2015 Artist Survey: Benjamin John Power of Blanck Mass and Fuck Buttons

Power on 2015's Best Albums, TIDAL, Getting Fired, and Jim Carrey's The Mask

Feb 24, 2016 Photography by Alex De Mora Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice
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For Under the Radar's 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire's Will Butler, Julien Baker, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, The Flaming Lips, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.
 
Here are some answers from Benjamin John Power, who records as Blanck Mass and is also one-half of Fuck Buttons. Blanck Mass' latest album, Dumb Flesh, was released last year via Sacred Bones.

A shorter version of this interview ran in the Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is the full unedited version of the interview.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

1. The Lowest Form: Negative Ecstasy"Dropping Bad Boys" is my favorite song of the year, and it's all about taking pills on Christmas Eve at the roller-disco at Watford Gap. The Lowest Form should be a lot bigger than they are.
2. Russell Haswell: As Sure As Night Follows DayThis is, if such a thing were to exist, Russell's "pop record." He's totally in control of his tools and his live shows are all improvised. He's super talented and loads of fun.
3. Egyptrixx: Transfer of Energy (Feelings of Power)The sound design on this one is pretty abstract but it all hangs together really well. The use of space here is amazing and one of my favorites from him.
4. John Carpenter: Lost ThemesIt was really nice to see the release of brand new, "non-film score" material from John Carpenter this year. It was even nicer to be involved in his remix EP and to share a record label with him.
5. Helm: Olympic MessIn my opinion the best release from Helm to date. "Strawberry Chapstick" is possibly the most unsettling and uncomfortable pieces of music I have heard this year, which can only be a good thing.
6. Container: LPRelentless and uncompromising. Saw Ren play at the Flying Duck on my birthday this year and lost my mind a little bit.
7. Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Ariel Kalma: We Know Each Other SomehowA beautiful release on RVNG intergenerational series FRKWYS between Dumb Flesh vocal contributor Rob A. A. Lowe and New Age legend Ariel Kalma. Haunting and beautiful.
8. Prurient: Frozen Niagara FallsPart folk, ambient, harsh noise. I love it when an artist can diversify the palette to such extent on one release but still remain coherent. This is one of my favorites from him.
9. Saab Knutson: Electronic Music From the Faroe Islands 1993Pretty much love everything Danny Wolfers does. Less beats, more ambience
10. Uniform: PerfectGoes pretty hard. Very Metal. Not seen this live yet but would love to.
 
What was the highlight of 2015, for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?
 
Highlight of 2015 for me is a tie between touring new Blanck Mass material from Dumb Flesh and working with Jean-Michel Jarre on his new release. Also working with the EEFF on curating a new soundtrack for Belgian film The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears. Chose some great artists here and the vinyl release hangs together really well with them all. It's been a busy and good year.

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?
 
In 2016 I aim to keep myself as busy as possible. More writing for Blanck Mass, soundtrack work, production work, touring some more. Just announced my first North American tour as Blanck Mass so am looking forward to that. Also, Fuck Buttons have started writing a new album so that's also going to keep me busy.

With the launch of TIDAL and Apple Music in 2015, there are more streaming music options, but the same issues of adequate artist compensation persist. What are your current thoughts on streaming and which service would you most like to have your music on?

TIDAL is quite an interesting one, isn't it? I particularly liked it when all of our favorite popstars in the world televised the public signing and Madonna had sex with the table whilst signing the papers with the blood of 1,000 orphans. Now that's entertainment.
 
What are your thoughts on Friday being the new global release day for albums? Is it helping or hurting album sales?

I wouldn't know without seeing the figures but I usually tend to buy records on Wednesday so it doesn't affect me too much.

Mainstream pop music is increasingly embraced by indie rock musicians and listeners, as well as serious music critics. At this point, do you draw any distinctions between Top 40 pop and indie rock/pop? Are you comfortable with this shift?

All electronic musicians are producers nowadays so the line is becoming increasingly more blurred, but I don't see "Dropping Badboys" by The Lowest Form getting into the top 40 singles charts so something must be wrong.

What are your thoughts on how the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up?

Personally, I would have liked to have run this year but was on tour so couldn't get my campaign in order.
 
Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift's 1989 (and then Father John Misty covered Adams covering Swift). If you were to cover another artist's album in its entirety, which would you pick and why?

"Negative Ecstasy" by The Lowest Form because it's amazing #chrisbresswickedreggae
 
Have you ever been fired from a job (be it a day job or musical one)? Why were you fired?

I got fired from my job as a paperboy when I was 13 for stealing a pack of Starbursts, but on the plus side, I gained a pack of Starbursts.

What's your earliest music-related childhood memory?

Gershon Kingsley's "Popcorn" melody is my earliest musical memory and still one of my favorite pieces of music.
 
What outrageous request would you most like to put in your tour rider as a joke?
 
The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show DJ set in the dressing room with the central heating turned up to full.
 
What's the most disastrous date you've ever been on?

I can't remember any complete disasters but I do remember on three consecutive weekends I went on three different dates but they were all to see the Jim Carrey smash The Mask at the Odeon in Worcester. Works every time.
 
Which Star Wars character are you most like?

Ben Kenobi, of course! Well, we have the same name but in reality I'm probably more like R2D2. Quite short and don't make much sense.

Where do you see yourself in five beers?

50% friendlier, 15% less vertical.
 
What's the lamest breakup excuse you've ever given or been given?

"I can't stand Jim Carrey's The Mask. We won't be seeing each other again."
 
If you could have named yourself as a baby, which name would you have picked instead of the one you have now?

Probably would have chosen the first name "600 Horse" and kept my last name.
 
Which moment from your past most haunts you?

Jim Carrey's The Mask.
 
2015 is the year that Marty McFly traveled to the future in Back to the Future Part II. Beyond not having hoverboards, what most disappoints you about 2015 now that we're here?

Biggest regret is that there's nothing that sounds like Huey Lewis & The News anymore. Also, that I don't own a yacht to listen to it on.
 
If your house were on fire, what would you grab as you were running out?

My wife.

www.blanckmass.bandcamp.com
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