Ahead of his US tour, Esme Bennett caught up with the electronic auteur to discuss capitalism, snakes, painting and much more.
Blanck Mass, aka Benjamin John Power, has made another twisted and brilliant ode to our current condition with his third album Animated Violence Mild. In his ‘Love is A Parasite’ video, fuzzy infomercials begin to blend into a dance of chaos. Since his separate project Fuck Buttons, Power has made a number of cutting remarks about the state of the world using vivid motifs, distortion and intensity. Written throughout 2018 in the seclusion of his Edinburgh studio, the birthplace of his 2017 LP World Eater, his new album is awash with commentaries on the violence of consumerism through the use of experimental and industrial elements, transcendental and furious in nature. By now, Power’s intentions to comment on the violence of humanity are well known, but this record feels more honest and open than ever before.
Two years on from World Eater, what would you say are some key changes, if any, in your method of producing?
Since World Eater, I have worked more intensely and actively on producing music other than my own, for other artists. It’s been an interesting learning curve to do so, to take myself out of my usual space and to adapt to somebody else’s tonal palette and emotional landscape. It’s probably given me a different perspective to consider whilst working on my own stuff.
You talk about ‘the snake we birthed’ in the album’s statement – can you tell me more about this ‘snake’, and what it means to you now reflecting on the album?
Capitalism was made by us and now controls us. It’s a thought that has been playing on my mind for a good few years now, and felt very apt time to convey this thematically.
The apple is obviously a significant motif for the album. Are we all guilty of an Original Sin through the temptations of the modern world?
I see the apple more as a symbol of the violence inherent within consumerism no matter how ‘pedestrian’ the product maybe appear. The term ‘original’ sin is something that does not necessarily resonate with me considering the religious implications, but to me it acts as a very fitting metaphor.
Although your records often feel angry and project a loss of control, I have an image of you producing in a meticulous and calm fashion completely separate from this. Am I right or wrong?
You are right in assuming that when working on production work outside of Blanck Mass, but it’s quite the opposite when producing my own work. Within my own work, I find myself so emotionally engaged that the creative process is often riddled with periods of self doubt, but often extremely euphoric, filled with high and low periods resulting in it being quite intense. I feel that I often form a very unique and personal relationship with the result.
Your style is completely your own and stands on its own plane. Do you have some key musical influences despite this?
I find myself increasingly influenced by visual arts. The work of Kay Sage is very influential to me at the moment. Abstraction utilizing noticeable forms or ‘hooks’ set upon very bleak landscapes. It ticks all the right boxes for me.
You’ve said before you encourage any interpretation of your music, people seem to read deeply into your messages which implies it is striking a chord somewhere- why do you think that is?
I think it may have something to do with the fact that the subject matter of late has been making commentary on our very human nature, and it’s becoming increasingly important for us to reflect on ourselves and how we impact our surroundings.
This album seems to be more melodically charged than your previous work. Do you think this added emotional substance further emphasizes the continuing decline of our society, and do think you were doing this in order to perhaps reach a wider audience?
I think most of my stuff throughout my career has been very melodically charged, and always emotionally driven. I’ve never considered altering the state of my recorded output to try and appeal to wider audiences, but constantly find myself overwhelmed that it somehow does reach so many people.
You’ve been sharing your own abstract paintings recently over social media which are really interesting- do you consider your paintings and music to be different to each other or are all your creative outputs the same to you as varying forms of expression?
I really started painting as an exercise in both broadening my creative working practice and coping with loss. Initially I was using painting on a canvas as a means of ‘letting go’ of certain concepts. I have always been happy to turn a musical idea totally on it’s head, but have always had a habit of doing so whilst still using the original source material in some shape or form. With painting I have found myself actively trying to completely paint over pieces and start again totally from scratch as a way of accepting change and moving with forces beyond my control.
You’re in the middle of promoting the album- playing Work on Sunday festival next week as well as Mira festival later this year, a Spanish festival. Is there anywhere you particularly enjoy going back and playing for?
I always love coming to Spain, it’s bright and rich and people know how to have fun there. My two other favourite cities I have visited in recent years would be Tokyo and Mexico City. I love playing everywhere really though. I feel a strong connection to London.
Can we expect more meditations on capitalism and consumerism in the future? Or do you think the world might begin to be so far gone that you begin to create music that has no theme or message at all?
That’s a difficult one to answer right now. Your guess is as good as mine. However, I think by my very nature, I’m always going to have something to comment on.