Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Ben Lukas Boysen: Casting Spells

Over the last decade, Berlin-based musician Ben Lukas Boysen has created something of a dynasty of himself. Having become revered throughout Europe for the pulsating, gripping electronica he released under the name of Hecq, he has since lent his talents to a number of film scores, adverts and video games. Now in what you could call the second part of his career, Boysen's most recent work has been released under his birth name and tends to lean away from his earlier, more capricious work and further towards the realms of glorious ethereality. After 2013’s Gravity, which felt weightless in its minimalism, this has become no less apparent on his upcoming album, Spells. On the heart-stopping 'Nocturne 4' and the pulsating 'Golden Times 1', both infused with a more organic sound on top of the delirium of synths and the sleight but effective use of piano, strings and drums, Ben creates a style of intuitive ambient music that gently settles itself under your skin. With a reissue of Gravity also on the cards via UK-based label Erased Tapes, we talked to Ben about his upcoming releases, film scores and Martin Scorsese. You've been producing under two aliases for some time now - your real name and Hecq. Do you decide before you go into the development of a record what alias it's going to be released under and does this affect the process of making it? Hecq was always a playground for everything I’m interested in trying. This doesn’t mean I take things less seriously with this project, but there are no limitations. The Ben Lukas Boysen records generally follow a more conceptual approach so far and are more restricted. This means whenever I start composing the project the affiliation becomes clear quite fast and I decide if I want to go crazy with the idea or distil it. I read in a previous interview that you were going to put the work of Hecq to one side for the foreseeable future. Is that still the case or do you plan on doing something under the alias soon? I owe Hecq a lot and don’t want to abandon it. Since it always has been more of a thought construct and concept it will never leave me anyway. At this moment though, I feel like I’ve said what I had to say with it and am glad to have sent it on a well-deserved holiday to recover and regain energy. It’ll return from there eventually. Do you purposefully try to separate the sounds, textures and influences that go into making your own music and film scores? No, not really. I would always try to bring in as many of my own ideas and sounds as possible within my approach to a score. If I have the freedom to do what I feel is right, I will not separate these things. Often a brief is already very worked out and dictates a certain sound or compositional style which will influence the score quite a lot, but I’d always try to find a good middle ground between these two worlds so things never get too impersonal. How has the recording process for your new album differed from other projects? Most of the songs were written with their final instrumentation in mind, which is why I had to leave a bit of creative space in my head until the recordings were in. These were done in different locations at different times. The drums and cellos were done here in Berlin and a few bits, like the harp, were recorded in LA. I really enjoyed recording like this as it felt like a nice puzzle. Obviously the recordings changed the feel of the music drastically, since I got used to all the placeholder sounds and instruments, which made me rediscover the songs as I was producing them - a really good feeling. How would you describe the process of writing and developing your music? Quite naive but also very much influenced by the control freak in me. I love to explore, make mistakes and take wrong turns, but at the same time I see these as ways to a very distinct result. For example, the drum track for 'Nocturne 4' was already there - we recorded this during a jam session - but it did not have a song to go with it and it was floating around my project folders for over a year. Many other song ideas were just slapped onto it to test things out and nothing worked out, until one day the very simple piano line of 'Nocturne 4' was put under the drum track and the rest fell into place. It was suddenly so obvious what was needed. So the balance between being very playful and yet having a very controlled plan is key for me and both are equally important. Which is more rewarding, working on film scores or your own solo material? Both, in their very own way. It’s very hard to decide this since they both have completely different qualities. The restrictions of a score can be very interesting, but obviously working in a style and a way that allows you to do what you want is undoubtedly awesome. Is there any particular film director you'd like to work with in future? Oh yes, quite a few actually. David Villeneuve is one of them. His work is very engaging and challenging and combines a lot of wonderful characteristics that make great movies. If he didn't normally license all his soundtracks, Martin Scorsese would, without any doubt, be a wonderful director to work with. I’m not even sure how I would score his movies, but they always had a big influence on me in many regards. Do you still enjoy soundtracking adverts? That depends a little on the project. There are wonderful projects, where everything works well, the communication is good, and you meet the other people working and being in charge on eye level. Others are not as rewarding, but luckily these are very rare these days. However, I think it is generally something you can only do for a limited time in your life. Erased Tapes will be releasing Spells, as well as re-issuing 2013's Gravity, this month. The label seems like the best home for your material. How did you hook up with them? I'd known Robert [Raths, label head] for a few years already. We originally met through Nils Frahm and have been in contact ever since. I had the feeling that we were interested in making interesting things happen for a while but needed the right project. Spells was the one and yes, I definitely feel that it’s the best home imaginable for this material. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline? The most current one is the score for a new game by the amazing David O’Reilly - an artist I've really admired for some years now, and he asked if I'd be interested in scoring this game. More information will be revealed soon, but I can already say it will be a wonderful and special experience. Ben Lukas Boysen’s new album, Spells, will be released on 10 June through Erased Tapes. )

Next article in issue 99

Headsup HillsFest

To mark 25 years of Cupola Gallery, Hillsborough's treasured contemporary art gallery, owner Karen Sherwood decided it was time to give…

More articles