Simon Green, aka Bonobo, brings his sleek and hypnotic brand of electronic music to The Warfield on May 3.
His latest album, The North Borders, features collaborations with Erykah Badu and Grey Reverend and a stylistic shift more rooted in the London scene. We spoke with him about the album, his upcoming show with a live band and his thoughts as the UK’s re-emergence as the source for great new music.
You’re currently on the road supporting your new album, The North Borders, what does your live ensemble consist of?
It’s back to the whole live band thing again. I haven’t done it in awhile because I’ve been recording the new record and a lot of my players are based in London and New York. We have a six-piece band with vocals, a drummer, woodwinds, some strings and a horn section.
I was in San Francisco about six months ago when I DJ’ed at Mezzanine. We haven’t done this live show in a couple years. I think with this band thing it doesn’t really work well in a club.
Do you prefer playing with a full band or at a club?
It’s very different. I’ve been doing a couple after parties on this tour. DJ sets are aimed more toward a dance party and a club perspective, whereas a band represents the album better. People go to the concert to follow the music more.
Your sound seems to diversify and broaden with every album. Where did you find inspiration for The North Borders?
I guess it’s much like all the records, I reflect what my taste is at the time. Right now it’s kind of like a “London” record. It’s more reflective of the UK scene. The last record was more like dub electronic. With The North Borders, I tried to push myself to do something new, which was exciting. It’s almost kind of taking up where Black Sands left off, just in a different place.
The U.K. has been known for fostering great musical talent, and there’s been a resurgence of great artists (I.e.: James Blake, Bat for Lashes, Jessie Ware, etc). Are you following the current scene?
Yeah, there’s such a great scene right now. It’s a very exciting time for London. It’s still very easy to be involved even, if I’m not living in it I still feel like I’m involved with it. Even when I go back, it just feels exciting again.
You worked with Erykah Badu on the song, “Heaven for the Sinner.” Was that written specifically for her?
No, not really. It was a case where I had the opportunity and she was interested in working together and I just had that track. We didn’t do it live or anything like that. I did meet her once before she recorded her vocals.
You have a knack for working with and exposing great artists: Fink, Bajka, Andreya Triana and Grey Reverand. How do you choose the artists you collaborate with?
I guess I have an idea at certain times that there is someone I’m interested in working with, and as the months roll on and I’m making the record I think, “this would be perfect for this person, or this would be the perfect voice.” The track sort of fulfills itself and lends itself to the artist.
You’ve very humbly implanted yourself in the electronic music scene. Did you have an “aha” moment where you realized the extent of your success?
No, I still don’t really. I always wonder what’s next. It’s been a gradual evolvement over 10 years in very little increments. I appreciate it every day for the amount of success, but I always think about what’s next and what’s after this. That’s the thing that’s really special, wondering what’s next.
Is there any particular achievement you’re most proud of?
Away from the actual records? I dunno. Not particularly. I’d like to score a movie myself and work with a director from the ground up. I think that would be exciting.
I have to ask, what’s your infatuation with Monkeys?
I don’t really have one. I just thought it was a cool name. I kind of regret it because people ask this question like three times a day. People want to tell me about Bonobos and ask questions and such. They think I’m like this monkey expert. Now I try to always reference animals though, even on this album there’s a track called “Ten Tigers.”
Bonobo performs with his band at The Warfield on May 3. More info.