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Ben Böhmer: "Lockdown made my music more personal and unfiltered"

Ralph Moore talks to Ben Böhmer about uncertainty, transformation, and how being separated from his fiancé for eight months led to making his most intimate music yet

  • Ralph Moore
  • 27 September 2021

Ben Böhmer is a German composer, DJ and producer who hails from Göttingen and is fast becoming one of the biggest breakout global dance stars of recent times. That’s thanks in part to the way his new music has been received, with his second album dropping via Anjunadeep on September 24 and previous releases coming out on labels like Future Classic. As ever in this new electronic era, it’s all about the story and his new album ‘Begin Again’ was written during a period of isolation in which Ben and his girlfriend were kept apart for eight months, experiencing all the challenges and emotional struggles that such a situation incurs. As such, songs like ‘Erase’ (featuring lau.ra) and ‘Escalate’ (with Jonah) sizzle with emotional, synth-and-vocal-fuelled energy. And there’s no doubt that his unique German brand of progressive house has hit home: last time we looked, Ben’s socials were soaring and his debut album ‘Breathing’ has streaming figures of over 65 million to date. Clearly, Ben Böhmer has struck a nerve around the globe — are you listening?

Read this next: Carl Cox: “While I was DJing, I saw people dying in front of me”

Is it fair to say that you used lockdown to your advantage - creatively at least?

Definitely! It was a bizarre time but without any touring I was able to fully commit to the studio and write music without distractions. It was also the first time I was able to make music completely for myself, without playing to fans I had no way of road-testing tracks or my new creative direction. So this in turn made everything I produced a lot more personal and unfiltered. In addition, I also learnt to work with collaborators in a completely new way. I’m normally a huge fan of writing music with a shared energy via studio sessions but instead 90% of this album was written via sharing stems over email and weekly Zoom calls with the featured artists.

Before you made 'Begin Again', what were the important factors in terms of what you wanted to achieve?

I had originally set out to produce a much more club-orientated record. Over the past few years I was gradually playing on bigger and bigger stages and through that my music became faster and louder. Lockdown flipped this on its head though and personal circumstances lead to me making an album that was a lot more diverse, emotional and leant towards an indie electronica sound. My fiancé and I became separated on other sides of the world due to the global travel ban. We didn’t see each other for eight months and I wrote the entire album during this period of huge uncertainty. The emotions that we both went through are woven throughout the songwriting in the album.

‘Home’ represents the feeling of having a deep connection to the one you love the most, no matter where in the world they are, they still feel close to you through an unwavering bond. ‘Erase’ is about transformation and accepting change, questioning those unsettling feels when you feel like you’re losing your grip on something but ultimately blooming and embracing the outcome. By contrast, instrumentals like ‘Strangers’ are far more aggressive sounding, and came about when I was feeling particularly angry and frustrated about us being kept apart – strangers is what I feared we were destined to become.

Tell us about the live show and the production team you're working with.

Developing my live show is something I’ve wanted to do for some time now. For my album tour next year I have expanded my live set up to include a much bigger range of synths and controllers that I am hoping are really going to enhance the rawness of my sound when I perform live. Building this out will also make my shows take on a grander concert feel, something I can’t wait to showcase at venues like Roundhouse in London and The Fonda Theatre in LA.

On top of this I have been working with Nocte, the team behind Tale of Us and Metallica’s stage design to bring something truly unique into the live space with a giant square hanging LED frame which will feature visuals from Ben Kreukniet who I’ve wanted to work with for ages having seen his work on James Blake’s ‘The Colour In Anything’ tour.

The internet has enabled artists to find fans in very unusual places - where have you been discovered and are there any places that surprised you?

The one that really stands out is my live stream with Cercle. That to this day remains the most surreal experience of my life. The hot air balloon location in Turkey that they chose was simply breath-taking. The reaction to that set at the time was crazy, and I’m still inundated with comments on my socials about that - I honestly think that experience is going to be hard to ever top. This then opened up the door for my next one with the German Netflix and YouTube stars Kliemannsland that again exposed me to a completely different fan base who weren’t necessarily aware of me or indeed any of my music.”

Finally, what's incoming later in 2021?

My album ‘Begin Again’ is out now, and will be followed by a 20 plus date world tour in 2022. There will also be a remix EP that I’m incredibly excited about as Anjunadeep have been able to secure some amazing artists for it, and a companion EP where I’m working with a collaborator to completely reimagine some album tracks. I’ll also have a few remixes of my own released over the coming months but I can’t share the details of those just yet!”

'Begin Again' is out now via Anjunadeep, get it here and find Ben's upcoming tour dates here

Ralph Moore is Mixmag's Music Director, follow him on Twitter

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