Knowledge is power but sometimes knowing less also has its benefits.
Prolific is a word that has become synonymous with artist, DJ and producer, Benjamin Finger. Having gained a reputation in his home territory of Norway for his ambient and instrumental passages of music, such progress is showing signs of being matched throughout Europe and America largely due to a consistent number of album releases over the last few years.
Whether constantly striving for perfection or searching for that elusive sound, Benjamin Finger remains a musician who continues to create music and push forward a sound that resides in much electronica and often sounding waiflike with occasional intervals of harsher sounding noises.
Latest album ‘Less One Knows’ arrives during a major crisis when all in the world is not right. Ironic, therefore, that Benjamin Finger’s new long player should reflect such feelings because it was written and recorded before the current pandemic decided to bite hard. Use of electric guitar has featured heavily in relation to ‘Less One Knows’ and is one way of describing a fresh direction, which the album most certainly is, but also the abrasive notes are much more prevalent throughout in an attempt, no doubt, to project feelings concerned with anger and frustration and likely in relation to a personal aspect concerning the Norwegian’s existence. However, the irony is that ‘Less One Knows’ is an album that can easily be viewed as a reaction to the current Covid-19 crisis where coarse guitar notes rally at the injustices of the world right now.
Maybe, just maybe, Benjamin Finger has been preparing for this moment all along and been in the knowledge that something deeply troubling has been bubbling under the surface of society. Who knows? In fact, to borrow from his latest album, the less one knows might be the best possible advice to heed right now because nothing appears to be making much sense in these unprecedented days. There is one item that does make sense however, and the overriding conclusion from this corner at least, is that Benjamin Finger has made his greatest work to date. Time to find out more.
What is your current mood?
“Greetings FLW! I guess my current mood is ok. Of course, it tends to go in many directions within the course of a day, but lately I enjoy being productive on many levels. It also helps with the brighter days, some sun and warm summer around. That summer breeze is finally settling in.”
How have you been coping and adapting to the global crisis that is coronavirus?
“I have been coping with the coronavirus like most of us, I guess. I have been very worried on and off for two months now. At times it has also made me a bit angry. All this uncertainty can play with one’s mind. It also has limited me production-wise since I work from home these days and not in the studio. I’m located in my flat at Grünerløkka in Oslo now. I’ve built up a small set-up so I can write, create, and edit music videos and produce music in the bedroom. I can do nothing but adapt in this current situation.”
Has there been any positives for you in the creative department since lockdown?
“I would say that the lockdown has made me very productive. When it comes to positive aspects, I would say that the situation has forced me to think differently in terms of production. I have to rely on a smaller set-up and kind of arrange the music a bit differently. I’ve been working a lot with pre-recorded material and loops and slowly finding a way to integrate these into full albums. It also gave me a chance to go through a lot of material I had forgotten that I had recorded. There will be several albums that will come out of this crisis. There are at least four new albums on the agenda, plus all the new material I have been creating for the last two months that I have not approached any labels with yet. I will continue to be productive if I feel I have something that drives and motivates me. That said, I wouldn’t say that I live very differently right now. I have always enjoyed isolation and solitude. Without these as my friends, I wouldn’t get that much done.”
So, you have a new album out by the name of ‘Less One Knows’. Just to clarify, the album was recorded before the global lockdown, right?
“Yes, the album was recorded before it broke loose. It was first recorded in the studio of a friend since he owned a Fender guitar I wanted to use (and couldn’t afford). I later re-worked all the recorded sketches in my studio. Many of the songs were already finished, I didn’t want to mess too much with them. I left many as they were, no overdubs, synth layers, etc. I didn’t want it to sound over-produced this time around. “
How long did the album take to record, and were there any problems along the way?
“I think I used around six months for the whole process once I decided it should be released. Dead Definition [record label] was great along the way and helped me to curate the order of the tracks. Then I did some last finishing touches.”
What were the inspirations and influences for ‘Less One Knows’?
“Well, I think a lot of alternative 90’s lo-fi music I was listening to during my university years in Bergen [Norway] somehow sneaked its way into that guitar [sound]. I didn’t plan for it to turn out the way it did. I started with a blank canvas when I started to record the guitar. It was later, after digesting the tunes, that I started to hear some influences.”
You mentioned in previous correspondence with FLW that the album is “…basically a guitar-driven album”. What were the reasons for going in such a direction and relying on more use of the guitar?
“No reasons really, I often create the albums out of what kind of instruments I find inspiring at that moment. It also depends on my moods in that period. Also, I am always searching for new ways to express myself. Curiosity has always been the key and try to keep an open ear. There might be something I want to explore or some ideas I’ve had that vaguely starts to form. I guess I have always wanted to make a pure guitar album, I just had to wait for the right opportunity. I don’t know what this new approach adds, but I certainly hope it broadens my repertoire as a musician. I have always listened to aggressive music in periods and I guess that rubs off on some of the tracks.”
