Going Ape Shit: Bonobo Takes Charge of 2013

Posted April 16, 2013 in
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Bonobo will be at Urban Lounge on April 27. Photo: Andrew de Francessco

At 37, British electro-composer Simon Green, aka Bonobo (pronounced bow-no-bow like the brilliant chimps, please and thank you), has released eight albums (including remixes) and over 10 singles and EPs. With such an impressive repertoire under his belt, it isn’t surprising that the release of his most recent album, The North Borders, has already become such a success, while only released approximately two weeks ago. Borders is is an even more mature and organic effort compared with previous records, incorporating new stylings and lyrical collaborations. I spoke with Bonobo, who is across the country, about his new album, tour and recent projects.

SLUG: You are coming to Salt Lake City on April 27. How will this show be different than your previous set in Utah?
Bonobo: I’ve played one show in Salt Lake City, DJing. This is the whole live show which is very different. It’s a six-piece band and we deconstruct the tracks live. We have a drummer, woodwinds and vocalists, and it’s a much bigger show than the DJ set. I was working on the record on my own for 18 months and this brings artists in to help me play it live. It’s going to be a big band show.

SLUG: What was your creative process like on The North Borders?
Bonobo: It’s just me in a room working in a very isolated way. I visited Brooklyn from London so it was interesting working in a different city. It’s a room in my house where I work for long periods of time and the process was similar to my other records.

SLUG: On The North Borders you worked with Erykah Badu, Grey Reverend, Cornelia and Szjerdene. How was this different/the same as working with other vocalists on past albums?
Bonobo: The only thing that is different is the processing. A lot of the work [on The North Borders] was done remotely, which was different. Erykah Badu was working in her studio in Dallas and I was working in Brooklyn. Cornelia is in Sweden and Szjerdene is in Amsterdam. We were talking on the phone and sending tracks back and forwards.

SLUG: How do you feel that your music stands out in the electronic scene?
Bonobo: It doesn’t typically fit into the EDM thing. It comes from a more alternative spectrum and from a very different, melodic or songwriting place. Even the instrumental tunes are written with a song structure and isn’t just about the beats.

SLUG: Your songs often appear on TV shows and film (most recently House at the End of the Street). How do you market yourself without compromising your artistic integrity?
Bonobo: I make those judgements and turn down a lot of stuff as well. Having your music used in movies and TV shows is not necessarily compromising your artistic integrity at all. If you use it in the right thing it can be excellent. I’m a huge fan of movie soundtracks.

SLUG: You played at SXSW this year. Do you like music festival settings?
Bonobo: Yes, but SXSW isn’t a typical music festival in that sense. It happens in the city, so it’s more of a Friday night on steroids for a week really. The green field, out in the country kind of festivals I like, and their different atmosphere. I like that people let themselves go a lot more because they are away from home. It’s a very different experience. More chaos, but I kind of like it.

SLUG: How do you feel that the Internet and the digital age have effected music marketing and sales?
Bonobo: I think its interesting the way that a track can be global instantly. It used to be, back in the day, that you would bring a label to different countries and DJ to people who had never heard these tunes. Now you can play something on the radio in London and when its ripped onto YouTube, people in San Francisco are hearing it already. It’s made the world a lot smaller. My album was leaked two weeks before it got released so we had to bring the release day forward. I think it’s an inevitable thing now to bring together locations. I also think there is a lot to be said about owning a physical copy. I think vinyl is making a return because people have a choice if they want to buy a physical format or not, and I think that choice isn’t going to be CDs. People want something more tangible. It’s the resurgence of vinyl and the demise of the CD.

SLUG: Looking to the future, what are some new projects you will be working on?
Bonobo: I am doing remixes and a bit of production work for emcees and vocalists. I’ll be touring as well and keeping this live show dissolving and developing. I eventually want to get on with a new album.

Green’s show at Urban on April 27 is sure to be mind-blowing. This will be the first time he has brought the full band to Utah, making this a performance you don’t want to miss. As a supplement, or instead if you’re a homebody, the digital release of The North Borders is available on bonobomusic.com. There you’ll find a deluxe box set of the same album as well, which includes both a CD version and a 7 X 10” vinyl, catering to you whether your support lies with the “demise” or the “resurgence.”

Photos:
Bonobo will be at Urban Lounge on April 27. Photo: Andrew de Francessco