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Bex Burch - Two things I keep in mind when I play music, ‘I don’t know what to expect… that means surrender’ and ‘I mean every note’ Aanbevolen

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Bex Burch - Two things I keep in mind when I play music, ‘I don’t know what to expect… that means surrender’ and ‘I mean every note’

Bex Burch is a composer, percussionist, producer, and instrument maker. Employing the gyil (Ghanaian xylophone) in new and unexpected ways outside of its traditional setting she has carved out a unique sonic space for herself. Her restless creativity and desire to embrace new musical challenges across a range of percussive instruments have led to collaborations with a diverse range of artists. We saw her perform three projects at BRDCST festival, Ancienne Belgique.
You can read the review here
BRDCST 2022 - dag 3 - Wat een uiteenlopende contrasten in improvisatietechniek (musiczine.net)

Her versatility - in each project we see a different side of her and her colleagues - appeals to the imagination. That is why we wanted to interview her. It was a pleasant conversation about BRDCST, all its projects and its past, present and future plans. But also about Berlin…

Can you tell more about yourself, how things started? And what are the high and lows in your career till now?
I was only three years old when I felt the need to hit everything for sound, but I didn’t know I would become a musician, I didn’t really know that was an option, it all came very joyfully and naturally. The highs and lows? Well, last weekend at BRDCST festival in Brussels was a high, following the pandemic when everything was closed down, it felt so joyful to go back on stage and be giving everything. I have learnt in the last two years how much I need this, this is who I am. Even after three back-to-back gigs and my arms aching, I didn’t want the last show to end.

I personally think that this is a predominant feeling in any composer, musician or artist. For so many years, we had come to regard what we were doing as something normal, as if it would never stop. This pandemic has confronted us with the finite, is that true for you as well? How did you endure those times and did it make you bump into limits? Or was it a source of inspiration?
I’m grateful for these two years, it gave me space and time to question myself. To figure out who I am as an artist. It was also a very creative time.  Before the pandemic I had produced three albums in seven years. But during this time I made about 20 hours of new music. Boing! and Flock are the public releases so far.

What music has a big influence on what you are doing? And what was your source of inspiration? I read in an interview that Steve Reich was a big influence? Can you tell more about it?
The music, scene and community of Ghana where I lived in my twenties was a very big influence. Thomas Sekgura’s music and generous teaching is a massive influence that still lives on in so many of my generation of musicians that got to play and study with him. There was something magical about his playing. When he was composing or playing music, he just has a hypnotic effect so the only thing you can do is listen to what he is doing. That makes me want to chase the feeling that Thomas had, not to emulate him, but to find that for myself. Yes, I also have that influence from Steve Reich’s music, and Beethoven, Stranisky, Schostakovich and more notably, the scene in London were I lived for about 15 years. Playing with my bandmates, learning from everyone, every time, especially playing music with my elders, they lift me up to another level I can’t access (yet), so Peter Zummo, Koo Nimo, Evelyn Glennie – these are all influences on me as an artist.

How did you first get into to creating music of your own and what drew you to the art form jazz?
Finding the hunger to create came from recognising that in other people and wanting to find my own true voice. And in terms of the jazz community, I’m not a jazz musician but I have played with people who have worked and been apprentice to that tradition. The community, first in London then wider afield, have shown me an openness and generosity towards my music. When those musicians find a way to play my music, they are also teaching me. I am growing and will keep learning and growing but I’m not doing this on my own. That’s my experience of jazz – the people, the community. 

Employing the gyil (Ghanaian xylophone) in new and unexpected ways outside of its traditional setting seems to be the common thread through most of your projects, where did the interest in the instrument and percussion come from? Does that also have something to do with what we talked about earlier?
It’s because I don’t want to make Dagaare (Thomas’s tradition) music. Dagaare music is so powerful. I’m very lucky that I could live there for three years and experience this. But I’m not there as an apprentice right now, I’m from Leeds, via London, Ghana, Belfast, now I live in Berlin. Two things I keep in mind when I create music are ‘I don’t know what to expect…that means surrender’ and ‘Mean every note’. It starts with listening and I make sounds that my ear wants to hear. So the reason why the gyil goes in a new direction outside of its traditional setting, is because it’s just coming from me.

You said you are living in Berlin now. Berlin has captured my imagination all my life. My great idol and inspiration David Bowie made his best records in Berlin. One of my favorites albums is 'Berlin' by Lou Reed. But is Berlin really as magical as they say? I would like to hear more about it...
There is indeed something powerful about Berlin that’s so hard to explain. I am coming from London which is also a magical place to live. I moved to Berlin last year. There is just something about this city, the quality of the sunlight here that accesses different ideas in me. Yes, there is something magical here that feeds me inspiration, every day.

