Posted on 24th february 2021
By Yohann Goyat
By Yohann Goyat
EP : 303 Diary
Release date : 29th March 2021
Label : NAHAL Recordings
Country : France
Ben Shemie, member of the Canadian group SUUNS, continues his solo sonic tribulations with the release of the EP entitled 303 Diary, on the french label NAHAL recordings. A new project based around the TB-303 synthesizer / sequencer which he acquired during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. The artist delivers a very personal work, on which he invites a musician for the first time. Ben Shemie wanted through this musical journey to revisit the history of the TB-303, but also to explore new sound horizons. He tells us the story behind this new project so introspective for him.
B.T.P: Why is the release of this new EP so important to you this year?
BEN SHEMIE - 303 Diary is a kind of diary. I composed it in a short time in a hotel room between Paris and Montreal in 2020. It had to be released relatively quickly, because this EP was designed during the pandemic and reflects this intense period in every way. I wanted to get it released quickly too in order to transmit these energies and what I felt at the present moment.
B.T.P: Was the choice of the NAHAL Recording label a deliberate artistic choice?
BEN SHEMIE - Yes! NAHAL is before all, friends. When I finished mixing and mastering in Montreal, back in Paris, I joined Frédéric, one of the label's managers that I know well, to put the finishing touches on the EP. It was there that he confided in me and confirmed that NAHAL was able to release it as quickly as possible. However the output always takes a little longer when it comes to vinyl production.
B.T.P: What does the TB-303 synthesizer / sequencer represent for you?
BEN SHEMIE - It's an iconic synthesizer! It is heard everywhere in the pop and electronic styles and very often associated with the acid / techno musical movement of the American city of Detroit. With this new project, I wanted to limit my musical vocabulary in the sonic sense. This synth is not necessarily associated with vocals at first and I wanted to make this instrument the cornerstone of my EP. It's more bass or melodic in normal times, so very limited in its use and it opened up new ways for me to create. When you have less creative options, it opens up other possibilities and concerning me, it pushed me to be more creative around the use of the TB-303.
B.T.P - How has the Detroit scene influenced your career?
BEN SHEMIE - In the Detroit music scene, there is an extreme intellectual and scientific side that appeals to me. There is a very minimalist aspect emanating from this scene in the image of Richie Hawtin and his Plastikman project. The TB-303 represents the melody or the bass line and sometimes a song can be composed just like this. It's that minimalism that interests me, it's a visceral experience for me. My music is greatly influenced by this process. The WARP label in its early days with Squarepusher and Aphex Twin was a huge inspiration to me, and it was artists like them who opened my eyes (and ears) to this minimalist aspect of electronic music.
B.T.P - Why did you invite a musician on this project?
BEN SHEMIE - I have worked a lot on my own on my projects, because I am an introverted person. With the SUUNS group, we tour a lot and the effervescence around the group can sometimes be intense. However, interaction with people generates ideas. Human contact makes me creative, the exchange with other people from the artistic world makes us evolve and approach our creative side differently. And unfortunately this last year the social contacts were very (too) reduced, and I needed to humanize my music a minimum. Didem Basar is a Turkish musician friend and the oriental sounds of the instrument she plays took me back to my childhood.
B.T.P - How did oriental sounds come into your music?
BEN SHEMIE - My father is from Baghdad in Iraq, I was immersed in this musical style very young, but I did not appreciate it at that time. It was in 2015 with the SUUNS and Jerusalem in my heart project that I started collaborating with musicians from the Middle East. Over time, I discovered all the complexity and at the same time the minimalism that characterized this music. In the melodies of a Middle East, there is a subtle complexity that interests me greatly. This music is very linear with its accompanying variations. My ear is more drawn to an evolving musical line rather than constantly changing chords. The link with this musical vocabulary translates very well with electronic music. There is something complementary in the two styles.
B.T.P: Was collaborating with a musician a way to humanize this EP and the history that surrounds it?
BEN SHEMIE - Yes, like I said the last year socially has been very difficult and I needed to reconnect with the world. I had this strong intuition that the zither, an instrument that Didem has been playing for many years, would merge very well with the electronic sounds of the TB-303, however I did not know much about this instrument. The experience of sharing and collaborating around this title was strong and important at that time. I worked alone for a long time, but then I felt the power of having someone with me. This need for sharing has increased tenfold because of the social isolation that has been imposed on us.
B.T.P - Will the next solo releases see more collaborations?
BEN SHEMIE - I'm currently working with DJ Chloé on a project, but it's still in the electronic trend. Actually, it's not so much the collaborations that interest me, but more the idea of how to work with such and such an instrument when I'm solo. Diary 303 is the very example of the instrument with which I really wanted to discover and produce. Currently I am working with a quartet in Montreal, but this is only the beginnings. My inspirations come with listening to music so I'm waiting for the next wave.