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Jez Bernholz is a guy of many talents. He is a sculptor as well as a musician; a composer as well as a film-maker. As an pop experimentalist, Bernholz is never afraid to go further. His debut single,”Austerity Boy”, smartly quoted Madonna’s iconic line from “Material Girl”, surprised both critics and music fans, resulted in receiving warm support.
Two years in the making, his debut album How Things Are Made, will finally see the light of the day on September 29 from Brighton’s Anti-Ghost Moon Ray (a home to Gazelle Twin, Acquaintance and Great Pagans). The album pays an homage to the artist that he dearly respects; Kate Bush’s masterpiece “Hounds Of Love”, David Bowie’s “Low” to name a few. Here, Bernholz talks about how everything started, his musical heroes and the secrets behind his cinematic sound-scope. Also the artist kindly agreed to premier one of the standout tracks from the album proceeding its release.
I first learned how to write songs on a Yamaha Portasound PSS-170, and it’s still how I do it now after diversions into other ways of writing. This project came out of the disbandment of a previous project, and a long process of discovering my individual identity again. I compiled some of my older 4-track ideas in a stream of consciousness fashion, and the whole thing took off from there. I always wanted to make it more like how I would make sculpture and film, and tie all of those processes together. Before that I saw writing songs as a separate entity, but I realised that I could really make the Bernholz project as fully artistically realised as I wanted.
It’s a combination of many different sources, from programmed electronics and tape loops to found sounds and heavily harmonised vocals. The songs employ ambient and cinematic tropes against more traditional pop elements. I wanted to do something that blurred the lines between high-brow and low-brow preconceptions. I’m very interested in music that reveals several elements simultaneously, without ever conforming to expectations. I aim to record from as many different sources as possible, to abstract and combine fragments of all kinds, and try and make them work together.
So many that are forever changing, but across the board, I will always say the art of Bruce Nauman, Richard Deacon and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and the music of Kate Bush and David Bowie. Generally, I get inspired by incidental, seemingly mundane, everyday things that seem somewhat heroic in their failure. Clumsily laid out furniture, enthusiastic but incorrectly put together stories by children.
I’m very interested in music that reveals several elements simultaneously, without ever conforming to expectations.
Too many! And it never stops. As I said before, Bowie and Bush, Prince, Laurie Anderson, Delia Derbyshire, Steve Reich, Marvin Gaye, Mansun, The Knife, more recently Julia Holter, Factory Floor, Colin Stetson. The list is endless, I’ll just end up saying lots and lots of names so I’d better stop there.
I actually think Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ is the best pop song ever written.
Hear Me Out
‘What You Want To do’. It’s a good example of how the album was made, starting from an urgent improvisation of loops and drones, that quickly turned into the chord progression made from the bass part, which is my favourite element of the song. It was a very fluid track to write, and the basic template was done in one go, including the mantra lyric. That lyric is really for me. I suffer a lot of self-doubt, and I’m incredibly critical of myself, worried about time slipping by and the pressures of life mounting up. I try to put that nagging feeling to rest by saying reassuring things to myself like “It’s not too late to do what you want to do”, and when I listen back, I’m glad I’ve told myself that, and I hope others can take heed from the sentiment too. Within the song are motifs that appear in other parts of the album, so that when you hear them repeated, they have the effect of a dream where something triggers your memory of that fragment of a moment you have experienced before.
I’ll be touring Europe in October and December, and I’m very excited. I’m so pleased that I have finally released an album and get to see the world performing my music.
I’m very proud, and excited about releasing it as a sculpture as well as a CD – I’ve made a limited plaster block version that you must destroy in order to listen to the music.
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Anti-Ghost Moon Ray
Bernholz debut album, How Things Are Made is released from Anti-Ghost Moon Ray on September 29. Pre-order here.