I would also like to talk about your appearance at the festival BRDCST. Despite that common thread, there were still noticeable differences between the three projects you were on stage with at BRDCST, what do you personally see as the big differences?
That was the first time I played the three projects next to each other. It was a special moment, but the difference is for the audience, not for me. We each experience music in our own way. Vula Viel is the oldest of the three projects. We are like family. We find each other blindfolded. I was focused on one project for so many years, and it’s one part of my creativity. Working with Leafcutter John on ‘Boing!’ opens all my limitations. Leafcutter John is someone who makes his own instruments and whatever he can dream, he does it. As a result, I’m also allowed to expand my own limits and I feel I can be more present in each moment to whatever I am dreaming. With Flock I can use different creative muscles again. The reason why we’re called Flock is because like a flock or murmuration of birds, starlings, we move in so many different ways in the sky. You don’t know who is leading, we just fly in all directions, switch the brain off and something greater than the sum of the parts is leading.  

I liked each of the concerts, but Flock appealed to me the most? Just because of the endless improvising and the addition of saxophone (I'm a huge fan of trumpet and sax). Which project do you prefer or do you like each of them equally? That’s what you already said. What were the main reactions on your shows? How was the experience playing at that festival?
I’m very grateful to BRDCST for making this happen. It was a milestone that I will never forget, being able to do these three projects together in one evening. The reactions were incredible. But then again, it’s still the audience who decide how they think about things. Because our job is to do our best and bring ourselves to the stage. Then it’s out of our hands, and it’s yours now, it belongs to the audience. So to share this with you all at BRDCST was an amazing experience and feel the energy and reactions from you all. 

You talk about the audience, but honestly the people who go to festivals like BRDCST are critical music lovers (including myself) who still go for the music. Have you experienced the difference between audiences at regular festivals or these rather 'underground' events?
Yes, that’s the amazing thing actually. Every single performance is different for me. I’m not sure if the audience knows how much they affect us on stage. It’s a real conversation between the bands and the crowd. The audience has a huge effect on what happens and I learn things from every performance. It’s something magical.

What are your future plans? 
Flock has a few choice and exclusive live shows. We are playing Moers, and London in the summer. I am so excited that we will release our debut album Flock by Flock is out May 20 on Strut https://flock.bandcamp.com/album/flock-2 I’m also looking forward to finding out how we grow and develop over the days, weeks, years. Leafcutter John and I are also recording new music. We have some incredible gigs in the autumn together which will also change / develop how we make music together. I am also working on solo material and Vula Viel are in a new chapter of reinvention.

You do so many projects, how do you actually keep them all apart?
That’s easy, don’t even have to think about it. Because it’s just different parts of me. I’m never confused with what I’m doing. It’s just a way of using different creative muscles, and yet I don’t think of them as “apart” because they are all connected within me too.

There is also a visual appeal to your music that fits in with the concept of cinema or TV series. Maybe do something with movies or TV series? Is that an ambition? And what are your ambitions anyway?
I’ve been thinking about my ambitions a lot the last two years. I have worked hard for years and now I’m working hard on surrender and meaning every note. That’s the most important ambition I have. Doing something for movies or TV series can be a part of that, sure. For me I try to make music that I need to make. When opportunities come, like BRDCST, movies or anything like that, I take them with both hands. So, the intention is more a creative based one. Making the best music I can make, but most importantly making the music I need to make. When opportunities come, I’m ready for them.

Next to ambitions.. are there any goals you want to archive? Or are you not busy with that?
If I can do the best I can do, and make music I need to make. That’s the only real goal I want to achieve. That way I can keep growing in what I’m doing and look forward to discovering where that takes me. As I expand I become more of myself and can find more of what I’m supposed to be making. I spoke about elders earlier, I know they have something I don’t, and that one day I will. It’s time, and there are no shortcuts.

How far do you want to grow, I mean is there a limit in growing? The music you bring is more for a club circuit I think (nothing wrong with that) but don't you want to grow into a world star and sell out big stadiums and stuff? Or is that not an ambition?
The ideal would be if everyone in the whole world hears my music. Not because everyone is going to like it, but only because if one person needs it for one moment then they will get it. I don’t need everyone to buy my records or love them, that’s not in my hands. The same with my label, I work to give the music the best chance to reach the people who really need it and I do my best at each stage, learning and hopefully doing better next time. That’s all.

You also said you have your own label. Can you tell more about that?
Vula Viel Records - it is about promoting the music I believe in. it’s all about people, the scenes, communities I talked about earlier. My label is about the team too, the people I am working with.

Last year we released Skylla and Boing!:

Pics homepag @Monika S. Jakubowska

Good luck in everything what you doing, hope to see you with one of you projects in Belgium again. And we can keep in contact
Thank you Erik! A pleasure talking to you, hope you can visit Berlin.

Aanvullende informatie

  • Band Name: Bex Burch
  • Datum: 2022-04-30
  • Beoordeling: 8
Gelezen: 984 keer