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News: Ben Watt Announces First Album In Thirty Years

3 min read
(Australia) After twenty years in Everything But The Girl, and ten years as a respected DJ and record label boss of Buzzin’ Fly, Ben Watt announced last year he was parking everything to complete two long-planned creative solo projects.The first – published by Bloomsbury on February 13 – is his long-awaited second book, ‘Romany and Tom’, a dazzling portrait of his parents. The second is ‘Hendra’, his first solo album for over thirty years, released on his own new imprint, Unmade Road through Caroline International. It is, in Ben‘s words, ‘simply a folk-rock record in an electronic age’.

‘I had come to a plateau with the labels and clubland,’ he says. ‘I had a need to go back to words and music, not just beats and other people’s work. Once I made some space, a lot of ideas just tumbled out.’

‘In the end I wrote the songs for ‘Hendra’ unexpectedly. My sister died suddenly as I was finishing the book. I think it all came to a head. My mind was full of a lot of stuff. I just went down into the basement at home every night and retuned all my guitars into unfamiliar tunings as a way of beginning again and just started singing.’ – Ben

The upshot is ten songs. Unsentimental. Impressionistic. Songs about close family and strangers, resilience and hope. All set in vivid landscapes where the outside comes inside and clings to the stories.

Recorded in London and Berlin, the music is a meeting of worlds: languid folk, distorted rock and fizzing electronics; in part a result of the album’s two central collaborators, ex-Suede guitarist, Bernard Butler, and Berlin-based producer Ewan Pearson.

‘I turned instinctively to Bernard very early on,’ says Ben. ‘I knew his overdriven, string-bent intensity would be the perfect foil to my own warm open-tuned style. It adds tension to the songs. Ewan has a foot in both my recent worlds. He can do thrumming Berlin techno, but also things of great delicacy and grace. I also wanted his vintage 70s poly-synths as a contrasting colour, and a burnished 3-D sound, which of course both play to his strengths.’

The album also includes one other unexpected stellar camo – Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who adds plangent slide guitar and backing vocals on ‘The Levels’.

‘We met by chance in London just before the album,’ says Ben. ‘We didn’t know each other. He invited me to hear his demos. I thought he was joking, but two days later he texted me and invited me down to his studio and we got on well. During my album, ‘The Levels’ seemed like a perfect track for him. I rang him up and he loved the song and he did it the same weekend. Wish everything was that simple sometimes!’

How does it feel following up a debut album thirty-one years later?

‘Sometimes I laugh and think it could be the definition of the difficult second album; it has certainly been a long time coming,’ he says. ‘Some might see it as a strange fork in the road after Buzzin’ Fly, but everything for me has always been about finding a truthful and vivid point of connection with an audience – whether on dancefloors or in folk clubs. Words, beats and notes – it’s all we have. It’s just a question of playing them in what feels like the right order at the right time, and at the moment, ‘Hendra’ just feels right.’

Ben Watt‘s new album ‘Hendra’ will be released 11th April 2014 on Unmade Road through Caroline in Australia.