A Sit Down With DJ Bonobo

14:21 Jan/24/2018

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 don’t know if it’s where my head is at right now. I’m always trying to find new things that I haven’t done before."


Under which genre would you categorize your music? 

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody likes having their music pinned down to a genre, but people need to know genres. I didn’t want to be associated with “chill out” lounge music. There’s everything [in my music] from psychedelic jazz to hip-hop; it’s really broad. I wouldn’t want to put it in a box with a name on it; I like to think it’s broader than that. It’s for people to decide.

How do you find the writing process these days—do 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 haven’t tried enough sometimes unless you’re suffering a bit.

There seems to be some hip-hop influence in your work. How influential has it been?

I don’t think you could say hip-hop itself. I mean my kind of era of hip-hop is that early ‘90s—it’s 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 don’t listen to much new hip-hop. I’m 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. It’s 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 there’s not really any need for me to be there—I wasn’t engaging in the city. Whereas here there’s a very good creative community developing. I’ve been accused of being cliché by an interview before for moving to LA [laughs]. But there’s certainly good people coming out here now and it’s 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. It’s 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, it’s 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, I’d 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 it’s straight on Soundcloud and on and on. People in San Francisco know what’s 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 I’m listening to. My music is a documentary of where my headsis at the time; it’s always evolving. The influence changes so it can be anything. It’s all recontextualizing what’s going on at the time. It’s 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 younger—like 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. It’s a really kind of low key way of playing music. But yeah, that’s how I’ve always done it. I just picked stuff up.

You’ve 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, that’s 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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