LA] I went away again for like six months on tour. I still feel relatively new and am only just settling here. New York was great but I find that theres not really any need for me to be thereI wasnt engaging in the city. Whereas here theres a very good creative community developing. Ive been accused of being cliché by an interview before for moving to LA [laughs]. But theres certainly good people coming out here now and its a lot more inclusive and collaborative. Ninja Tune set up an office here and all these UK labels are moving out here. There is a college-like creative environment, where everyone is down to create or hang out at the studio. Its a really nice scene now.
Do you think moving has given you a new appreciation of how much impact UK music has on electronic music worldwide?
Yeah, its kind of crazy. Like how you can be up somewhere in Mississippi, or something and there will be kids talking about Boiler Room and Rinse FM. Music has become instantly global. When I used to DJ, Id be bringing in bags of white labels, playing music nobody had heard before. But now a Boiler Room set gets ripped onto YouTube within seconds and from there its straight on Soundcloud and on and on. People in San Francisco know whats happening in London the second people actually experience it.
What is one deep thought you`ve been having lately?
What am I going to do next? That's kind of my thing. Counting down this record and seeing where it goes next. That's the thing - what do I do now?
What inspires your music?
Everything. Musically, everything Im listening to. My music is a documentary of where my headsis at the time; its always evolving. The influence changes so it can be anything. Its all recontextualizing whats going on at the time. Its hard to say; I just sit down and see what comes out.
You play a lot of instruments on the new album Are they all self-taught?
No. I just picked stuff up and figured it out. I never really had lessons or anything. I was in bands when I was youngerlike kind of little indie rock bands or whatever when I was a teenager. Just that same kind of principle, just playing stuff into a sampler, I guess. Its a really kind of low key way of playing music. But yeah, thats how Ive always done it. I just picked stuff up.
Youve said that DJ-ing helped you learn how to structure a live show. How so?
DJ-ing taught me how to create a journey over the space of two or three hours. I do really long DJ sets -- I play for five or six hours sometimes -- but the live shows are a bit more compact. The arch of how to tell a story, where the energy is, where you have peaks and drops, where things go up and things come down, thats all being informed by DJ-ing.
What can we expect from your live show at Coachella?
It's going to be slightly different because we have the festival set and we're not going to have the full production. This is the first time we're going to bringing out the vocalists on the record. We're going to be touring with Szjerdene who was on the North Borders tour. But Coachella, we're going to be bringing out a lot more of the guests on the records, for the first time ever. It's going to be pretty special.
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