Decoding of telephone talk Special Radio with Ben Watkins. Moscow – London, 07.04.2005, 14.00 GMT.
BW – Ben Watkins
SR – SR’s press attache Maria Anikeeva.
BW – Hello
SR – Hello, this is from Special Radio. Can I speak to Ben?
BW – Yes, that’s me.
SR – Hi, Ben. I’m Maria. How are you?
BW – Hi, Maria. I’m fine thank you. How are you?
SR – Very well, thank you.
BW – Where are you calling from?
SR – From Russia.
BW – So that’s a long way.
SR – Yeah, we arranged an interview with you for today for 2 PM
BW – Yes.
SR – You remember?
BW – Yeah, yeah I remember.
SR – I’m very delighted to talk to you.
BW – I’m delighted to talk to YOU.
SR – Oh thank you…. Well I appreciate the time and I don’t want to waste it. So if you don’t mind we could begin.
BW – Yes, sure.
SR – So the first question is typical: what is Juno Reactor nowadays and who are the members of it?
BW – Well you know the attitudes are changing; but I’m still using that guys from South Africa, 4 or 5 black percussionists who play the ethnic music, you know tribal customs. This is Greg Ellis with whom we worked on Matrix in America, there a couple other guys and a guy from England. And I need somebody from Russia, maybe Russian singing.
SR – Really? We could make a casting.
BW – Yeah that would be good. Cool.
SR – Call any time.
BW – Any female singer. I would greatly appreciate this. I think the Russian accent is very beautiful. You know when you speak English, it’s very…soft…it’s like French accent.
SR – Ah, thank you! By the way, do you know.
any Russian singers?
BW – Hmm I just know one choir…
I – Ben, we know there is a concrete sculpture called Juno Reactor which was made by your girlfriend. Right?
BW – Right.
SR – Does it still exist?
BW – No, it doesn’t, it was broken up when…
SR – Oh.
BW – Yes, it’s a shame.
SR – Who broke it?
BW – The people who were unaware of it. ..It was an art exhibition overlooking the river Thames. Then there was a delicate party, the police came along that night and they arrested everyone…
SR – You’re kidding?
BW – No, and they shut it down. So the outside exhibition lasted for about three hours. And it was like a 70-foot long concrete sculpture. I mean it took like a month to do. It was the last exhibition and it was finished in several hours.
SR – It’s a pity. But what did it look like?
BW – It was 70 feet long. It was blue concrete. And it looked like a dinosaur tale. And a smoke came out of it.
SR – Did you like it?
BW – I loved it. It was great.
SR – Yeah, it sounds great. We know you travel a lot. Please tell us where you traveled last time?
BW – Well on this tour.. we are trying to get European Day together at the moment for September. We played in Japan, then we are going over to America and Mexico, we’re doing the main part in North America and in Canada in June and July, then we go back to Europe. I don’t think we are going to play in Russia but I’d love to get in contact and to get promoting in there. That would be fantastic.
SR – Oh, we could forward your visit to Russia. What is your favorite country by the way?
BW – I love Mexico. I love Mexico.
SR – Why? What is so special in there?
BW – The people are fantastic and it looks like … it’s fantastic. It’s a highlight, not a bad thing or a good thing. In every country you find something to highlight. But I think the people are great, I think the food is fantastic, the weather is fantastic, the music isn’t that great but ..hehe. But I still like it. Anyway I really love Mexico. I love Japan…Again I like the people in Japan and I love their culture.
SR – That is great. Well, you know some people say that now the mainstream of all the music is going back to authentic music. And what is authentic music for you?
BW – Well, music to me is always developing and changing. And I think people will always be interested in various kinds of music. As for me, I like classical music, I like folk music, rock music and electronic music and we are lucky to hear it all at the same time. But I do fundamentally believe that music is there to make people feel good (laughing)And I love music that lets me penetrate into some other world, that makes me dream, that makes me feel this to the sense of love, full essence. I like that kind of music.
SR – What is on your CD-player right now?
BW – That’s Midival Punditz, it’s from New Delhi in India and they are absolutely amazing!
SR – Your last album named “Maze/Labyrinth” was like a certain point in your music, like the ending of à certain period. How can you describe this faith? What was your state of mind at that time?
BW – You know, all the images of war that I totally disagree with. And a sort of conquistadors like in Aragon… a sort of western world you know to me it’s like Aragon…with Christian America you know. But it’s set in the story of conquistadors Spanish Christian Aragon taking over South America and disseminating the Indian population… for their own capital gain and greed. And..so a lot of the album really is about war…and death. They are shown in a giant scale… So it’s really a lot about war and death. Still somewhere… the last track Navras, which is a song about peace and understanding and maybe transition from darkness into the light. Navras for the album…you see, every track in the album leads to this track. And the faith is like an idealism you know, the communism, the idea to unify the whole world. And now we’re going through this period – Chechnya, Iraq you know or Afghanistan. We’re going through it and we will come though this and I hope we will better for it. We will see the reason. You know I think every generation has wanted it, to stop war. But every time there’s some greedy bastard who just wanna keep fighting you know…
SR – Yeah. Well, the part of the guitar in song Pistolero was executed by Steve Stevens. Why he was invited?
BW – Because I was producing a girl Tracy Lord and then he produced her. And he rang me up and asked me: How did you make her sound so good? Because her voice wasn’t that strong. So we started talking and he said: I would like to come over and, you know, to work on a track with you. So he came over to London, we spent six days together, we made Pistolero.
SR – Are you friends with him right now?
BW – Yeah. I invite him to Brighton from time to time..the last time I saw him, he was looking very peaceful.
