Blanck Mass heads Doune the Rabbit Hole
Revellers at this year’s Doune the Rabbit Hole festival may be confused when they hear a familiar tune booming from one of the stages. Blanck Mass’s ‘Sundowner’, after all, is best known in its classical form, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra for Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympic opening Ceremony.
However, its creator, Benjamin John Power will be on his own for the three-day event which takes place from July 19-21 at Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire.
“The LSO version of ‘Sundowner’ was used at any key point in the ceremony, where anyone was carrying a flag or torch, and it was amazing to see that happen,” Power recalls.
“I went to Abbey Road to see this track I recorded in a tiny studio flat in Dalston being realised by the LSO; it was quite a moment.”
It was originally the musician’s previous project which brought him to the attention of Danny Boyle’s team.
“Rick Smith from Underworld (writer of the iconic ‘Born Slippy for the ‘Trainspotting’ soundtrack) was the music supervisor and wanted to use a couple of existing tracks.”
Those were by the act we shall refer to as F Buttons, the duo he formed with Andrew Hung in Bristol in 2004 and garnered a huge cult following. “We came from very different worlds and ideas creatively, that’s why it worked I think,” he says.
However, Power has since moved north and made Scotland his home.
“Even the first time I played in Glasgow it was I had this picture in my mind I wanted to move to Scotland and I love it here, it’s so much more progressive than the majority of the UK – though (his birthplace) London is a completely separate entity.”
“I think it was the first time F Buttons played Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms and driving up the Royal Mile from the outskirts, I had in my mind ‘this is where I want to live’ – this is the best move I ever made.”
Although Scotland has a healthy dance and club scene, it’s often known for its guitar bands, unlike Bristol, synonymous with trip-hop. However, moving north was no culture shock to the versatile musician. “I’m as happy playing some kind of electronics festival in Berlin as I am supporting Cannibal Corpse or Slowdive, it’s quite nice to have that breadth.”
Indeed, Power is heading in another direction with a film soundtrack just completed – details are guarded for now but it will be closer to the mainstream than cult.
“I see it in the same way I do my albums,” he says of this new direction,” there are a lot of themes and ideas, but I feel the last three Blanck Mass albums have operated in a mixtape way rather than focus on one particular idea.”
So rather different from more traditional soundtracks, where a style and theme runs through the film. “Mogwai (who released the debut Blanck Mass album on their Rock Action label) are the kings of that kind of soundtrack,” but I’ve been toying with the idea of black metal and R&B and field recordings, so I approached the soundtrack in a similar way, e.g. adding in some country music.” Which may come as a surprise to fans.
“I’m a big fan of pedal steel, but it’s like driving a car, a lot of co-ordination with every single limb you possess,” he laughs. In the end, Jon ‘Catfish’ DeLorme – a friend from New York act (and Sacred Bones labelmates) Psychic Ills – was drafted in to do the tricky parts. This eclectic approach also extends to live shows, at least to an extent.
“A lot of electronic artists do one-offs and play art galleries exclusively, which is cool and I’ll do that too, but I was in a punk band when I was 14, so I’ll play sweatbox venues as much as big stages.
“But Doune I’m really excited about,” he continues, “the last one I played it was great, it’s well curated and diverse – I just like to play things that aren’t necessarily part of my world.”
And this year’s lineup is incredibly diverse, Power noting The Damned and Hawkwind as just two acts who will line up alongside Sister Sledge, John Grant and The Wailers.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Battles too,” he says, ”they’re friends and I’ve not seen them for a very long time…also, Kathryn Joseph, she’s incredible.”
And attendees can also expect a set from Blanck Mass and get a bit of a sneak peek at his forthcoming album out in August. But will he also be playing The Hits?
Power laughs. “I might play a hit or two! It depends what you think the hits are.
“I can mix it up a little but it depends on the environment – in a puerile sense I like to do the opposite to what is the correct thing.
“Though I don’t think I’m going to be playing any Avicii covers!”
Doune the Rabbit Hole takes place at Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire from 19 – 21 July.More at dounetherabbithole.co.uk.
Blanck Mass’s album ‘Animated Violence Mild’ is out on August 16th. More at blanckmass.co.uk.