Synthmeister Benge is all set for the inquisition provided as usual by our quick-fire question machine
Hello Benge, where are you right now and what can you see?
“I’m sitting in my front room, and I’ve got a 1970s episode of ‘Doctor Who’ on in the background. A giant green slug just killed someone.”
How was lockdown for you?
“Well, living in such a remote part of the world, and with my family here, as well as all my synths, I couldn’t be happier.”
Without getting too hippy, this album is very meditative…
“The whole point is to concentrate deeply on one synth per track, to see what I can do with a limited set of tools. I get so focussed on the machine for each track, they end up transfixing me, so I guess some of my concentration transmutes into the music.”
How often do you just sit in your studio with a synth babbling away?
“Every day, for many hours!”
If someone did that with a guitar, you’d want to kill them after about 10 minutes. What is it about these machines that makes them so listenable?
“I think it’s the huge variety of sounds you can coax from them. But it’s not just the sounds. On a good system you get to create sequences, percussion, weird effects, melodic patterns, all at the same time. The composition process is tied to the sounds in an almost infinite way.”
How come these synths didn’t make it onto ‘Twenty Systems’?
“Well, I made ‘Twenty Systems’ 13 years ago and some of these tracks were made on synths that I’ve found since. For example, the Buchla and Emu tracks, it took me ages to find those systems. I literally travelled the world in search of them.”
These tracks were made in real time, with no overdubs. How was that?
“I really enjoyed challenging myself to a new approach. I made a film of me playing each track so you can see it’s all done in real-time. They’re on YouTube, my handle is Zack Dagoba.”
Which synth is the most aesthetically pleasing to watch?
“The ARP 2500. Apparently it used parts salvaged from NASA, which were used on the first space missions so it’s literally the control panel from a spaceship. The EMS Polysynthi is also very cool looking, you need to look it up if you haven’t seen one. You won’t be disappointed.”
Which machine took the most takes?
“The ARP Tonus 2500 was the most difficult, it was the most ‘composed’ piece. Setting up melodic sequences on that thing is very difficult.”
And the least?
“The EMS Polysynthi track was just me improvising without much pre-thought. The hard thing about doing a Polysynthi track is actually finding a Polysynthi to play it with.”
Which one surprised you the most?
“The Paia 4700, as it’s a very basic system, but it always gets a huge, edgy sound going. It’s a very underrated synth from a purely sonic point of view. It’s really of its time, which is what I like in a synth.”
How many more tracks to go before you’ve done the whole collection?
“I don’t know how many synths are here, I lost count about 20 years ago.”
Do you have synths you wish you didn’t have?
“Don’t be ridiculous!”