SR – Oh that’s great. Please describe your studio.
BW – It’s on the farm, it’s a local house, I’ve got a little balcony, it’s in the middle of the English country side at the moment. I mean I change my studio a lot you know where it is situated now but at the moment it’s here in England.
SR – You see, people say that the sense of life is to enter a new level, the new faith. What is your art aiming to? What is your faith you are going to in the art?
BW – I think of it as of learning. I always try to learn new things, to do what I know in a different way. You know I love writing music and I love playing music. This is the most important……..I can’t stand all the rubbish, you know programming stuff. It’s boring. I prefer playing the music that incorporates more life, bringing this life to people and working with live musicians. You know I want to do more of film work, to work more with film-makers. I’m doing you know an animation with Japanese guys.
SR – It sounds amazing.
BW – It is fantastic.
SR – What is it about?
BW – It’s about a boy who lived in a world, in a four-dimensional world and he had all the armor to protect himself from another world that seems to invade him. It’s quite surrealism like David Lynch. A sort of guy who’s just scared of life… and during the journey through the film he opens up and he’s not scared any more.
SR – It’s going to be animated?
BW – Yeah, it’s an animation.
SR – Do you like Japanese cartoons?
BW – Yeah, but only some of them, not all animation. Some of them I can’t understand. I think it’s totally dependent on the artist who’s doing the drawings… I love films and I like working with film-makers, I like that intrusion you know.
SR – And what directors do you like?
BW – I readily like the guy who made Amelie, this delicate story with children…and I like the guy who directed the Hero… I really like Robert Rodriguez for the same reasons you know… and Armenian guy called Sergey Parajanyan . Actually there are so many directors…
SR – And what was the last movie you saw and you liked?
BW – Well the last movie I saw that I really liked was Hero. The story is amazing but I think the style is fantastic! I mean I watch films when I’m working, but get Hero to watch again and again … it’s lovely. Well I love watching films the great ones….of older times as well, it’s amazing. But not that cheap rubbish films that just go down with the drain…
SR – I understand. Now it’s going to be quite a long question. Some people say that music is the direct reflection of an unconscious component of the person. In many compositions you directly speak to the unconscious in the person. And don’t you feel terrible sometimes when you begin to take out certain things that were hidden out on the surface?
BW – No.
SR – No? It’s OK you think?
BW – No, I think fundamentally everything in human is basically good you know. I mean I’m not digging…And I don’t try to discover what no one knows. Nobody needs it.
SR – Ok, that’s great. What place does symbolism take in your music?
BW – I think it changes… depending on what I’m doing at this or that time. You know the music I do is full of metaphors like Conquistador, Part 1 and 2 or… but…I think it’s idealism to the dreams, for imagination, to make music to the mind. You know I make sculptures for the brain.
I like changing the shape and the air that surrounds it. Both of the things… Besides I try to make a story inside a track and then I think it is done and I think it’s succeeded.
SR – It’s amazing. What musical cliches your music can’t do without?
BW – Brass band (laughing), Olney music. English Olney music, I like, I quite like Russian choirs.. I think English folk music is a real craft as well …but pretty awful…hehehe. I think there is quite a lot of indigenous music that sounds quite awful.
SR – Do you think that in the future your band won’t use electronic music or you will still go on doing things you do?
BW – Well what we are doing is completely different from electronic music. I think so. But to me electronic music is just the device for you to know how you can work something, manipulate with it. I don’t really care whether the music is electronic or acoustic. I like classical music, I’d love to work with an orchestra.
SR – Is it possible for you in the future?
BW – Well, I think when I worked on Matrix, I was more engaged with the orchestra, to improvise with the orchestra. I’d like to incorporate the orchestra music more with the electronic world. I saw one famous orchestra playing in Brighton and that was amazing. I mean a band and an orchestra, they sound different and that was a very nice interplaying…
SR – When you were working on Matrix, did you like the idea of the movie?
BW – Yes.
SR – It seems close to your sense and view of life?
BW – Well I think what the authors tried to do is quite a different thing in a commercial world. But I liked the essence of peace, you know what we all want is to live in peace with one another, you know that’s what the end of the film is about. And the philosophical choices in the movie allow you to suggest the ideas of your own. But you see the trouble is when you work on something you don’t feel removed from it because you are very much emotionally attached to it. Thus you get criticized for that but I don’t want to…
SR – Oh I see. You know the Special Radio works with some young artists and musicians here in Russia and Europe also and what would you like to wish to those who are eager to become musicians?
BW – I wish that the god of imagination descends upon them so that they produce amazing music so that I can hear it…
SR – And by the way where do you take your inspiration for your art?
BW – Well, I think I come up with new music every night.
SR – Every night?! When you’re asleep?
BW – (smiling) No, when I’m working. It’s like the spirit and I find it – the worst time when you want to make something and it doesn’t come up. You waste time on it…Nothing appears. At 5 o’clock or 4 o’clock… 5, 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning inspiration is very strong, I should be very careful.
SR – Does it depend on your mood?
BW – Yeah.
SR – Is it in bad or in good mood that you’re writing?
BW – It mostly depends on the focus you know, it depends on focus.
SR – Ok. Well, Ben, thank you for this great conversation.
BW – Thank you.
SR – No thank you. It was really a great conversation!
BW – And please ask Russian singers to send me the tape or their records. They could do it through the web site.
SR – OK. And I wish you good luck in your art and in your everyday life.
BW – Thank you very much.
SR – Thank you. Bye-bye.
BW – Bye-bye.
See also: Juno Reactor’s off. site: http://www.reactorleak.com