John Bence uses music to probe the deepest recesses of the human psyche. Over a handful of releases the composer has already built up a striking body of work bound by an incredible clarity of vision. His elegiac works occupy an omnivorous sound-world, assimilating elements of British avant-garde and electronic music, classical tradition and sacred medieval song into cavernous, sepulchral compositions. Early releases for Nicholas Jaar’s Other People imprint and Yves Tumor’s label Grooming were engulfed in overwhelming emotion. Struggles with alcoholism and addiction found their outlet in brooding chamber atmospheres and caustic eruptions of choral aggression on the macabre ‚Kill’ EP. Love forms the final chapter in a trio of works with Kill and ‚Disquiet’ that chart Bence’s experiences with addiction and his subsequent journey to recovery. Returning to his first love, the piano, Bence explores the instrument’s deeply emotional qualities in ten movements. ‘Love’s stark minimalism and raw production reflect the composer’s personal struggles with striking honesty, searching for the deeper meaning in human suffering.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
2. How and when did you get into making music?
Four or five years old I guess, I was fortunate to have various luxuries such as instruments and CDs in the family home I grew up in and my grandma taught me music theory. I had more than enough tools to immerse myself in sound from a very early age, you couldn’t escape it in my family home.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Richard Wagner – Tristan und Isolde
Thomas Ades – The Tempest
Grouper – Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
The Third Eye Foundation – You Guys Kill Me
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Walking it’s the streets in autumn, especially when It’s raining. I love doing that.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
Brandon Hill, Bristol, UK, I sit there most afternoons. Beautiful park.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Just enjoy the blissful silence.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Benjamin Britten’s ‘Phaedra’ on vinyl in 2016.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
ZEMLIKA festival in Durbe, Latvia, October 2015 (as a performer). I have never spent a couple of days in a town with about 500 people in it, 119 miles from Riga before. The whole festival was wonderful, it was an absolutely stunning place and I walked in the woods and ate food I’ve never tasted before.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
I could continue writing music without technology no problem but it does help speed things up and playing with sound on the computer is fun.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
Yes my sister is an oboist and she loves my work and I love hers, I will be sharing the stage with her soon, I am writing her a piece to play.
Photo © Stephanie Elizabeth Third