Younger Brother gear up for a psychedelic family gathering at the Halcyon Christmas Ball
Reported by Tara
Submitted 16-11-11 18:56
When two of the biggest names in psy trance decide to collaborate and start playing around with other genres, you just know things are going to get interesting. And that’s exactly what happened when Twisted Records’ Simon Posford aka Hallucinogen and Benji Vaughan aka Prometheus got together to form Younger Brother…
Joined by Ru Campbell on vocals, they released their third album Vaccine earlier in 2011, which has led to comparisons with Coldplay, Radiohead and Pink Floyd. But there’s much more to Younger Brother than their more mainstream dabblings in the psychedelic rock side of things, as we found out when we had a chat to Benji ahead of a rare Younger Brother Sound System set at the Halcyon Christmas Ball at the Coronet Theatre on Friday 2nd December…
You first formed in 2003 when you were asked to make a track for a CD to raise money to protect indigenous cultures, which became the inspiration behind your name. Could you please tell a bit more about all that and how you originally came together to form Younger Brother?
I had just started making stuff on my own with Twisted Records, which is Simon’s label, when a charity called survival international called me and said they were doing a compilation to raise money for the Kogi people of Colombia. They wanted me and Simon to write a track inspired by a film on the Kogi. So me and Si hooked up and sat down to watch this amazing film about these graceful people deep in the jungles of Colombia who called themselves the elder brother and the outside world the younger brother.
We loved the name and ended up making the track called ‘Evil and Harm’ inspired by the film. This was the first Younger Brother track. We enjoyed messing about in the studio together and so we did a couple more tracks and eventually thought, let’s keep going and make an album. The result was A Flock of Bleeps, our first album.
You’ve described your latest album Vaccine as “Pink Floyd if they lost all their money, played with laptops and had a cross between Thom York and Chris Martin on vocals.” Are Pink Floyd and Radiohead conscious influences or did your music just come out sounding like this? Who or are what are Younger Brother’s influences and sources of creativity?
Me, Simon and Ruu are both big fans of Radiohead and Pink Floyd. But we’re all influenced by so much, it’s always hard to say what leads to the creation of stuff.
For me there was certainly a long period where all I wanted to hear was techno or strange electronica – I had loved bands like the Stone Roses, Primal Scream and Led Zeppelin when I was a kid, but when I found dance music I became a four four fascist for a few years. But it was bands like Radiohead with Kid A and Massive Attack with Messanine that made me see that maybe there was more to life than kick drums and that led me and Simon down the road of not being scared to experiment with different genres and just make what we love, not what a genre tries to define us as.
How has the Younger Brother sound changed and evolved since your first album ‘A Flock of Beeps’, released in 2003?
We always seem to want to take pretty hard turns at each album. The first we wanted to just make music that was sound-based , psychedelia. On Last Days of Gravity we got more into guitars and vocals and on Vaccine we were really influenced by having been out on tour with a band backing up our electronic stuff and we wanted that feel of a band in on the record. But I always find it weird that no matter how hard we try the different albums seem to work together. Some people might decide that Vaccine with all its song based structures and vocals isn’t for them but I still find when I mix a song from A Flock of Bleeps with LDOG and Vaccine they contain a unified sound, even though maybe ‘Shine’ and ‘The Finger’ if heard in isolation might sound like two totally different bands.
How would you describe your music to your Mums?
Better than Elvis but not quite as good as George Formby.
You’ve hosted Twisted Records parties all over the world, from Japan to the States, South America and Russia, and of course the UK. What’s been your favourite gig to date? And is there anywhere you haven’t played yet that you’d like to?
We played Moscow with the band earlier this year – that’s probably my favourite gig ever, 4,000 people with ears open ready to hear anything we gave them. Lots of very nice vodka too.
There soo many gigs I want to do – I hardly feel we’ve started in that respect. One day I’d love to play Red Rocks in Colorado and isn’t it every musicians dream to lay the pyramid stage at Glastonbury?
I know that what goes on tour is supposed to stay on tour, but what’s your most memorable story from life on the road?
I couldn’t possibly say.
The release of Vaccine has been heralded as your crossover into the mainstream. Having been making dance music for so long under the various guises of Hallucinogen, Shpongle and Prometheus, do you feel like this is crossing over to the dark side? Or more like chasing the light?
Me and Si are certainly not on some mission to be mainstream. We made Vaccine because it’s what came to us at the time. If it becomes mainstream then we’ll be delighted. The underground ain’t always what it’s cracked up to be – dark and a bit cramped!
Historically, third albums have been the most difficult for many bands to put together. Is ‘Vaccine’ your “difficult third album”?
No, the first one was by far the hardest. We had no idea what YB was, where we should go or why we were going there. I remember on LDOG doing “all I want “ and thinking now there is a clear image of what Younger Brother should be. It felt distinct from me and Si’s other stuff but also 100% us…..
Vaccine felt good to make, although we were terrified as well because we knew a lot of fans wouldn’t like it and it was expensive, but it felt right to us and exciting. I wanted to feel moved by what we were making.
Is there a concept or theme to ‘Vaccine’, or is it more a collection of your latest tracks?
It has a distinct sound to it that all our albums always try to have but there’s no concept to it. I think if we ever make another album I’d like to do a concept album. Concept albums are much maligned but brilliant when done right. I mean Sgt Pepper and Darkside of the Moon are alright aren’t they? Problem is thinking of a concept!!
‘Night Lead Me Astray’ is accompanied by a beautiful video clip, which you created. Did it take you long to produce? And will we ever see a Younger Brother DVD?
