Hecq / Ben Lukas Boysen: If I had a wish to send to the commercial universe, it‘d be that the world should slow down a bit more – what‘s all the rush for?
Ben Lukas Boysen – you might know him as Hecq, but preferably both – has been busy for more than 10 years with redefining the possibilities within ethereal soundscapes and brisk breaks with genuine love towards music. Whether he is working on his own albums or developing ideas for commercial projects, Ben always tries to find an efficient and direct way to leave a strong emotional impact using his distinctive style. Instead of settling with convenient and mediocre solutions, he always tries to make every single production special. He moved away from music and sound as a product and perceived every project as a customizable and individual challenge. His latest album, ‘Conversions’ came out on Ad Noiseam earlier this year, and definitely can be considered as yet another individual challenge.
We talked to Ben about the special concept of this remix album, the difference between Hecq and Ben Lukas Boysen, and the enormous amount of patience one needs to have when working with commercials. You can also read about his dream collaborations and at last but not least you can listen to an extremely special mix featuring bits and pieces by Windy & Carl, Svarte Greiner, Demdike Stare, Morton Feldman, Lustmord, Deathprod & Biosphere and many more.
Hello Ben, how’s life in Berlin these days? What can you do on a cold rainy day besides making music?
Hello! Life‘s good. The last summerish days are in full effect and soon we‘ll have a few weeks of autumnal bliss before we dive into what feels like 8 months of grey. That‘s just another good excuse to write more music, discover restaurants and bars, movies and games. Could be a lot worse really.
‘Conversions’ has got an interesting concept, since it’s an album yet only consists of tracks remixed by you. You’ve made plenty of remixes during the last years and your tracks have been remixed frequently as well, but what triggered you to make a full album of remixes, since that’s a first?
The concept itself is not that new I guess. Funkstörung did this twice and also others released remix compilations. Since I‘ve heard the famous ‘Additional Productions‘ by Funkstörung, I loved the idea and always wanted to release something similar. What might be special about ‘Conversions’ is that these remixes are not available anywhere else (maybe that goes for the ‘Additional Productions’ as well but I think at least one or two remixes were released before).
This way, the album gains a somewhat exclusive character and makes it more of an album instead a ‘best of remix’ compilation, because I wanted the tracks to be connected to a certain extent.
To combine tracks that have been around my personal and musical environment for years it felt great to salute these artists – it‘s a ‘thank you’ more than anything else really.
‘Conversions’ took years to complete and perhaps it’s one of your most personal work until now. The goal was both to respect the initial tracks and to present yourself in a recognizable way. After having it done and released, do you think you’ve succeeded? Are you satisfied with it?
I‘m happy with it, yes – if I succeeded though might have to be judged by others.
It is quite personal too, so like with most other albums, the production process is what‘s important for me. The moment it is done and dusted, I step far away from it for a long time and might be able to judge its quality better after a few years.
Was there any of the ten tracks that was especially hard to recreate?
Yeah, ‘Scheming’ by L’usine. It‘s such an important track for me and whenever I started a new version or draft for the remix (in the end i had 18-19 different approaches) it wouldn’t be long until it started sounding like the original. It just really covers pretty much everything I like and also has a sentimental value for me. The solution here was to do something as far away from the original idea as possible… then it worked.
The original tracks from ‘Conversions’ are a collection of pieces that have inspired you throughout the years from artists that you respect, admire and listen to. If you’d have to compile a ‘Conversions 2’, which 10 tracks would you use from this decade?
That‘s an excellent question, also hard to answer but I guess it could look something like this, in no specific order:
01: This Will Destroy You – New Topia
02: Dirty Beaches – True Blue
03: Jon Hopkins – Searchlight
04: Max Richter – Iconography
05: Arpanet – Schwarzchild Radius
06: Speedy J – Amoco Cadiz
07: Plaid – Host
08: Rob Acid – Struktur der Seele
09: Jacaszek – Seiden Stille
10: Luke Howard – Portrait Gallery
If you look back into your own discography, can you pick a favourite album or a favourite track, is there something that you’re still extremely proud of? Eg. how do you feel when you hear ‘Night Falls’?
Each album is a phase for me, much more like a snapshot than something that is cast in stone. Especially ‘Night Falls’ relates to a time that wasn’t good at all and it obviously reminds me of it. On a purely technical level, I would do so many things differently today, 7 years later, that it only can be seen as a reflection of who I was back then, and that has changed. I guess ‘Gravity‘ was a really new step and the work and effort quite a few people put into it makes it a really positive memory and it‘s one of the albums I actually listen to. In general, as mentioned above, the actual process of writing is really important for me. I see the release and everything this follows from a different angle and need some time to realize this as an actual achievement, if that makes sense.
In 2013 you’ve released two albums: ‘Horror Vacui’ under the Hecq alias and ‘Gravity’ under your real name. Do you make any kind of distinctions between your two projects besides the name? What’s the reason for releasing them under two separate aliases?