Remarkably interesting choice of title for your new album because you can read so much into it.
“That was exactly my point. I wanted the listener to make up their own meaning. I guess it has a mysterious meaning, since you can’t really see where you are on the sign on the front cover. I also tend to fall for words that fit nicely together. The meaning has to remain mysterious, but I can say that it has a lot to do with my love for the country and people of Portugal and a place that holds a special place in my heart, Salema.”
Is there a favourite track that has emerged yet from the album ‘Less One Knows’?
“I don’t think I have any favourite tracks on the album. They all seem to represent different moods. You know, some days I will associate with the more melodic or melancholic tunes, and the next day the noisy ones. But today I would probably say…sorry, can’t think of one now!”
Did you produce the album as well or collaborate with any other musicians and/or producer?
“It was produced by me. I didn’t use anyone on vocals (only myself) or cello, etc, for this one. Also, I wanted it to be kind of stripped down. I was going for a rawer sound.”
You made a reference to the album’s cover earlier. Therefore, who was responsible for the artwork and the ideas behind it?
“I sent Dead Definition some of my photos and they seemed to like them, so we just went with that. They are all taken in Portugal and somehow that connected with the expression on the album. I think I also gave the album a personal feel. I really like the analogue and grainy feel the pictures have. It connects with the mysterious feel, like you could be anywhere back in time, I wanted to create.”
What formats is the new album available on?
“The format is CD and digital. It was meant to be on tape as well, but I don’t know what happened. I have plans to release the album fully orchestrated in a couple of years. There also are some tracks that didn’t make it to the album that I would like to include if I release another version of this material. I would also like to add more vocals and layers on some of the songs.”
What has been the most memorable experience from your latest album?
“The best experience would be working with Patrick from Dead Definition, nice bloke that he is. I think we had a good connection from the start and was able to communicate well. The whole process went rather smoothly.”
Are there plans for another single release and music video from ‘Less One Knows’?
“I’ve been flirting with the idea of releasing a video for ‘Head Fading Blues’ or ‘Still Dreaming Green’. Which one do you think I should go for?”
What are your hopes for ‘Less One Knows’ because it must be challenging in terms of promoting it right now due to no live events currently allowed?
“No hopes really. I must be careful with too much hope these days! I just wish that some will find tunes they enjoy and can relate to. I also believe people have more important things to think about in our current situation than live events and gigs. We will get back to that again sooner or later. A record release is not a question of life and death. We have more important issues to confront and fear right now.”
What is next for Benjamin Finger?
“An album on Oscarson in Germany that will include a photobook with pictures I have taken from 2000-2020 (Collected Works sort of). And a collaboration with James Plotkin on Roman Rural Records in the US. Both will be released on vinyl. Then another one early next year on Krysalisound. If we are still around next year, ha!”
Do you have any final words of the day?
“Be safe and (stay) well folks! Let us hope that humanity will learn something from what we are going through right now, although I am not so sure. Let us hope we will not have too many self-made assholes that are running the world in the future. We must find new ways to organize our society and ways of living for the better if we want to preserve our beautiful planet. We need a change on many levels to keep on going.”
(Photography courtesy of Rudi Simmons (main image) & Christian Jacobsen)
The album ‘Less One Knows’ is out now and available on Dead Definition Records
A record release is not a question of life and death. We have more important issues to confront and fear right now.”
FLW - From the Tapes
Previous single ‘Worried Sick of Echoes’ from the current album, suggests much paranoia and a very loose nod to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in terms of its video. Therefore, can you provide some details regarding this track and the video (directed by you) and the decision to film in the UK at Camber Sands (Love the dog masks by the way!)?
“Yeah, that track is filled with some fear, I guess. I don’t know how that came about, maybe I was hung over? Perhaps my nerves that day were far from intact. I do appreciate the nod to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. I really didn’t think of that while I was shooting the video. For me, the video is meant to be more fun and surreal, kind of like an adult version of children’s TV/music videos. I think the track is pretty much coloured by use of an E-bow theme that runs as a main motive throughout. That “freaky and sour melody-line” made me follow the mood and colours of the palette. The video was shot in Hastings and Camber Sands during my stay at the ATP festivals that year. I don´t recall where I got the masks from, but I think I bought them in Norway. But I do remember we loved the house that we rented and since I always bring a camera, I decided that we had to shoot the interior and surroundings. So, I forced my friends to run around that house for two long days. Hope I didn’t behave too much like a dictator!”