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INTERVIEW: Blanck Mass
Éamon Sweeney , April 10th, 2017 14:46

Benjamin John Power talks about how recent world events influenced the new Blanck Mass album as well as what lies on the horizons for Fuck Buttons

Benjamin John Power is enjoying a quiet pint in a cosy pub on Stoke Newington High Street in celebration of the release of his fourth album as Blanck Mass, World Eater. While he's thrilled it has just hit the shelves and streaming services, there's a considerable elephant in the room.

As its title and cover image of a snarling canine mouth implies, World Eater is a timely and prescient album, which was inspired by the social and political turbulence of recent times. “It almost sounds like a broken record to say it, but come on,” Power exclaims. “Everybody notices it. Everybody is in the same boat. To put it very mildly, what a fucking mess.”

The sleeve notes for World Eater appeal to the listener to support their local animal rights and LBGT charities, as well as the command, "LISTEN AT MAXIMUM VOLUME".

"LBGT and animal rights are two issues that are particularly close to my heart," Power explains. "One of my best friends was transgender. She died a woman, as she was supposed to. She went through the transformation much later on in life, so that’s for her. My wife and I are staunch vegans and we’re militant to a certain degree. There are hundreds of things humanity needs to focus on, but I feel you must choose what means the most to you. Trying to make a small difference is how we are going to progress."

Power finds it hard to isolate a single event that prompted World Eater. “It was just the general shitstorm of recent times really because it started to feel like things were happening on a daily basis,” he says. “However, if you want to take something away from it, there is a track on there called ‘The Rat’, which might be a reference to a certain global figure. That’s offensive to rats I must add, because they are intelligent creatures."

He comments that the album is something of a comment on the genetic hangover that many humans have, particularly those in power, of being predatory and territorial. "This album is a fucking splurge and an outpour, but I guess there's a certain level of subconscious directing," he tells me. "Historically, some of the best things come from the hardest places, but it feels like a real shame all this has to happen. There will always be internal struggles as well as global struggles. I don’t want to surrender."

Power favours working and composing on modular synths rather than using computer software and that was no different on his latest offering, opting also to collect field recordings to put to use across the album's tracks. "There is quite a lot going on, even though some of it is so heavily structured and processed it might be hard to tell," he explains. "I did some underwater screaming. I also recorded part of the triptych entitled 'Minnesota/Eas For/Naked' by a waterfall on the Isle of Mull that I visited on my birthday last year with my wife. You can hear that one quite clearly. There are some drum kits falling down the stairs for the Minnesota segment of that track. I’d say 60% of the whole track is comprised of manipulated field recordings."

Where previous album Dumb Flesh saw Power recording across four different locations, he remarks that World Eater gave him an opportunity to narrow his focus. "It comes from two very different places, but I think it meets somewhere in the middle, whereas the last one was a lot more scatter-brained. I recorded it in a studio outside my room in Tranent, which is about fifteen miles away from Edinburgh. It was great to be rooted in one spot and not pay much attention to what was happening culturally, or in the arts world, but you still need to get some perspective. I really enjoyed the field recordings as a healthy process of getting out for a bit but still having something to bring back to the table."

Of course, Power is also one half of Fuck Buttons alongside Andrew Hung, and while they haven’t released an album since 2013's Slow Focus, a follow-up is in progress, Power says.

"We’re writing at the moment. I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort into Blanck Mass over the last couple of years, but during that time both Andy and I have had a lot of real life stuff going on such as buying houses and getting married. Nobody has any kids yet, although Andy has a dog and I’ve a cat. It’s not been as easy as before to do stuff as we’re both living in different ends of the country. Andy is between London and Norwich and I'm outside Edinburgh, but we've already started on something very promising. I can’t give a specific date, but it’s on its way."

Having dabbled in film scores and soundtracks, including The Strange Colour Of Your Body's Tears re-score in 2015, he fully intends to continue to indulge in work of this vein. "I feel like these tracks [on World Eater] are soundtracks," he says. "I like to use the human voice in lots of different ways, but I like the fact you're not told specifically what to think about during any particular track, so you can make your own mind up and form your own unique relationship with it. I love hearing people’s different interpretations, or whatever it made them think of. It’s always really different and diverse."

One enthusiastic fan offered Benjamin a very memorable interpretation after a Fuck Buttons show once. "Some guy who was on hallucinogenics came up to me and he said, 'I had an epiphany. You won’t believe what I saw.' I was expecting him to go into some big elaborate description with acute acid trip detail. He just looked at me as if I’d asked him a very stupid question, and said matter of factly, 'The fucking universe.'"

For the moment, Benjamin sees his focus as developing Blanck Mass as a live entity. "The set has changed quite a lot. When I first started to play live, I supported Sigur Rós and played a lot of ambient stuff from the first record. It’s a total shift now. Dumb Flesh segued into more danceable numbers that you could move to a bit more. Now, the new set is more metal. I’m going to be doing the vocals live and it’ll be much more intense. It’s just myself for now, but that could change.

"I don’t really know what exact order things will end up coming in. All I know is that I love it and I do it every day."

World Eater is out now on Sacred Bones. Blanck Mass plays Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on April 28; Cluny, Newcastle, May 3; Deaf Institute, Manchester, May 4; Bodega, Nottingham, May 5; Sea Change, Totnes, August 25-27

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