They differ in their approach really. Hecq is a free-for-all stylistic playground while I‘m having certain and specific aims as Ben Lukas Boysen that contains a number of restrictions which make me focus more on things, while Hecq is really intangible something. Also, I felt like I said most of things I wanted to say with Hecq for the moment. There are still one or two releases planned but I‘m planning on letting it rest for a while. It won‘t die, but it needs a moment to find its purpose basically.
You really like collaborating with other people, be it film, commercials, sound design or remixing. What inspires you the most during these collaborations? If you’d have to compare it with working alone, which one would you prefer?
The ideas and input of others is a driving force in my life. Working on films is fantastic because moving image might be my most favorite medium right after music. Working with others musicians changes your views, makes you learn a lot and in general means having a good time (even if the recording is done remotely, only via mail/dropbox). It‘s hard to say which one I prefer, because both have entirely different qualities. Working alone has its virtues and so does collaborating. The balance between the different projects is important. In general I‘m (musically at least) a hermit. So in most cases I‘d work by myself but I‘m always happy if there‘s a remix/rework of an interesting piece of music, a collaboration or movie coming along.
Is there someone you’ve been wanting to collaborate with, but somehow it never happened?
Yes…many, many artists could go on this list directly. In most of the cases it did not happen because I never made an attempt to ask (to which I have no explanation why) or because the respective artists lived in another century. The ones living in our time, and if I could pick without any restrictions, would surely be people like Lustmord, Biosphere, Atom TM, Bohren & Der Club Of Gore, Current Value, Cristian Vogel, David Darling, and Phoenecia, just to name a few. They all have this very specific signature, true character and never fail to amaze me. So maybe, after all there‘s still a little time, maybe one or two of them will happen in some point.
You’ve been working a lot with commercials. When film directors are forced to work with commercials for financial reasons, they often feel that they are selling their souls, violating their artistic approach. Have you ever felt like that as a musician or do you think different rules apply in this case?
No, the same rules apply. However, I was at this point before and I‘m there again every now and then but at least for now it‘s not very dramatic. I have a set of rules and values that I try to stick to, but in general I can see music as a craft in specific cases. This won‘t be news to clients or fellow musicians but working on your own material is 1000% different than working on a commercial. You have many opinions, even more versions, very little time… In short: everything that defeats a good and efficient workflow. In addition the musician is often at the very end of the production chain (hence the short time you have for
productions), so it‘s not possible that the same amount of detail and love flow into these productions, but that‘s characteristic for the world of commercials. It needs to be done quickly (at least for my understanding of time and what a good idea needs) and you adapt to that. It‘s something you can learn and it makes you appreciate time for your own productions a lot more too. If I had a wish to send to the commercial universe, it‘d be that the world should slow down a bit more – what‘s all the rush for? Add two more weeks to a production and you have an actual chance of making a difference on many levels. But that‘s a completely different story.
You’ve been working with film scores as well, is that something you’d like to pursue?
Yes. I always wanted that, can‘t wait for another possibility. It‘s great how you have to connect with the story, the edit, the director, coming up with a concept, the instrumentation… everything really. In a way, all my music was written with more or less visual scenery in mind (obviously for non-existent films) but it has a strong cinematic source.
If you could choose a film director, who would you like to work together with and why?
Off the top of my head I‘d say Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Denis Villeneuve, Jonathan Glazer and Christopher Nolan. There are more for sure but in my recollection of movies I loved most, these come up right away.
All of them for different reasons though. The storytelling of David Fincher, the cinematography of Ridley Scott and Christopher Nolan and the utter intensity of Denis Villeneuve and Jonathan Glazer. All of them would offer a multitude of possibilities from rock solid entertainment to very special and niche-y quirkiness.
You prepared the special ‘The Forge’ pack for Ableton last year, are you going to do more contribution for them? Did you get feedback on it from users?
I hope to do more, yes. It‘s normally quite extensive in terms of time but it is surely something I‘d like to do more. The feedback was very good so far indeed. Much better than I thought to be honest. Most Ableton users are very good at what they are doing and since I never get too deep into something, I was worried first if it would be interesting and challenging enough, but from what I‘ve heard – it was.
What type of sounds interest you these days?
A lot, but i notice myself moving away from clubby material towards anything else. It might be a question of age(ing) but my plans of writing more actual orchestral material start to haunt me. I guess I should take them more seriously.
What’s next in your schedule, what are you working on right now?
More albums, more films…more soon 🙂
What is your favourite album cover?
That‘s tough, because there‘s no number one! Let‘s make that Björk – Bastards (for its style), Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Piano Nights (for its very own style) and Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (because it‘s fantastic).
Who would you like to read an interview with on Sounds Of A Tired City?
Another tough one – this time because the selection is way too vast. For now I‘d go scouting in my inner circle of friends and would suggest Christoph Berg – I might know one thing or other from him, but I feel he would have quite a few things to say that matter.
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