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Bonobo

Will Cooper Mitchell

Bonobo


Interview: Bonobo

U.K. Electronic Artist Comes Stateside with The North Borders


If you’re headed to Coachella this weekend, you’ve likely already marked Bonobo down on your Friday-night to-do list. For those sticking a little closer to home, though, the U.K. artist makes a midweek stop at the Majestic Ventura Theater on Thursday, April 17. The appearance comes in the midst of a yearlong tour for the electronic guru, who is alternating between deejay mode and full-production live shows as he globe-trots in support of his latest record, The North Borders.

Like past Bonobo efforts, Borders is a fully immersive affair. Built off a steady foundation of beats, loops, and samples, the album is filled with slow-growing, symphony-fueled orchestrations. Guest vocalists like Erykah Badu and Grey Reverend make appearances, but it’s Bonobo’s imagery-conjuring soundscapes that tend to hold court here, making for the kind of pulsing, emotive grooves that festival mongers adore. Below, I caught up via phone with Bonobo (aka Simon Green) during a recent four-day tour break in his new home of New York City.

How are the shows going? Good. We just went to Europe. We’ve been going nonstop with the live show since last April. We’ve pretty much gone twice around the world. But the shows have been going really good. The set is growing and evolving; I feel like it’s getting to a higher level each time we do it.

The tour schedule is a pretty even mix of live shows and deejay sets. How do the two compare? Well, I’ve been deejaying longer than I’ve been doing the live shows, and they’re different in that I don’t think people approach the deejay shows in the same way as the live shows. I started deejaying in clubs, where it’s more about the environment and the music, whereas the live shows are more of an immersive experience. It’s more of a party, the deejaying. I’ll often play a show and then deejay an after-party and it’s very different; the live show is more of a spectacle, and the deejay set is more about the vibe of the party and the dance floor. I love it. You really only have to use one half of your brain when you’re deejaying. [Laughs.] But really, I still get a huge amount of joy out of it. For me, I really like listening to music really loud. I’m dancing as much as anyone else when I’m deejaying.

The North Borders feels pretty different, influence-wise, than your previous records. How has the writing process changed for you over the years? It’s changed a lot. When I made my first record, I was very naïve, and I didn’t know much about production, and I had a very basic amount of equipment, and I was just digging through vinyl for samples in a very old-fashioned way. It was very loop-based and very cut and paste, and that’s the way I started out. Over the years, I’ve expanded my production chops a little more and learned about compression and recording and multitracking and using a string section. I’ve been learning as I go. It’s all been a process of experimentation from day one. I think I’ve got a bigger palette now. That’s the main difference. But there’s also a lot of charm in the naïveté of those first records because I was trying to emulate things I didn’t understand.

What do you like about working solo? I was in bands when I was younger, and that’s a lot of the reason I started working solo — it was always a compromise. I liked the idea that I could layer myself and all my ideas; it was very refreshing at the time, the idea of creating this sonic template that was my own. Now I use guest musicians on the records, but it’s one percent of the process, really. It sounds very collaborative, but it’s actually two years of me working on a record and one afternoon of working in a studio with someone.

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Bonobo plays the Majestic Ventura Theater (26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura) on Thursday, April 17, at 8 p.m. Call (805) 653-0721 or visit venturatheater.net for tickets and info.

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