No, it took a night of vodka and strong coffee, wandering Soho in London looking for the seediest stuff we could find – it was brilliant fun. I’d love to collaborate with someone to make more videos and then release a DVD of our stuff but I think I’ve concluded I need to collaborate – my video skills are pretty shoddy.
Following on from that, if a movie was made of your lives, who would you ask to play the leading roles?
We as it’s only me (Benji) I’ll say I should be played by Tintin, Simon by Edward Scissorhands and Ruu by Mowgli from The Jungle Book.
You raised money to make ‘Vaccine’ using PledgeMusic, which works by you interacting with your fans and providing such offerings as handwritten books to studio workshops. Did this work out well in practice? Surely things like studio workshops would take up valuable time that could be used to make music?! What was the most unusual thing you were asked to Pledge? And how can your fans reading this get involved?
The pledge was great at raising the money but god delivering it all has been a nightmare for one reason or another. We’d love to keep doing things that way but next time we’re gonna put more time into planning it. We’ve just finished making the book about the album and it looks really beautiful – can’t wait for people to see it.
The acoustic mix of ‘Spinning Into Place’ has prompted more Pink Floyd comparisons. What’s your favourite Pink Floyd track and why?
‘Interstellar Overdrive’ – I don’t know why, it just makes me feel both peaceful and anarchic at the same time.
You started Twisted Records in 1996 and in the last 15 years technology has completely changed the way we play, produce, promote and distribute music. How have you had to move with the times and what have been the pros and cons of this?
The pros are it’s easier, quicker and cheaper to make music that ever before. The cons are its easier, quicker and cheaper to make music than ever before…
Technology always makes things better as long as you don’t become a slave to it. Computer stuff is great bit an analog synth from 1970 still sounds great, plugins are amazing but so are lovely vintage guitars. I certainly wouldn’t say music has got better because of technological changes – it’s just changed. With stuff like say dubstep, its all about the technology and that’s why it sounds so “now”. But with YB I hope our stuff sounds like we’re just using whatever tools we can to put down our ideas. I certainly don’t want all our musical ideas to be generated by changes in the technology.
With 70,000 subscribers to your online mailing list, is it safe to say you see the internet as an integral part of promoting your music? Are you addicted to Twitted and FaceBook and do you reckon FaceBook is the new TV?
The internet is everything now. It’s like something out of Terminator.
With your roots in the early days of dance music, were you ravers and clubbers back in the day? What do you do now to unwind?
I started going to raves when I was 14 and still go now and again now – it still can feel like a life changing experience when it’s good. It’s a real heaven or hell thing going to a rave… well actually it’s not most the time, it’s just a bit boring.
The Times entitled their feature on you, ‘Waking from the trance: Younger Brother have quit their hippy-dippy origins to make it big in Britain’, yet you’re still headlining psy trance parties and festivals as Hallucinogen and Prometheus — including the Halcyon Christmas Ball on Friday 2nd December at the Coronet Theatre. Are you not concerned that some of your psy trance fan base might read such things and feel a little betrayed?
I hope not. The trance scene is like an oasis, it never dries up, never seems to get influenced by outside sources and there is so much love and energy in it. We never called it “hippy-dippy”, the journo did. I still love the trance scene, it’s in my blood for life, but it’s just not the centre of my universe any more.
You’re playing at the Halcyon Christmas Ball as the Younger Brother Sound System. How does this differ from Younger Brother the band?
We’ve remixed Vaccine to be purely electronic but still with elements of Ruu in it.
It’s me and Si, 32 tracks of live electronic audio streaming off Ableton, loads of synths and hopefully it will be total aural bliss/mayhem.
What other Christmas treats do you have in store for your fans at the Halcyon Christmas Ball?
Top secret for now!
Thanks so much for your time and looking forward to seeing you there!
Images courtesy of Younger Brother. Not to be reproduced without permission.
HALCYON - 'The Christmas Ball'
Friday 2nd December
The Coronet [map]
22:00 - 07:00
£10 - £20
ACESS ALL AREAS
Click here to buy tickets
We’re back! And ready once again to unleash a mind-bending extravaganza, with an extraordinary selection of international artists, record labels and crew for London’s trancendental Christmas gathering of its psychedelic family at the beautiful historic Coronet Theatre.
Overcoming the setbacks of the past few months has been a challenge, but the cancellation of our August event has galvanised our desire to produce a spectacular event and end 2011 with a bang. To make this extra-special, we’re combining the forces of the two massive pioneering labels HOMmega Productions and Twisted Records showcasing their top performers in the main room.
In room 2 Mutagen Records host progressive legends Middle Mode for their debut UK appearance, as well the label's raw talent including the new project Isophaze between Sean Spindrift and DJ Mif.
Liquid Records host room 3 with some of their best breaks and electro talent.
And for all those who just don’t want to go home at 7am, we’ve arranged a very special afterparty at the legendary Corsica Studios, 2 mins walk from the venue.
Tech Trance. Psy Trance.
Astrix - Live
Hallucinogen - Live
Room 2 - Hosted by Mutigen Recs (UK)
Middle Mode - Live
Mechanimal - Live
Continuem - Live
Room 3 - Host by Liquid Recs (UK)
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Other Features By Tara:
Life’s a blast with Master Blasters Zephirus Kane & Pogo
Mebjar returns to London for Halcyon's international trance celebration at MOS
Jay OM re-builds London's Tribal Village
Infected Mushroom unveil their Army of Mushrooms at Halcyon
Rising Binary Star Psibindi brings the Astral Circus to town
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.